(Vatican Radio) Holy Mass was celebrated on Tuesday in the Vatican Grottoes for the 16 Hungarian victims of a bus crash, which occurred last Friday near Verona, Italy.
The secondary school students were returning to Budapest from a skiing trip in France when their bus crashed into a highway overpass and burst into flames.
The suffrage Mass was presided over by Bishop Ferenc Cserháti in the Magna Domina Hungarorum Chapel in the Grottoes under St. Peter’s Basilica.
Among those present at the Mass for the victims and their families were the Hungary's Ambassadors to the Holy See and Italy, along with the Embassies’ staff.
In his homily, Bishop Cserháti said, “As we cry, we must not forget that these departed young people are written on the palm of God’s hand, because they are His creatures, and God desires not death but life.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent an official delegate from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development to Aleppo in Syria.
Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, the Pope’s delegate, visited the war-ravaged city on the 18-23 January, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, and Msgr. Thomas Habib, Counselor to the Nunciature.
A statement released on Tuesday by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development said this was the first official visit by representatives of the Holy See after the end of hostilities in Aleppo.
“The delegation was able to meet the Christian communities and their pastors, who expressed their gratitude to the Pope for his constant attention to beloved Syria. In addition, he visited Catholic charitable institutions and a number of refugee camps. In particular, a centre for humanitarian assistance managed by Caritas Aleppo in the Hanano neighbourhood was inaugurated.”
The Vatican delegation also participated in an ecumenical prayer service organized for the week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Another moment of encounter occurred when the delegation met with representatives of Islam, during which “the responsibility of religions to educate for peace and reconciliation was underlined”.
Local civil and religious authorities “paid homage to the delegation, expressing particular gratitude for the Holy Father’s gesture in elevating to the dignity of cardinal the Papal Representative to the country [Cardinal Zenari], and acknowledging in this the Pope’s special closeness to the afflicted Syrian population”.
The statement goes on to detail the importance of the encounters with Catholic charities in the country.
"Finally, the meetings with Catholic charitable entities highlighted the importance of the assistance they provide for the benefit of all the Syrian population. With the support of the universal Church and thanks to the generous contribution of the international community, such aid can be intensified in the future to face the growing needs of the people."
In conclusion, the statement detailed the items currently most needed, which include “food, clothing, education, healthcare, and housing”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ Message for the 51st World Day of Social Communications. The theme of this year’s message is "Fear not, for I am with you": Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time. The World Day of Social Communications is celebrated in almost all countries on the Sunday before Pentecost. The message is being issued on 24 January, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.
Listen to the report by Charles Collins :
Please find the full text of the message below:
"Fear not, for I am with you» (Is 43:5):
Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time"
Access to the media – thanks to technological progress – makes it possible for countless people to share news instantly and spread it widely. That news may be good or bad, true or false. The early Christians compared the human mind to a constantly grinding millstone; it is up to the miller to determine what it will grind: good wheat or worthless weeds. Our minds are always “grinding”, but it is up to us to choose what to feed them (cf. SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, Epistle to Leontius).
I wish to address this message to all those who, whether in their professional work or personal relationships, are like that mill, daily “grinding out” information with the aim of providing rich fare for those with whom they communicate. I would like to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust.
I am convinced that we have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on “bad news” (wars, terrorism, scandals and all sorts of human failure). This has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering, nor is it about a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil. Rather, I propose that all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits. Moreover, in a communications industry which thinks that good news does not sell, and where the tragedy of human suffering and the mystery of evil easily turn into entertainment, there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism.
I would like, then, to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamourize evil but instead to concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients. I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news”.
Life is not simply a bare succession of events, but a history, a story waiting to be told through the choice of an interpretative lens that can select and gather the most relevant data. In and of itself, reality has no one clear meaning. Everything depends on the way we look at things, on the lens we use to view them. If we change that lens, reality itself appears different. So how can we begin to “read” reality through the right lens?
For us Christians, that lens can only be the good news, beginning with the Good News par excellence: “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God” (Mk 1:1). With these words, Saint Mark opens his Gospel not by relating “good news” about Jesus, but rather the good news that is Jesus himself. Indeed, reading the pages of his Gospel, we learn that its title corresponds to its content and, above all else, this content is the very person of Jesus.
