LOVE IS TRULY AUTHENTIC WHEN IT IS LIVED

POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him.

As previously announced, I leave tomorrow for the US where I will mainly spent time in both New York City (May 2-9) and Washington D.C. (May 9-16). Two of the special events being planned – which you will read more about on this page and on my FB page – are book signings at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Gift Stores in New York and at the Basicila Shrine of The Immaaculate Conception in D.C.

Here is the poster that Patrick Danczewski at the St. Patrick’s gift store has produced! So if you are in the area, come and see me! Tell your friends – post the info on FB or your blog– and also stay tuned for other events I may announce in coming days. This column may be long or short or even sporadic while I am in the States but stay with me!

Click on  the link for the poster:

ST PAT PROMO

Remember to tune in to my weekend show, “Vatican Insider,” in my absence as I’ve prepared some specials related to pilgrimages and Holy Years and how to be well-formed and well-informed pilgrims!

LOVE IS TRULY AUTHENTIC WHEN IT IS LIVED

The story of the Good Samaritan and its lesson of “love thy neighbor” were at the heart of Pope Francis’ catechesis during the general audience today in St. Peter’s Square. Here is the English summary of the papal catechesis this morning:

AG April 27

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now turn to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus had taught the great commandment of love for God and neighbour.  In reply to the question: “Who is my neighbor?”, he recounts the story of the priest and the levite who pass by a man in need at the side of the road.  Their religiosity is ultimately inauthentic, for it does not find expression in service to others.

Love, the Lord tells us, is never abstract or distant; it “sees” and it responds.  The compassion shown by the Samaritan is an image of the infinite mercy of God, who always sees our needs and draws near to us in love.  The command to love God and neighbour, then, is supremely practical; it entails caring for others even to the point of personal sacrifice.

By the end of the parable, we see that the “neighbor” is not so much the man in need, but rather the one who responded to that need with compassion.  Jesus tells all of us to be neighbours in this sense: “Go and do likewise”.  He himself is the model of the Good Samaritan; by imitating his love and compassion, we show ourselves truly to be his followers.

 

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POPE WRITES LETTER TO ITALIAN PRISONERS – HONG KONG, CHRISTIANS PROTEST AGAINST DEMOLITION OF CROSSES

POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: All are called to love and cherish family life, for families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity.

Today, April 25, is Toot Your Own Horn Day! (If it isn’t, it should be!) – so that’s what I’ll do!

I leave Thursday for the U.S. for what promises to be an amazing two weeks! I’ll be very briefly in Fox Point, Wisconsin for the First Communion of my great-nephew Emory, after which I fly to New York on May 2 where I will spend a week doing book promotions and signings, a bit of television and some radio (for starters). I’ll fly to Washington, D.C. on May 9, doing pretty much of the same, but including some very special events!

I have a feeling this is not the first time you’ve heard of my book – but just in case…!  Here are some reviews of my book, “A Holy Year in Rome, The Complete Pilgrim’s Guide to the Jubilee of Mercy” (I may have posted the Vatican Radio story previously). The second review was written by Monica Knudsen, one of my former French students with whom I had a reunion in Rome (and about which I wrote in early March)!

As I travel, I’ll keep you posted daily on events, offer some photos, etc – will do what I can to keep you informed about any breaking news in Rome. In particular, for those of you who live in or near NCY and DC, I’ll let you know where we can meet – and I’ll sign your book!

http://catholicnewslive.com/story/573760

http://www.archokc.org/news/6602-review-a-holy-year-in-rome

https://www.catholiccompany.com/a-holy-year-in-rome-and-the-holy-year-of-mercy-a-faith-sharing-guide-2-book-set-i119501/

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/03/21/joan%E2%80%99s_vatican_and_rome_for_jubilee_year_of_mercy/1216928

And now some news from Pope Francis in Rome and from the Church in China.

POPE WRITES LETTER TO ITALIAN PRISONERS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to prisoners detained in a prison in the Italian city of Velletri, a short distance from Rome.

