VATICAN INSIDER: WHAT IS THE PERSONAL ORDINARIATE? – A LOOK AT THE NEXT BIG EVENTS ON THE JUBILEE OF MERCY CALENDAR

As you will read below in my preview of “Vatican Insider,” I leave tomorrow for Houston to attend a very important event in the life of the Church as well as of one of her priests. I’ll be writing about this and posting photos when I’m in Houston, and I’ll do my best to be timely and offer good insight but the agenda is quite full so I will have to work hard to find time!

VATICAN INSIDER: WHAT IS THE PERSONAL ORDINARIATE?

If you listen to Vatican Insider when it airs on Saturday, I will be on a plane heading for Houston, Texas. If you listen to the Sunday re-air, I will be in Houston and preparing for a marvelous event on February 2, the episcopal ordination of a good friend, Bishop-elect Steven Lopes, as the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter. The Personal Ordinariate is a structure in the Church created by Pope Benedict in 2009 to answer requests by Anglicans who wanted to enter into full communion with Rome. The first ordinariate to be created was Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK in January 2011. Msgr. Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop was appointed by Benedict XVI as the first ordinary.

MSGR NEWTON

A second Ordinariate was created a year later on January 1, 2012. in the U.S. and is known as the Personal Ordinariate of the See of Peter. As its website says: The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition. Members of the Ordinariate are fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of Anglican heritage in their celebration of liturgy and in the hospitality and ministries of their Catholic communities. Based in Houston, Texas, the Ordinariate has more than 40 Roman Catholic parishes and communities across the United States and Canada.

This weekend and next on Vatican Insider, we will re-air my two-part interview with Msgr. Newton, helping you to better understand the ordinariate.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

A LOOK AT THE NEXT BIG EVENTS ON THE JUBILEE OF MERCY CALENDAR

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and Msgr. Graham Bell, under secretary of the same dicastery, presided at a press conference this morning in the Holy See Press Office to explain the event for the Missionaries of Mercy and also the temporary transfer to Rome of the mortal remains of Sts. Pio of Pietrelcina and Leopold Mandic.

The multi-lingual Archbishop Fisichella spoke in Italian but offered an English translation of his talk:

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It is has been almost two months now since Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s. Since that moment, the Doors of Mercy have been opened all around the world. The incredible number of people who have registered for these events allows us to acknowledge how this insight of Pope Francis, his idea of having this Extraordinary Jubilee, has answered a true need of the people of God who are receiving this event of grace with great joy and enthusiasm. We can conclude from this participation that the Jubilee is being intensely lived in all the world and in every local Church, where this time of grace is being organized as a genuine form of renewal for the Church and as a particular moment of the new evangelization.

Every day we receive thousands of pictures and documents from around the world attesting to the commitment and the faith of believers. Yet all of this activity has not stopped a substantial number of pilgrims from arriving in Rome during this period. According to the data available to us on a daily basis, as of today 1,392,000 people have participated in Jubilee events. An interesting detail is that 40% of those who have attended come from abroad, speaking largely Spanish and French. We have registered pilgrims from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Korea, Kenya, Mozambique, El Salvador, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, the Fiji Islands, Russia, Belarus, the Seychelles, the Ivory Coast, Chad, Kuwait, the U.S.A., Albania and from many other countries. I would like to reiterate that this is not the criteria by which to judge the actual outcome of the Jubilee. A Holy Year of Mercy goes well beyond numbers, for it is intended to touch the hearts and the minds of people in order to  assist  them  in  coming to  understand  the  ways  in  which  God’s  great  love manifests itself in their daily lives. It is a time during which to assess our lives of faith and to understand how we are capable of conversion and renewal, both of which come from recognizing the importance of remaining focused upon what is essential. In any case, a general evaluation of the Jubilee cannot be made after only two months but must be done at its conclusion. All of the other considerations at the moment are incomplete and temporary and, thus, do not merit particular attention.