This good news – Jesus himself – is not good because it has nothing to do with suffering, but rather because suffering itself becomes part of a bigger picture. It is seen as an integral part of Jesus’ love for the Father and for all mankind. In Christ, God has shown his solidarity with every human situation. He has told us that we are not alone, for we have a Father who is constantly mindful of his children. “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43:5): these are the comforting words of a God who is immersed in the history of his people. In his beloved Son, this divine promise – “I am with you” – embraces all our weakness, even to dying our death. In Christ, even darkness and death become a point of encounter with Light and Life. Hope is born, a hope accessible to everyone, at the very crossroads where life meets the bitterness of failure. That hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5) and makes new life blossom, like a shoot that springs up from the fallen seed. Seen in this light, every new tragedy that occurs in the world’s history can also become a setting for good news, inasmuch as love can find a way to draw near and to raise up sympathetic hearts, resolute faces and hands ready to build anew.
Confidence in the seed of the Kingdom
To introduce his disciples and the crowds to this Gospel mindset and to give them the right “lens” needed to see and embrace the love that dies and rises, Jesus uses parables. He frequently compares the Kingdom of God to a seed that releases its potential for life precisely when it falls to the earth and dies (cf. Mk 4:1-34). This use of images and metaphors to convey the quiet power of the Kingdom does not detract from its importance and urgency; rather, it is a merciful way of making space for the listener to freely accept and appropriate that power. It is also a most effective way to express the immense dignity of the Paschal mystery, leaving it to images, rather than concepts, to communicate the paradoxical beauty of new life in Christ. In that life, hardship and the cross do not obstruct, but bring about God’s salvation; weakness proves stronger than any human power; and failure can be the prelude to the fulfilment of all things in love. This is how hope in the Kingdom of God matures and deepens: it is “as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow” (Mk 4:26-27).
The Kingdom of God is already present in our midst, like a seed that is easily overlooked, yet silently takes root. Those to whom the Holy Spirit grants keen vision can see it blossoming. They do not let themselves be robbed of the joy of the Kingdom by the weeds that spring up all about.
The horizons of the Spirit
Our hope based on the good news which is Jesus himself makes us lift up our eyes to contemplate the Lord in the liturgical celebration of the Ascension. Even though the Lord may now appear more distant, the horizons of hope expand all the more. In Christ, who brings our human nature to heaven, every man and woman can now freely “enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Heb 10:19-20). By “the power of the Holy Spirit” we can be witnesses and “communicators” of a new and redeemed humanity “even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7‑8).
Confidence in the seed of God’s Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should also shape the way we communicate. This confidence enables us to carry out our work – in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays – with the conviction that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.
Those who, in faith, entrust themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit come to realize how God is present and at work in every moment of our lives and history, patiently bringing to pass a history of salvation. Hope is the thread with which this sacred history is woven, and its weaver is none other than the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Hope is the humblest of virtues, for it remains hidden in the recesses of life; yet it is like the yeast that leavens all the dough. We nurture it by reading ever anew the Gospel, “reprinted” in so many editions in the lives of the saints who became icons of God’s love in this world. Today too, the Spirit continues to sow in us a desire for the Kingdom, thanks to all those who, drawing inspiration from the Good News amid the dramatic events of our time, shine like beacons in the darkness of this world, shedding light along the way and opening ever new paths of confidence and hope.
From the Vatican, 24 January 2017
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The great wonders of the priesthood of Christ, who offered Himself, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins; and who now intercedes for us before the Father; and who will return to bring us with Him: those are the three stages of the priesthood of Christ highlighted by Pope Francis during his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope also warned of the “unforgivable blasphemy”: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Listen to our report:
The priesthood of Christ was at the centre of the Pope’s homily on Monday. His reflection was taken from the day’s first Reading, from the Letter of Hebrews, which speaks about Christ as the Mediator of the Covenant God has made with human beings. Jesus is the High Priest, and the priesthood of Christ is the great wonder, the greatest wonder, which makes us sing a new song to the Lord, as the Responsorial Psalm says.
The three stages of the priesthood of Christ: He offers Himself; He intercedes for us; He will return to bring us to the Father
The priesthood of Christ takes place in three stages, the Pope said. The first is the redemption: while the priests of the Old Covenant had to offer sacrifices every year, “Christ offered Himself, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins.” With this marvel, “He has brought us to the Father… He has re-created the harmony of creation,” the Pope noted. The second wonder is what the Lord is doing now – that is, praying for us. “While we pray here, He is praying for us” “for each one of us,” Pope Francis emphasized: “now, living, before the Father, He intercedes,” so that the faith might not falter. How often, in fact, are priests asked to pray, the Pope said, because “we know that the prayer of the priest has a certain force, especially in the sacrifice of the Mass.” The third wonder will be when Christ returns; but this third time will not be in relation to sin, but rather, it will be “to establish the definitive Kingdom,” when He will bring all of us to the Father:
“There is this great wonder, this priesthood of Jesus in three stages – that in which He pardons sins, once for all; that in which He intercedes now for us; and that which will occur when He returns. But there is also the contrary: the ‘unforgivable blasphemy.’ It’s hard to hear Jesus saying these things, but He says it, and if He says it, it is true. ‘Amen I say to you, all will be forgiven the children of men’ – and we know that the Lord forgives everything if we open our hearts a bit. Everything! The sins and even the blasphemies they speak – even blasphemies will be pardoned! – but the one who will have blasphemed the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in eternity.”