Prisoners at the facility had written to the Holy Father earlier this year, entrusting their letter to Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the Bishop of Albano, during a pastoral visit to the facility. In his response, Pope Francis thanked the detainees for thinking of him, and assured them that they, and others in similar situations, were often in his thoughts as well. He noted that during his Apostolic Voyages, he always tries to make a visit to local prisons. (photo from a previous prison visit)

POPE FRANCIS PRISONERS

The Pope noted that during the Holy Year of Mercy, there will also be a jubilee for prisoners, and he assured them that on that day he would be “in communion” with all prisoners “spiritually and in reciprocal prayer.”

Pope Francis also expressed his sympathy, noting that prisoners “are living an experience in which time seems both to be stopped, and to never end.” But, he said, “the true measure of time is not that of the clock”; rather, “the true measure of time is called hope.” He expressed his desire that all those incarcerated might “always keep lit the light of the hope of faith to illuminate” their lives.

“Always be certain that God loves you personally,” the Pope wrote to the prisoners. He encouraged them to never allow themselves to be closed in by their past, but rather to transform the past “into a journey of growth, of faith and charity.” He called on them to “give God the possibility” of making them “to shine” through their experience, recalling that many saints throughout history “have achieved sanctity” in harsh and difficult situations. “With Christ,” he said, “all this is possible.”

HONG KONG, CHRISTIANS PROTEST AGAINST DEMOLITION OF CROSSES

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A group of dozens of Christians led by Cardinal Joseph Zen has asked the Chinese government to stop demolishing crosses on mainland China and to release religious leaders from jail. The retired bishop of Hong Kong pointed out that freedom is declining even in the former British colony: “We need to speak out, to take action to prevent this from spreading”.

CARDINAL ZEN

The protests were held yesterday in front of the Hong Kong Liaison Office with China. The Hong Kong Christian Institute, Christians for Hong Kong Society, Christian Social Concern Fellowship and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Hong Kong were the four groups that protested yesterday. Participants chanted, “respect for religious freedom” as they left flowers in memory of those who have died to affirm this right in China.

The group reminded those gathered that more than 2,000 crosses were removed or demolished in the province of Zhejiang alone since the end of 2013, when the campaign against Christian religious symbols was started by the local Party. In addition, the protesters asked the central government in Beijing to release pastors and priests imprisoned for opposing these demolitions.

Cardinal Zen he was worried the anti- Christian campaign could spread to Hong Kong. “The freedom is less and less. So we have to speak out because we, in Hong Kong, can see the possibility of the anti- Christian campaign spreading from the mainland,” he said.

CARDINAL ZEN  2

The Hong Kong protests come one day after the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and representatives of the United Front (which gathers together all “non-communist” social groups in modern-day China).

During his address, Xi stressed that religious groups must obey the Party: ” Religious groups must adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party of China”. But party members must be “unyielding Marxist atheists,” Xi said, calling on them to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means.”

VATICAN INSIDER: LEARN ABOUT THE NAPA INSTITUTE WITH JOHN MEYER – 60,000 IN ROME TO CELEBRATE JUBILEE FOR YOUNG BOYS AND GIRLS – SPECIAL COLLECTION SUNDAY IN EUROPE’S CHURCHES FOR UKRAINE – HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE UPDATES SITUATION IN UKRAINE

VATICAN INSIDER: LEARN ABOUT THE NAPA INSTITUTE WITH JOHN MEYER

My guest on “Vatican Insider” this week in the interview segment is John Meyer, executive director of the California-based Napa Institute. This was founded in 2010 to help Catholic leaders face the challenges posed in what the Institute calls the “next America” and to heed Christ’s call for ongoing evangelization. John is a native of Illinois, but lives now in Irvine, California. We met in Rome at a conference that Institute members were attending at the Pontifical Holy Cross University.

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Among its goals, says the Napa Institute on its website are: 1) Deepening the knowledge of Catholic leaders in the teachings of the Church so they can evangelize others and defend their faith in secular society; 2) Encouraging religious freedom throughout our hemisphere; 3) Inspiring Catholic leaders to a better stewardship of their time, treasure, and talents.

