A TIME FOR PRAYER AND MEDITATION FOR CHILE’S BISHOPS – GENERAL AUDIENCE: FINAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM AND APPEAL FOR PEACE – CARDINAL VINCENT NICHOLS CALLS FOR PRAYERS FOR GAZA

A TIME FOR PRAYER AND MEDITATION FOR CHILE’S BISHOPS

Pope Francis gave the bishops of Chile a series of themes for meditation at their first meeting Tuesday afternoon in the Vatican. A second meeting is Wednesday afternoon and two are scheduled for Thursday, May 17. (vatianmedia photo)

The Holy Father called the meeting with the Chilean episcopate to address the crisis of clerical sexual abuse, and the failure of church leaders to respond adequately to it. The meeting was prompted by the reception of 2300-page report by two special envoys sent by Pope Francis earlier this year, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Fr. Jordi Bertomeu Farnós. Both travelled to the Americas to hear testimony from victims of clerical abuse.

Upon receiving the final report, Pope Francis “humbly” requested the bishops’ “collaboration and assistance in discerning the short-, mid-, and long-term measures that must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal, and re-establishing justice.” The meeting in Rome is intended to discuss the results of the envoys’ visit and discuss the Pope’s conclusions.

A time for meditation and prayer

The Pope held the first meeting with the bishops on Tuesday afternoon in the auletta or small hall of the Paul VI Hall. There were 34 Chilean bishops in attendance. According to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, the Pope gave each of the Bishops a text with themes for meditation. “From this moment and until the next meeting, a time is open [which is] dedicated exclusively to meditation and prayer,” the statement said. (Vatican News)

GENERAL AUDIENCE: FINAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM AND APPEAL FOR PEACE

Pope Francis began this week’s general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square by noting that, “In this, our final catechesis on Baptism, we turn to the rites illustrating the grace of the sacrament. Following an ancient tradition, the newly baptized are robed in a white garment signifying their new life in Christ, and are admonished to preserve it unstained for eternal life. Since, as Saint Paul says, the baptized have been clothed in Christ (cf. Gal 3:27), they are called to cultivate every virtue, especially charity, which binds the others together (cf. Col 3:14).

“So too,” added Francis, “the taper lighted from the paschal candle symbolizes the light of Christ and the warmth of his love which, with the help of the parents and godparents, must be nurtured through education in the Christian life. These rites evoke not only our communion in the Church on earth but also point to its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will be our light for ever (cf. Rev 22:5).”

The Holy Father explained that, “the rite of Baptism concludes with the Our Father, as the expression of our dignity as God’s adoptive children in Christ. May all of us cherish the gift of grace we received on the day of our Baptism, and let ourselves be guided at every step by the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis expressed concern at the escalation of violence in the Middle East and urged for peace: “I am very concerned at the escalation of tension in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and the spiral of violence that is moving away further from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation, …I express my great sorrow for the dead and wounded and with prayer and affection I am close to all who suffer. …I repeat that the use of violence can never lead to peace, War begets war, violence begets violence.”

He urged all parties concerned and the international community to renew their commitment to ensure that dialogue, justice and peace prevail, and recited the Hail Mary, asking everyone to join him in praying to Mary, Queen of Peace.

In closing greetings, the Pope extended his “cordial wishes” to Muslims worldwide who on Thursday begin their fasting month of Ramadan. He said he hoped this “privileged time of prayer and fasting help in walking the path of God which is of peace.”

CARDINAL VINCENT NICHOLS CALLS FOR PRAYERS FOR GAZA

The following statement from Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster was released today, May 16:

‘Today I have had a phone conversation with Fr. Mario da Silva, the Catholic parish priest in Gaza to offer our prayers and support. He told me that life is so hard and everyone is desperate with shortages of water and other basic necessities. He said that knowing Catholics in England & Wales and across the world remembered the people of Gaza and were praying for them was a great encouragement.

“Please pray for peace in the Middle East and especially for the people in Gaza. They are living through traumatic times of remembrance and protest at the dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation. This is a people who are both extremely vulnerable and deprived. Their fate is central to peace and peace can never be built on neglect.”

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VATICAN INSIDER VISITS THE SHRINE OF DIVINE LOVE – IN BAPTISM WE ENTER INTO THE SAVING MYSTERY OF CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION – A HEAVENLY DINING EXPERIENCE IN ROME

I leave for the US tomorrow to attend a family First Communion so these pages will be blank for a few days. However, I have a few interesting pieces of news today and later will post something that will keep you smiling for days!

Enjoy!

VATICAN INSIDER VISITS THE SHRINE OF DIVINE LOVE

I’ve prepared a special for you this weekend for what is normally the interview segment of Vatican Insider: We are going to visit the shrine so loved by Romans – and visited numerous times by Popes – the shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love.