“The unforgivable blasphemy”: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, will not allow itself to be forgiven
To explain this, the Pope referred to the great priestly anointing of Jesus, which the Holy Spirit accomplished in the womb of Mary; as priests, in the ceremony of ordination, are anointed with oil:
“Even Jesus as the High Priest received this anointing. And what was the first anointing? The flesh of Mary with the work of the Holy Spirit. And he who blasphemes about this, blasphemes about the foundation of the love of God, which is the redemption, the re-creation; blasphemy about the priesthood of Christ. ‘But the Lord does not forgive that wickedness?’ [you might ask]. ‘No! The Lord forgives everything!’ But one who says these things is closed to forgiveness. He doesn’t want to be forgiven! He doesn’t allow himself to be forgiven! This is the ugliness of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: It does not allow itself to be forgiven, because it denies the priestly anointing of Jesus, accomplished by the Spirit.”
Do not close your heart before the wonders of the priesthood of Christ
In conclusion, the Pope returned to the great wonders of the priesthood of Christ, and also to the “unforgivable blasphemy” – unforgivable “not because the Lord does not want to forgive everything, but because this [person] is so closed that he does not allow himself to be forgiven: the blasphemy against this wonder of Jesus”:
Today it would be good for us, during the Mass, to consider that here on the altar the living memorial is made – because He will be present here – of the first priesthood of Jesus, when He offers His life for us. There is also the living memorial of the second priesthood, because He will pray here. But also, in this Mass – we will say it after the Our Father – there is that third priesthood of Jesus, when He will return, and [that is] our hope of glory. In this Mass, let us think about these beautiful things. And let us ask for grace from the Lord that our hearts might never be closed – might never be closed! – to this wonder, to this great, freely-given wonder.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) In an interview published by Spanish language newspaper El País, Pope Francis said he is most concerned with those in the Church – Bishops, priests, nuns, laymen – who are ‘anesthetized,’ rather than those who are asleep. Those who are anesthetized, he said, “sell out to worldliness.” An anesthetized person, he said, “is not in touch with people, he protects himself against reality.” When such people are in the Church, he said, they “should pack [their] bags and retire.”
Once again, the Holy Father covered a wide range of topics in a newspaper interview, touching again on subjects that are near and dear to his heart – including the “world war” currently being waged “in pieces”; the problem of migration, which involves both welcoming and integrating migrants; the problems of embracing ideologies; and the problems of corruption, especially in the modern world, which worships the “god of money.”
Pope Francis was asked in particular about current world events, including the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. “I think we must wait and see,” he said with regard to the new US administration. “I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion.” He warned against premature reactions: “Being afraid or rejoicing beforehand, because of something that might happen, is, in my view, unwise,” he said.
The Pope had words of praise for his successor, Paul VI, whom he called an unappreciated martyr. He also praised his collaborators in the Roman curia, saying some of them are true saints. The Pope also spoke at some length about what he called the “middle class of sanctity”: mothers, fathers, families, ordinary people, with their sins and their virtues, who strive to lead a Christian life.
The interview with Pope Francis also touched on the Vatican’s role as a mediator in diplomatic conflicts, with the Holy Father emphasizing the importance of dialogue. The Church’s relations with various countries, including Spain, Venezuela and Colombia, and China, also came up in the conversation.
At the close of the interview, asked about what he hopes for from the conclave that will elect his successor, Pope Francis said, “I want it to be Catholic.” He said he wasn’t sure if he would see that election – a reference to the possibility of resigning – or if God would “carry [him] away” before that.
Pope Francis concluded the interview saying “The Lord is good, and hasn’t taken away my good humour.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) A series of earthquakes and devastating winter weather have caused “new and harsh trials for our brothers and sisters of Central Italy,” especially in the provinces of Abruzzo, Le Marche, and Lazio, Pope Francis said on Sunday during his weekly Angelus address.
“I am close to them with prayer and with affection for families” whose loved ones are among the victims,” the Holy Father continued. He also encouraged all those taking part, “with great generosity,” in works of aid and assistance, as well as the local churches “who devote themselves to alleviating suffering and difficulties.”