During this period, Pope Francis has carried out two particular signs of his concrete witness of mercy. On Friday, December 18, he opened the Door of Charity in the homeless shelter, “Don Luigi di Liegro”, where he celebrated Holy Mass in the refectory. On January 15, he visited the nursing home for the aged, “Bruno Buozzi” in Torrespaccata, after which he went to Casa Iride where he spent time with those in vegetative states who are being assisted by their families. These signs possess a symbolic value before all of the many needs that are present in society today. They are, however, intended to stir in all of us a greater awareness of the many situations of need in our cities and to offer a small response of caring and aid.

There  are  two  particular events  that  now  merit  our attention.  The  first  pertains  to  the presence in Rome of the urns containing the relics of Saint Leopold Mandić and Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Such an occasion is of great significance for it is an unprecedented event, given the stories of these two saints who spent their lives in the service of the mercy of God. Padre Leopold (1866-1942) was canonized by John Paul II on December 16, 1983 and is less well known than Padre Pio. Yet, his hunger for holiness spread beyond the Church of Padua, where he lived the major part of his life and where his memory and his relics remain. Originally from Croatia, this Capuchin father dedicated all of his life to the confessional. For almost thirty years, he spent from ten to fifteen hours a day in the secrecy of his cell, the very place which became a confessional for thousands of people who found in their relationships with him the privileged witness of forgiveness and of mercy. Some of his brothers noted that he was “ignorant and too lenient in forgiving everyone without discernment.” Yet, his simple and humble response to this charge leaves one speechless: “Should the Crucified blame me for being lenient, I would answer Him: Lord, you gave me this bad example. I have not yet reached the folly of your having died for souls.” Padre Pio (1887-1968), who was canonized in 2002 and also by John Paul II, does not require lengthy presentations. This simple Capuchin friar spent his entire life at San Giovanni Rotondo without ever leaving that town. Certainly, during his life, some in Rome caused him to suffer, but his holiness always prevailed.  In the silence of obedience, he also became a privileged witness of mercy, dedicating all of his life to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are grateful to the Capuchin  Fathers  and  to  the  Bishops  of  the  Dioceses  of  Padoa  and  Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo for having responded so graciously to the wish of the Pope that the relics of these two saints remain in Rome for a period of time during the Jubilee.

The program is quite simple. The urns containing the relics will arrive in Rome on February 3 where they will be placed in the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura. The church will be open to the faithful starting at 15:00 with a celebration of reception. The relics will remain in San Lorenzo until 20:30 the following day, during which time there will be a number of celebrations reserved for the vast extended Franciscan Family. An all-night vigil is being organized in the Jubilee Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, which will begin at 22:00 on February 4. The prayer will continue until the following day, February 5, with various celebrations and will conclude with Holy Mass at 14:00 presided by His Excellency Michele Castoro, the Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. At 16:00, a procession with the two urns containing the relics will begin from San Salvatore in Lauro and then proceed the entire length of Via della Conciliazione in order to arrive at the sagrato of St. Peter’s Basilica. There on the sagrato, His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Comastri, the Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will receive the relics and after a moment of prayer, will then accompany the relics into the Basilica where they will be placed in the central nave before the  Altar  of  the  Confession  for  people  to  venerate.  The  relics  will  remain  in  St.  Peter’s  for veneration until the morning of February 11 when, after the Holy Mass of thanksgiving at 7:30 am at the Altar of the Chair, they will be returned to their original homes. It is opportune to note that on February 10, Ash Wednesday, the Basilica will remain closed in the morning for the General Audience and then, in the afternoon, Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica to mark the beginning of Lent. Thus, those who wish to venerate the relics are kindly asked to choose to do so on one of the previous days and to follow along the Jubilee reserved walkway in order to enter through the security check point as rapidly as possible.

As previously noted, the second event pertains to the celebration that will take place on Ash Wednesday when the Holy Father will give the mandate to the Missionaries of Mercy. As attested to in the Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae vultus, the Missionaries are to be a “sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again. They will be led in their mission by the words of the Apostle: ‘For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all’” (Rom11:32).

