(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Chrism Mass of the Rome diocese on the morning of Holy Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The liturgy is held every year in every diocese, and is typically celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, with the clergy gathered around the bishop in a sign of unity.
It is called the “Chrism Mass” because it is during the liturgy that the sacred oils to be used in the Sacraments are blessed: the Oil of the Infirm, the Oil of the Catechumens, and the Sacred Chrism – which is used to anoint the newly baptized and in conferring Confirmation, and to consecrate priests and bishops to their special and peculiar divine service.
Click below to hear our report
In his homily , Pope Francis spoke of the truth, mercy, and joy of the Gospel, which each priest is called to witness with his whole life: embodying and personifying each of the three characteristics.
“The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books,” Pope Francis said.
“The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change,” he continued.
“This message,” the Holy Father went on to say, “can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal – it is ‘the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost’,” and “the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday presided over the Chrism Mass, during which the sacred oils used for the Sacraments and Ordinations were blessed.
In his homily for the Mass, the Holy Father spoke about the “joy of the Gospel”.
He explored three “icons” of the good news: the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana, the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun, and the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s homily:
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Holy Thursday Chrism Mass
13 April 2017
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18). Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, brings good news to the poor. Everything he proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news. News full of the joy of the Gospel – the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.
Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person. When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer. Like every other missionary disciple, the priest makes the message joyful by his whole being. For as we all know, it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…
The phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel”. Yet those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy.
The good news is the precious pearl of which we read in the Gospel. It is not a thing but a mission. This is evident to anyone who has experienced the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Evangelii Gaudium, 10).
The good news is born of Anointing. Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth and the joy of the Spirit renews that Anointing in the little synagogue of that town: the Spirit descends and is poured out upon him, “anointing him with the oil of gladness” (cf. Ps 45:8).
Good news. A single word – Gospel – that, even as it is spoken, becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy. We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone.
The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books.
The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.
This message can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal. It is “the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost” (Evangelii Gaudium, 237). It is the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn (ibid., 5) The joys of the Gospel are special joys. I say “joys” in the plural, for they are many and varied, depending on how the Spirit chooses to communicate them, in every age, to every person and in every culture. They need to be poured into new wineskins, the ones the Lord speaks of in expressing the newness of his message. I would like to share with you, dear priests, dear brothers, three images or icons of those new wineskins in which the good news is kept fresh, without turning sour but being poured out in abundance.
A first icon of the good news would be the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:6). In one way, they clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary. The Gospel tells us that the servants “filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7). I can imagine one of those servants looking to Mary to see if that was enough, and Mary signaling to add one more pailful. Mary is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy. She is “the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286), Our Lady of Prompt Succour, who, after conceiving in her immaculate womb the Word of life, goes out to visit and assist her cousin Elizabeth. Her “contagious fullness” helps us overcome the temptation of fear, the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy. This cannot be, for “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (ibid., 1)
A second icon of the good news is the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun (cf. Jn 4:5-30). It speaks to us of something crucial: the importance of concrete situations. The Lord, the Source of Living Water, had no means of drawing the water to quench his thirst. So the Samaritan woman drew the water with her jug, and with her ladle she sated the Lord’s thirst. She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins. By mercifully shaking the vessel of that Samaritan women’s soul, the Holy Spirit overflowed upon all the people of that small town, who asked the Lord to stay with them.
The Lord gave us another new vessel or wineskin full of this “inclusive concreteness” in that Samaritan soul who was Mother Teresa. He called to her and told her: “I am thirsty”. He said: “My child, come, take me to the hovels of the poor. Come, be my light. I cannot do this alone. They do not know me, and that is why they do not love me. Bring me to them”. Mother Teresa, starting with one concrete person, thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all.
The third icon of the good news is the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself. From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way. Evangelization cannot be presumptuous. The integrity of the truth cannot be rigid. The Spirit proclaims and teaches “the whole truth” (cf. Jn 16:3), and he is not afraid to do this one sip at a time. The Spirit tells us in every situation what we need to say to our enemies (cf. Mt 10:19), and at those times he illumines our every small step forward. This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.
Dear priests, as we contemplate and drink from these three new wineskins, may the good news find in us that “contagious fullness” which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the “inclusive concreteness” of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the “utter meekness” whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis granted an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, published Thursday morning, in which he spoke about why he always celebrates the Mass of the Lord's Supper with prisoners and about the current “terrible world war being fought piecemeal”.
This year, the Holy Father celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday at the Paliano Detention Centre, near Rome, where he will once again wash the feet of prisoners on the margins of society.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
The Pope said his decision to continue to celebrate the In Coena Domini Mass with prisoners “is a duty which comes from my heart.”
“The Gospel passage of the last judgment says, ‘I was a prisoner and you visited me’. This is Jesus’ task for each of us, but especially for the bishop who is the father of all.”
Example of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli
When asked who had taught him this lesson, Pope Francis cited the example of the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli.
He said that even when he was Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli continued to carry out his pastoral activity at Rome’s youth detention facility, Casal del Marmo, unbeknownst to those to whom he was ministering.
“Every Saturday evening he would disappear: ‘He’s resting’, they would say. He would take the bus, with his work briefcase, and would stay to confess young people and play with them. They called him ‘Don Agostino’; they didn’t really know who he was. When John XXIII received him after his first visit to Eastern Europe during his diplomatic mission at the height of the Cold War, he asked him at the end of their meeting: ‘Tell me, do you still visit those young people?’ ‘Yes, Holy Father.’ ‘I ask you this favor, never abandon them.’”
The Holy Father went on to say, “At times, a certain hypocrisy pushes us to see prisoners only as people who have messed up, for whom the only path is prison. But, we all have the possibility to make mistakes.”
World must stop lords of war
Turning to the theme of war and violence, Pope Francis said, “I think today sin is manifested with all its destructive force in war, in different forms of violence and mistreatment, and in the rejection of the most fragile.”
He said the last century “was devastated by two deadly world wars and knew the threat of nuclear war and a large number of other conflicts, while today, unfortunately, we are experiencing a terrible world war fought piecemeal.”
The Holy Father told his interviewer, “The world must stop the lords of war, because those who suffer most are the last and the helpless.”
“I always ask myself,” he said, “Does violence allow us to obtain long-lasting objectives? Are not the results only a further escalation of reprisals and a spiral of lethal conflicts, which benefit only ‘a few lords of war?’”
Pope Francis said, “Responding to violence with violence leads – in the best of cases – to forced migration and inhuman suffering... In the worst of cases, in can bring the physical and spiritual death of many people, if not of all.”
Prejudices close one to truth and freedom
In conclusion, the Pope returned to his evening visit to prisoners at the Paliano Detention Centre.