AN UPDATE ON LISTENING TO VATICAN INSIDER: 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 9:00 am (Eastern time). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. Check for your time zone. Past shows are in VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

60,000 IN ROME TO CELEBRATE JUBILEE FOR YOUNG BOYS AND GIRLS

More than 60,000 adolescents from all over the world will be in Rome from April 23 to 25 to participate in the Jubilee for Young Boys and Girls on the theme “Merciful Like the Father.” The Jubilee consists of three days of prayer, confession and pilgrimage to the Holy Door, as well as celebration and sharing in the Year of Mercy, according to a press release from the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Saturday, April 23, will start with a pilgrimage to the Holy Door, beginning with a procession from Castel Sant’Angelo along Via della Conciliazione up to St. Peter’s Square. The Bernini Colonnade will thus be transformed into the Father’s “embrace” that the young boys and girls may experience with the help of more than 150 priests who will be present continuously, in alternation, from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in various languages.

In the afternoon, following the Jubilee itinerary inside the Basilica, which will conclude with the profession of faith at the Tomb of St. Peter, the young people will transfer to the Olympic Stadium for a large celebration with music and testimonies, beginning at 8.30 p.m., with the participation of personalities from the worlds of cinema, sport and astronomy.

On Sunday, April 24 Mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, the culmination of this major Jubilee event. The day will continue with a visit to Mercy marquees set up for the occasion of this pilgrimage in seven squares throughout the centre of Rome (San Silvestro, Piazza di Spagna, San Salvatore in Lauro, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Maria in Vallicella-Chiesa Nuova, Piazza Pia in Castel Sant’Angelo, and the area of the Pincio Terrace), in which, from Saturday to Monday, pilgrims and citizens of Rome may hear testimonies of works of spiritual and corporal mercy.

SPECIAL COLLECTION SUNDAY IN EUROPE’S CHURCHES FOR UKRAINE

(Vatican Radio) – The Congregation for the Oriental Churches on Friday released a press statement, expressing support for the extraordinary collection to take place this Sunday in churches across Europe for the people suffering from the war in Ukraine. (Congregation prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri presiding at Mass)

ORIENTAL CHURCHES

During his Regina Coeli address on April 3, Pope Francis announced a special charity collection to support the people of Ukraine, telling the faithful it would be possible to contribute to the collection in all Catholic Churches in Europe on Sunday, April 24. He renewed his appeal during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, April 20.

In its statement, the Oriental Dicastery invites all people ‘to contribute generously so as to assure assistance to those people most weakened in body and spirit by violence’. It also recognizes the solidarity and material aid of many Dioceses and charitable organisations.

The statement goes on to list the many fruits of this charitable act.

“May the renewed gesture of charity which Pope Francis has asked of the Churches of Europe be again a sign of the brotherhood which unites us to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who are often forgotten as are many painful situations in the world. May the expression of closeness by many people be like a little lantern which reignites hope in those wounded hearts; may it help all the Pastors of the Christian Churches console and cure the pain of their own faithful; and may it force those who carry the fates of peoples to promote respect for human rights and peace.”

The statement concludes with a short prayer to the Holy Mother of God for all the people of Europe.

‘To the Most Holy Mother of God, ‘the Door of Mercy’ who watched over the opening of the Jubilee Year in St. Peter’s Square, may she watch over Europe and inspire with her prayer the desire for reconciliation and a renewed capacity to know how to live together as brothers and sisters.’

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE UPDATES SITUATION IN UKRAINE

On the eve of the special collection for Ukraine,, the Holy See Press Office issued a detailed communiqué on the current situation in the country:

“The armed conflict in east Ukraine began in spring 2014 and continues despite the ceasefire of September 2015, claiming victims due mostly to the large amount of mines that have not been removed, and by relentless artillery fire. There have been around 9,000 confirmed deaths, to which disappearances and prisoners, often illegally held, must be added.