Thus, the Missionaries of Mercy are a select number of priests who have received from the Pope the charge to be privileged witnesses in their respective Churches of the extraordinariness of this Jubilee event. It is only the Pope who nominates these Missionaries, not the Bishops, and it is he who entrusts them with the mandate to announce the beauty of the mercy of God while being humble and wise confessors who possess a great capacity to forgive those who approach the confessional. The Missionaries, who come from every continent, number over 1,000. I am delighted to announce that there are Missionaries coming from many distant countries and, among these, some of which have a uniquely significant importance such as: Burma, Lebanon, China, South Korea, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Burundi, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Latvia, East Timor, Indonesia, Thailand, and Egypt. There will also be Oriental Rite priests.

We have received a great response for participation but must place a limit on the large number of requests in order to ensure that the specific sign value, one which expresses how truly special the initiative is, be maintained. All of the Missionaries have received the permission of their respective diocesan Bishops or Religious Superiors and will make themselves available to those requesting their services throughout the entirety of the Jubilee but, most especially, during the Lenten Season.

There will be 700 Missionaries arriving in Rome. Pope Francis will meet with them on February 9 in order to express his feelings regarding this initiative which will certainly be one of the most touching and significant of the Jubilee of Mercy. On the following day, only the Missionaries of Mercy will concelebrate  with  the  Holy  Father,  during  which  time they will receive the “mandate”, as well as the faculty to absolve those sins reserved to the Holy See. An interesting story may help to capture the pastoral interest that this initiative has garnered around the world. Father Richard from Australia will visit 27 communities in his rural Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle where there is only one church and no priests in residence. Traveling in a camper, he will journey from community to community as a “Missionary of Mercy on Wheels”! This is but an example of the way in which the Jubilee is meant to reach all, allowing everyone to touch the closeness and the tenderness of God.

Finally, regarding other Jubilee events, the first Jubilee Audience will be held in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, January 30. Pope Francis has responded generously to the many requests he has received from pilgrims who wish to meet him. Consequently, one Saturday a month has been added to the official calendar for a special audience, one which will be in addition to the regular Wednesday Audiences. This first audience already has 20,000 people registered. Another event of particular interest is the Jubilee for the Curia, the Governorate, and Institutions connected to the Holy See to be held on February 22. This celebration will begin with a reflection given by Father Marco Rupnik at 8:30 am in the Paul VI Hall. After this meditation, there will be a procession through  St.  Peter’s  Square  which  will  pass  through  the  Holy  Door.  Holy Mass  will  then  be celebrated by Pope Francis at 10:00.

The Jubilee continues to following its course and we are certain that, in accord with the desires of Pope Francis, it will be an important occasion “to live out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us.”

RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON FROM CONCEPTION TO NATURAL DEATH – POPE FRANCIS MEETS ACTOR AND ENVIRONMENTALIST DICAPRIO – NAZARETH TO HOST 24TH WORLD DAY OF THE SICK

Today was one of those days when time required me to be out of the office more than I was in and at my desk. In late afternoon, I taped an on-location episode of “Bookmark” with Doug Keck, part of a longer afternoon “on location.”

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It is fairly late now but here are the stories that made the news today.

RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON FROM CONCEPTION TO NATURAL DEATH

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday speaking to the members of the Italian Committee for Bioethics, underlined how the Church supports the efforts of civil society to promote, “the search for truth and goodness on complex human and ethical issues”.

He told those gathered that the Church had a sensitivity to ethical issues, adding that, “the Church did not claim any privileged voice in this field.” But he highlighted the importance of serving man, all men and women with special attention and care, from the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, who are struggling find the their voice.

On this level, he said, “the ecclesial community and civil society meet and are called to cooperate, in accordance with their distinct skills. ”

The Pope noted the fact that the Committee “had repeatedly dealt with the respect for the integrity of the human being and the protection of health from conception to natural death, considering the person in his singularity, always as an end and never simply as a means “:

He added that “this ethical principle was also crucial with regard to biotechnology applications in the medical field, which may never be used in a manner detrimental to human dignity, or guided solely by industrial or commercial purposes”.