“When we remain closed in our own prejudices, when we are slaves to idols of a false well-being, when we move within ideological frames, or when we absolutize economic laws which crush people, in reality we are doing nothing other than remaining within the cramped cell walls of individualism and self-sufficiency, deprived of truth which generates freedom. And to point the finger against someone who has messed up cannot become an alibi for hiding one’s own contradictions.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will celebrate a special Liturgy of the Word in memory of the "New Martyrs" of the 20th and 21st centuries on Saturday, 22 April.
A communique from the Holy See Press Office said the prayer will take place in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiberian Island, which is located in the heart of Rome on the Tiber River.
The Liturgy of the Word celebration is organized by the Sant'Egidio Community and takes place at 5 PM.
A separate communique released by the Sant'Egidio Community said the Basilica of St. Bartholomew held special significance:
"The Pope's prayer in a place, which - since the Jubilee of 2000, at John Paul II's behest - contains the memoirs of contemporary martyrs, takes on a very special significance in these times marked by the suffering of so many Christians in the world and by the light of Easter."
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has invited Christians to contemplate the Cross and to celebrate the holy days leading to Easte r.
Continuing his catechesis on Christian hope, the Pope was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly Wednesday General Audience.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Unlike worldly hopes, which fail to bring lasting satisfaction Pope Francis told the faithful that “our Christian hope is grounded in God’s eternal love”.
Reflecting on the Gospel of John, the Pope recalled Jesus’ words as he entered Jerusalem: “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”.
These words, he said, can help us understand the mystery of God’s promise – think of a tiny seed that falls to the ground; if it remains closed unto itself nothing happens, if it breaks open it gives life to an ear of wheat, and then to a plant that will yield fruit.
Jesus, the Pope said, brought a new hope into the world: like the seed he became tiny and fell to the earth. His saving death and resurrection show that the self-giving love that is God’s very life can transform darkness into light, sin into forgiveness, apparent defeat into eternal victory.
If anyone asks me, Francis said “how is hope born? I answer from the Cross: look at the Cross, look at the Crucified Christ, that is where you will find hope that never vanishes, that lasts for eternity”.
He who chooses to live and love with humility in the way Jesus has shown, the Pope continued, and chooses the hope He has given to us, makes the winning choice.
For he who thirsts for worldly things and strives only to satisfy his own desires, he said, will never be satiated warning that “it’s a nasty kind of thirst, the more you have the more you want” and at the end you will lose everything.
Thus, he said, the Cross of Christ is the source of that unfailing hope which gives meaning and direction to our lives.
And underlining the fact that love is the motor that drives our hope, he said that the Cross is not the goal; it’s a step towards the glory to which we are called.
“As we celebrate these holy days, the days of love which lead to Easter, the Pope concluded, I would like to give each of you a task: contemplate the Cross and say to the Lord: “with You nothing is lost; You are my hope”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday invited Christians to contemplate the Cross and celebrate the holy days leading to Easter.
Continuing in his catechesis on Christian hope , the Pope was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly General Audience.
Please find below the English summary of the Pope's catechesis:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: During this Holy Week, our continuing catechesis on Christian hope looks to the mystery of the Cross. Unlike worldly hopes, which fail to bring lasting satisfaction, our Christian hope is grounded in God’s eternal love, revealed in the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial death and his rising to new life. Jesus, in speaking of his imminent passion and death, uses the image of the seed that must fall to the ground and die, in order to bear fruit. His saving death and resurrection show that the self-giving love that is God’s very life can transform darkness into light, sin into forgiveness, apparent defeat into eternal victory. The Cross of Christ is thus the source of that unfailing hope which gives meaning and direction to our lives. Beyond the shadow of the Cross, we glimpse the glory to which we are called. As we celebrate these holy days leading to Easter, may we contemplate in the crucified Lord the source of our lasting hope and the inspiration for our efforts to live in imitation of his undying love.
(from Vatican Radio)...
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Jn 13:1-15
The Stole and the Towel is the title of a book, which sums up the message of the Italian bishop, Tony Bello, who died of cancer at the age of 58. On Maundy Thursday of 1993, while on his deathbed, he dictated a pastoral letter to the priests of his diocese. He called upon them to be bound by "the stole and the towel." The stole symbolizes union with Christ in the Eucharist, and the towel symbolizes union with humanity by service. The priest is called upon to be united with the Lord in the Eucharist and with the people as their servant. Today we celebrate the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood: the feast of "the stole and the towel," the feast of love and service.
Introduction: On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of salvation, 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. In its origins, the Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering to God of a lamb. They called this celebration the “Pass over." The descendants of Cain, who were farmers, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37), was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the Lord God and celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt and final arrival in the Promised Land.
Scripture lessons: The first reading from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover when the Israelites celebrated God's breaking the chains of their Egyptian slavery and leading them to the land He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, establishing a covenant with them and making of them his own beloved people. God gave the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal [to be held annually in later years] and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt yourselves from the coming slaughter. This tradition continued in the Church as the Lord’s Supper, with the Eucharist as its focal point. In the second reading, Paul identifies a source and purpose for the communal celebration of the Lord’s Supper beyond that was passed on to him upon his conversion, namely that he had received this "from the Lord.” This suggests that the celebration of the Lord's Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. Paul implies that another purpose of this celebration was to “proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.” Paul may simply mean that Christians, by this ritual act, remind themselves of the death and Resurrection of Jesus; he may also mean that Christians prepare themselves for the proclamation of Christ to the world at large. Addressing abuses and misunderstandings concerning the “breaking of the bread” in the Corinthian church, Paul gives us all the warning that if we fail to embrace the spirit of love and servanthood in which the gift of the Eucharist is given to us, then “Eucharist” becomes a judgment against us. In harmony with these readings, today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. First, he washed His Apostles’ feet - a tender reminder of his undying affection for them. Then he commanded them to do the same for each other. The incident reminds us that our vocation is to take care of one another as Jesus always takes care of us. Finally, he gave his apostles his own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine as Food and Drink for their souls, so that, as long as they lived, they'd never be without the comfort and strength of his presence. Thus, Jesus washed their feet, fed them and then went out to die. This Gospel episode challenges us to become, for others, Christ the healer, Christ the compassionate and selfless brother, Christ the humble “washer of feet.”
