SHORT TAKES

It is 6:30 pm, has been a long work day so and I’ve still quite a bit of my work ahead of me so today’s column will be dedicated to short takes of some of the day’s important and interesting news stories.

Pope Francis tweeted today: May the certainty of faith be the engine of our lives.

As I write, heads of State or government and the presidents of European Union institutions are gathering in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Treaties of Rome that laid the foundations for what today we call the European Union. Pope Francis will address the gathering Friday and his words will be carefully watched.

Today, the EU faces huge challenges including Brexit – Britain’s exit from the Union – high levels of unemployment in several countries, debt crises, the growth of populist movements and a backlash against welcoming immigrants and refugees. Rome is gearing up for the leaders but also for protesters and, in recent days, I have already seen some subtle – and not so subtle – security preparations, and I’m guessing these are being ramped up, given the terror attacks yesterday in London. By the way, Pope Francis did sent a message of prayerful solidarity after the attacks. You’ll see this in the short takes that follow.

Say a prayer that the next few days in Rome will feature peaceful gatherings. Pray also that the routines of those of us who live in areas where the heads of State and government will be gathering (i.e., Vatican City) won’t be dramatically affected by the security measures, changes in bus routes, closures of some streets or squares, etc.

SHORT TAKES

POPE FRANCIS SENT A TELEGRAM OF CONDOLENCES to Cardinal Vincent Nichols (in photo), archbishop of Westminster, expressing his sorrow for the victims of the terror attack at the House of Parliament in London on Wednesday. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent the telegram in the Pope’s name:  “Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy.  Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time.”

THE HOLY FATHER RECOGNIZED A MIRACLE attributed to the intercession of two Fatima children – Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto – during an audience on Thursday with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,. He also approved the canonizations of 30 Brazilian and 3 Mexican martyrs. Francis will visit Fatima on May 12-13 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Mary to the three children in Fatima.

POPE FRANCIS WILL MEET WITH AND ADDRESS 27 European Union heads of State and government at a private audience in the Sala Regia Friday evening, the eve of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome that led to the formation of the European Common Market, the precursor of the EU, European Union. Also in attendance will be the presidents and other representatives of EU institutions.

NEWLY RESTORED CHAPEL AT JESUS’ TOMB UNVEILED IN JERUSALEM – An ecumenical re-dedication service took place in Jerusalem’s Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday as restoration work on the chapel containing Jesus burial place was unveiled. Representatives of all the local Christian Churches gathered alongside special guests including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world.  Pope Francis was represented by the Vatican’s representative to Israel and Palestine, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.

To read Vatican Radio’s onsite report: http://www.news.va/en/news/newly-restored-chapel-at-jesus-tomb-unveiled-in-je

FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII – ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII

Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.

At the audience he spoke specifically to the Italian association, Migrantes Foundation, an arm of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) that promotes the pastoral care of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy. Noting that it offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience during which he continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul that centers on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement, saying they “are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us.”

“He is also a God of encouragement,” said Francis, “who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope. Even more, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering.  But we do so with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.”

Later, speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was speaking just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rom that established the European Union.

In an appeal after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “24 hours for the Lord” initiative on March 24 and 25 with churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey.

In Rome, on Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.  (source Vatican Radio)

ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

More than 1,500 lifeguards and coastal resort business representatives wearing distinctive red jackets were at Wednesday’s General Audience to give backpacks to the Holy Father containing items like toothpaste and razors.

The initiative was organized by the “Sindacato Italiano Balneari (S.I.B),” an organization that provides vital supervision for bathers at coastal resorts throughout the country.

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The organization president, Riccardo Borgo, said: “With this gesture we came to give a concrete help to Pope Francis and his works in support of the homeless. We also delivered to His Holiness the distinctive symbol of Italian lifeguards, the red shirt with the word ‘Rescue’ identical to the one worn on our beaches by the thousands of boys and girls each summer who supervise and work so that bathing happens in complete safety and tranquility.”

He added, “For this summer, we have other charitable initiatives and solidarity planned in favor of children and the poor.”

More than 1,000 reusable backpacks made up of different products including soap, shaving foam, and deodorants were handed over to the Holy Father for distribution to the poor at Easter. S.I.B came up with the idea following Pope Francis’ initiative launched at the Vatican two years ago that provides showers and barber services for homeless people.