“The situation of instability, the unceasing armed threat and the consequent spread of uncontrolled arms groups subject the population to grave hardships, not only in the territories directly affected, but throughout the country. The outlook has worsened as a result of the general economic situation, affected by extreme inflation that has drastically reduced purchasing power; over half a million people are urgently in need of food. There are over 1.5 million displaced persons within the country.

“In the areas most directly affected, the greatest needs are in the health sector, as more than 120 health care centres have been damaged or destroyed. Expectant mothers are at particular risk, and the likelihood of the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis is significant. Anaesthetics are scarce and operations are often carried out without. Where medicines exist (many pharmacies have been closed), the price of medicine has reached prohibitive levels.

“In the regions currently most afflicted by the conflict there currently reside around 3 million people, in conditions of extreme hardship. The majority are elderly people who are unable to leave the combat zone.

“With regard to homes: Between 12,000 and 15,000 houses have been damaged, and more than a thousand completely destroyed. The situation is likely to become critical in view of the very low temperatures expected in autumn and winter.

“Many children are unable to attend school. At least 200,000 children have been evacuated to the regions of Ukraine outside the afflicted areas: one child in four is displaced. Many are affected by grave forms of psychological trauma, due to the violence they have witnessed or experienced; some have even lost the ability to read and write.

“The state of conflict constitutes the principle difficulty in the search for a solution to the humanitarian crisis. In particular, there are limitations on the importation of commercial goods including medicines, as well as enormous difficulties in facilitating the arrival of international aid to the most troubled areas.

“Ukrainian society is reacting by showing its extraordinary capacity for resistance. The best functioning aid network is constituted of religious confessions. These include Catholics who in Ukraine make up around 10 per cent of the population and are a small minority in the most affected area. They are fully mobilized to assist those in need, although their resources are inadequate to face the enormity of the most urgent needs.

“The Holy See is preparing specific interventions for the benefit of the entire population, without discrimination on the basis of religion or confession, in order to confront the humanitarian crisis, especially in the most critical areas. Therefore the mechanisms are in preparation for the gathering and selection of projects to be financed via a specific Commission in loco, responsible for overseeing them; the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ will approve and evaluate the technical management of the funds, reporting on its activity as appropriate.

 

CARITAS MISSION: LOVE FOR EVERY PERSON, PREFERENTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR – PAPAL TELEGRAM TO ROME JEWISH COMMUNITY FOR PASSOVER

Rome’s “birthday” is considered to be April 21st and today the Eternal City marked 2,769 years!  Buon compleanno, Roma!

CARITAS MISSION: LOVE FOR EVERY PERSON, PREFERENTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told members of Italy’s Diocesan Caritas chapters their mission is to express “concrete love for every human person, with a preferential option for the poor.”

The Caritas network of Italy is holding its national convention in Rome. The local chapters are part of the Caritas Internationalis family, which helps the poor, vulnerable, and excluded across the world.

“Given the challenges and contradictions of our time, Caritas has the difficult – but fundamental – task of making sure charitable service become everyone’s task; that is, the whole Christian community becomes the subject of charity,” said Pope Francis.

“This is the main object of your existence and your actions: to be a stimulus and a soul so that the whole community grows in charity, and knows how to discover new ways to be close to the poorest, to be able to read and confront the situations that oppress millions of our brothers and sisters –  in Italy, in Europe, and in the world,” continued the Holy Father.

Pope Francis then noted the importance of properly recruiting and training Caritas volunteers for their various roles, and acknowledged the “time, resources, and abilities” each volunteer invests.

“Faced with the global challenges that sow fear, guilt, financial speculation – even on food, environmental degradation, and war,” – the Holy Father said – “it is necessary, along with the daily work on the ground, to continue efforts to educate on the respectful and fraternal encounter between cultures and civilizations; and the care of creation, for an ‘integral ecology’.”

The Pope said this includes advocating to civil institutions and promoting “appropriate legislation” in favor of the common good.

“I encourage you not to tire of promoting, with tenacity and patient perseverance, communities who possess a passion for dialogue, to experience conflicts in an evangelical way, without denying them but making them opportunities for growth and reconciliation,” Pope Francis said.