Bioethical research on complex issues, the Pope emphasized, is not easy and does not always quickly reach a harmonious conclusion; it always requires humility and realism, he said.

Concluding his address, the Holy Father stressed three specific areas in which he wanted to encourage the committee’s work.

The first was the interdisciplinary analysis of the causes of environmental degradation.

The Pope said, he hoped that the Committee would  formulate guidelines, in areas that concern the life sciences, to stimulate actions of conservation, preservation and care of the environment essential for future generations.

Secondly, he highlighted the issue of disability and marginalization of vulnerable groups, in a society he said, tending towards competition, and the acceleration of progress.

The culture of waste

Pope Francis stressed the importance and challenge of tackling what he called “the culture of waste,” which, he underlined had many forms, such as treating human embryos and even the sick and elderly who are approaching death as disposable materials.

Thirdly, the Holy Father encouraged the committee to work towards increasing dialogue internationally, even if, he said, that presented difficulties, in order to reach a harmonization of biological and medical standards and rules so that they are able to recognize core values ​​and fundamental rights.

POPE FRANCIS MEETS ACTOR AND ENVIRONMENTALIST DICAPRIO

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday met with actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.

The actor gave the Pope a book of art from the Dutch Renaissance painter, Hieronymus Bosch, and at the end of the encounter, DiCaprio kissed the Pope’s ring, and, in Italian, thanked the Holy Father for meeting with him.

DI CAPRIO

DiCaprio addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this month, calling on business leaders to do more to fight global warming, and announcing The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is donating $15 million to environmental projects.

NAZARETH TO HOST 24TH WORLD DAY OF THE SICK

(VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the 24th World Day of the Sick, to be celebrated in Nazareth in the Holy Land on 11 February, feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, on the theme “Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary: ‘Do whatever he tells you’”, based on the account of the wedding at Cana according to the Gospel of St. John.

WORLD DAY OF SICK

The panel was composed of Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (Health Pastoral Care), Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu, secretary of the same dicastery, Rev. Fr. Augusto Chendi, under-secretary, Rev. Fr. Pietro Felet, S.C.I., secretary general of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and local referent for the organisation of the World Day of the Sick 2016.

The place where this annual Day will be held – Nazareth, in the Holy Land – is the first point to highlight, said Archbishop Zimowski. Nazareth is the place of the incarnation, where Jesus began His salvific mission and in Galilee cured many people, as is narrated in the Gospel of St. Mark, read in these days, in which Christ calls to the sick to heal them and, in turn, is called to by them. “In a certain sense we are all constantly called upon, although each person in a different way,” explained the prelate. “The human being suffers in different places and, at times, suffers terribly. He calls to another person as he is in need of his help and his presence. At times we are intimidated by the fact of not being able to heal, of not being able to help like Jesus. Let us try to overcome this embarrassment. The important thing is to keep going, to stay beside the man who suffers. He needs, perhaps more than healing, the presence of another person, of a human heart full of mercy, of human solidarity.”

Click here for press conference: http://www.news.va/en/news/presentation-of-the-world-day-of-the-sick

POPE TO FAMILIES: PATCH UP PROBLEMS IN YEAR OF MERCY – A JUBILEE YEAR RETREAT FOR THOSE AT SERVICE OF CHARITY

For those of you who will be in Rome early next month and want to see the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio for the days they will be in the Eternal City and in Vatican City, click here (the official Vatican Jubilee website) for details: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/news/evidenza/2016-01-06-pcpne.html

POPE TO FAMILIES: PATCH UP PROBLEMS IN YEAR OF MERCY

It was a fun day for pilgrims attending Pope Francis’ weekly general audienc, held this week in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, because the circus was in town and performed in front of the Holy Father who gave every indication of greatly enjoying the colorful performance. (CNS photo)

AG JAN 27 - CIRCUS

“I greet the circus performers,” he said after they had performed, “and I thank them for their very welcome exhibition. You are champions of beauty: you make beauty, and beauty is good for the soul.” Then, extemporaneously, he said, “Beauty brings us closer to God, but behind this spectacle of beauty, how many hours of training there are! Go forward, keep it up!”