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by leading the people gathered in St Peter’s Square in prayer for all those affected by the disasters.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis noted that we are currently in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has for its theme this year “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us.”
He noted that the week will conclude in Rome next Wednesday with the ecumenical celebration of Vespers at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. “I invite you to persevere in prayer,” the Pope said, “so that the desire of Christ, ‘That they all might be one,” may be accomplished.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis focused on the early days of Jesus ministry, in Galilee. This region, the Holy Father noted, was a kind of crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian hinterlands. Because of the presence of large numbers of pagans, for the Jews Galilee was seen as a geographical periphery. Little was expected from Galilee in terms of the story of salvation – but it was precisely here that the light of the Gospel began to be diffused throughout the world, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles.
Here, following St John the Baptist, Jesus preached the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. But unlike the Baptist, who waited for the people to come to him, Jesus chose the life of a wandering prophet, going out to meet the people.
Pope Francis noted that Jesus didn’t simply proclaim the Gospel, He sought out companions to associate with Himself in His mission of salvation. He chose simple fisherman, Peter and Andrew, James and John, calling them not in an extraordinary manner, but in the routine of their daily lives. The fishermen, called to be “fishers of men”, responded immediately to Jesus call.
“We, Christians of today,” the Pope said, “have the joy of proclaiming and bearing witness to our faith because of that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who responded generously to the call of Jesus.”
Our awareness of the beginnings of the Christian mission, he continued, “raises up in us the desire to bring the word, the love, and the tenderness of Jesus into every context, even the most impervious and resistant. All the spaces of human life are ground in which to sow the seed of the Gospel, that it might bear the fruits of salvation.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday celebrated Mass at the Cathedral Archbasilica of St John Lateran for the conclusion of the Jubilee for the 800th anniversary of the papal confirmation of the Order of Preachers – the Dominicans.
In his homily, the Holy Father contrasted two opposed “human scenarios”: a “‘carnival’ of worldly curiosity, on the one hand; and on the other, the “glorification of the Father through good works.”
Saint Paul, in the Letter to Timothy, warns against the worldly curiosity that sees men and women, with “itching ears,” always seeking after new teachers, “fables,” strange doctrines, ideologies. The very human tendency to seek novelties, the Pope said, “finds the ideal environment in the society of appearances, of consumption… Even the truth is “made-up”, covered with cosmetics to appear novel and attractive.
Against this worldly “carnival” atmosphere stands the opposite scenario, found in the words of the Jesus in the Gospel: “that they may glorify your heavenly Father.” The passage from a pseudo-festive superficiality to glorification comes about “through the good works of those who, having become disciples of Christ, are become “salt” and “light.”
This, the Pope said, “is the response of Jesus and of the Church, this is the solid support in the midst of a ‘fluid’ environment: good works, which we are able to accomplish thanks to Christ and His Holy Spirit, and which cause to rise up in the heart thanksgiving to the Father, and praise.
Today, Pope Francis said, concluding his homily, “we give thanks to the Father for the work that Saint Dominic, full of the light and the salt of Christ, accomplished 800 years ago; a work at the service of the Gospel, preached with words and with his life; a work that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, has helped so many men and women to not lose themselves in the midst of the ‘carnival’ of worldly curiosity, but rather sense the taste of sound doctrine, the taste of the Gospel; who, in their turn, have become light and salt, doers of good works… and true brothers and sisters who glorify God, and teach others to glorify God, by the good works of their lives.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received members of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report:
Addressing those gathered for the opening of the judiciary year of the Sacred Roman Rota, Pope Francis focused his attention on the relationship between faith and marriage.
Love and Truth
Quoting from his predecessors including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he noted the importance of Love and Truth.
"Love needs truth”, Pope Francis said. “Just as it is based on truth, love can last over time, overcome the ephemeral moment and stand firm to support a common path. If love has no relationship to the truth, the Holy Father explained, “it is subject to changing feelings and does not stand the test of time. True love, he added, “unifies all the elements of the person and becomes a new light towards a great and full life.
In his observations, the Pope underlined that, “the experiences of faith of those seeking Christian marriage are very different.” Faced with this situation, he said, “we need to find valid remedies.”
Prescribing the first of two remedies, the Holy Father pointed out that young people needed to be trained through an adequate process of preparation aimed at rediscovering marriage and the family according to God's plan.
He said, it was therefore necessary that operators and organizations in charge of the pastoral care of the family had the specific skills in order to make preparation more effective for the sacrament of marriage.
