VATICAN INSIDER, A TRIBUTE TO MOTHER ANGELICA – EGYPT, IN FESTIVE MODE, ON FULL ALERT, READY TO WELCOME POPE FRANCIS – THE MODERN DAY PLAGUES OF EGYPT

AsiaNews has a great number of very good journalists and guest authors who write for them about current events, noteworthy people and historical moments in Asia and the Middle East. I felt the two pieces I offer below were newsworthy because of the papal trip, of course, but also because of the historical role of Egypt in the Middle East and on the world scene.

You can follow the various moments of Pope Francis’ 27-hour visit to Cairo via EWTN television, radio reports and on www.ewtn.com

When I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the 1994 UN conference on population in Cairo, we had dinner one night at the residence of the nuncio to Egypt, where Pope Francis will spend the night tonight. I remember it as a large, older home with some lovely gardens, a very private and tranquil setting in a bustling city of so many millions. If I find my photos (no digital cameras then!) I’ll post them.

VATICAN INSIDER, A TRIBUTE TO MOTHER ANGELICA

Just a brief programming note as I am dedicating most of today’s column and various additional posts on Facebook to Pope Francis’ apostolic trip to Egypt. My “guest” this weekend, so to speak, is Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization who, on March 27 celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the first anniversary of Mother Angelica’s passing. I offer his reflections in his homily as well as a brief  interview we did with him after Mass.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). 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 YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

EGYPT, IN FESTIVE MODE, ON FULL ALERT, READY TO WELCOME POPE FRANCIS

by Loula Lahham

The President of the Republic al-Sisi personally supervising the security apparatus. Cairo wants to show itself as a tolerant, fraternal and welcoming country. Today, the intervention at al-Azhar peace conference. Over 35,000 people (accredited) for tomorrow’s Mass at the aeronautics academy. More extremist threats against Christians in Minya.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Today, Friday, April 28, an Alitalia plane will land at Cairo International Airport, with His Holiness Pope Francis, and dozens of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, interpreters and assistants.

For some days, security preparations have been at the highest level and are directly under the personal supervision of the President of the Republic. The goal is to show the world an Egypt characterized by tolerance, fraternity, solidarity, terms that run counter to those of all who perpetuate conspiracies and want to erode the nation, drowning it in religious obscurantism.

This goal has united everyone: the presidency, the army, the interior ministry and the local authorities. The streets that will be crossed by the papal cavalcade have been washed, the trees watered, parking banned in the neighborhood where the apostolic nunciature is located, which will host the Pope during his stay in Egypt. Tension is visibly growing. No mistakes will be allowed. Official Egypt wants to prove that it is up to an event of this magnitude.

Yesterday morning, the international peace conference, organized by al-Azhar, the highest instance in the Sunni Islamic world, began, in the presence of, among others, the spiritual leaders of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches.

Al-Azhar –

The main theme of the conference will be the challenges and dangers that today pose a threat to world peace. And also, and above all, the “false interpretation of religious texts,” as the great imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb has pointed out. Pope Frances speech is scheduled for this afternoon at the closing of the meeting.

Moreover, the spiritual leader of the Coptic orthodox expressed his joy in receiving the Holy Father for a very fraternal dialogue between “Catholics” and “Orthodox”. And at the end of this first day, Pope Francis will pronounce a special ecumenical prayer for the memory of all the victims who have died from terrorism of a religious matrix in Egypt.

On Saturday morning, April 29, at 10 am local time solemn mass will be celebrated at the Cairo military aeronautics stadium in the eastern suburbs of the Egyptian capital, which can hold up to 35,000 people. Priests have been called to participate in the liturgy and for the distribution of communion to the faithful; They will wear a stole bearing the official logo of the papal visit, with the slogan in English and Arabic: “The Pope of Peace visits an Egypt of Peace”.

The choirs of the six oriental Catholic rites (Coptic, Greek, Syro, Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean) have finished their preparations and the attendance of the faithful will only be admissible upon special invitations sent to some 237 Catholic churches as well as schools and religious institutes . There is a central altar dedicated to the Pope; the stadium stands are decorated with flags of the Vatican and Egypt. All or almost all preparations have been carried out by the Office of Religious Affairs and the Department of Egyptian Army Engineering. Several local and international television broadcasters will broadcast the event live.

The Pope will arrive half an hour before the scheduled start time for Mass and greet the crowd of the faithful who will have come from the four corners of the country from an open golf car. The Mass will last about 90 minutes and will be preceded by several documentaries on the Vatican and the Pope.

In an exclusive statement issued at the last moment, Msgr. Emmanuel Ayad, bishop of Luxor and head of the Egyptian organizing committee, said: “Everything is fine and the preparations are almost over. I am proud to see the participation of all the official bodies of Egypt in the context of this great event. Everyone is doing their best. The President of the Republic and the army did much more than we could have ever imagined. Moreover, we are faced with a visit not only to the local Church, but  one that has taken on a greater magnitude that embraces the entire Egyptian nation. The Pope is expected with great joy and excitment by all, all of Egypt loves him and sees in him a great builder of peace. ”

We should remember that while Egypt wants to portray a welcoming and tolerant image, yesterday the Christians in a village of the governorate of Minya (about 245 km south of Cairo) called Kom Al-loufi, could not pray in their church because of extremist threats.