Earlier, the Pope delivered his weekly audience catechesis in Italian, with summaries delivered in seven other languages by monsignori from the Secretariat of State. (photo new.va)

Ag JANUARY 27

“Continuing our weekly catecheses inspired by this Holy Year devoted to divine mercy,” began Francis, “we now consider God’s mercy at work in the history of the Chosen People. The Scriptures show the Lord’s merciful concern for Israel throughout its history, beginning with the call of Abraham. God’s mercy is expressed particularly, however, in the experience of the exodus from Egypt. God heard the cry of his people, as he hears the cry of the poor and oppressed in every age. He raised up Moses to be the mediator of his mercy and salvation.

“Through Moses,” continued the Pope, “he led Israel to freedom and, through the covenant, he made them his own possession, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, a people precious in his eyes. The mystery of God’s mercy culminates in the sending of his Son, the Lord Jesus, in that “new and eternal covenant” inaugurated in his blood, whereby we are granted the forgiveness of our sins and become truly God’s children, beloved sons and daughters of our good and merciful Father.

The Holy Father explained that, “Moses, one of God’s chosen ones, saved from the waters of the Nile by divine mercy, becomes a mediator for the liberation of his people. “And we too, in this Year of Mercy, can be mediators … with the works of mercy, being close to our neighbours, to relieve them. They are many good things we can do.

In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis said, “I think about so many brothers and sisters who are estranged from their families; they don’t speak to each other. This Year of Mercy is a good occasion to meet up again, to embrace each other and forgive each other, to leave bad things behind.” And he urged those with such issues to try and settle them, to patch things up, to take advantage of this year of mercy

Pope Francis emphasized performing both spiritual and corporal works of mercy uring this Holy Year – and beyond – and this was also the core of his just-released 2016 Message for Lent.

A JUBILEE YEAR RETREAT FOR THOSE AT SERVICE OF CHARITY

(Vatican Radio) During his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called attention to a Jubilee Year initiative of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, promoting a day of spiritual retreat for persons and groups dedicated to the service of charitable works. These days of retreat, to be offered in each diocese during the coming Lent, will offer an opportunity to reflect on the call to be merciful as the Father is merciful. “I invite you to welcome this initiative,” Pope Francis said, “making use of the suggestions and materials prepared by Cor Unum.”

The day of retreat will have as its theme “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5,14: the love of Christ compels us). In a letter announcing the initiative, Cor Unum suggests that each individual charitable group should celebrate its own day of reflection, citing the Holy Father’s desire that the Jubilee be celebrated in local communities. The letter suggests the retreat be organized in three parts: “a penitential celebration with individual confessions; a time of sharing in group and the Eucharistic celebration.”

More information on the Day of Spiritual Retreat can be found here.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, its tasks are to orient and coordinate the Organizations and charitable activities promoted by the Catholic Church.

POPE FRANCIS, IRAN PRESIDENT ROUHANI MEET IN VATICAN

POPE FRANCIS, IRAN PRESIDENT ROUHANI MEET IN VATICAN

As I neared St. Peter’s Square this morning at the start of various appointments in the Vatican, I saw first hand the massive security that was in place for the late morning meeting between Pope Francis and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Adding to the president’s own motorcade of several dozen vehicle and limousines were the dozens of police motorcycles, cars, and vans and several Italian army jeeps with machine-gun toting officers, dressed in camouflage, ringing Vatican City.

Tourists and visitors were kept away from the left hand colonnade, although pilgrims were still allowed to enter the special area of the right hand colonnade to go through security in order to enter St. Peter’s Holy Door.