In this spirit, the Pope reiterated the need for a "new catechumenate" in preparation for marriage.
The Holy Father’s second remedy involved helping newlyweds to continue the journey in faith and in the Church even after the wedding celebration.
You need, Pope Francis stressed, to identify with courage and creativity, a training project for young married couples, with initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of the sacrament received.
Legal and sacramental view of marriage preparation
The Holy Father said, that these two remedies were aimed at encouraging an appropriate context of faith in which to celebrate and live marriage.
What was needed, explained the Pope, was to move from a purely legal and formal vision of the preparation of future spouses, to a sacramental foundation.
Pope Francis said that this would require, “the generous contribution of Christian men and women, who work with priests in the pastoral care of families, in order to build a loving family according to God’s plan.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with the President of Paraguay, Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara.
The President subsequently met with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
A statement from the Holy See Press Office said the discussions “took place in a cordial atmosphere”, and highlighted the good existing relations between the Holy See and Paraguay.”
“The parties focused on themes of common interest, such as the integral development of the human person, the struggle against poverty, and social peace,” – the statement read – “From this perspective, the collaboration of the Catholic Church was noted, along with her contribution in the social and educational fields, and in aid to those most in need. The conversation continued with an exchange of views on the regional political and social situation, with special reference to the development of democratic institutions.”
President Cartes gave Pope Francis an artistic representation of the altar at which the Holy Father celebrated Mass during his visit to the South American country in 2015, as well as book with a pictorial of the visit.
Pope Francis gave the Paraguayan leader a Jubilee Medal, as well as copies of many of his writings.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called on Christians to overcome the self-centered mindset of the doctors of the law who know only how to condemn. His words came at the morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
Taking inspiration from the Letter to the Hebrews, Pope Francis said the new covenant which God makes with us in Jesus Christ renews our heart. God renews all things “from the roots, not only in appearance”, he said. “This new covenant has its own characteristics.” First, he said, “the law of the Lord is not an external way of acting”; rather, it enters the heart and “changes our mindset”, as well as causing “a change of heart, a change of feeling, of way of acting, and a different way of looking at things.”
Overcoming the egotistical mentality of the doctors of the law who know only how to condemn
The Holy Father offered the example of a work of art, which an architect can behold either with cold envy or with joy and goodness.
“The new covenant changes our heart and allows us to see the law of the Lord with this new heart, with this new mindset. Consider the doctors of the law who persecuted Jesus. These men did everything prescribed by the law. But their mindset was distanced from God. Theirs was an egotistical mindset, focused on themselves: their hearts constantly condemned [others]. The new covenant changes our hearts and minds. There is a change in mindset.”
God forgives our sins; the new covenant changes our lives
The Lord, he added, “goes ahead” and assures us that God will pardon our iniquity and remember no longer our sins. “At times, I like to think about joking with the Lord: ‘You don’t have a good memory!’ This is the weakness of God: when God forgives, He forgets.”
“He forgets, because he forgives. Before a penitent heart, He forgives and forgets: ‘I will forget, I will not remember their sins’. But this too is an invitation not to remind the Lord of our sins, that is, to not sin any more: ‘You have forgiven me, you forgot.’ A change of life, a new covenant renews me and changes my life, not only the mindset and heart, but my life. To live without sin, far from sin: this is to recreate. This is how the Lord recreates us.”
The Lord changes our hearts to change our mindset
In conclusion, the Pope spoke about the ‘change of appearance’. He said, “We belong to God, other gods do not exist… A change of mindset changes the heart, life, and appearance.” He reiterated that this “is the recreation, which the Lord makes even more glorious than the first Creation.”
He then exhorted Christians to follow through with this covenant and to be ever true to it.
“The seal of this covenant is faithfulness, to be faithful to this work which the Lord has completed to change our mindset, to change our hearts. The prophets said, ‘But the Lord will change your heart of stone into a heart of flesh’: To change one’s heart and life and to sin no more, not reminding the Lord that He has forgotten our sins.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Thursday with organizers of an exhibition on the history of the Jubilees, which was hosted by the Italian Senate from March to June 2016. The President of the Italian Senate, Pietro Grasso, let the delegation of organizers and volunteers.
The Holy Father expressed his gratitude for the exhibition, which documented “multiple aspects” of the Jubilee Years, beginning with the first, in 1300, called by Pope Boniface VIII. Since that time, the Pope said, “each Jubilee has left its mark on the history of Rome: from architecture to the welcome of pilgrims; from the arts to caregiving and charitable activities.” But, Pope Francis continued, “there is an essential element, the heart of each Holy Year, which should never be lost sight of: in the Jubilee one encounters the goodness of God and the fragility of man, who always stands in need of the love and forgiveness of God.” God reveals His omnipotence, the Pope said, especially by showing mercy, which is a trait proper to God Himself.