Pope Francis went there on pilgrimage Tuesday to say the rosary for peace in the world, especially for peace in Syria. The story starts in the 13th century – miraculous events, wonderful stories, historical moments. So tune in this weekend to learn about Divine Love!

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 http://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=

IN BAPTISM WE ENTER INTO THE SAVING MYSTERY OF CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION

The Pope continued his weekly general audience catechesis today on the sacrament of Baptism, turning to the blessing of the water, the rejection of Satan and the profession of faith.

“In blessing the water of the baptismal font,” said Francis, “the Church prays that it may become the source of new life in Christ and the cleansing of sin through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. After recalling the prophetic prefigurements of baptism in the Old Testament, Jesus’ own baptism in the Jordan, and the water that flowed from his side upon the cross, the prayer of blessing asks God to sanctify the water of the baptismal font, so that, through it, those who are to be baptized may enter into the saving mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.

He added that, “as a sign of our decision to live this mystery of new and eternal life, we then reject Satan and all his works, and proclaim the Church’s faith in the Triune God. Whenever we bless ourselves with holy water, may we recall with gratitude the gift that we received on the day of our Baptism, and ask for the grace to persevere in our efforts to be conformed more closely to Christ our Savior.”

In greetings to the English-speaking visitors, the Pope mentioned pilgrims from the United Kingdom, India, Thailand, Canada and the United States of America. “In a special way, I greet the members of the Catholic Extension Society of the United States, with gratitude for their contribution to the work of rebuilding in Puerto Rico.”

The Holy Father also blessed a minivan that will be used by Caritas Poland.

A HEAVENLY DINING EXPERIENCE IN ROME

As a special treat today, I want to introduce you to a new restaurant I have discovered, an exceptional treat in a city known for exceptional food that I shared with two friends Monday, including Teresa Tomeo.

TERRAZZA BORROMINI, Via Santa Maria dell’Anima, 30. You are actually entering the Hotel Eitch Borromini which, along with the restaurant, is part of the Pamphili Palace on Pza. Navona. As you enter the building, walk to the end of the long corridor and take the elevator to the 4th floor and the Terrazza Borromini restaurant.

The website says it all: The restaurant is in small to medium-sized rooms overlooking Piazza Navona, embellished by Bernini frescoes and framing one of the most precious views of the famous fountains in the square. The outside terrace transports you to another world and, as you dine al fresco, you are so close to the church of Sant’Agnese, you feel you can touch it! (the truly amazing photo of the church dome, the bell tower and the moon was taken by Teresa – she put some photos up as well – https://www.facebook.com/MrsTeresaTomeo/)

A menu of both Italian classics and innovations, I found prices to be quite reasonable given the surroundings and the view of Pza. Navona. The chef is Francesco Grasso whom many of my readers met when he was at La Scaletta, on the same street. http://www.terrazzaborromini.com/en/

After dinner. take an elevator to the 5th floor, then a small staircase to the terrace above the terrace restaurant and you will be left breathless by the views of the piazza and all of Rome, as far as the eye can see. A sensational spot for drinks and music and some down time with friends.

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM, STRENGTH AGAINST EVIL – HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE COMMUNIQUES

Today, April 25, is Liberation Day, a national holiday in Italy that marks the fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy in 1945, towards the end of the Second World War. I always know when it’s a holiday in Rome – even without a calendar – because of the extreme quiet in the neighborhood. Many stores are closed and there’s little traffic and hardly any movement or noise on the streets adjacent to my building, just across from Vatican City. I don’t know what it’s like in the center of Rome or around historic monuments but I know I’m loving the peace and quiet!

On another topic: We all have interests and passions and hobbies, whether in the fields of sports, handicrafts, the arts, travel, languages, libraries, cuisine, or merely collecting items – stamps, coins, dolls or, as I do, plates and bells. When it comes to my interest in languages and travel and history, I think you know of my passion for the Middle East and the Holy Land, for the story of the Catholic Church, for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, in that part of the world.

If you have a similar interest, I’d like to point you to an excellent site for news from and about that region: http://en.abouna.org/en/world

Fr. Rifat Bader, a friend of mine from Jordan, began this site years ago. He also launched CCSM – the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan – on April 25, 2012 to serve as a media arm for the Latin Patriarchate. By the way, the word “abouna” in the website means “father.” Happy anniversary, Abouna Rifat and CCSM!

Father Rifat and I met over the years in his native Jordan, in both Cyprus and Lebanon during trips by Pope Benedict, in the Holy Land for Francis’ three-day trip in 2014 and a number of times here in Rome. When it was just a seed, the CCSM was the subject of many of our conversations and emails and I am delighted to follow its success.