THE MODERN DAY PLAGUES OF EGYPT

by Guy Djandji*

The country that Pope Francis will visit is afflicted by a failed economy, overpopulation, corruption, pollution, terrorism and fatalism. But it is home to a much bigger treasure than its millennial history: the joyous heart of its people.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – In the Book of Exodus, in the Old Testament, God deals with Egypt with ten punishments to punish the Pharaoh who prevented the Jews from leaving the country and persuading him to let them go. Among the calamities that Yahweh inflicted upon the Egyptians, we notice the most extreme: the water of the Nile turn into a river of blood; a plague of locusts swarm all over the earth; The country falls into darkness and, in the end, the most terrible, the death of the firstborn of Egypt. The rigor of these harsh punishments are striking. Today, Egypt is facing scourges that are equally devastating and which leave those who visit her with a sense of sadness mixed with impotence.

Why is the Egyptian people afflicted by such plagues? Will she ever heal and recover her good health?

Demographics: no doubt one of the major sources of poverty and instability in the country. The population is close to one hundred million and has a growth rate of more than 2.5%. Cairo, the megalopolis whose population is estimated at between 20 and 23 million, attracts hundreds of thousands of new arrivals from rural areas every year. Alexandria, the second largest city, is crumbling under the weight of a population of nearly seven million, which has tripled in 50 years. Egypt is crushed everywhere, its infrastructures cannot meet the demand. Large families are still considered a blessing and their prosperity is measured by the number of children. Religious and cultural factors are difficult to change.

BRIEFING ON PAPAL TRIP TO EGYPT APRIL 28-29 – ITINERARY FOR HOLY FATHER’S TRIP TO EGYPT – THE LOGO – EXPECTATIONS FOR THE PAPAL VISIT – ARCHBISHOP AUZA AT U.N.: HOLY SEE CONCERNED FOR MIDDLE EAST

Pope Francis leaves tomorrow on a two day apostolic visit to Egypt that is fraught with both perils and promises. EWTN television will cover all live events in collaboration with CTV (Vatican Television Center) and media coverage in general is expected to be massive and intense. Below are some reports on this papal pilgrimage  – a press briefing, thje itinerary and the hopes and expectations.

BRIEFING ON PAPAL TRIP TO EGYPT APRIL 28-29

(CNS) — Despite the ongoing risk of terrorism, Pope Francis plans to travel to Egypt as a sign of being close to the people there, said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman.

Heightened security is part of the “new normal” in many countries, but even in the wake of the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt, it is the pope’s desire “to go ahead, to also be a sign of his closeness” to those affected by violence and all the people of Egypt, Burke told journalists April 24.

At a Vatican briefing outlining some details of the pope’s trip to Cairo April 28-29, a reporter asked if there were any worries or concerns about the pope’s security.

Burke, speaking in Italian, said he wouldn’t use the word “worries” or concerns, but would say that, “we live in a world where it is now something that is part of life.” He added, “However, we move ahead with serenity.”

The pope has requested that a “normal car” — not an armored vehicle — be used when he is driven from one venue to another, Burke said. It will not be an open-topped vehicle, he added.

The pope will use a “golf cart,” however, rather than the open-air popemobile when he makes the rounds through the crowds at the air defense stadium, where Mass will be celebrated April 29.

He also will use the golf cart for circulating among the more than 1,000 seminarians, religious and clergy expected to attend an outdoor prayer service at the Coptic Catholic Church’s St. Leo’s Patriarchal Seminary in the Cairo suburb of Maadi April 28.

Burke said that after Pope Francis’ private meeting with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, at the patriarch’s residence April 28, the two leaders will go together to the nearby church of Sts. Peter and Paul, which had been bombed during a Sunday Mass in December 2016, killing 24 people and injuring at least 45 others.

They will pray “for all the victims from these past years and months, pray for Christians killed,” Burke said.

The two will leave flowers outside the church, light a candle and then have a moment of prayer for the victims from the December attack, the Vatican spokesman said.

Soon afterward, the pope will go to the apostolic nunciature, where he will be staying, and will greet a group of children who attend a Comboni-run school in Cairo and later will greet more than 300 young people who made a pilgrimage to Cairo to see the pope, he added.

ITINERARY FOR HOLY FATHER’S TRIP TO EGYPT

(CNS) Here is the pope’s schedule as released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses. Friday, April 28 (Rome, Cairo) — 10:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.), Departure from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport for Cairo. — 2 p.m. (8 a.m.), Arrival at Cairo airport. Official welcoming ceremony at the Heliopolis presidential palace. Courtesy visits with el-Sissi and Sheik el-Tayeb. Speeches by the grand imam and the pope to participants in an international conference on peace. — 4:40 p.m. (10:40 a.m.), Meeting with local authorities. Speeches by el-Sissi and Pope Francis. Courtesy visit to Pope Tawadros. Speeches by Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis. Saturday, April 29 (Cairo, Rome) — 10:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m.), Mass in Cairo. Homily by pope. — 12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m.), Lunch with Egypt’s bishops and the papal entourage. — 3:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.), Prayer gathering with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians. Speech by pope. Farewell ceremony. — 5 p.m. (11 a.m.), Departure from Cairo airport for Rome. — 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.), Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.