The lifeguards and coastal resort entrepreneurs were joined in St Peter’s Square by their families and were accompanied by the Bishop of Chioggia, Adriano Tessarolo, as well as several priests from coastal regions.

Following the audience, a delegation consisting of one representative for each coastal town met with the papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski who gave them Rosary beads as a memento of the event.

POPE FRANCIS’ VIDEO MESSAGE FOR XXXII WORLD YOUTH DAY – MONKS OF NORCIA MARK TRANSITUS OF ST. BENEDICT

POPE FRANCIS’ VIDEO MESSAGE FOR XXXII WORLD YOUTH DAY

The Vatican today released a video message from Pope Francis for the XXXII World Youth Day to be held in the dioceses of the world on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. The Pope’s written message was also released (see below). Following is the text in English of the video message:

Dear young people,

With the memory vividly in our minds of our meeting together at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, we have set out towards the next goal that will be, God willing, Panama in 2019. These moments of encounter and conversation with you are very important to me. I want this journey to proceed in line with preparations for the next Synod of Bishops because it is dedicated to you young people.

We are accompanied on this journey by Our Mother the Virgin Mary. She encourages us with her faith, the same faith that she expressed in her song of praise. Mary said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). She knew how to give thanks to God who looked upon her littleness, and she recognised the great things that God was accomplishing in her life. So she set off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was old and needed her to be close by. Mary did not stay at home because she was not a young couch potato who looks for comfort and safety where nobody can bother them. She was moved by faith because faith is at the heart of Our Mother’s entire life story.

Dear young people, God is also watching over you and calling you, and when God does so, he is looking at all the love you are able to offer. Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history ‒ your history and that of many others. The Church and society need you. With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world.

As you follow this path, I encourage you to cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady. She is our Mother. Speak to her as you would to a Mother. Together with her, give thanks for the precious gift of faith that you have received from your elders, and entrust your whole life to her. She is a good Mother who listens to you and embraces you, who loves you and walks together with you. I assure you that if you do that, you will not regret it.

Have a good pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2019. May God bless you all.

For the video: Go to: http://www.news.va/en and scroll down until you see VIDEO CHANNEL – click here to see Pope Francis who speaks in Spanish

Here is the link to Pope Francis’ written message for the 2017 diocesan level celebration of the XXXII World Youth Day, which takes place on Palm Sunday on the Marian theme: “The Mighty One has done great things for me,” taken from the Magnifcat. The Holy Father tells young people that the world “needs your courage, dreams and ideals.” http://www.news.va/en/news/our-lady-at-the-heart-of-2017-wyd-message

MONKS OF NORCIA MARK TRANSITUS OF ST. BENEDICT

Following is a letter and some photos sent by Father Benedict Nivakoff, OSB, Prior with an update as they mark the transitus of St. Benedict:

Dear Friends, On this Feast, for several centuries, monks, clergy and citizens of Norcia have celebrated St. Benedict’s Transitus – his earthly death and birth into Heaven — in a packed basilica with local townspeople in medieval costume. In the crypt of that basilica, the saint (and his saintly sister) was born to life, while in the upper church his birth into heaven was remembered. Eight months after the great earthquake of 2016, the celebrations have a different character.

The Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia offered the Mass at a portable altar in front of the statue of our great patron in the piazza with the ruins of the basilica and its still-standing facade covered in scaffolding in the background. Beloved traditions do not die easily and today’s solemnity is a timely reminder that “deep roots are not touched by the frost.”

The Feast comes in Lent and along with St. Joseph and the Annunciation, this week brings a sort of intermission to the monk’s Lenten routine. Many ask me about it. Here is a brief sketch. Our day still begins at the same time, 03:15 AM. Private Lectio, devotions, low Masses and classes punctuate the morning between vigils, lauds, prime and terce. The sung Conventual Mass is at 10:00 as usual then we go outside to work. The main difference to our schedule is that the one meal of the day is moved to 17:30. St. Benedict was keen that the monks not eat until after vespers, or near sunset. Afterward, there is a short meeting called collation, then compline and bed time. Each monk suggests to the Prior a little extra fasting, a little extra prayer and some almsgiving (within the house) and these are added to his daily schedule.