“May you always speak proudly of your desire to go to the causes of poverty, and try to remove them; of your efforts to prevent exclusion; to affect the mechanisms that generate injustice; to work against any structure of sin,” he said. “This begins in the parishes: It is the precious work and capillaries of the parochial Caritas chapters, which must continually spread and multiply through the territory.”

Pope Francis also encouraged the local Caritas chapters to continue to help immigrants, both with solidarity and to help them integrate into the community.

PAPAL TELEGRAM TO ROME JEWISH COMMUNITY FOR PASSOVER

Pope Francis has sent a telegram to the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, to convey to his good wishes to the Jewish community of Rome for Pesach, the Jewish feast of Passover, which takes place this year from April 22 to 30.

“In remembering with renewed gratitude our meeting on January 17, when I was cordially welcomed by you and by the Jewish Community of the city in the Great Synagogue, I wish to express my most heartfelt wishes for the feast of Passover. It points out that the Almighty has released His beloved people from slavery and brought them to the Promised Land. May God also accompany you today with the abundance of His Blessings, protect your community and, in His mercy, bestow peace upon everyone. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you: may the Almighty allow us to be able to grow more and more in friendship.”

POPE FRANCES: DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE SIN AND THE SINNER – PAPAL APPEALS FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE AND ECUADOR – CARITAS ECUADOR REPORTS ON EARTHQUAKE DISASTER

POPE FRANCES: DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE SIN AND THE SINNER

At today’s general audience in a warm, sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus dining at the home of Simon the Pharisee, an stressed that “All of us are sinners, and so many times we fall into the temptation of hypocrisy, believing that we are better than the other.” However, he added “look at your sin, all of us need to look at our sins, our mistakes and look to the Lord,” because “this is the lifeline, the relationship between the sinner and the Lord.”

“Saint Luke’s account,” says the English language catechesis summary, “tells us that a woman known as a sinner came up to Jesus, bathed his feet in her tears and anointed them with precious perfume.  The Pharisee, judging by appearances, is taken aback that Jesus is not afraid of contact with sinners.” But, said the Pope, “The Lord distinguishes between the sin and the sinner.  He teaches Simon that the woman’s act, as an expression of faith and trust in God’s mercy has merited the forgiveness of her sins.”

APril 20 appeals

“The story of the sinful woman,” says the papal catechesis, reminds us that God’s mercy reaches out to everyone; it overcomes prejudice and surmounts all barriers.  Through faith in Christ, we too have received the forgiveness of our sins and the new life of grace.  Having experienced this mystery of redeeming love, may we grow in gratitude for so great a gift, and in turn become witnesses and channels of that love in our families, our communities and our world.”

PAPAL APPEALS FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE AND ECUADOR

After the catechesis in Italian and summaries in the traditional languages of French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, greetings in two additional languages were added – Russian and Ukrainian.

A Russian-speaking prelate from the Secretariat of State, on behalf of the Pope, greeted “the faithful from the Russian Federation, especially the pilgrims from the Dioceses of St. Clement and Saratov, accompanied by Bishop Clemens Pickel. May the Lord bless you abundantly in this Year of Mercy, making you witnesses of his charity.”

In Ukrainian, another prelate read the papal greetings: “I greet the pilgrims from Ukraine and Belarus on the occasion of the international conference in this 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy. We renew our prayers for the victims of that disaster and express our recognition to the rescuers and helpers and for all initiatives that sought to alleviate the suffering and damage.”

Ag April 20

After greetings in Italian, the Holy Father renewed his previous appeals for the people of Ukraine, “long suffering as a consequence of the armed conflict that many have forgotten.” He recalled his recent invitation to the Church in Europe to support the initiative to alleviate this humanitarian emergency, and thanked all those who will participate in the extraordinary collection in European parishes on Sunday, April 24. In fact, during his April 3 Regina Coeli remarks, the Pope announced a special charity collection to support the people of Ukraine, telling the faithful it would be possible to contribute to the collection in all Catholic Churches in Europe on Sunday April 24, adding that, “this gesture of charity, beyond alleviating material suffering, expresses my personal closeness and the solidarity of the entire Church.”