THE LOGO

(Vatican Radio)  The logo for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Egypt, which takes place April 28-29, has been released by the Egyptian Catholic Church.

The three main elements present in the logo are Egypt, Pope Francis, and Peace.

“Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace” are the words in Arabic and English at the base of the logo.

Egypt is represented by the Nile River – a symbol of life – as well as by the pyramids and the Sphinx, which highlight the long history of civilization in this African country.

The Cross and Crescent Moon at the center of the logo represent the coexistence between the various components of the Egyptian people.

A white dove signifies peace, which is both the highest gift to which every human being can aspire and the greeting of monotheistic religions.

Finally, the dove precedes Pope Francis to announce his arrival as the Pope of Peace in a country of peace.

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE PAPAL VISIT

(Vatican Radio) Preparations are in full swing for Pope Francis’ upcoming apostolic visit to Egypt.

The Pope is scheduled to fly to Cairo on Friday 28th for a 2-day pastoral journey during which he will celebrate Mass, participate in a Conference for peace, meet with clergy, encourage the small Egyptian Christian community in their faith and of course promote and deepen inter-religious dialogue in the predominantly Muslim nation.

One of the highlights of the visit is his meeting with the Orthodox Coptic Patriarch, Tawadros II.

The Pope’s presence in Egypt is seen as particularly poignant in the wake of the Palm Sunday attacks on the Orthodox Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria.

Vatican Radio’s Stefano Leszjinsky spoke to missionary Sister Angela Colombi, Provincial of the Comboni Order in Egypt about her expectations for the Pope’s visit:

Sister Angela Colombi says all Egyptians are awaiting the Pope – not only the Christians!

“The Christians of course see in him not only a religious leader, but also a man of peace; the logo of the journey in fact says ‘The Pope of peace for Egypt – Egypt for peace’ – people see in him a person who is trying to tell the world we are children of the same God so why not live in peace?” she said.

Many of Sister Angela’s students will be present for the welcome ceremony for Pope Francis together with other school children and students from across Cairo.

She says they have been asked to wear their school uniforms and bring posters with the name of the school as well as Egyptian and Vatican flags.

“For me, she says, this will also teach the children to welcome – not only the Pope – but to have an attitude of welcome and to create an atmosphere of tolerance and welcome”.

ARCHBISHOP AUZA AT U.N.: HOLY SEE CONCERNED FOR MIDDLE EAST

(Vatican Radio)  The Holy See has expressed deep concern over the current situation in the Middle East and reiterated its support for a two-state solution in Palestine.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, made the comments in an address to the Security Council.

photo

Citing the “recent use of chemical agents in Syria” and the “Palm Sunday terrorist bombings in Egypt”, Archbishop Auza said, “The Holy See is deeply concerned with the current situation in the Middle East.”

He lauded Lebanon for “heroically” hosting millions of refugees from neighboring countries and territories in conflict.

In addition to this burden, he said Lebanon is also facing the threat of militias and armed groups operating within its territories.

Turning to the situation in Palestine, Archbishop Auza said, “Since 1947, the Holy See has constantly supported the two-state solution for the State of Israel and a Palestinian State to exist side by side in peace. The Holy See wishes to reiterate its belief that the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians can move forward only if it is directly negotiated between the Parties, with the strong and effective support of the international community.”

He warned against “unilateral decisions, acts of violence and inflammatory rhetoric” and said, “Pope Francis calls on both parties to listen to the voices of dialogue, show goodwill and extend gestures of encounter to give their peoples that peace for which their hearts deeply long.”

Click here for the full text of Archbishop Auza’s address: http://www.news.va/en/news/holy-see-deeply-concerned-over-middle-east-situati

HOPES FOR HOLY FAMILY WAY PILGRIMAGES IN EGYPT

AFRICA/EGYPT – There are hopes that Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt may boost plans for ‘Holy Family Way’ pilgrimages

Cairo – Pope Francis’ imminent visit to Egypt could be an opportunity for this important north African country to become a centre of pilgrimage for Christians the world over in the footsteps of the Holy Family who, according to the Gospels, took refuge here to save the life of the Infant Jesus threatened by King Herod. This is the opinion of Egyptian tourism experts who have for some time tried to fit Egypt into the circuit of Christian religious tourism, as a means to counterbalance, at least in part, the enormous losses suffered by Egypt’s tourist industry due terrorism and the general situation of instability in the region.

The most recent to view in this key the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis is Nader Guirguis, a member of the departmental Commission for promoting the Holy Family Way, who, referring to historical references based on the Gospel account, affirmed that ‘Flight into Egypt’ of Jesus and the Holy Family could possibly have lasted several years. Attacks on churches have obviously not affected the intention to propose Egypt as a land of pilgrimage for Christians all over the world, to visit places connected with Jesus and the Holy Family, preaching in the time of the Apostles and the earliest centres of Christian monasticism.

How to promote the “the Holy Family Way” – a pilgrim itinerary in places which according millenary traditions were visited by the Holy Family in Egypt – has for some time been a central issue for politicians and Egyptian tourist operators. At the beginning of 2017 Al Abdel Aal, speaker of the House of Representatives, during a visit to the Copt Patriarch offices, said the valorisation of the tourist project for an itinerary according to the path followed by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, was of interest and importance for all Egyptians, not only Christians .