For one of our monks, Fr. Basil, this Lent has an added gift of service. He is spending the month of March with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, India. Last year, Br. Anthony was able to help the sisters there for a month and it proved an invaluable source of inspiration for his monastic vocation and for our community at home. While it is true that there are many ways we try to help people near us in the earthquake zone, the stark poverty that affects that region of India brings an added urgency and we are glad our monks can lend a hand.

One way we help locally is through our beer, and we are grateful to God to be able to announce that after moving some equipment and making minor repairs we will finally be reopening a part of the brewery next week for production. Most of the brewery is still badly damaged but a small part remains intact. Re-opening that part (with some modifications) will allow us to get Birra Nursia out — albeit in limited quantities — to more local shops trying to open again. I’ll have more information about that next week. May Nursia help to gladden hearts in Norcia and abroad and may God bless each of you for your continued support of lour many needs!

MARKING THE SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH – POPE ENCOURAGES RECONCILATION, SOLIDARITY, PEACE IN RWANDA – FRANCIS WELCOMES EL SALVADOR BISHOPS ON AD LIMINA VISIT – VATICAN PUBLISHES ITINERARY FOR PAPAL TRIP TO FATIMA

The main news story of the weekend was the Vatican’s confirmation that Pope Francis will make an apostolic trip to Egypt on April 28 and 29 in response to invitations from Egypt’s president, the Catholic bishops, Coptic Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of Al Azhar. He will visit the city of Cairo on this, his 18th foreign pastoral visit.

Weekend papal tweets:

SATURDAY: I invite you not to build walls but bridges, to conquer evil with good, offence with forgiveness, to live in peace with everyone.

SUNDAY: May St Joseph, Spouse of Mary and Patron of the Universal Church, bless you and watch over you. And best wishes to fathers!

MARKING THE SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH

Yesterday was, of course, March 19, a day normally marking the solemnity of St. Joseph and a big day in Italy because this feast also marks Father’s Day. However, because it fell on a Sunday in Lent, the solemnity of St Joseph and Father’s Day were transferred to today. However, I’m willing to bet that many Italian families got together Sunday to mark La Festa del Papà, Father’s Day!

If your name in Italy is Giuseppe (Joseph) or Giuseppina, March 19th if your name day, your onomastico. There are Italians for whom the onomastico is more important than the birthday. Many best wishes were sent out yesterday to Pope emeritus Benedict as he was born Joseph Ratzinger. By the way, on this solemnity churches and schools that bear the saint’s name hold festive celebrations.

March 19 was dedicated to Saint Joseph on a number of calendars as early as the 10th century, and it seems this became tradition in Rome in Rome by 1479.

Pope Francis on Sunday at the Angelus recalled the beatification the previous day in Bolzano, Italy of Joseph Mayr-Nusser. He said: “Because of his great moral and spiritual stature, Blessed Joseph is a model for the lay faithful, especially for fathers, whom we remember with great affection today.”

The new Blessed was a married layman and head of a family and big supporter of Catholic Action. However, when he was conscripted into the German army in 1944, he refused to take the so-called “Hitler oath,” was sentenced to death, and died on the way to Dachau concentration camp.

POPE ENCOURAGES RECONCILATION, SOLIDARITY, PEACE IN RWANDA

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis received the President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, in a private audience at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Monday.

President Kagame and his entourage subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were cordial:

“During the cordial exchanges, the good relations that exist between the Holy See and Rwanda were recalled. Appreciation was expressed for the notable path of recovery towards the social, political and economic stabilization of the country. Likewise noted was the collaboration between the State and the local Church in the work of national reconciliation and in the consolidation of peace, for the benefit of the whole Nation.”

Pope Francis, it went on, “conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi. He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events and, evoking the gesture of Pope St John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, he implored anew God’s forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission.”

“In light of the recent Holy Year of Mercy and of the Statement published by the Rwandan Bishops at its conclusion, the Pope also expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which, unfortunately, disfigured the face of the Church, may contribute to a ‘purification of memory’ and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace, witnessing to the concrete possibility of living and working together, once the dignity of the human person and the common good are put at the centre.”

The Pope and the President then exchanged views “about the political, social and regional situation, with attention to those places that are suffering conflicts and natural calamities. A particular concern was expressed for the large number of refugees and migrants in need of help and support from the international community and from regional structures.”