Offering his gratitude to those who helped with the exhibition, and to the Italian Senate which hosted it, Pope Francis said expressed his hope that everyone might continue “to draw abundant and enduring spiritual fruits from the Jubilee experience.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday invited the faithful to let themselves be drawn by Jesus pointing out that Christian life is a daily struggle against temptation.
Speaking during the homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta , the Pope warned against the temptations that lead us down the wrong path.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:
Referring to the Gospel reading of the day, Pope Francis said Jesus came to destroy the influence of evil on our hearts.
Recounting the passage from the Gospel of Mark that tells of how large numbers of people followed Jesus with enthusiasm, the Pope posed the question: ‘why were the crowds attracted?’
The Gospel, he said, tells us that some were sick and wanted to be healed but there were also people who liked listening to Jesus because he touched their hearts. This was because, he explained, the Father drew people to Jesus.
So much so, Francis said, Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. And he said He too was moved because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd, and thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit the Father was drawing them to the Lord.
And, the Pope emphasized, the reason for which so many people were attracted by Jesus Christ was nothing to do with Apologetics.
Commenting upon the end of the Gospel passage which says ‘whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God"’, Francis said that whenever we try to approach God, the unclean spirits try to prevent us from doing so, and “wage a war against us.”
Those, he said, who feel they are very Catholic and never have temptations, must pray because they are on the wrong path.
“A Christian life without temptations is not Christian, he said: it is ideological, it is Gnostic, but it is not Christian”.
When the Father draws people to Jesus, Pope Francis explained, there is an opposite force that causes conflict.
“That’s why St Paul speaks of Christian life as a struggle: a daily struggle. A fight!” he said: That’s why Jesus came: “to destroy Satan's empire, the empire of evil”.
He came to destroy its influence in our hearts, the Pope said. So while the Father is attracting you to Jesus, the spirit of evil is seeking to destroy that attraction.
The Pope concluded with the exhortation to fight on and feel the heart that struggles for the victory of Jesus.
"May the Lord give us the grace to know how to discern what is going on in our hearts and to choose the right path upon which the Father draws us to Jesus” he said.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday said that “the intention of Martin Luther five hundred years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her”.
Speaking to members of an Ecumenical Delegation from Finland who are in the Vatican to take part in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Pope recalled his visit to Sweden last October and said that the “gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together.”
The Pope ended his speech with off-the-cuff remarks thanking the bishop leading the delegation for having brought his grandchildren to the audience and pointing out that "we need the simplicity of children: they will show us the path that leads to Jesus Christ."
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place from 18 to 25 January focussing on a theme selected on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us”.
The celebration concludes with Vespers, presided over by Pope Francis, in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls on January 25th.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ address to the members of the Ecumenical Delegation from Finland:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I joyfully welcome all of you, members of the Ecumenical Delegation, who have come as pilgrims from Finland to Rome on the occasion of the feast of Saint Henrik. I thank the Lutheran Bishop of Turku for his kind words. For more than thirty years, it has been a fine custom for your pilgrimage to take place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which calls us to draw closer to one another anew through conversion. True ecumenism is based on a shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer. If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another. During these days let us pray more fervently to the Holy Spirit so that we may experience this conversion which makes reconciliation possible.
On this path, we Catholics and Lutherans, from several countries, together with various communities sharing our ecumenical journey, reached a significant step when, on 31 October last, we gathered together in Lund, Sweden, to commemorate through common prayer the beginning of the Reformation. This joint commemoration of the Reformation was important on both the human and theological-spiritual levels. After fifty years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on. For this we are grateful. At the same time we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults. In this spirit, we recalled in Lund that the intention of Martin Luther five hundred years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her. The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together.
In preparing the common commemoration of the Reformation, Catholics and Lutherans noted with greater awareness that theological dialogue remains essential for reconciliation and that it is advanced through steadfast commitment. Thus, in that communion of harmony which permits the Holy Spirit to act, we will be able to find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the Church, and will be able to draw ever closer to full and visible unity. I pray to the Lord that he may bestow his blessing on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland, which is working diligently towards a common sacramental understanding of the Church, the Eucharist and ecclesial ministry.