I well remember the last visit of an Iranian President – 1999 – when Mohammad Khatami came on an official visit to Rome and the Vatican. Traffic problems in the city then, 17 years ago, were massive (and that is an understatement) as many main streets were closed for hours, and some were even closed for the duration of the president’s stay at a Rome hotel. St. Peter’s Square was completely closed to tourists and visitors, and I remember helicopters circling overhead for the duration of the Vatican visit.

For days, news reports have highlighted the importance of Rouhani’s four-day trip to Europe – to Italy, the Vatican and France – especially because Europe was Iran’s largest trading partner before the sanctions, and a range of business and trade deals is expected. On his Italian agenda for his first day, Monday, Rouhani first met with Italian President Sergio Matterella, later meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo. Rouhani will be received in France by President Francois Hollande.

The Vatican released the following communique after the 40-minute private visit (with translators) between the Pope and President Rouhani (photos: news.va):

IRAN ROUHANI

“Today, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, common spiritual values emerged and reference was made to the good state of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the life of the Church in the country and the action of the Holy See to favour the promotion of the dignity of the human person and religious freedom. Attention then turned to the conclusion and application of the Nuclear Accord and the important role that Iran is called upon to fulfil, along with other countries in the Region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking. In this respect, the Parties highlighted the importance of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace.”

The newsworthy part of that communique undoubtedly concerns “…the important role that Iran is called upon to fulfill, along with other countries in the Region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking. In this respect, the Parties highlighted the importance of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace.”

Iran, in essence, was being asked to take a leadership role in the region in the quest for peace and the fight against terrorism.

One report said that Pope Francis brought up the issue of human rights in Iran. That report noted that Amnesty International lists Iran right after China for abuses.

Ten days ago, January 16, Iran freed four U.S. prisoners as part of a prisoner swap, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini. Abedini, in his first media appearance since then, spoke on a FoxNews program last night about his imprisonment in Iran. He was first detained in the summer of 2012. Abedini, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, has dual Iranian-American citizenship.

After their private talk, Pope Francis and President Rouhani exchanged gifts. AP reported that, “The pope’s gift had a spiritual spin. Francis bestowed a medal depicting St. Martin giving his cloak to a shivering man, saying the gesture represents a sign of brotherhood. President Hassan Rouhani brought the pope a red-toned carpet, about 80 cms (32 inches) by 1.2 meters (4 feet) and explained that the rug was hand-made in the Holy City of Qhom. Francis seemed curious as Hassan leafed through a book illustrating Iranian artworks, another gift.”

IRAN GIFTS

”I ask you to pray for me,” Rouhani is said to have told Francis: Francis thanked Rouhani for the visit and added: “I hope for peace.”

 

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR LENT: “I DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE”

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR LENT: “I DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE”

The Vatican today published Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2016 – “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.” It was dated October 4, 2015, Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

LENT 2016

The heart of the Pope’s Message is in Number 3, The works of mercy, where he quotes Misericordiae vultus, the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee of Mercy:

“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever-new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.”

And Francis continues, pointing to the need for conversion, another central point of his Lenten Message:

“In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us, and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5), which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and techno-science, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy….”

The full papal Lenten message is here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2016/1/26/messaggioquaresima.html

POPE TO ATTEND ECUMENICAL CELEBRATION IN SWEDEN IN OCTOBER

As I write, Pope Francis is presiding at Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls for the solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul. This is an annual ecumenical encounter that is the traditional conclusion to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is the 49th annual Week of Prayer.

The big news today is also of an ecumenical nature. The Holy See Press Office annouced that the Holy Father Francis intends to participate in a joint ceremony of the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, scheduled to take place in Lund, Sweden on Monday, October 31, 2016. (See below).

My maternal grandfather, William Bromann, was born in Uelzen, Germany in 1869, into a Lutheran family. When he was 18 months old, he and his parents (my great grandparents) and three older brothers came to the U.S. They left Hamburg, Germany on the steamship “Vandalia” on its maiden voyage on June 28, 1871.