FRANCIS WELCOMES EL SALVADOR BISHOPS ON AD LIMINA VISIT

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday received the prelates of El Salvador, who are in Rome for their ‘ad Limina Apostolorum’ visit.

Their visit takes place ahead of the March 24th feast day of the former Archbishop of San Salvador, Blessed Oscar Romero, and the 37th anniversary of his assassination by hired gunmen at the height of El Salvador’s civil war.

El Salvador, a Latin American Republic, has a population of around 6.5 million people, nearly 80 percent of whom are Catholic.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop José Luis Escobar’Alas of San Salvador and president of the Episcopal Conference said the primary pastoral challenges in El Salvador are “the defense of life, understood in its full sense as justice, truth and peace in a society marked by violence.”

He said the bishops are “working to recover family values, that is, of a solid and responsible family, which can save the whole of society.”

VATICAN PUBLISHES ITINERARY FOR PAPAL TRIP TO FATIMA

The Vatican today published the schedule of Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to Fatima, Portugal on May 12 and 13. (photo: news.va)

The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive at Monte Real air base on Saturday afternoon, May 12 where he will be welcomed by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Afterwards he will be taken by helicopter to Fatima’s stadium of Fatima before travelling by car to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima where he will pray in the Chapel of the Apparitions, greet pilgrims present, and recite the Holy Rosary with them.

On Sunday, Pope Francis’ will meet with Prime Minister António Costa at the “Nossa Senhora do Carmo” House, following which he will celebrate Mass in the square of the Basilica of “Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fatima.”

His final stop is a lunch with the bishops of Portugal at the “Nossa Senhora do Carmo” House. Pope Francis will then return to Rome via Rome’s Ciampino Airport.

Here is the papal itinerary:

Friday May 12, 2017

14:00     Departure by air from Rome Fiumicino airport for Monte Real.

16:20     Arrival at the air base of Monte Real:  Welcome ceremony.

16:35     Private meeting with the President of the Republic in the Monte Real air base.

16:55     Visit to the air base chapel.

17:15     Transfer by helicopter to the stadium of Fatima.

17:35     Arrival at the Fatima stadium and transfer by open vehicle to the Shrine.

18:15     Visit to the Chapel of the Apparitions:  Prayer of the Holy Father.

21:30     Blessing of the Candles from the Chapel of the Apparitions:  Greetings from the Holy Father & Recital of the Holy Rosary.

Saturday May 13, 2017

09:10     Meeting with the Prime Minister at the “Nossa Senhora do Carmo” House.

09:40     Visit to the Basilica of “Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fatima”.

10:00     Holy Mass at the churchyard of the Shrine:  Holy Father’s homily & Holy Father’s greetings to the sick.

12:30     Lunch with bishops of Portugal at the “Nossa Senhora do Carmo” House.

14:45     Farewell ceremony in the Monte Real air base.

15:00     Departure by air from the Monte Real air base, destined for Rome.

19:05     Arrival at Rome Ciampino airport.

 

VATICAN INSIDER: IN POLAND FOR STORIES ABOUT ST. JOHN PAUL – POPE FRANCIS ON WHAT MAKES A GOOD CONFESSOR – 24 HOURS FOR THE LORD

Here’s a really wonderful web page about St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you enjoy every word, statistic and photo! http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day

Pope Francis tweeted today: Fasting means not only abstaining from food, but also from any unhealthy attachment, and especially sin.

VATICAN INSIDER: IN POLAND FOR STORIES ABOUT ST. JOHN PAUL

My guest this weekend on “Vatican Insider” is Fr. Jan Machniak, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Krakow, author of “Apostles of Divine Mercy” and a professor at the John Paul II University in Krakow. He has a web page with his lectures in English for students – www.janmachniak.com

We met when I was recently in Krakow. I had asked Fr. Jan to share some stories about Pope John Paul for my book on Poland’s newest saint. He also has a great tidbit about John Paul II and Mother Angelica. In any case, this is a conversation rather than a typical interview where I might jump in to clarify a name or give some background information. I’ll do that now – here – and, as you’ll hear when you listen to Vatican Insider, I also explain at the start of the interview.

For example, you will hear the name Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz: In 1966 he was named secretary to Archbishop, later Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul. Cardinal Dziwisz later succeeded him as archbishop of Krakow and just months ago retired.