Therefore 2017, the commemorative year of the Reformation, represents for Catholics and Lutherans a privileged occasion to live the faith more authentically, in order to rediscover the Gospel together, and to seek and witness to Christ with renewed vigour. At the conclusion of the day of commemoration in Lund, and looking to the future, we drew inspiration from our common witness to faith before the world, when we committed ourselves to jointly assisting those who suffer, who are in need, and who face persecution and violence. In doing so, as Christians we are no longer divided, but rather united on the journey towards full communion.
I am pleased to recall also that this year the Christians of Finland celebrate the centenary of the Finnish Ecumenical Council, which is an important instrument in promoting communion of faith and life among you.
Finally, in 2017 your homeland, Finland, will celebrate one hundred years as an independent State. May this anniversary encourage all the Christians of your country to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – as did Saint Henrik so zealously – offering a witness of faith to the world today and putting that faith into practice through concrete acts of service, fraternity and sharing.
In the hope that your pilgrimage may contribute to further strengthening the good cooperation between Orthodox, Lutherans and Catholics in Finland and in the world, and that the common witness of faith, hope and love may bear abundant fruit through Saint Henrik’s intercession, I willingly invoke God’s grace and blessing upon you all.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday gave a special greeting to a group of children from Bosnia and Herzegovina who have been participating in a special programme to foster inter-community harmony by allowing children from different backgrounds to live together in a neutral setting, which in this case is Sicily.
Children from Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim backgrounds have been living with Sicilian host families from 19 December, and will return home on 21 January. The programme is sponsored by the Luciano Lama Association.
“Dear children, spending time together as brothers and sisters with your host families, you have the opportunity to grow in an atmosphere of hope,” – Pope Francis told them during his weekly General Audience – “Only in this way can you young Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims rescue the hope to live in a world which is more fraternal, just and peaceful; more sincere and more humane.”
He told them to always remain firm in faith and pray for the peace and unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the whole world.
“I sincerely thank the host families for their example of love and Christian solidarity: Orphans should always be defended, protected and welcomed with love,” – The Pope concluded – “I assure you of my spiritual closeness and I cordially impart upon all of you my Apostolic Blessing.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Wednesday that Christian Unity and reconciliation are possible. He was speaking during his weekly General Audience in the Paul the VI hall where he also continued his catechesis on Christian hope.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report
We look more 'to that' which unites us rather than that which 'divides us”. Those were Pope Francis’ words on Wednesday during his weekly General Audience as he recalled this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Inviting Christians to pray for this week and also recalling his visit to Lund in Sweden to Commemorate the Reformation, the Pope said “we continue the journey together to deepen our communion and to give it more and more a 'visible form.”
In Europe, the Holy Father stressed, this common faith in Christ is like a green thread of hope” adding that, “communion, unity and reconciliation 'are possible.”
As Christians, he said, “we are responsible for 'this message and we have to bear witness to it with our lives.”
The Pope made the comments while greeting an Ecumenical delegation from Germany.
Also during his audience and continuing his catechesis on Christian hope, Pope Francis reflected on the story of the prophet Jonah, who sought to flee from a difficult mission entrusted to him by the Lord.
He said that, “when the ship that Jonah had boarded was tossed by a storm, the pagan sailors asked him, as a man of God, to pray that they might escape sure death.
The Pope noted that, “the story reminds us of the link between hope and prayer.”
Anguish in the face of death, he added, “often makes us recognize our human frailty and our need to pray for salvation.”
The Holy Father explained that Jonah prays on behalf of the sailors and as a result, “the sailors come to acknowledge the true God.”
He also underlined that “as the paschal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection makes clear, death itself can be, for each of us, an invitation to hope and an encounter in prayer with the God of our salvation.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The funeral Mass of Cardinal Gilberto Agustoni took place in St Peters Basilica at 10am, Tuesday 17 January. The Swiss Cardinal, who served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 1992-1998, died on January 13, aged 94.
The funeral Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former Vatican secretary of State and Dean of the College of Cardinals.
Greeting all those present on behalf of Pope Francis, Cardinal Sodano often likened Christian faith to light during his homily.
"In the first reading is Job, who already many centuries before Christ, professed his faith in the final resurrection saying, 'I know that my Redeemer lives, and my eyes will behold him.'"
Touching on Saint Paul's faith that Jesus will bring with him to God all those who have died, Cardinal Sodano then quoted the Gospel of Luke: "'Be ready, dressed for action with your lamps burning,' ready to open the door to the Lord, who comes to call us. This is the Christian vision of life and death, which we wish to profess, especially at the moment a loved one departs from this world. It was this faith which always guided our dear Cardinal Gilberto."
He concluded with a further reflection on faith and light, comparing the "living flame of faith" in Dante's Divine Comedy, with Jesus' words "I came into the world as light, so that he who believes in me will not remain in darkness." Once again, he assured the congregation that this light had illuminated and guided the life of Cardinal Agustino.