The first proposals to promote also in a touristic key a Holy Family Way were made twenty years ago. At the end of 2016 – local sources told Fides – a Commission to promote the Holy Family Way chaired by Hisham el Demeiri was constituted at Egypt’s Tourism Ministry. More than two years ago an itinerary was born in the footsteps of the Holy Family in Egypt, which would start at Al-Arish – largest city of the Egyptian governorate of North Sinai and the scene of recent Jihadist violence against Copt Christians – and continue on to the Wadi Natrun delta, and reach the Asyut Holy Mary Virgin Monastery, known as Deir Al-Muharraq.

POPE FRANCIS, A SURPRISE VISITOR TO VANCOUVER TED CONFERENCE – BRIEFING HELD AS C9 CARDINALS END THREE-DAY MEETING

POPE FRANCIS, A SURPRISE VISITOR TO VANCOUVER TED CONFERENCE

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has broken new ground in the way he communicates his message when the first-ever papal TED Talk went on line.

TED is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading ideas in the form of short talks. What began in 1984 as a conference covering Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED), today provides talks from a wide range of different speakers – except popes. Until today,according to Sean Lovett of Vatican Radio.

He wrote that, “those of us following TED’s annual Conference in Vancouver had been promised a surprise ‘world figure’ who would deliver his 18-minute message on the conference theme, ‘The Future You’, alongside tennis superstar, Serena Williams, entrepreneur, Elon Musk, and chess champion, Garry Kasparov.

But no one expected to see the Pope’s face appear on the screen. (photo) news.va)

“I very much like this title – ‘The Future You’”, began Pope Francis, “because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a ‘you’…The future is made of you’s…because life flows through our relations with others”.

Speaking in his typically personal and informal style, the Pope reminded us of how “everything is connected” and of how “life is about interactions”. “None of us is an autonomous and independent ‘I’”, he said. “We can only build the future by standing together, including everyone”.

His second message regarded “educating people to a true solidarity” in order to overcome the “culture of waste” that puts products at the centre of techno-economic systems, instead of people. “The other has a face”, he said. “The ‘you’ is…a person to take care of”.

The Pope illustrated his point by quoting Mother Teresa and the parable of the Good Samaritan, before going on to talk about Hope – which he described as “a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree”. “A single individual is enough for hope to exist”, he said. “And that individual can be you”.

Pope Francis’ third and final message was dedicated to what he called “the revolution of tenderness”. Tenderness means “being on the same level as the other”, he said. It is not weakness, but strength: “the path of solidarity…of humility”. And through humility, even power becomes a service and a force for good.

The Pope concluded by affirming that the future of humankind is not in the hands of politicians or big companies but, most of all, in the hands of those people “who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’”. Because: “We all need each other”.

Listen to the English-dubbed version of the Pope’s TED talk (appears at end of written summary of papal talk): http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-gives-ted-talk-we-build-future-togeth

BRIEFING HELD AS C9 CARDINALS END THREE-DAY MEETING

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, held a briefing for the press on the 19th meeting of the cardinals who are advisors to Pope Francis.

The Council of Cardinals met with the Holy Father for three days, starting on Monday. All of the members of the council were present. Pope Francis was absent from the morning meeting on Wednesday due to the general audience.

The working sessions took place from 9 am to 12:30 pm and again from 16:30 to 19:00. They were dedicated to further considerations on the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. In particular, discussions continued on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide), and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. The Cardinals also considered texts to propose to the Holy Father regarding the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; and three tribunals: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

During the meetings, the council also studied the selection and formation of the personnel in the service of the Holy See, both clerics and members of the lay faithful. Officials and superiors from the Secretariat of State, from the Council for the Economy, and from the Labor Office of the Holy See took part in the discussions. Archbishops Angelo Becciu, Paul Richard Gallagher, and Jan Romeo Pawłowski were present on behalf of the Secretariat of State. For the Council for the Economy, in addition to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Prof. Franco Vermiglio, a member of the Council, spoke at the meeting. Bishop Giorgio Corbellini and a lawyer, Salvatore Vecchio addressed the cardinals for the Labor Office.

Another important theme treated by the council was the relationship between the Episcopal Conferences and the Roman Curia. Cardinal George Pell gave an update on the work of the Secretariat for the Economy, of which he is the President, with special attention to the review of the budget for the current year. Cardinal Seán O’Malley updated the council on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of minors, focussing especially on the programme of global education, the last plenary assembly, and the visits to various dicasteries.

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals will take place June 12-14.

POPE’S DAILY MASS FOR INTENTIONS OF COPTIC POPE TAWADROS II – PAPAL VIDEO MESSAGE ON THE EVE OF TRIP TO EGYPT – THE HOLY FAMILY AND THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT

When I got up this morning I wondered why it was so delightfully quiet outside and then I realized that it’s April 25, Italy’s Liberation Day, a national holiday that commemorates the end of the Fascist regime and the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy This is the 72nd such celebration of the Festa della Liberazione. In Rome this holiday starts with a ceremony at the Altare della Patria, commonly known as the Victor Emanauel monument or Vittoriano, in the presence of the Italian president.  State schools, some private schools, offices and many stores are closed and transportation is reduced. Many places also closed yesterday, Monday, the ponte or bridge, between the two-day weekend and today’s holiday.