At the end of our conversation, I mention Fr. Dariusz Ras. He’s a good friend who was a former secretary to Cardinal Dziwisz and is now the archpriest of St. Mary’s Basilica on Market Square in Krakow.

At one point, Father Jan also talks about oplatki, an unleavened Christmas wafer, about the size of a postcard that is embossed with Christmas-related images. At Christmas time every person or guest in a family or other setting gets an oplatki: you exchange greetings with other people by breaking off a piece of their oplatki and they break off a piece of yours.

In his story about a monstrance that Pope John Paul gave to Mother Angelica, Fr. Jan mentions Nowa Huta, a neighborhood on the periphery of Krakow where, until the 70s, there was no Catholic Church. It took many years but then Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow finally persuaded the communist authorities to allow the building of a church that they called the Ark. (Father asked me, how to translate the Italian “arco di Noe) and I said Noah’s Ark. I thought that was the name of the church but the Nowa Huta church is Ark of the Lord).

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 ON WHAT MAKES A GOOD CONFESSOR

This morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received the participants in the 28th annual course on the Internal Forum that was organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. They have just ended three days of meetings.

Francis said, “I am pleased to meet you in this first audience after the Jubilee of Mercy, on the occasion of the annual course on the Internal Forum. I address warm greetings to the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, and thank him for his kind remarks. I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and the staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of the ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the papal basilicas in Rome, and all of you, participants in this course.

”In reality,” the Pope went on, “I admit this Penitentiary is the type of tribunal I truly like! It is a ‘tribunal of mercy’, to which we turn to obtain that indispensable medicine that is divine mercy. Your course on the internal forum, which contributes to the formation of good confessors, is more useful than ever, and I would say even necessary in our times. Certainly, one does not become a good confessor thanks to a course, no: that of the confessional is a long education, that lasts a lifetime. But who is a ‘good confessor’? How does one become a good confessor?

Francis said he “would like to indicate, in this respect, three aspects.

1. The “good confessor” is, first of all, a true friend of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

2. The good confessor is, in second place, a man of the Spirit , a man of discernment

3. Finally, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization

For the full address, click here: http://www.news.va/en/news/359167

24 HOURS FOR THE LORD

Following the enthusiasm of past years, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization again proposes “24 hours for the Lord” for Lent 2017 on March 24-25.

Tonight, March 17, as a precursor to that event, Pope Francis will preside at a penitential celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in order to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center of the Church’s mission of the new evangelization.

The theme that will guide the reflection in 2017 is: I desire mercy (Mt 09:13).

POPE THANKS LEBANESE PRESIDENT FOR WELCOMING SYRIAN REFUGEES – FRANCIS TO PRESIDE PENITENTIAL SERVICE IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA – U.S. DIOCESES WHERE YOU CAN EAT MEAT ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Papal tweet for March 16: The Church wishes to be close to each person with the love, compassion and consolation that come from Christ.

POPE THANKS LEBANESE PRESIDENT FOR WELCOMING SYRIAN REFUGEES

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis held a private audience on Thursday with Mr. Michel Aoun, President of the Republic of Lebanon, and his wife, Nadia.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were “cordial.”

“The Parties focused on the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and Lebanon, underlining the historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of the country. Satisfaction was then expressed for the efforts on the part of all the various political parties in putting an end to the presidential vacancy, emphasising the hope for an increasingly fruitful future collaboration between the members of diverse ethnic and religious communities in favour of the common good and the development of the nation,” the communique read.

Turning to current events on the international stage, the Pope thanked President Aoun for his country’s welcome of Syrian refugees.

“The discussion then turned to Syria, with special attention to international efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. Furthermore, appreciation was expressed at the welcome that Lebanon has extended to many Syrian refugees. Finally, there was a broader exchange of views on the regional context, referring also to other ongoing conflicts and the situation of Christians in the Middle East.”

President Michel Aoun subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

FRANCIS TO PRESIDE PENITENTIAL SERVICE IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will preside over a penitential service at the Vatican in anticipation of the  ’24 Hours for the Lord’ initiative.

The service will take place on Friday March 17, one week before all churches around the world are asked to offer the sacrament of Confession, a request made by the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization.

The theme of the initiative this year comes from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: ‘I desire Mercy’ (Mt 9:13).

On Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Monsignor Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.