Also during the audience: Speaking Spanish, Pope Francis also expressed his closeness to the people of Ecuador who were struck this past weekend by a massive earthquake that has left over 500 people dead.

CARITAS ECUADOR REPORTS ON EARTHQUAKE DISASTER 

 (Sent from Caritas Internationalis, Vatican City) – Caritas Ecuador president, Msgr. Walter Heras, calls on Caritas around the world to support the current relief efforts in the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the nation last Saturday.

The quake that left more than 2,500 injured and over 500 dead ripped apart cities and severed access to remote coastal towns. The death toll is expected to climb as rescue workers pick through the rubble. A state of emergency has been declared in six provinces and 10,000 troops and 3,500 police have been deployed to assist the most affected areas.

“Of most immediate concern is rescuing victims,” said Msgr. Heras. “The time when the earthquake took place was when most people were at home. There are a lot of people trapped and are awaiting rescue. We are also concerned about the most remote areas that are difficult to reach.”

“This was a province with many rural areas,” said Gabriela Andrade, Caritas Ecuador Communication Coordinator. “The most remote parishes were very affected. Many of them have no resources or basic services. They lack infrastructure.”

A united front made up of local and international Caritas agencies is needed to provide long term assistance as the communities move from recovery to rebuilding their devastated communities.

“In the emergency zones we are seeing people who have evacuated their homes and are sleeping in the streets,” said Andrade. “People need tents and inflatable boats because some of the affected areas cannot be reached as the roads are destroyed.”

Heavy rains were already showing a rise in cases of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya and dengue. These are expected to rise along with other infectious diseases in the earthquake’s aftermath. Hygiene and sanitation are of utmost importance in the coming weeks.

While Caritas Ecuador joins national efforts to reach immediate needs of displaced and affected populations it plans on assisting communities long after the earthquake falls off the international radar.

“As a Church we accompany the affected,” said Msgr. Heras. “We see that all our sister organizations are added to our efforts in accompanying the people. After the initial shock people will remain depressed. They will need to rebuild … to move forward in their lives. These are people who have lost their businesses and their homes. They have lost everything. Caritas can help fill this void that remains in people.”

”We know that as a Church we are one entity,” Msgr. Heras said. “The Church never asks people to wait. We are hoping for the assistance of the Church and call on churches from around the world to assist us in our efforts. We need all of you. There is so much to do. We thank everyone who adds their support to this response.”

 

REFUGEE, MIGRANT TRAGEDIES CONTINUE. HUNDREDS DIE AT SEA – POPE TO JESUIT REFUGEE CENTER: “I WAS A STRANGER AND YOU INVITED ME IN” – SAY A FERVENT PRAYER FOR THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR….AND A PRAYER FOR NUNS WHO DIED IN EARTHQUAKE

PAPAL TWEETS:

April 18: We pray for the earthquake victims in Ecuador and Japan. May God and all our brothers and sisters give them help and support.

April 19: The royal road to peace is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced.

REFUGEE, MIGRANT TRAGEDIES CONTINUE. HUNDREDS DIE AT SEA

Just two days after Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos to meet with refugees fleeing their native countries because of war, violence and poverty, hundreds more died in an attempt to reach the shores of Europe.

Hundreds of refugees are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, one year after a similar tragedy, Italy’s president confirmed Monday. Italian President Sergio Mattarella said during a prize ceremony in Rome on Monday that Europe faced “yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean in which, it seems, several hundred people have died.” His comments are the first official remarks on a recent incident that had previously been denied by Italian authorities. Italy’s foreign minister also confirmed the tragedy on Monday but said that details were still scarce. (Washington Post)