Exegesis: Jesus’ transformation of his last Seder meal (Last Supper) into the first Eucharistic celebration is described for us in today’s Second Reading and Gospel. (John in his account of the Last Supper, makes no mention of the establishment of the Eucharist because his theology of the Eucharist is detailed in the “bread of life” discourse following the multiplication of the loaves and fish at Passover, in chapter 6 of his Gospel.) Jesus, the Son of God, began his Passover celebration by washing the feet of his disciples (a service assigned to household servants), as a lesson in humble service, demonstrating that he “came to the world not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45). He followed the ritual of the Jewish Passover meal up to the second cup of wine. After serving the roasted lamb as a third step, Jesus offered his own Body and Blood as food and drink under the appearances of bread and wine. Thus, he instituted the Holy Eucharist as the sign and reality of God’s perpetual presence with His people as their living, Heavenly Food. This was followed by the institution of the priesthood with the command, “Do this in memory of me." Jesus concluded the ceremony with a long speech incorporating his command of love: “Love one another as I have loved you”(Jn 13:34). Thus, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at a private Passover meal with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 21:7-23). He served as both the Host and the Victim of a sacrifice. He became the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist had previously predicted (John 1:29, 36), who would “take away the sins of the world.”
The transformation of Jesus’ Passover into the Holy Mass : The early Jewish Christians converted the Jewish “Sabbath Love Feast” of Fridays and Saturdays (the Sabbath), into the “Memorial Last Supper Meal” of Jesus on Sundays. The celebration began with the participants praising and worshipping God by singing psalms, reading the Old Testament Messianic prophecies and listening to the teachings of Jesus as explained by an apostle or by an ordained minister. This was followed by an offertory procession, bringing to the altar the bread and wine to be consecrated and the covered dishes (meals) brought by each family for a shared common meal after the Eucharistic celebration. Then the ordained minister said the “institution narrative” over the bread and wine and all the participants received the consecrated Bread and Wine, the living Body and Blood of the crucified and risen Jesus. This ritual finally evolved into the present day Holy Mass in various rites, incorporating various cultural elements of worship and rituals.
Life Messages: 1) We need to render humble service to others. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another and revere Christ's presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, especially when they don't deserve our love, and to do good to them, even when they don't return the favor. It is to consider others' needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even though they don't say, "I'm sorry." It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we're treated unfairly. It is to make adjustments in our plans in order to serve others' needs without expecting any reward. In doing and suffering all these things in this way, we love and serve Jesus Himself, as He has loved us and has taught us to do (Mt 25:31-ff).
2) We need to practice sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the self-giving model of Jesus who shares with us his own Body and Blood and enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth - with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
3) We need to show our unity in suffering. The bread we partake of is produced by the pounding of many grains of wheat, and the wine is the result of the crushing of many grapes. Both are thus symbols of unity through suffering. They invite us to help, console, support, and pray for others who suffer physical or mental illnesses.
4) We need to heed the warning: We need to make Holy Communion an occasion of Divine grace and blessing by receiving it worthily, rather than making it an occasion of desecration and sacrilege by receiving Jesus while we are in grave sin. That is why we pray three times before we receive Communion, "Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us," with the final "have mercy on us" replaced by "grant us peace." That is also the reason we pray the Centurion's prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Mt 8:8). And that is why the priest, just before he receives the consecrated Host, prays, "May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life," while, just before drinking from the Chalice, he prays, "May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life."
5) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: In the older English version of the Mass, the final message was, “Go in peace to love and serve one another,” that is, to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us. That message has not changed, though the words are different. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil)
(from Vatican Radio)...
With less than 60 days to go before the 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration, in Uganda, international pilgrims have already started register for participation.
Pilgrims from Zambia and Malawi are among the first international pilgrims to confirm participation, while over 800 pilgrims from the Diocese of Hoima (Uganda) have so far registered as foot pilgrims for the forthcoming Uganda Martyrs celebration due on 3 June at Namugongo Catholic Shrine.
The 2017 celebration will be animated by the Diocese of Hoima on behalf of Mbarara Ecclesiastical Province. The Chairperson of the Organising Committee at the diocesan level, Kiiza Aliba, confirmed recently that they have so far registered many pilgrims from Zambia and Malawi.
“We have already started the registration process for both local and international pilgrims. So far we received a list from Zambia and Malawi, making them the first international pilgrims to register for this year’s celebration. We encourage other international pilgrims from different countries to register with us as it will help to ease our work (the organisers) on how to usher them in when they come,” he said.
The Uganda Martyrs Day celebration usually attracts millions of enthusiastic pilgrims from across the world. Last year, Tanzania had the largest contingent of international pilgrims (4,961). Kenya had at least 4,000 pilgrims while others came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.
The Majority of these international pilgrims walked to Namugongo Shrine as a demonstration of their faith. Other international pilgrims also came from the United States of America, Nigeria, Mexico, Malawi, Italy, Zambia, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.
The annual Martyrs Day celebration commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Catholic and Anglican Martyrs who were burnt to death following the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887. Twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were beatified on 6 June 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, and on 18 October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised them Saints. In addition to the Catholic Martyrs, there are two Catechists from Paimol: Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa who were killed in 1918. The two were beatified by John Paul II on 20 October 2002.
(Jacinta W. Odongo, Uganda Episcopal Conference)
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) On 20 April 2017, Thursday of Easter Week, Pope Francis will hold an ordinary public Consistory for the vote of the Cardinals on several causes for canonization.
Five causes of canonization are set for approval by the Cardinals:
The Martyrs of Natal, Brazil: Andrea de Soveral, Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, diocesan priests, along with Matteo Moreira, a layman, and 27 companions, martyrs;
Cristóbal, Antonio, and Juan, of Mexico, young martyrs;
Faustino Míguez, Spanish Piarist priest, and founder of the Calasanzian Institute of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherdess;
Angelo da Acri (in the world: Luca Antonio Falcone), Italian professed priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor – Capuchin;
The visionaries of Fatima, Francesco Marto and Jacinto Marto, children.
The vote of the Cardinals is the final formality after Pope Francis gave approval for the causes to move forward. Upon receiving the approval of the Cardinals in Consistory, the Church will set dates for the canonization of the Blesseds.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday afternoon with a group of young patients, doctors and nurses from Rome’s ‘Bambino Gesù’ children’s hospital. The children, aged between 5 and 18, are taking part in a documentary programme on Italian television exploring the experiences of young patients and their families at the Catholic hospital.
Listen to our report:
The ‘Bambino Gesù’ hospital, just a stone’s throw away from the Vatican, is the largest pediatric research facility in Europe. It treats over a million and a half young patients each year, with children travelling from all over the world to make use of its specialized services and equipment.
This was the second time the youngsters had come for a papal audience, which was being filmed for the TV series showing every Sunday evening on the RAI 3 channel.
Hospital must be a family
In his greetings to the children and staff, including the hospital director, Dr Mariella Enoc, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of providing a welcoming family environment. Each patient, he said, has a name and an individual story, which is more important that the sickness that he or she has come to cure. The hospital, he said, must always be first and foremost a family which takes care of the needs of each of its members.