Yesterday afternoon in St. Peter’s basilica, Pope Francis celebrated the funeral rites for Cardinal Attilio Nicora, the former president of the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), who died on Saturday at the age of 80. The funeral rites and homily were delivered by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals. The Holy Father presided at the rites of Commendatio and Valedictio. There are now 221 members of the College of Cardinals, 117 of whom are cardinal electors (those under the age of 80) (photo: news.va)

Today the Holy Father received in audience 22 prelates of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario on their “ad Limina Apostolorum” visit. Canadian bishops are fulfilling the ad limina obligation by region.

POPE’S DAILY MASS FOR INTENTIONS OF COPTIC POPE TAWADROS II

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Tuesday for the intentions of his “brother,” Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawadros II, whom he will be meeting in three days’ time as he makes an apostolic voyage to Egypt.

The day’s Mass commemorates Saint Mark the Evangelist, who is recognized as the founder of the patriarchate of Alexandria. “I offer this Mass for my brother, Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts,” Pope Francis said. He prayed for “the grace that the Lord might bless our two churches with the abundance of the Holy Spirit.

The Cardinal counsellors who make up the C-9 advisory group were among the faithful taking part in the Pope’s daily Mass.

In his homily during the liturgy, Pope Francis said the Gospel must be proclaimed with humility, overcoming the temptation of pride. He spoke about the necessity for Christians to “go out to proclaim” the Good News. A preacher, he said, must always be on a journey, and not seek “an insurance policy,” seeking safety by remaining in one place.

PAPAL VIDEO MESSAGE ON THE EVE OF TRIP TO EGYPT

Following is the text of Pope Francis’ video message to the people of Egypt on the vigil of his April 28-29 apostolic voyage:

Dear people of Egypt! Al Salamò Alaikum! Peace be with you!

With a joyful and grateful heart I will come in a few days’ time to visit your dear homeland: cradle of civilization, gift of the Nile, land of sun and hospitality, where Patriarchs and Prophets lived and where God, Clement and Merciful, the One and Almighty, made His voice heard.

I am truly happy to come as a friend, as a messenger of peace and as a pilgrim to the Country that gave, more than two thousand years ago, refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family fleeing from the threats of King Herod (cfr. Mt 2:1-26). I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family!

I greet you cordially and thank you for having invited me to visit Egypt, which you call “Umm il Dugna” / Mother of the Universe!

I warmly thank Mr. President of the Republic, His Holiness the Patriarch Tawadros II, the Great Imam of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Catholic Patriarch who have invited me; and I thank each one of you, who make space for me in your hearts. I also thank all those people who have worked, and are working, to make this trip possible.

I hope that this visit will be an embrace of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East; a message of friendship and esteem to all inhabitants of Egypt and the region; a message of fraternity and reconciliation to all children of Abraham, particularly in the Islamic world, in which Egypt occupies a primary position. I hope that it may also offer a valid contribution to interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world, and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerated and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.

Our world, torn by blind violence, which has also afflicted the heart of your dear land – needs peace, love and mercy; it needs workers for peace, free and liberating people, courageous people able to learn from the past to build a future without closing themselves up in prejudices; it needs builders of bridges of peace, dialogue, brotherhood, justice, and humanity.

Dear Egyptian brothers, young and elderly, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor … I embrace you warmly and ask God Almighty to bless you and protect your country from every evil.

Please, pray for me! Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! / Thank you, and long live Egypt!

THE HOLY FAMILY AND THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT

I bought this parchment years ago in Egypt when I visited the site of this celebrated church, Abu Sargah, which is the oldest church in Egypt dating back to the 5th century A.D. In Coptic Cairo, this church (also spelled Abu Sarga) was constructed upon the crypt of the Holy Family during their sojourn in Egypt. On our visit, we could not descend into the crypt as there had been water damage and it was flooded. I framed the parchment between two pieces of glass as this show the details of the work.

The church is dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus who served as soldiers in the Roman Army. They were faithful followers of Jesus, and were martyred in Syria in 296 for refusing to worship the Roman gods.

The Abu Sargah website notes that the church once housed Egypt’s oldest altar which was transferred to the Coptic Museum. The roof is one of the most interesting features of the church and said to have been constructed in the shape of Noah’s Ark.

We read in Matthew 2 about the Flight into Egypt when St. Joseph was warned in a dream after the visit of the Three Magi:

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared  8 and sent them on to Bethlehem with the words, ‘Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’

9 Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. 10 The sight of the star filled them with delight, 11 and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

12 But they were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

13 After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’

14 So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my son out of Egypt.

MUSEUMS AT WORK: WATCHING VATICAN ART RESTORERS – THE VIA LUCIS, STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION

After a wonderful 9 days in Washington and New York, I am safely back in Rome. Those were days spent with good friends and making new friends, celebrating Easter in the U.S. for the first time in years and dining out in favorite restaurants but also time dedicated to work, posting blogs and FB stories, doing an inteview for “Vatican Insider,” talking with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly slot on “Catholic Connection and preparing last weekend’s VI special on the Via Lucis.

You will find the print version that story – one I enjoyed researching and then recounting on VI – below. Enjoy again!