Here’s a link to the booklet if you watch this on EWTN: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2017/20170317-libretto-liturgia-penitenziale.pdf

U.S. DIOCESES WHERE YOU CAN EAT MEAT ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

(churchpop.com) Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Everyone knows that. (Catholics are also supposed to do penance on Fridays all year round; read more here.)

But sometimes there are exceptions! This Friday, March 17th 2017, might be one of those exceptions for you, depending on where you live.

It just so happens that this Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. That by itself doesn’t mean you can eat meat, but you can if at least one of these other conditions is met:

First, if St. Patrick is the patron of your diocese (e.g. the Archdiocese of New York), his feast is a solemnity for you and fasting is not required. This is true for all solemnities, such as the feast of St. Joseph (March 20th), which sometimes falls on a Friday during Lent.

Second, a bishop can grant a dispensation to everyone in his diocese from the normal fasting requirement. Dubbed the “Corned Beef Indult” (since corned beef is a customary food for St. Patrick’s Day), Rocco Palmo says the bishops of at least 112 dioceses in the United States have granted permission to their faithful to forego the normal abstinence from meat this Friday to allow for better celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

For complete list, click here: https://churchpop.com/2017/03/15/you-can-eat-meat-in-these-u-s-dioceses-this-friday-st-patricks-day/

AT GENERAL AUDIENCE. FRANCIS SAYS IT IS “GRAVE SIN” TO REMOVE JOBS WITHOUT CLEAR REASON; HE GREETS EMOTIONAL CHINESE PILGRIMS – PAPAL ENVOY ASKS PRAYERS FOR HIS MISSION TO MEDJUGORJE

Pope Francis tweeted today: The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.

AT GENERAL AUDIENCE. FRANCIS SAYS IT IS “GRAVE SIN” TO REMOVE JOBS WITHOUT CLEAR REASON; HE GREETS EMOTIONAL CHINESE PILGRIMS

The Holy Father’s general audience catechesis in St. Peter’s Square today focused on hope, with a look at charity. After the catechesis in Italian and summaries in seven other languages, Pope Francis said, in off the cuff remarks: “Those who for economic reasons or to conclude unclear negotiations, close factories and business ventures and take away jobs, this person is committing a very grave sin.” The comments came after he had appealed for a resolution to a labor dispute at the satellite company, Sky Italia, whose Rome employees are facing job cuts and relocation Sky moves offices from Rome to Milan. The Holy Father called for a solution that respects the rights of all, “especially families.”

In a rather remarkable moment at the audience today, there was a very emotional encounter between the Pope, as he circled St. Peter’s Square in his jeep, and a small group of Chinese pilgrims where he stopped the car. Rome Reports carried video and explained how excited the Chinese were: A father and his son approached Pope Francis to ask for his blessing. The Pope kissed the little boy, who was in the arms of his father, who was crying and then knelt to kiss the ground. Others came forward, crying and filled with emotion, and asked him to bless their statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Pope Francis embraced them, kissed them and gave them his blessing.

Chinese pilgrims wave flags as Pope Francis leads his Wednesday general audience, in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

PAPAL ENVOY ASKS PRAYERS FOR HIS MISSION TO MEDJUGORJE

(from Aleteia.org)

I wish to ask Aleteia readers to pray for the success of my mission in Medjugorje, for coming as close as possible to objective truth and for obtaining very good, concrete results, Archbishop Henryk Hoser tells our readers.

Pope Francis appointed the archbishop in February to be the Holy See’s special envoy to the site, where millions of pilgrims have visited since the apparitions were said to begin, in 1981.

The archbishop told Aleteia some of the details of his mission.

Konrad Sawicki: When will Your Excellency leave for Medjugorje?

Archbishop Hoser: I have recently heard that I am allegedly there and that I have been miraculously healed by the Holy Virgin Mary… Joking aside, my first visit to Medjugorje, an orientation one, will start at the end of March.

I will meet first with the Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Archbishop of Sarajevo. Then, naturally, I will meet with the local Bishop of Mostar and the Franciscan friars who work in the shrine. First of all, however, I will listen intently to different opinions and examine the local pastoral situation.

This will be Your Excellency’s first visit to the shrine. Yet this is not going to be Your Excellency’s first special mission, is it?

It is true I have never visited Medjugorje myself, but a lot of the faithful from my Diocese of Warsaw-Praga go there and I am well-familiar with their accounts.