Love overcomes fear
Going into hospital, Pope Francis said, can be quite frightening and he noted that some of the younger children cried at the audience because they confused a pope, dressed in white, with a doctor, who is coming to give them an injection. But a loving caress, he said, calms those fears and doctors are called to treat patients with their hearts and their love, as well as with their medical skills.
Finally Pope Francis thanked all the staff for providing “a witness of humanity” in the way they treat the children in their care. You are a family, he said, and nothing is more important than that!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday sent a message to a Portuguese radio station celebrating its 80th anniversary, saying it has done “exceptional work” in promoting “fraternal solidarity”.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
In his message for Radio Renascença’s 80th anniversary, Pope Francis said he valued the station’s work of carrying “the Gospel of Jesus” to “Portugal and the immense Portuguese-speaking world”.
He said the Radio has sown “fraternal solidarity and the mercy of God in the heart of humanity”.
Pope Francis’ message was sent by Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and read to the Grupo Renascença Multimédia by Archbishop Rino Passigato, Apostolic Nuncio to Portugal.
“Pope Francis cordially greets the great family of ‘Radio Renascença’ as its celebrates its 80th anniversary,” the message reads, “and expresses his appreciation for the work of all those who, over the years, have served the Church with their daily work through this medium of social communications.”
The Holy Father also assured Radio Renascença of his “prayers for the fruitfulness of its many evangelizing initiatives”.
Transmitting out of Lisbon in Portugal, Radio Renascença (‘Radio Renaissance’) is a private, commercial station under the ownership of various organizations of the Portuguese Catholic Church.
The group celebrated its 80th anniversary with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Manuel Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, and a tribute to the Radio’s employees.
Pope Francis granted an interview to Radio Renascença in September 2015 .
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged scientists and experts in biotechnologies to always be aware of the effects their decisions can have on human life and on creation.
The Pope was addressing members of the National Committee for Biosafety, Biotechnology and Life Sciences at an audience in the Vatican.
The main issues addressed by the Committee’s various working groups include: genetic testing, gene therapy, tissue engineering, development of biotechnology, cloning, Italian and European legislation, clinical trials, GMOs, infrastructure, information, genetic testing, biobanks, and bio nanotechnology.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Remarking on the fact that the themes and issues that the committee faces are of great importance for contemporary man, both as individuals and in relation to the social dimension, the Pope said: “your task is not only to promote the harmonious and integrated development of scientific and technological research that relates to the biological processes of plant, animal and human life”; you are also asked to predict and prevent the negative consequences that a distorted use of science and technology can result in when “they are used to manipulate life”.
Highlighting the principle of accountability which, the Pope said, is an essential cornerstone of human action, he said that various fields of technology and science put a “huge and growing power into the hands of man”.
“A grave risk is that citizens, and at times even those who represent and govern them, are not fully aware of the seriousness of the challenges that arise, of the complexities of the problems to be solved, and are in danger of misusing the power that sciences and biotechnologies put in their hands”.
Pope Francis said that when the connection between economic power and the power of technology is a strong one, interests can come into play; choices can be taken in light of possible profits for industrial and commercial groups to the detriment of the poorest populations and nations.
“It is not easy to reach a harmonious composition of the different scientific, productive, ethical, social, economic and political realities that promotes a sustainable development that respects our ‘common home’” he said.
It is something that requires humility, courage and openness, he said, certain that the contribution given by men of science to truth and to the common good, contribute to the development of civil conscience.
Pope Francis reminded those present that sciences and technologies are made for man and for the world and not the other way around.
“May they be put to the service of dignified and healthy lives for all, now and in the future, and may they help render our common home more livable and supportive, more cared for and safe-guarded” he said.
The Pope concluded his address encouraging those present to initiate and sustain processes of consensus amongst scientists, technology experts, businessmen and representatives of the institutions, and to identify strategies to enhance public awareness on the issues raised by developments in Life Sciences and biotechnology.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday renewed his condemnation of last week’s terror attack in Stockholm, Sweden, entrusting the victims of Friday’s attack to Our Lord and Our Lady.
Pope Francis made his appeal in remarks to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus with him after Mass on Palm Sunday.
Pope Francis said, “To Christ, who today enters upon His passion, and to the Holy Virgin, we entrust the victims of the terror attack that occurred this past Friday in Stockholm, along with all those still sorely tried by war, [which is] a calamity for all mankind.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis condemned the terror attack on a Coptic church dedicated to St. George – Mar Girgis – in the city of Tanta, north of Cairo, which killed upward of two dozen people and injured nearly 60 others.
“[W]e pray for the victims claimed this [Sunday] morning,” Pope Francis said in remarks to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus with him following Palm Sunday Mass, during which news of the attack - the first of two on Coptic targets Sunday, occurred.
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“To my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II,” Pope Francis continued, “to the Coptic Church and to all the dear Egyptian nation I express my deep condolences. I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members [of the deceased and injured] and to the entire community.”
Pope Francis went on to pray, “May the Lord convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic weapons.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Cairo at the end of this month.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass on Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square. Below, please find the full text of his prepared remarks.
Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet. It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time. We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king. Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience in some small measure what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.
For thirty-two years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day. This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.
The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden. It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the excitement of the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement. Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God. To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” ( Lk 19:40).
Yet Jesus who, in fulfilment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter. Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great “patient”, who suffers all the pain of humanity.
So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week. Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.
He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” ( Mt 16:24). Jesus never promised honour and success. The Gospels make this clear. He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross. All this holds true for us too. Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.
This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!” He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labour, from family tragedies, from diseases… They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded… Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.
It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals. We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over a prayer vigil in the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Saturday evening, to open the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day, which this year is being marked in dioceses all throughout the world on Palm Sunday.
The Rome diocese has chosen a special Marian theme for its world World Youth Day celebrations this year – celebrations that are also the official opening of preparations for the 2018 Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is focused on young people, discernment, and vocational accompaniment.
The website of the Rome diocese explains that the desire of the Church is to make young people protagonists of this journey: to allow them, by their prayerful presence, to enter upon the journey of the synodal process.
It was the originator of World Youth Day, Pope St. John Paul II, who decided to make Palm Sunday the day on which the diocesan iterations of World Youth Day would be celebrated in the years between the great worldwide gatherings of young people, the next of which is scheduled to be held in Panama City from January 22-29, 2019.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Men and women of goodwill of the diocese of Rome are to walk the ‘ Way of the Cross ’ in solidarity with all women victims of human trafficking on Friday evening.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
During the General Audience on Wednesday Pope Francis invited the faithful to participate in the initiative organized by the Pope John XXIII Community in favour of women and girls who have been rescued from trafficking rings and of those who are still enslaved by the sex trade.