I went to Mass yesterday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Newt and Callista Gingrich. Cardinal Dolan presides at the 10:15 Sunday Mass, and he spotted us and asked us to come to his residence afterward where we had coffee and sweets and shared some time with a couple from Birmingham (!) and another from the island nation of Malta.

The cardinal’s secretary, Fr. James, took this photo with a cell phone and for the life of me I cannot seem to enlarge it. For the nth time I’ve searched online and on the WordPress site for how to resize photos once they are uploaded and I have not been succssful in resizing.

Today’s Vatican news: The nineteenth meeting of the Holy Father Francis with the Council of Cardinals began this morning. The work of the “Council 9” will continue until Wednesday, April 26.

MUSEUMS AT WORK: WATCHING VATICAN ART RESTORERS

(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican Museums have launched a new scientific-cultural initiative entitled “Museums at Work” to show visitors the process of restoring a work of art.

Taking place over the coming months in Room XVII of the Vatican Pinacoteca, the “Museums at Work” program seeks to show the public “the everyday activities of the Pope’s Museums”.

The initiative presents the restoration of the triptych of “The Virgin bestows her belt to Saint Thomas, The Mass of Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome Penitent” (1497) by Viterbo Antonio del Massaro. (photos news.va)

The Vatican Museums’ website says the triptych is “a painting possibly destined for an important Roman monastic community with strong doctrinal interests and particular devotion to the Virgin and to the Fathers of the Church.”

Restoration efforts for the triptych were financed by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts.

THE VIA LUCIS, STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION

Because we are still in the Easter season, I thought it would be timely, fun and informative to introduce you to something that relatively few people know about – the Via Lucis – the Way of Light – also known as the Stations of the Resurrection. (Sources: Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada; www.itmonline.com, CNA, Vatican)

First, let’s look at the 50 Days of Easter as explained on the website of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada: “We spend 40 days preparing for and counting down to the great celebration of Easter, the day that Christians around the world remember the resurrection of Christ. What many do not realize is that Easter is not a single day but rather it is a season made up of 50 days. We continue to live Easter for six consecutive Sundays before commemorating Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. The Easter season culminates the following week with the feast of Pentecost, the day the apostles were sent out, accompanied by the Holy Spirit, on their great mission.  ”At Masses during the Easter season, the usual Old Testament reading is replaced by readings from the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles recount the story of the Church’s earliest days, and the beginnings of our faith. These stories of heroism, controversies, persecutions and miracles all testify to the continued presence of the Risen Christ in the world, through the lives of his disciples, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.”

How is this related to the Via Lucis? This post-Easter period, as told by the Apostles, IS the Via Lucis!

Now, we all know that the Via Crucis – the Way of the Cross – follows the course of Jesus’ passion, death, and burial. This is observed by the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, a collection of 14 images that are found in virtually all Catholic churches. What fewer people know about is the Via Lucis – the Way of Light, also called the Stations of the Resurrection – which celebrates the most joyful time in the Christian liturgical year, the 50 days from Easter (the Resurrection) to Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit).

The idea for depicting the Way of Light was inspired by an ancient inscription found on a wall of the San Callisto Catacombs on the Appian Way in Rome. This cemetery is named for St. Callistus, a slave who eventually became the 16th pope, reigning from 217 to 222. The inscription found at St. Callistus comes from the first letter St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (around 56 A.D.), in response to the report that some members were denying the Resurrection.

Paul wrote: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles. Last of all, he appeared to me, too, as though I was born when no one expected it.”

In the traditional scheme of the Stations of the Cross, the final Station is the burial of Jesus. Though this constitutes a logical conclusion to the Via Crucis, it has been increasingly regarded as unsatisfactory as an end-point to meditation upon the Péaschal mystery which, according to Christian doctrine, culminates in, and is incomplete without, the Resurrection. For this reason a fifteenth Station, representing the Resurrection, is sometimes added to the Stations of the Cross. Even this practice has, however, been subject to criticism as insufficiently representing the two-fold dynamic of the Paschal mystery: the suffering and death of Jesus on the one hand, and on the other his Resurrection and glorification.

In the summer of 1988, Father Sabino Palumbieri, Professor of Anthropology at the Salesian University in Rome, proposed the creation of a new set of stations, centered upon the Resurrection and the events following from it, so as to emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story which, though not absent from the Stations of the Cross, is obscured by their emphasis upon suffering.

The first major public celebration of this devotion was in 1990, after which it gained greater currency. Fr. Palumbieri helped develop the idea to combine the events mentioned in the St. Callistus inscription with other post-Resurrection events to create a new set of stations, the Stations of the Resurrection. These new stations emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story that is not absent from the Way of the Cross, but is not as evident because of its tortuous side.

This Way of Light, as it was called, thus serves as an optimistic complement to the Way of the Cross, and was fashioned of fourteen stations paralleling the fourteen Stations of the Cross. Father Sabino wrote of this idea in the 1999 document, “Give Me a Firm Footing,” that described the realizations he had “after a profound crisis of existential meaning…because of the prospect of death.” This was followed by a study of the Gospels and recognizing that, “With the Risen One, I know why I live.”