Just over a week ago, over a period of four days, the Italy navy rescued as many as 6,000 migrants attempting a dangerous sea crossing to Europe. Italy should have more assistance from allies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday. It estimates that more than 40 boats crammed with migrants, many fleeing wars in the Middle East and Africa, have been rescued as they struggled to reach the coasts of Sicily and Calabria. (photo: telegraph uk)

migrants telegraph

Syrian, Iraqi refugees arrive Lesbos:

syrian iraq migrants arrive lesbos

POPE TO JESUIT REFUGEE CENTER: “I WAS A STRANGER AND YOU INVITED ME IN”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday delivered a video message to the administration, staff, volunteers, and guests of the Centro Astalli, a welcome center for refugees in Rome, which is operated by the Society of Jesus through the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy. The Centro Astalli is marking the 35th anniversary of its founding. Following is the Pope’s message to his Jesuit confreres:

Dear refugees, volunteers, workers and friends of the Centro Astalli,

During this year of Mercy, we’re marking the 35th anniversary of Jesuit Service for refugees in Italy, an activity that has been above all a walk together, as one people. And this is beautiful and just!

We must continue with courage: “I was a stranger and you invited me in” cfr Mt 25,35

I was a stranger… Each one of you refugees who knock on our doors has the face of God and is the body of Christ. Your experience of pain and hope reminds us that we are all strangers and pilgrims on this Earth, welcomed by someone with generosity and without any merit. Whosoever has fled his own land due to oppression, war, nature defaced by pollution and by desertification, or the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources, as you have, is a brother with whom we share bread, homes and life.

Too many times you have not been welcomed: forgive the closure and indifference of our society that fears the change in lifestyle and mentality that your presence asks for. Treated as a burden, a problem, a cost, instead you are a gift. You are the testament to how our gracious and merciful God can transform the pain and injustice that you suffer into a love for all. For, each one of you can be a bridge that unites distant peoples, which makes the meeting of different cultures and religions possible, a road to rediscover our common humanity.

…and you invited me in. I was a stranger and you invited me in. Yes, the Centro Astalli is a concrete, daily example of this welcome, born of the prophetic vision of Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ. It was his dying wish, [expressed] at a refugee center in Asia. Thanks to you all, women and men, lay and religious, workers and volunteers, because in fact you show that if we walk together we are less afraid. I encourage you to continue. 35 years is only the beginning of a journey that is ever more necessary, the only way for a reconciled co-existence. Always be witnesses of the beauty of this encounter. Help our society to listen to the voice of refugees.

Continue to walk with courage by their side, go with them and be guided by them: the refugees know the roads that lead to peace because they know the acrid odor of war.

SAY A FERVENT PRAYER FOR LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR….

(From the BECKET FUND) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tomorrow, April 20, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. EST, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will hold a press call to discuss the briefs being submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Little Sisters of the Poor case in Zubik v. Burwell. Both the Little Sisters of the Poor and the government will file briefs, due by 3:00 p.m. EST, in response to the supplemental briefs filed last week (Available here) to answer the Court’s question whether the government has other ways to distribute contraceptives without forcing the nuns to violate their faith.

Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Court made an almost unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans.

Currently the government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from this regulation. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon, Visa and even the government’s own Military family plan. A total of 100 million Americans are exempt.

…AND FOR NUNS WHO DIED IN EARTHQUAKE

Six members of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, including a young nun from Northern Ireland, are among the dead in the strongest earthquake to strike Ecuador since 1979.

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, 33, of Londonderry, died while leading children to safety in a school at Playa Prieta, where she was teaching the youngsters to play the guitar, according to the Spain-based order.

Her body was found under rubble April 18, about 36 hours after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the Pacific Coast region of the country. Five Ecuadorean postulants also died in the collapse.

The order identified them by their first names: Jazmina, Maria Augusta, Maira, Valeria and Catalina.

The six women were among at least 272 people who died in the massive earthquake that struck communities in the northern part of the country. Authorities reported that nearly 3,000 people were injured and that an unknown number of buildings were destroyed or damaged.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ relief and development agency, was partnering with local relief organizations to determine how best to respond in the communities most affected by the temblor. Water, food and emergency shelter are the biggest needs, the agency said on its website. (CNS)