At its third edition, the “ Via Crucis for crucified women ” aims to raise awareness about the plight of women who trafficked and enslaved for prostitution.
The 7pm rendezvous in Rome’s Garbatella area has been strongly supported by the Diocese of Rome and Rome Auxiliary Bishop Paolo Lojudice.
Fr. Aldo Buonaiuto of the Pope John XXIII Community, organizer and coordinator of this special “Via Crucis” said that the number of women trafficked for prostitution has quadrupled over the past two years.
“Estimates of various monitoring organizations put the numbers of women and girls used in the sex trade in Italy at between 70 and 100 thousand. We believe that this presence is actually multiplied by four due to the continued landings of refugees along our coasts, and we all know that a large percentage of these girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation” he said.
Father Buonaiuto said the shameful trade sees the presence of girls who are younger and younger; most of them, he said, are trafficked from Nigeria and then distributed throughout Europe.
“The huge presence of these innocent girls who are raped on our streets is possible because there is a demand”, changing this culture and discouraging customers, he said, can go a long way in suppressing the offer. That is why raising awareness is crucial.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., gave his fifth Lenten Sermon to Pope Francis on Friday morning in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel.
The theme of the Lenten meditations is: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). This fifth iteration carried the title: 'The Righteousness of God has been Manifested: The Fifth Centenary of the Protestant Reformation, an Occasion of Grace and Reconciliation for the Whole Church.'
Please find below an English translation of the Sermon by Marsha Daigle Williamson:
Fifth Lenten Sermon 2017
“THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD HAS BEEN MANIFESTED”: The Fifth Centenary of the Protestant Reformation, an Occasion of Grace and Reconciliation for the Whole Church
1. The Origins of the Protestant Reformation
The Holy Spirit, who, as we saw in the preceding meditations, leads us into the fullness of truth about the person of Christ and his paschal mystery, also enlightens us on a crucial aspect of our faith in Christ, that is, on how we obtain in the Church today the salvation Christ accomplished for us. In other words, the Holy Spirit enlightens us on the important question of justification by faith for sinners. I believe that trying to shed light on history and on the current state of that discussion is the most useful way to make the anniversary of the Fifth Centenary of the Protestant Reformation an occasion of grace and reconciliation for the whole Church.
We cannot dispense with rereading the whole passage from the Letter to the Romans on which that discussion is centered. It says,
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. (Rom 3:21-28)
How could it have happened that such a comforting and clear message became the bone of contention at the heart of western Christianity, splitting the Church and Europe into two different religious continents? Even today, for the average believer in certain countries in Northern Europe, that doctrine constitutes the dividing line between Catholicism and Protestantism. I myself have had faithful Lutheran lay people ask me, “Do you believe in justification by faith?” as the condition for them to hear what I had to say. This doctrine is defined by those who began the Reformation themselves as “the article by which the Church stands or falls” (articulus stantis et cadentis Ecclesiae).
We need to go back to Martin Luther’s famous “tower experience” that took place in 1511 or 1512. (It is referred to this way because it is thought to have occurred in a cell at the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg called “the Tower”). Luther was in torment, almost to the point of desperation and resentment toward God, because all his religious and penitential observances did not succeed in making him feel accepted by God and at peace with him. It was here that suddenly Paul’s word in Romans 1:17 flashed through his mind: “The just shall live by faith.” It was a liberating experience. Recounting this experience himself when he was close to death, he wrote, “When I discovered this, I felt I was reborn, and it seemed that the doors of paradise opened up for me.”
Some Lutheran historians rightly go back to this moment some years before 1517 as the real beginning of the Reformation. What transformed this inner experience into a real religious chain reaction was the issue of indulgences, which made Luther decide to nail his famous 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. It is important to note the historical succession of these facts. It tells us that the thesis of justification by faith and not by works was not the result of a polemic with the Church of his time but its cause. It was a genuine illumination from above, an “experience,” “Erlebnis,” as he himself described it.
A question immediately arises: how do we explain the earthquake that was caused by the position Luther took? What was there about it that was so revolutionary? St. Augustine had given the same explanation for the expression “righteousness of God” many centuries earlier. “The righteousness of God [justitia Dei],” he wrote, “is the righteousness by which, through his grace, we become justified, exactly the way that the salvation of God [salus Dei] (Ps 3:9) is the salvation by which God saves us.”
St. Gregory the Great had said, “We do not attain faith from virtue but virtue from faith.” And St Bernard had said, “What I cannot obtain on my own, I confidently appropriate (usurpo!) from the pierced side of the Lord because he is full of mercy. . . . And what about my righteousness? O Lord, I will remember only your righteousness. In fact it is also mine because you became God’s justification for me (see 1 Cor 1:30).” St. Thomas Aquinas went even further. Commenting on the Pauline saying that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (see 2 Cor 3:6), he writes that the “letter” also includes the moral precepts of the gospel, so “even the letter of the gospel would kill if the grace of faith that heals were not added to it.”
The Council of Trent, convened in response to the Reformation, did not have any difficulty in reaffirming the primacy of faith and grace, while still maintaining (as would the branch of the Reformation that followed John Calvin) the necessity of works and the observance of the laws in the context of the whole process of salvation, according to the Pauline formula of “faith working through love” (“fides quae per caritatem operatur”) (Gal 5:6). This explains how, in the context of the new climate of ecumenical dialogue, it was possible for the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation to arrive at a joint declaration on justification by grace through faith that was signed on October 31, 1999, which acknowledges a fundamental, if not yet total, agreement on that doctrine.
So was the Protestant Reformation a case of “much ado about nothing?” The result of a misunderstanding? We need to answer with a firm “No”! It is true that the magisterium of the Church had never reversed any decisions made by preceding councils (especially against the Pelagians); it had never forgotten what Augustine, Gregory, Bernard, and Thomas Aquinas had written. Human revolutions do not break out, however, because of ideas or abstract theories but because of concrete historical situations, and unfortunately for a long time the praxis of the Church was not truly reflecting its official doctrine. Church life, catechesis, Christian piety, spiritual direction, not to mention popular preaching—all these things seemed to affirm just the opposite, that what really matters is in fact works, human effort. In addition, “good works” were not generally understood to mean the works listed by Jesus in Matthew 25, without which, he says, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Instead, “good works” meant pilgrimages, votive candles, novenas, and donations to the Church, and as compensation for doing these things, indulgences.
The phenomenon had deep roots common to all of Christianity and not just Latin Christianity. After Christianity became the state religion, faith was something that was absorbed instinctively through the family, school, and society. It was not as important to emphasize the moment in which faith was born and a person’s decision to become a believer as it was to emphasize the practical requirements of the faith, in other words, morals and behavior.