“Personally – thanks to this turning point of faith – I was able to continually proclaim the Risen One and in this way propose, as Paul VI said, Christianity as joy, as continual striving to supersede the stalemate of suffering without an outlet. The Lord Jesus is for me He who has made me meet along my journey hundreds of brothers and sisters, youth and adults, so that together we might better remember this central portent which is the resurrection from the dead in a community in journey. In this community a new form of popular piety, by his grace, was sketched out. It is the Via Lucis, which is the physiological second moment of the Via Crucis, that by now has spread itself throughout the five continents. Its celebration has been accompanied by moments of special grace at Jerusalem, at Moscow, on the soil of the martyrs in the catacombs of Saint Callistus. So many suffering people write to me saying that every day they do a station of the Via Lucis, drawing from it strength, joy and peace. Also the very poor communities of Madagascar, of Brazil, Peru. It does not mean abolishing the Via Crucis, which is the mirror of the suffering of Calvary without end in the world. It means only completing it with the Via Lucis, which is the mirror of the hopes of the world, especially of those to whom it most rightly belongs, the poor.”

All the Stations of the Resurrection are based on scripturally-recorded incidents contained in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

As with the Stations of the Cross, the devotion takes no fixed form, but typically includes for each Station a reading from Scripture, a short meditation and a prayer. Where a series of pictures is used to aid the devotion, it takes the form of a procession with movement from one Station to the next sometimes being accompanied by the singing of one or more verses of a hymn.

This devotion has received formal recognition by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.   In December 2001, it promulgated a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, which commended the Via Lucis as follows:

“A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus – from his Resurrection to his Ascension – in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Lk 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church. Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith – the resurrection of Christ – and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Col 1, 13; Eph 5, 8). For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fix its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Paschal event, namely the Lord’s Resurrection. The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since “per crucem ad lucem” [through the Cross (one comes) to the light]. Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God’s plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man’s true end: liberation, joy and peace which are essentially paschal values. The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a “culture of life” which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a “culture of death”, despair and nihilism.”

As of 2007 there is no universally-agreed list of Stations of the Resurrection, nor have any Church authorities sought to impose a definitive list, and as a result some churches have commissioned sets of sculptures for the Stations according to their own distinctive scheme which may not be followed elsewhere.

This is, in fact, similar to the history of the Stations of the Cross, which attained their normative form only after many centuries of widely varying local practice. There is agreeement on the number of stations – 14 – to emphasize the complementarity between the Stations of the Cross – Via Crucis – and the Stations of the Resurrection – Via Lucis.

In spite of continuing local variability, there appears to be an increasing convergence upon the following 14 as an accepted list of Stations of the Resurrection: These 14 stations, in fact, appeared in the April 2015 edition of MAGNIFICAT with Meditations and Prayers and an introduction by MAGNIFICAT Editor-in Chief, Dominican Father Peter Cameron.

  1. Jesus is raised from the dead
  2. The finding of the empty tomb
  3. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus
  4. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
  5. Jesus reveals Himself in the breaking of bread
  6. Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
  7. Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
  8. Jesus confirms the faith of Thomas
  9. Jesus appears to disciples on shore of Lake Galilee
  10. Jesus confers primacy on Peter
  11. Jesus entrusts the disciples with Universal Mission
  12. The Ascension of Jesus
  13. Mary and the disciples wait the coming of the Holy Spirit
  14. The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost

Other sources, however, including some recent ones, replace some of these Stations with others, such as: The earthquake – The Angel appears to the women – Jesus meets the women –  Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the disciples Jesus and the beloved disciple – Jesus appears to over five hundred at once – Jesus appears to Saul.

I hope you enjoyed this report that I aired as a special on “Vatican Insider.” I loved learning about the Via Lucis, the Stations of the Resurrection and think it would be wonderful to organize a pilgrimsage to the Holy Land based on these Stations!

 

VATICAN INSIDER AND THE VIA LUCIS

This may well be the shortest column I’ve ever posted but it has been an extraordinary day and the hands on the clock are just turning too fast. I am in between appointments and came back to my room at the Paulist Fathers residence just to post these few lines.

If possible, I will try to find time tomorrow to write a bit about last night’s reception at the beautiful and historic residence of Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the Holy See permanent observer to the U.N. The reeption was for the Bethlehem University Foundation, as I mentioned in yesterday’s column and it was a joy for me to see so many friends from the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Christian Brothers whom I first met in Bethlehem at the university.

This morning I was invited by Newt and Callista Gingrich to go to the Fox studios to watch Newt as the guest on their 12 noon show, “Outnumbered.” Lots of fun – took a ton of photos. Newt afterwards appeared on Neil Cavuto and then we went to lunch, joined by two friends.

Here is a photo after the show – Callista and a friend Kate and I joined everyone on the curvy couch so Newt was really outnumbered.

Just a few photos at the moment as I am about to leave for another appointment.

VATICAN INSIDER AND THE VIA LUCIS

We all know that the Via Crucis – the Way of the Cross – follows the course of Jesus’ passion, death, and burial. This is observed by the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, a collection of 14 images which are to be found in virtually all Catholic churches. What fewer people realize is that there is also a Via Lucis, the Way of Light, also known as the Stations of the Resurrection. This period celebrates the most joyful time in the Christian liturgical year, the 50 days from Easter (the resurrection) to Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit).