My grandfather married my grandmother, Teresa Blattner, a Catholic, in Petoskey, Michigan 1905 at which time he promised to raise their children as Catholics. He was a big supporter of their parish, economically and otherwise. On Sundays he attended Mass with Grandma and the three kids – my Mom, Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris – and afterwards he would go to the Lutheran service. Grandpa became a Catholic six weeks before he died in 1950. He never knew it but Grandma had pinned a scapular to the mattress of their bed when they were married, always praying that he would become Catholic “if it was God’s will.”

POPE TO ATTEND ECUMENICAL CELEBRATION IN SWEDEN IN OCTOBER

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will travel to Sweden in October for a joint ecumenical commemoration of the start of the Reformation, together with leaders of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of other Christian Churches.

The event will take place on October 31st in the southern Swedish city of Lund where the Lutheran World Federation was founded in 1947. While kicking off a year of events to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it will also highlight the important ecumenical developments that have taken place during the past 50 years of dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.

The one-day event will include a common worship service in Lund cathedral based on a Catholic-Lutheran “Common Prayer” liturgical guide, published earlier this month by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

The commemoration in Lund follows on directly from the publication in 2013 of a joint document entitled ‘From Conflict to Communion’, which focuses on the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness. While asking for forgiveness for the divisions of past centuries, it  also seeks to showcase the gifts of the Reformation and celebrate the way Catholics and Lutherans around the world work together on issues of common concern.

Below is the joint press release from the LWF and the PCPCU on the joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation in Lund:

GENEVA/VATICAN CITY, 25 January 2016 – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Catholic Church will hold a joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation on 31 October 2016 in Lund, Sweden.

Pope Francis, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge will lead the Ecumenical Commemoration in cooperation with the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.

The joint ecumenical event will take place in the city of Lund in anticipation of the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017. It will highlight the solid ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts received through dialogue. The event will include a common worship based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran “Common Prayer” liturgical guide.

“The LWF is approaching the Reformation anniversary in a spirit of ecumenical accountability,” says LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge. “I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence.”

Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) explains further: “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.

“It is with joy and expectation that the Church of Sweden welcomes The Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church to hold the joint commemoration of the Reformation in Lund,” says Church of Sweden Archbishop Antje Jackelén. “We shall pray together with the entire ecumenical family in Sweden that the commemoration will contribute to Christian unity in our country and throughout the world.”

“The ecumenical situation in our part of the world is unique and interesting. I hope that this meeting will help us look to the future so that we can be witnesses of Jesus Christ and His gospel in our secularized world,” says Anders Arborelius OCD, Bishop of the Catholic Church in Sweden.

The Lund event is part of the reception process of the study document From Conflict to Communion, which was published in 2013, and has since been widely distributed to Lutheran and Catholic communities. The document is the first attempt by both dialogue partners to describe together at international level the history of the Reformation and its intentions.

Earlier this year, the LWF and PCPCU sent to LWF member churches and  Catholic Bishops’ Conferences a jointly prepared “Common Prayer”, which is a liturgical guide to help churches commemorate the Reformation anniversary together. It is based on the study document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, and features the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness with the aim of expressing the gifts of the Reformation and asking forgiveness for the division which followed theological disputes.

The year 2017 will also mark 50 years of the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, which has yielded notable ecumenical results, of which most significant is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ). The JDDJ was signed by the LWF and the Catholic Church in 1999, and affirmed by the World Methodist Council in 2006. The declaration nullified centuries’ old disputes between Catholics and Lutherans over the basic truths of the doctrine of justification, which was at the center of the 16th century Reformation.

VATICAN INSIDER: MSGR JOHN KOZAR AND CNEWA – MARRIAGE, A REALITY FOR ALL, NOT AN “IDEAL FOR THE FEW” – COMMUNICATION AND MERCY: A FRUITFUL ENCOUNTER

I got a big kick today out of the fact that Pope Francis, in his Message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications, as his very first quote about communications and mercy, cited Shakespeare’s words from The Merchant of Venice: “The quality of mercy is not strained.  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.  It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

This brought a smile to my face because the opening quote in my book, A Holy Year in Rome, is the entire quote from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice!