One revealing sign of this shift of focus is noted by Henri de Lubac in his Medieval Exegesis: The Four Senses of Scripture. In its most ancient phase, the sequence of the four senses was the literal historical sense, the christological or faith sense, the moral sense, and the eschatological sense. However, that sequence was increaingly substituted by a different one in which the moral sense came before the christological or the faith sense. “What to do” came before “what to believe”; duty came first before gift. In spiritual life, people thought, first comes the path of purification then that of illumination and union. Without realizing it, people ended up saying exactly the opposite of what Gregory the Great had written when he said, “We do not attain faith from virtue but virtue from faith.”
2. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith after Luther
After Luther and very soon after the two other great reformers, Calvin and Ulrich Zwigli, the doctrine of the free gift of justification by faith resulted, for those who lived by it, in an unquestionable improvement in the quality of Christian life, thanks to the circulation of the word of God in the vernacular, to numerous inspired hymns and songs, and to written aids made accessible to people by the recent invention of the printing press and distribution of printed materials.
On the external front, the thesis of justification only by faith became the dividing line between Catholicism and Protestantism. Very soon (and in part with Luther himself) this opposition broadened out to become an opposition between Christianity and Judaism as well, with Catholics representing, according to some, the continuation of Jewish legalism and ritualism, and Protestants representing the Christian innovation.
Anti-Catholic polemic was joined to anti-Jewish polemic that, for other reasons, was no less present in the Catholic world. According to this perspective, Christianity was formed in opposition to—and was not derived from—Judaism. Starting with Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860), the theory of two souls in early Christianity increasingly gained ground: Petrine Christianity, as expressed in the so-called “proto-catholicism “ (Frühkatholizismus), and Pauline Christianity that finds its more complete expression in Protestantism.
This belief led to distancing the Christian religion as far as possible from Judaism. People would try to explain the doctrines and Christian mysteries (including the title Kyrios, Lord, and the divine worship owed to Jesus) as the result of contact with Hellenism. The criterion used to judge the authenticity of a saying or a fact from the gospel was how different it was from what characterized the Jewish world of that time. Even if that approach was not the main reason for the tragic anti-Semitism that followed, it is certain that, together with the accusation of deicide, it encouraged anti-Semitism by giving it a tacit religious covering.
Beginning in the 1970s, there was a radical reversal in this area of biblical studies. It is necessary to say something about it to clarify the current state of the Pauline and Lutheran doctrine of the free gift of justification through faith in Christ. The nature and the aim of my talk exempt me from citing the names of the modern writers engaged in this debate. Whoever is versed in this subject will not have difficulty identifying the authors of the theories alluded to here to, but for others, I think, it is not the names but the ideas that are of interest.
This reversal involves the so-called “third quest of the historical Jesus.” (It is called “third” after the liberal quest of the 1800s and then that of Rudolf Bultmann and his followers in the 1900s). This new perspective recognizes Judaism as the true matrix within which Christianity was formed, debunking the myth of the irreducible otherness of Christianity with respect to Judaism. The criterion used to assess the major or minor probability that a saying or fact about Jesus’ life is authentic is its compatibility with the Judaism of his time—not its incompatibility, as people at one time thought.
Certain advantages of this new approach are obvious. The continuity of revelation is recovered. Jesus is situated within the Jewish world in the line of biblical prophets. It also does more justice to the Judaism of Jesus’ time, demonstrating its richness and variety. The problem is that this approach went too far so that this gain was transformed into a loss. In many representatives of this third quest, Jesus ends up dissolving into the Jewish world completely, without any longer being distinct except through a few particular interpretations of the Torah. He is reduced to being one of the Hebrew prophets, an “itinerant charismatic,” “a Mediterranean Jewish peasant,” as someone has written. The continuity with Judaism has been recovered, but at the expense of the newness of the New Testament. The new historical quest has produced studies on a whole different level (for example, those of James D. G. Dunn, my favorite New Testament scholar), but what I have sketched out is the version that is most widely circulated on the popular level and has influenced public opinion.
The person who shed light on the misleading character of this approach for the purposes of serious dialogue between Judaism and Christianity was precisely a Jew, the American rabbi, Jacob Neusner. Whoever has read Benedict XVI’s book on Jesus of Nazareth is already familiar with much of the thinking of this rabbi with whom he dialogues in one of the most fascinating chapters of his book. Jesus cannot be considered a Jew like other Jews, Neusner explains, given that he puts himself above Moses and proclaims that he is “Lord also of the Sabbath.”
But it is especially in regard to St. Paul that the “new perspective” demonstrates its inadequacy. According to one of its most famous representatives, the religion of works, against which the Apostle rails with such vehemence in his letters, does not exist in real life. Judaism, even in the time of Jesus, is a “covenantal nomism,” that is, a religion based on the free initiative of God and his love; the observance of his laws is the consequence of a relationship with God, not its cause. The law serves to help people remain in the covenant rather than to enter it. The Jewish religion continues to be that of the patriarchs and prophets, and its center is hesed, grace and divine benevolence.
Scholars then have to look for possible targets of Paul’s polemic: not the “Jews” but the “Jewish-Christians,” or a kind of “Zealot” Judaism that feels itself threatened by the pagan world around it and reacts in the manner of the Maccabees—in brief, the Judaism of Paul prior to his conversion that led him to persecute Hellenistic believers like Stephen. But these explanations appear immediately unsustainable and result in making the apostle’s thinking incomprehensible and contradictory. In the preceding part of his letter, the apostle formulates a indictment as universal as humanity itself: “There is no distinction; . . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3: 22-23). Three times in the first three chapters of this letter he returns to the wording “Jews and Greeks alike.” How can anyone think that to such a universal evil a remedy corresponds which is aimed at a very limited group of believers?
3. Justification by Faith: A Doctrine of Paul or of Jesus?
The difficulty comes, in my opinion, from the fact that the exegesis of Paul is carried on at times as if the doctrine began with him and as if Jesus had said nothing on this matter. The doctrine of the free gift of justification by faith is not Paul’s invention but is the central message of the gospel of Christ, whether it was made known to Paul by a direct revelation from the Risen One or by the “tradition” that he says he received, which was certainly not limited to a few words about the kerygma (see 1 Cor 15:3). If this were not the case, then those who say that Paul, not Jesus, is the real founder of Christianity would be correct.
However, the core of this doctrine is already found in the word “gospel,” “good news,” that Paul certainly did not invent out of thin air. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus went around proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). How could this proclamation be called “good news” if it were only an intimidating call to change one’s life? What Christ includes in the expression “kingdom of God”—that is, the salvific initiative by God, his offer of salvation to all humanity—St. Paul calls the “righteousness of God,” but it refers to the same fundamental reality. “The kingdom of God” and “the righteousness of God” are coupled together by Jesus himself when he says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33).