Another fascinating link: You can access the annual magazine of the Grand Magisterium of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, “Jerusalem Cross” here: http://www.oessh.va/content/ordineequestresantosepolcro/en/media/le-nostre-pubblicazioni/la-croce-di-gerusalemme-2017.html

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM, STRENGTH AGAINST EVIL

Pope Francis bases his General Audience catechesis on Philippians 4:12-13: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me”. Through our Baptismal anointing we receive the strength needed for the spiritual struggle.

By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Pope Francis continued reflecting on the Sacrament of Baptism during the catechesis portion of the Wednesday General Audience. He focused on the anointing with the oil of catechumens that is part of the Rite of Baptism.

Faith is a response to the Gospel

Those who request Baptism have responded to the Gospel that has prompted them to believe, the Pope said. They have learned how to listen to Jesus’ teaching and works. They experience the thirst of the Samaritan woman. Their eyes are opened like the blind man. They come forth from the dead like Lazarus.

Not alone

Those who approach the baptismal font are accompanied by the entire Church. This is concretely expressed with the Litany of the Saints before the exorcism and anointing with the oil of catechumens at the beginning of the Rite of Baptism. “They are gestures that, since ancient times, assure those who are preparing to be reborn as children of God that the prayer of the Church assists them in the fight against evil”, Pope Francis said.

Strength against evil

Pope Francis reminded those present that Jesus “fought against and cast out demons to manifest that the kingdom of God had come” (cf Mt 12:28). His victory over evil is a clear sign of his lordship. Through Baptism, which is not magic but a “gift of the Holy Spirit”, Jesus gives us the ability “to fight against the spirit of evil”. Pope Francis cited the Baptismal Rite: “God sent his Son into the world to destroy the power of satan and to transfer man from darkness to the kingdom of infinite light”.

Anointing with oil

The Baptismal candidates receive a second anointing on their chest. Pope Francis explained that long ago, “fighters would cover themselves with oil in order to tone their muscles and in order to more easily escape their enemy’s grasp”. Unpacking this sacramental sign, Pope Francis concluded his catechesis saying that the Christian life is one long, tiring struggle against evil. But we are accompanied by “Mother Church who prayers that her children, regenerated by Baptism, might not succumb to the snares of the evil one, but might conquer by the power of Christ’s Passover.” Therefore, “we too can repeat with the faith of St Paul: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

At the end of the audience, Francis made the following appeal:

Next Friday, April 27 in Panmunjom, an inter-Korean summit will be held in which the leaders of the two Koreas – Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un – will take part. Such an encounter will be a good occasion to start a transparent dialogue and a concrete path of reconciliation and rediscovered fraternity with the goal of guaranteeing peace on the Korean peninsula and in the entire world.

I assure the Korean people, who so ardently desire peace, of my personal prayer and the closeness of the entire Church. The Holy See accompanies, supports and encourages every useful and sincere initiative to build a better future, as the sign of an encounter and friendship among people.

I ask those responsible for direct political talks to have the courage of hope, to make yourselves artisans of peace while I also exhort you to pursue with trust the path undertaken for the common good.

As God is the Father of all and the Father of peace, I invite you to pray the Our Father, God, Father of all, for the Korean people, those in the South and those in the North.

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE COMMUNIQUES

I. Next July 7, Pope Francis will travel to Bari (on Italy’s Adriatic coast), window to the East that is the guardian of the the relics of St. Nicholas, for a day of reflection on and prayer for the dramatic situation in the Middle East that afflicts so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith. He intends to invite to this ecumenical encounter for peace the Heads of Churches and Christian communities in that region. As of now, Pope Franccis exhorts all to prepare for this event with prayer.

II. POPE TO RECEIVE CHILEAN ABUSE VICTIMS THIS WEEKEND

(I published this earlier this morning as a separate column) – In response to questions by journalists about an encounter of the Holy Father Francis with several victims of abuse in Chile, Holy See press office director Greg Burke this morning declared the following:

“This coming weekend the Holy Father will receive at the Santa Marta residence three victims of abuse committed by clergy in Chile; respectively Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andres Murillo.

The Pope thanks them for having accepted his invitation. During these days of personal and fraternal encounter he wants to ask pardon of them and to share their pain and his shame for what they have suffered, and above all listen to all their suggestions with the scope of avoiding that such terrible facts repeat themselves.

The Pope will receive victims individually, allowing each one to speak for all the time they need.

The Holy Father asks for prayers for the church in Chile in this very sad moment, expressing the hope that these encounters can take place in a climate of serene trust and that they might be a fundamental step to remedy and to avoid for all time abuses of conscience, power and, in particular, sexual abuse in the heart of the Church.”