This was the very first quote that came to mind on March 13 of last year when I heard Pope Francis announce he was calling for a Jubilee of Mercy!

VATICAN INSIDER: MSGR JOHN KOZAR AND CNEWA

Please join me for Part II of my conversation with Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for almost five years now. He came to that post after serving as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. He was in Rome for a series of meetings and found time to be my guest on Vatican Insider. We learn what CNEWA is and does, where it works and we talk about current and future projects.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

MARRIAGE, A REALITY FOR ALL, NOT AN “IDEAL FOR THE FEW”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday said the Church’s teaching on marriage is not an “ideal for the few” but “a reality that, in the grace of Christ, can be experienced by all the baptized.”

The Holy Father was speaking the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican court which mainly deals with marriage annulment cases.

ROMAN ROTA Jan 22

In his address inaugurating the judicial year, Pope Francis said the court’s role as Tribunal of the Family, and its role as Tribunal of the Truth of the Sacred Bond are complementary.

“The Church… can show the unfailing merciful love of God to families – especially those wounded by sin and the trials of life – and, at the same time, proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God’s design,” Pope Francis said.

“When the Church, through your service, sets about to declare the truth about marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, at the same time you must always remember that those who, by choice or unhappy circumstances of life, are living in an objective state of error, continue to be the object of the merciful love of Christ and thus the Church herself,” he continued.

The Holy Father pointed out the recent two-year Synod process on the family said to the world that “there can be no confusion” between the family as willed by God, and every other type of union.

Reaffirming the doctrine of the Church, the Holy Father said the “quality of faith” is not an essential condition of marital consent, and pointed out the faith infused at baptism continues to have influence on the soul even “when it has not been developed and even seems to be psychologically absent.”

He added it is not uncommon for couples to discover “the fullness of God’s plan” for marriage after their wedding, when they have begun to experience family life.

“Therefore,” concluded Francis, “the Church, with a renewed sense of responsibility, continues to propose marriage in its essentials – offspring, good of the couple, unity, indissolubility, sacramentality – not as ideal only for a few – notwithstanding modern models centered on the ephemeral and the transient – but as a reality that, in the grace of Christ, can be experienced by all the baptized faithful.”

COMMUNICATION AND MERCY: A FRUITFUL ENCOUNTER

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications was released at a press conference in the Vatican on Friday. The message, entitled  ‘Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter’ is focused on the responsibility of all communicators to promote caring and healthy relationships in our fragmented and polarized world.

Quoting from Shakespeare, the Gospels and the Old Testament, the Pope reminds us that, as Christians, our “every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all”. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity and divine love, he says, then our communication will be touched by God’s power too.

As sons and daughters of God, the message stresses, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception.  Communication, the Pope insists, has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, to heal wounded memories and thus to enrich society. In both the material and the digital world, he says, our words and actions should help us all “escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred”.

Pope Francis invites all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities.  Even when ancient wounds and lingering resentments stand in the way of communication and reconciliation, he says, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue.

Our political and diplomatic language in particular, the Pope says, would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope He appeals to political and institutional leaders, as well as the media and opinion makers to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently.  Even when condemning sins such as violence, corruption and exploitation, the Pope says, we must speak with meekness and mercy that can touch hearts, rather than with harsh, moralistic words that can further alienate those we wish to convert.

True communication, the Pope says, means listening, valuing, respecting and being able to share questions and doubts. Online or in social networks, he stresses, we must remember that it’s not technology which guarantees authentic communication, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.

The Pope concludes by encouraging everyone “to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome”.

For complete Message, click here: http://www.news.va/en/news/popes-message-communication-and-mercy-a-fruitful-e