When you got up today and saw the date, did you say “why does February 11 ring a bell?!” Well, it was exactly three years ago today that Pope Benedict resigned! Does that seem possible?! So many millions still miss him and many millions pray for him daily, as do I. Blessings on you, Holy Father emeritus!
February 11 is traditionally a holiday at the Vatican because Vatican City State became an independent sovereign state after signing a treaty with Italy on February 11, 1929. This year we mark the 87th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts. In addition, the Church annually marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick on this date.
Pope Francis is getting ready to leave tomorrow on an apostolic pilgrimage to Mexico, but he made time today for a number of appointments as you will see. As a native Spanish-speaker he surely did not have to spend as much time in recent weeks practicing his language skills for his 6 days in Mexico. He will, however, have spent a lot of time honing diplomatic skills because his first stop tomorrow on the way to Mexico is of huge, dramatic, historic importance because he will meet in Cuba for two hours with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first time leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have met since the great schism in 1054. The two are expected to sign a Joint Declaration.
Pope Francis is expected to land in Cuba at 2 pm (ET) and meet for two hours with Patriarch Kirill. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, some highligjts of the day….
NEWS IN BRIEF
POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY MORNING PAID A PRIVATE VISIT to St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico. From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran basilica, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests. St. John is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar for the diocese of Rome, said the meeting with priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.” As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas. Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”
POPE FRANCIS HAS DONATED 500 ROSARIES TO THE DETAINEES in a prison in the Italian city of Padua. Fr. Marco Sanavio, the priest entrusted with delivering the papal gift, had the idea to “more directly”involve prisoners in the “Moment of Peace” (Un’ attimo di pace) initiative launched four years ago on the web in Italy. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reports that the request for the rosaries came from Zhang Augustine Jianqing, a young Chinese man currently incarcerated in the Padua prison, who also participated in Rome at the presentation of the book-length interview of Pope Francis by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy.
CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR ORIENTAL CHURCHES, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world, appealing for aid to the Church in the Holy Land. The letter is dated Ash Wednesday, 2016, and looks forward to the worldwide collection for the Christians of the Holy Land, which is made at Good Friday each year in churches around the globe. The English-language letter starts, “Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.” The cardinal adds: “The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an ‘ancient’ duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.” Cardinal Sandri explains that, “In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus.”
POPE FRANCIS’ SPECIAL ENVOY, ARCHBISHOP ZYGMUNT ZIMOWSKI, celebrated Mass on Thursday in the town of Nazareth in the Holy Land to mark the Church’s World Day of the Sick. The Mass took place in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and was the centerpiece of events marking the 2016 World Day of the Sick that is celebrated each year on February 11th, the feast day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, reminded his listeners that the central theme of Pope’s Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick is the need for us to entrust our lives to the Merciful Jesus like Mary did. Archbishop Zimowski said all of us are called in our different ways to help the person who is suffering and stressed we must not be intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. “The important thing,” he said, “is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers.”
THE PHILATELIC AND NUMISMATIC OFFICE OF VATICAN CITY STATE has announced that the 2016 Vatican coins will soon be released. These include the 8 usual Euro coins (2 and 1 Euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 euro-cent), bearing the image of Pope Francis, as Sovereign of the Vatican City State. This year, the €20 Silver coin and the €50 Gold coin have images chosen for the Year of Mercy. The Silver coin has an image of Pope Francis embracing a teenager, while the back has an image of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Gold coin has an image of the Holy Father opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the back has an image of the Jubilee logo, which features Jesus carrying a man – representing humanity – on his shoulders. The Philatelic and Numismatic Office is also releasing a Jubilee of Mercy coin card. (sources for stories: new.va)