When Jesus said, “repent, and believe the gospel,” he was thus already teaching justification by faith. Before him, “to repent” always meant “to turn back,” as indicated by the Hebrew word shub; it meant to turn back, through a renewed observance of the law, to the covenant that had been broken. “To repent,” consequently, had a meaning that was mainly ascetic, moral, and penitential, and it was implemented by changing one’s behavior. Repentance was seen as a condition for salvation; it meant “repent and you will be saved; repent and salvation will come to you.” This was the meaning of “repent” up to this point, including on the lips of John the Baptist.
When Jesus speaks of repentance, metanoia, its moral meaning moves into second place (at least at the beginning of his preaching) with respect to a new, previously unknown meaning. Repenting no longer means turning back to the covenant and the observance of the law. It means instead taking a leap forward, entering into a new covenant, seizing this kingdom that has appeared, and entering into it. And entering it by faith. “Repent and believe” does not point to two different successive steps but to the same action: repent, that is, believe; repent by believing! Repenting does not signify “mending one’s ways” so much as “perceiving” something new and thinking in a new way. The humanist Lorenzo Valla (1405-1457), in his Adnotations on the New Testament, had already highlighted this new meaning of the word metanoia in Mark’s text.
Innumerable sayings from the gospel, among the ones that most certainly go back to Jesus, confirm this interpretation. One is Jesus’ insistence on the necessity of becoming like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. A characteristic of children is that they have nothing to give and can only receive. They do not ask anything from their parents because they have earned it but simply because they know they are loved. They accept what is freely given.
The Pauline polemic against the claim to be saved by one’s own works also does not begin with him. We would need to exclude an endless number of texts to remove all the polemic references in the gospel to a number of “scribes, Pharisees, and doctors of the law.” We cannot fail to recognize in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector in the temple the two types of religiosity that St. Paul later contrasts: one man trusts in his own religious performance and the other trusts in the mercy of God and returns home “justified” (Lk 18:14).
It is not a temptation present only in one particular religion, but in every religion, including of course Christianity. (The Evangelists didn’t relate the sayings of Jesus to correct the Pharisees, but to warn the Christians!) If Paul takes aim at Judaism, it is because that is the religious context in which he and those to whom he is speaking live, but it involves a religious rather than an ethnic category. Jews, in this context, are those who, unlike the pagans, are in possession of revelation; they know God’s will and, emboldened by this fact, they feel themselves secure with God and can judge the rest of humanity. One indication that Paul was designating a religious category is that Origen was already saying in the third century that the target of the apostle’s words are now the “heads of the Church: bishops, presbyters, and deacons,” that is, the guides, the teachers of the people.
The difficulty in reconciling the picture that Paul gives us of the Jewish religion and what we know about it from other sources is based on a fundamental error in methodology. Jesus and Paul are dealing with life as people lived it, with the heart; scholars deal instead with books and written testimonies. Oral and written statements tell us what people know they should be or would like to be, but not necessarily what they are. No one should be surprised to find in the Scripture and rabbinical sources of the time moving and sincere affirmations about grace, mercy, and the prevenient initiative of God. But it is one thing to say what Scripture says and leaders teach and another thing to say what is in people’s hearts and what governs their actions.
What happened at the time of the Protestant Reformation helps us to understand this situation during the time of Jesus and Paul. At the time of the Reformation, if one looks at the doctrine taught in the schools of theology, at ancient definitions that were never disputed, at Augustine’s writings that were held in great honor, or even only at the Imitation of Christ that was daily reading for pious souls, one will find there the magnificent doctrine of grace and will not understand whom Luther was fighting against. But if one looks at what was going on in real life in the Church, the result, as we have seen, is quite different.
4. How to Preach Justification by Faith Today
What can we conclude from this bird’s-eye view of the five centuries since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation? It is indeed vital that the centenary of the Reformation not be wasted, that it not remain a prisoner of the past and try to determine rights and wrongs, even if that is done in a more irenic tone than in the past. We need instead to take a leap forward, the way a river that finds itself blocked resumes its course at a higher level.
The situation has changed since then. The issues that brought about the separation between the Church of Rome and the Reformation were above all indulgences and how sinners are justified. But can we say that these are the problems on which people’s faith stands or falls today? I remember Cardinal Kasper on one occasion making this observation: For Luther the number one existential problem was how to overcome the sense of guilt and find a gracious God; today the problem is rather the opposite: how to restore to human beings a genuine sense of sin that they have completely lost.
This does not mean ignoring the enrichment brought by the Reformation and wanting to return to the situation before it. It means rather allowing all of Christianity to benefit from its many important achievements once they are freed from certain distortions and excesses due to the overheated climate of the moment and the need to correct major abuses.
Among the negative aspects resulting from the centuries-old emphasis on the issue of the justification of sinners, it seems to me one is having made western Christianity be a gloomy proclamation, completely focused on sin, that the secular culture ended up resisting and rejecting. The most important thing is not what Jesus, by his death, has removed from human beings—sin—but what he has given to them, that is, his Holy Spirit. Many exegetes today consider the third chapter of the letter to the Romans on justification by faith to be inseparable from the eighth chapter on the gift of the Spirit and to be one piece with it.
The free gift of justification through faith in Christ should be preached today by the whole Church and with more vigor than ever. Not, however, in contrast to the “works” the New Testament speaks of but in contrast to the claim of post-modern people of being able to save themselves with their science and technology or with an improvised, comforting spirituality. These are the “works” that modern human beings rely on. I am convinced that if Luther came back to life, this would be the way that he too would preach justification by faith today.
There is another thing that we all—Lutherans and Catholics—should learn from the man who initiated the Reformation. As we saw, for Luther the free gift of justification by faith was above all a lived experience and only later something about which to theorize. After him justification though faith became increasingly a theological thesis to defend or to oppose and less and less a personal, liberating experience to be lived out in one’s intimate relationship with God. The joint declaration of 1999 very appropriately points out that the consensus reached by Catholics and Lutherans on the fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification must take effect and be confirmed not just in the teaching of the Church but in people’s lives as well (no. 43).
We must never lose sight of the main point of the Pauline message. What the apostle wishes to affirm above all in Romans 3 is not that we are justified by faith but that we are justified by faith in Christ; we are not so much justified by grace as we are justified by the grace of Christ. Christ is the heart of the message, more so than grace and faith. Today he himself is the article by which the Church stands or falls: a person, not a doctrine.