It is also true that this is not going to be my first mission as a special envoy of the pope. I have so far held three such missions. Two apostolic visitations were short; I have spent two weeks in Togo and Benin, respectively. I looked into the questions of seminaries there. The third mission was long; I spent one and a half years in Rwanda immediately after the genocide. This experience gives me courage to embark on another visitation, to Medjugorje.

As to the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje and their authenticity, let us clarify the current situation for our readers.

In 2010 the Holy See appointed a special doctrinal commission led by His Eminence Cardinal Camillo Ruini. In 2014 the commission concluded its operation and submitted its conclusions to the Holy Father. He subsequently forwarded the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To date, the Congregation has not adopted its final position.

Your Excellency’s mission concerns not only the apparitions themselves; it is pastoral in character. However, not everyone understands why a Polish archbishop received a special mission from Francis. One website announced that Your Excellency is to “examine the conflict concerning Marian apparitions.” 

The mission entrusted to me is auxiliary to what the doctrinal commission has accomplished. Every year the shrine is visited by 2 to 2.5 million pilgrims from across the world. It has become a charismatic place. The fact that Medjugorje is visited by so many faithful, who are no doubt spiritually enriched there, is something to be borne in mind.

A demand for pastoral care in this place is huge. Imagine – there are 50 confessionals on the premises. The problem is that often there are not enough confessors speaking different languages.

My mission, as has been stipulated in the communiqué released by the Holy See, is to closely examine the local pastoral situation, in particular the needs of the pilgrims. I am also supposed to indicate possible new pastoral initiatives. The underlying objective is to enhance pastoral outreach and to better coordinate local pastoral actions.

After the nomination of the special envoy and the publication of a letter by the local bishop, which contests the authenticity of the apparitions, many faithful around the world are concerned. Was their pilgrimage to no avail? Were their prayers untrue? – they ask. Could Your Excellency as a papal pastoral envoy explain the current situation to them and dispel their worries?

We should by no means worry! The Church has not yet spoken on the authenticity of the apparitions. We should calmly wait for the final position. This is by no means the first situation when the Church is slow to take a decision, especially given that the form of the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje significantly differs from that of earlier well-known apparitions.

Besides, this issue will not change anything in the teaching of the Church concerning Marian veneration. If Marian devotion has flourished in Medjugorje, if such multitudes arrive there, it is therefore a place where veneration will continue, since Our Lady can be venerated everywhere, especially in those locations where this veneration is so fruitful, as we hear it has been from so many testimonies.

The Holy Father is aware of it and therefore would like to examine not only the pastoral situation in Medjugorje, but also, if necessary, find methods of improving the pastoral care provided to the pilgrims in this place, so strongly dedicated to Our Lady.

Let me take this opportunity to greet Your Excellency on behalf of the editors and readers of Aleteia and wish you a complete and fast recovery. Would Your Excellency like to address our staff and readers?

I would like to ask the Aleteia readers to pray for the success of my mission in Medjugorje. I embark on this mission on behalf of the Church, entrusted to me by the Holy Father. I want this mission to come closest to objective truth and to produce very good and concrete results.

I am an emissary of the Church but the Church should pray for me, as She prayed at one time for St. Peter and St. Paul. After all, prayer is the driving force of our actions in the Church, both the tangible and the invisible ones.

Henryk Hoser, Bishop of the Diocese of Warsaw-Praga, was born in 1942 in Warsaw. A graduate of a university school of medicine, in 1968 he entered the Society of Catholic Apostolate (the Pallottines). Having obtained degrees in philosophy and theology and having been ordained to the priesthood, he left for Paris and then for a mission to Rwanda (1975–1996). In 1978 he established a Medical and Social Centre in Kigali and led it for 17 years. He also set up the Family Formation Center (Action Familiale). After the civil war in Rwanda, the Holy See appointed him apostolic visitor in Rwanda. In 2005 John Paul II appointed him archbishop and auxiliary secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Chairman of the Pontifical Missionary Works. In 2008 Benedict XVI named him Bishop of the Diocese of Warsaw-Praga. On 11 February 2017 Pope Francis nominated him a special envoy of the Holy See to Medjugorje. At the beginning of 2017 Archbishop Hoser revealed that he is suffering from malaria.