Gilberto Agustoni was born in Switzerland in 1922 and ordained a priest in 1946. He held a number of appointments in Rome, beginning in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later becoming secretary of the Congregation for Clergy and finally Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Pope John Paul II made him a Cardinal in 1994.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Be courageous Christians, anchored in hope and capable of enduring dark moments. This was the forceful invitation of Pope Francis at the morning Mass on Tuesday at the Casa Santa Marta. Lazy Christians, on the other hand, are stationary, the Pope said, and for them, the Church is a good parking spot.
The life of a Christian is a “courageous life,” Pope Francis said in his homily, which he based on the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. The zeal spoken of in the reading, the courage to go forward, ought to be our attitude toward life, like the attitude of those who train for victory in the arena. But the Letter also speaks of the laziness that is the opposite of courage. “Living in the fridge,” the Pope summarized, “so that everything stays the same”:
“Lazy Christians, Christians who do not have the will to go forward, Christians who don’t fight to make things change, new things, the things that would do good for everyone, if these things would change. They are lazy, “parked” Christians: they have found in the Church a good place to park. And when I say Christians, I’m talking about laity, priests, bishops… Everyone. But there are parked Christians! For them the Church is a parking place that protects life, and they go forward with all the insurance possible. But these stationary Christians, they make me think of something the grandparents told us as children: beware of still water, that which doesn’t flow, it is the first to go bad.”
Be anchored in hope, and able to endure in difficult moments
What makes Christians courageous is hope, while the “lazy Christians” don’t have hope, they are in retirement, the Pope said. It is beautiful to go into retirement after many years of work, but, he warned, “spending your whole life in retirement is ugly!” Hope, on the other hand, is the anchor that we cling to in order to keep fighting, even in difficult moments:
“This is today’s message: hope, that hope that doesn’t disappoint, that goes beyond. And he [the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews] says: a hope that ‘is a sure and firm anchor for our life.’ Hope is the anchor: We threw it, and we are clinging to the cord, but there, but going there. This is our hope. There’s no thinking: ‘Yes, but, there is heaven, ah, how beautiful, I’m staying…’ No. Hope is struggling, holding onto the rope, in order to arrive there. In the struggle of everyday, hope is a virtue of horizons, not of closure! Perhaps it is the virtue that is least understood, but it is the strongest. Hope: living in hope, living on hope, always looking forward with courage. ‘Yes, Father – anyone of you might say to me – but there are ugly moments, where everything seems dark, what should I do?’ Hold onto the rope, and endure.”
Parked Christians look only at themselves, they are selfish
“Life does not come to any of us wrapped up like a gift,” Pope Francis noted; rather, we need courage to go forward and to endure. Courageous Christians might make mistakes, “but we all make mistakes,” the Pope said. “Those who go forward make mistakes, while those who are stationary seem to not make mistakes.” And when “you can’t walk because everything is dark, everything is closed,” you need to endure, to persevere.
Finally, Pope Francis invited us to ask ourselves if we are closed Christians, or Christians of the horizons; and if in ugly moments we are capable of enduring, with the knowledge that hope does not disappoint – “Because I know,” he said, “that God does not disappoint”:
“Let us ask ourselves the question: How am I? How is my life of faith? Is it a life of horizons, of hope, of courage, of going forward; or a lukewarm life that doesn’t even know to endure ugly moments? And that the Lord might give us the grace, as we have requested in the Collect [Opening Prayer], to overcome our selfishness, because parked Christians, stationary Christians, are selfish. They look only at themselves, they don’t raise their heads to look at Him. May the Lord give us this grace.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday received in audience Prof. Alpha Condé, President of the Republic of Guinea.
The leader of the West African nation also met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and with the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
A Vatican press released described the colloquiums as cordial and said they highlighted the good relations that exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Guinea.
It said they focused on questions of common interest such as integral human development, care of the environment, the fight against poverty and social injustice and the development of adequate policies in regards to the phenomenon of migration.
The important role and the contribution of Catholic institutions that operate in the country, particularly in fields of education, healthcare and the promotion of inter-religious dialogue were also discussed and highlighted.
The Republic of Guinea’s concrete commitment to work for peace in the West African region was an also object of attention.
Prof. Alpha Condé has been President of the Republic of Guinea since December 2010 after having spent decades in opposition to a succession of regimes.
When he took office he became the first freely elected president in the country's history, and then he was reelected in 2015 with almost 58% of the vote.
(from Vatican Radio)...