We ought to rejoice because this is what is happening in the Church and to a greater extent than commonly realized. In recent months I was able to attend two conferences: one in Switzerland organized by Protestants with the participation of Catholics, and the other in Germany organized by Catholics with the participation of Protestants. The latter conference, which took place in Augsburg this past January, seemed to me truly to be a sign of the times. There were 6,000 Catholics and 2,000 Lutherans, the majority of whom were young, who had come from all over Germany. Its title was “Holy Fascination.” What fascinated that crowd was Jesus of Nazareth, made present and almost tangible by the Holy Spirit. Behind this effort was a community of lay people and a house of prayer (Gebetshaus), which has been active for years and is in full communion with the local Catholic church.
It was not an easy ecumenism. There was a very Catholic Mass with lots of incense celebrated once by me and once by the auxiliary bishop of Augsburg; on another day, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated by a Lutheran pastor with full respect for each other’s liturgies. Worship, teachings, music: it was an atmosphere that only young people today are able to create and that could serve as a model for some special event during World Youth Day.
I once asked those in charge if they wanted me to speak about Christian unity. They answered, “No. We prefer to live that unity instead of talking about it.” They were right. These are signs of the direction in which the Spirit—and with him Pope Francis—invite us to go.
Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson
 Martin Luther, “Preface to his Latin Works,” Weimar ed., vol. 54, p. 186.
 Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 32, 56 (PL 44, 237).
 Gregory the Great, Homilies on Ezekiel, 2, 7 (PL 76, 1018).
 Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the “Song of Songs,” 61, 4-5 (PL 183, 1072).
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1-IIae, q. 106, a.2.
 Council of Trent, “Decretum de iustificatione,” 7, in Denziger and Schoenmetzer, Enchridion Symbolorum, ed. 34, n. 1531.
 The classical couplet that sets forth this sequence is “Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria. / Moralis quid agas; quo tendas anagogia”: “The literal sense proclaims the events, the allegorical sense what you should believe. / The moral sense what you should do, the anagogical sense where you are going.”
 See Henri de Lubac, Histoire de l’exégèse médiéval. Les quatre sens de l’Écriture (Paris, Aubier,1959), vol. 1, 1, pp. 139-157.
 Jacob Neusner, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000).
 Origen, Commentary on the “Letter to the Romans,” 2, 2 (PG 14, 873).
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) God is always faithful to His Covenant: He kept faith with Abraham and He is faithful to the salvation promised in His Son. That was the message of Pope Francis during the morning Mass on Thursday at the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope called on those present to pause during the day to reflect on their own life story, in order to discover the beauty of the love of God, even in the midst of difficulties, which afflict everyone in this life.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
Pope Francis’ homily revolved around the figure of Abraham, who is at the centre of the day’s liturgy. The first Reading narrates the story of the Covenant God made with Abraham; while in the Gospel, both Jesus and the Pharisees refer to “Father” Abraham, because he is the father of “this people that today is the Church.” Abraham trusted and obeyed when he was called to go to a new land that he would receive as an inheritance.
Abraham, a man of faith, knew by experience that God had not deceived him
A man of faith and of hope, Abraham believed when he was told that he would have a child although he was 100 years old, and his wife was sterile – “he believed against every hope.” “If anyone wanted to give a description of the life of Abraham, he could say, ‘This guy is a dreamer,’” the Pope said. He explained that Abraham had something of the dreamer in him, but it was “that dream of hope”; he wasn’t crazy:
“Put to the test, after having had a child, a boy, a young child, he was asked to offer him in sacrifice: he obeyed, and went forward against all hope. And this is our father Abraham, who goes forward, forward, forward; and when Jesus says Abraham saw his day, saw Jesus, he was full of joy. He saw Him in promise, he saw that joy of seeing the fullness of the promise of the covenant, the joy of seeing that God had not deceived him, that God – as we prayed in the responsorial psalm – is always faithful to His covenant.”
The psalm also invites us to call to mind the wonders God performs. For us, the descendants of Abraham, it’s like thinking of our father who has passed away, and yet we remember the good things about him and we think: “He was a great father!”
Abraham obeys and believes against all hope
The Covenant, on Abraham’s part, consists in having always obeyed, the Pope said. On God’s part, He has promised to make Abraham “the father of a multitude of nations.” “No longer shall you be called Abram, but Abraham,” the Lord says. And Abraham believed. Then, in another dialogue, God tells him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens and as the sand on the seashore. And today we are able to say, “I am one of those stars. I am a grain of sand.”
Looking to history: we are a people
Between Abraham and us, there is another Story, the Pope said, the story of the heavenly Father and of Jesus. This is why Jesus told the Pharisees that Abraham exulted in the hope of seeing “my day” – “he saw it, and was glad.” This is the great message; and the Church today invites us to pause and to look to “our roots,” “our father,” who “has made us a people, a heaven full of stars, a beach full of grains of sand”:
“Looking to history: I am not alone, I am a people. We go together. The Church is a people. But a people dreamed of by God, a people He has given a father on Earth who obeyed; and we have a Brother who has given His life for us, to make us a people. And so we are able to look upon the Father, to give thanks; to look upon Jesus, to give thanks; to look upon Abraham and ourselves, who are part of the journey.”
God is faithful: we should pause in order to discover, even amid the difficulties of this life, the beauty of the love of God
The Holy Father then invited us to make today “a day of memory,” pointing out that “in this great Story, in the framework of God and Jesus, there is the little story of each one of us”:
“I invite you today to take five minutes, ten minutes, to sit down – without the radio, without the television – to sit down and reflect on your own story: the blessings and the troubles, everything. The graces and the sins, everything. And to see there the faithfulness of that God who remained faithful to His Covenant, remained faithful to the promise He made to Abraham, remained faithful to the salvation He promised in His Son, Jesus. I’m certain that in the midst of all of the perhaps ugly things – because we all have them, so many ugly things in this life – if we do this today, we will discover the beauty of the love of God, the beauty of His mercy, the beauty of hope. And I am sure that we will all be full of joy.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will wash the feet of inmates at Paliano prison, south of Rome, during the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.
The Vatican announced on Thursday that the pope will travel to the penitentiary on the afternoon of April 13th for a private visit and the celebration of Mass marking Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on the day before his Crucifixion.
Pope Francis began the tradition of travelling to a prison for the traditional Last Supper Mass in March 2013, just a few days after the inauguration of his pontificate. On that occasion he travelled to Rome’s Casal del Marmo youth detention centre where he included, for the first time, women and Muslims among the inmates whose feet he washed.
The following year, he celebrated the Last Supper Mass at Rome’s Don Gnocchi centre for the disabled , again including women among those who had their feet washed in memory of Jesus’ gesture of humility and service.
In 2015 Pope Francis travelled to Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday celebration, while last year he washed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Coptic Orthodox men and women at a centre for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto , just north of Rome.
(from Vatican Radio)...