In this week’s Vatican Insider, I offer a special on the Via Lucis, an in depth look at these wonderful stations.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). 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 YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS TO CANONIZE FATIMA SHEPHERD SIBLINGS MAY 13 – POPE FRANCIS, PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW TO MEET IN CAIRO

I’m in New York as I write but will be back in Rome on Monday, April 24.

I was invited to attend an event this evening at the residence of the Vatican’s nuncio and Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza. He is hosting a reception for the Bethlehem University Foundation, headed by my good friend, John Schlageter. John and I and other members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre will be there, as will friends of the Order and supporters of the university in an effort to help raise both awareness and funds for this Christian Brothers-run University. I’m also scheduled to interview Abp. Auza for “Vatican Insider.”

I’ll dedicate an entire column in the future to the university as it does amazing work not just in the educational field but in Christian-Muslim relations, in helping to build lives for young people as professionals in many fields who hope to bring peace to their part of the world.

POPE FRANCIS TO CANONIZE FATIMA SHEPHERD SIBLINGS MAY 13

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday announced that the two young shepherd children from Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta Marto will be canonised during his forthcoming pastoral visit to the Portuguese town on May 13th.

During an ordinary public consistory in the Vatican, the Pope announced the canonization of  35 people, the majority of whom were 16th and 17th century Latin American martyrs. They include 30 Brazilian priests and lay people killed by Dutch soldiers for their refusal to convert to Calvinism during the colonization of north eastern Brazil in 1645. Three other martyrs were young Mexican boys, educated by Franciscan missionaries and murdered for their refusal to follow the local indigenous religion.

The new saints also include a Spanish priest, who founded an institute for abandoned children at the turn of the 20th century, as well as a Capuchin friar from Naples who defended the rights of the poor of his day, in the early 18th century.

Centenary of Marian apparitions

But undoubtedly the best known names on Thursday’s list of newly proclaimed saints are those of Portuguese brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the shepherd children who, along with their cousin Lucia Santos, saw the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima exactly one hundred years ago.

Beatified by Pope John Paul II

Unlike Lucia, who became a nun and lived to the age of 98, Francisco and Jacinta died in childhood, aged just 9 and 11, as a result of the great flu epidemic that swept through Europe in 1918. On May 13, 2000 they were beatified by Pope John Paul II during his pastoral visit to Portugal.

Sr. Lucia’s cause for beatification

Meanwhile the case for Sr Lucia’s beatification concluded its first phase in Portugal earlier this year and is now being examined at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.

POPE FRANCIS, PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW TO MEET IN CAIRO

(Vatican Radio) On April 28, Pope Francis will journey to the Egyptian capital Cairo, where he will visit the prestigious al-Azhar center of Islamic studies.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, is also expected to join the Holy Father, together with Coptic Pope Tawadros II.

Both Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew have been invited by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb to attend an international peace conference there.

During the brief April 28-29 visit, the Pope will meet with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as celebrate Mass for the local Catholic community.

His visit comes less than a month after two bomb attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt by so-called Islamic State militants left 45 people dead and dozens of others injured.

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald is the former nuncio to Egypt and former head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He talked to Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen about expectations ahead of this short but highly significant papal visit…

Archbishop Fitzgerald says it’s significant that the Pope is going to Egypt where there are so many difficulties and uncertainties, with “extremists who are against the institutions and against Christians in a particular way”. He notes it’s not the first papal visit, since Pope John Paul II travelled there in the year 2000 and was “received remarkably well”.

Friendship between two Popes

He says the significance lies also in the relationship between Pope Francis and the head of the Coptic Church Pope Tawadros, whose first journey after being elected patriarch of Alexandria was to visit the Vatican. This trip, he says, “will be another moment consolidating this friendship between the two Popes”.

Personal relations and theological dialogue

Archbishop Fitzgerald says the dialogue with the Oriental Churches about the role of the Pope as bishop of Rome is ongoing and this theological dialogue is important, but it will be personal relationships, rather than theological discussions, that will be at the heart of the Cairo visit.

Reciprocal visit to Grand Imam

Regarding relations with the Muslim world, the archbishop says that one of the main motives for the visit is also to consolidate progress in the relationship between the Vatican and al-Azhar. He recalls that the Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb came to see the Pope in Rome and this reciprocal visit will be “highly appreciated”.

Meeting of leaders “a sacrament”

Archbishop Fitzgerald says that while Pope Francis is known as a man of surprises, it’s unrealistic to expect any big changes as a result of this trip. But in itself the meeting between the two leaders is important: he says “let’s call it a sacrament”, because “it’s not just a symbol” but rather it’s “producing something which goes beyond their own persons”.

Muslims and Christians combating extremism

Commenting on the most recent round of talks between the Vatican and al Azhar, Archbishop Fitzgerald notes that “extremism has been condemned by the majority of Muslim leaders around the world”. He stresses the importance of monitoring social media since so many young people are radicalized through the Internet. He notes that al-Azhar is also working with the Dominicans in Cairo, forming a group to study extremism together.

Finally, Archbishop Fitzgerald recalls that, just as not all Christians see Pope Francis as a figure of authority, in the same way al-Azhar has “a prestigious role within the Islamic world, but it is not followed by all Muslims around the world. So while “we pray for miracles”, he concludes, “we don’t always expect them”.