PAPAL GESTURE OF MERCY FOR HOMELESS MOTHER AND NEWBORN – CHRISTIAN UNITY, MERCY, BAPTISM ARE FOCUS OF PAPAL CATECHESIS – POPE FRANCIS TO DAVOS ECONOMIC FORUM: DON’T FORGET THE POOR

PAPAL GESTURE OF MERCY FOR HOMELESS MOTHER AND NEWBORN

What an amazing story of mercy from Rome, from the Vatican actually – a heartwarming story during days which have seen frigid temperatures in Rome, especially overnight.

At 2 am Tuesday, one of the coldest nights Rome has seen in a very long time, a 36-year old Romanian homeless woman gave birth to a 7-pound baby girl in Pius XII Square, the small square adjacent St. Peter’s Square. She had been sleeping under the porticos on Via della Conciliazione when her labor pains began. A homeless companion called the police who happened to be patrolling at that time and the woman, Maria Claudia, gave birth at about 2 am. The two police who came to her aid – a man and a woman – took off their own coats in the very cold weather to place over the mother and newborn who was named Irene.

The policewoman who helped the Romanian woman was also named Maria. Mother and child were brought to nearby Santo Spirito hospital, just several hundred yards from St. Peter’s Square.

A big role was also played by Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. He had tried to help Maria Claudia in the past but she had never wanted assistance- However, on Tuesday, having heard the story, he saw to it that Maria Claudia went to the hospital and he went to visit them. He later told Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office that mother and daughter are doing well.

Archbishop Konrad said that, though the mother refused offers of help in the past she was able to use the showers the Vatican has built for the homeless as well as other services that Pope Francis has placed at the disposition of the homeless in the vicinity of the Vatican.

Although the two police officers who came to help Maria Claudia had called for an ambulance, it arrived quickly but only after Maria Claudia had given birth on the cold sidewalk. Every evening there are dozens of homeless people under or near the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square and in the doorways of many of the Vatican buildings on Via della Conciliazione, including the Holy See Press Office.

While the homeless very often come at sunset and spend the night outdoors, most leave in the morning when offices open.

Archbishop Krajewski has become the most active ever of all papal almoners, those who distribute help to the poor, the needy, and the homeless. His work, especially with the homeless, has become a hallmark of Pope Francis’ papacy. The Pope has seen to it that showers were set up for the homeless just off of St. Peter’s Square. He also saw to it that barbers gave freely of their service one day a week for these same homeless people. In addition, last fall a dormitory was built several blocks from St. Peter’s Square that houses up to 34 homeless people a night – all the work of Pope Francis and his almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.

And now for the happy ending to this story:

Archbishop Krajewski let Maria Claudia know that, in the name of the Pope, she and her daughter may stay for a year in the home for unwed mothers that is run by the sisters of Mother Teresa in the Primavalle neighborhood of Rome.

CHRISTIAN UNITY, MERCY, BAPTISM ARE FOCUS OF PAPAL CATECHESIS

Marie, a friend from Toronto who is in Rome for only a few days, had written to ask if I might get a ticket for this week’s general papal audience and asked if I could accompany her. I write about but rarely attend a general audience but felt this would be a wonderful experience and also quality time to spend with a friend.

It was a bitter cold morning outside but the lines for security went quite well, quickly and efficiently. Being in a much warmer Paul VI Hall was all we needed to bring a real smile to our faces. We got inside about 90 minutes before the audience but that kind of time passes quickly as you talk, watch people, listen to groups sing or watch groups wave flags, etc.

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Before the Pope arrives, announcements are made in 8 languages about how the audience wil proceed, praying the Our Father at the end of the audience with the Pope, having rosaries and other religious goods blessed, etc. The final announcement was the one that broight joy to our hearts: at the end of the audience, whoever wished to go through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica should follow the directives of the Jubilee volunteers!

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Marie had earlier asked me how to go about this and I told her that reservations had to be made online or at the Visitor’s Office on Via della Conciliazione and that the starting point of the long walk to the basilica Holy Door was at Castel Sant’Angelo, Now, we could take a shortcut!

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Announcements made, Pope Francis arrived about 10 am on the dot and strolled up the center aisle of the Paul VI Hall to reach the stage.

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The Holy Father focused his attention on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that began, as is tradition, on January 18 an ends on the 25, feast of the conversion of St. Paul. The Pope told us that the theme for this special week was taken from the first letter of Saint Peter, “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,” and he explained, with apparent delight, that this had been chosen by an ecumenical group in Latvia.

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Francis said this week of prayer invites us to “reflect on, and bear witness to, our unity in Christ as God’s People. … all those who are baptized, reborn to new life in Christ, are brothers and sisters, despite, ‘our divisions’.”

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Baptism was also a focus of the weekly catechesis. The Pope said, “baptism means rediscovering the source of mercy, which is a source of hope for all.” He said once – and then repeated it, looking up from his text – that “no one is excluded from God’s mercy.”  Sharing this grace, “creates an unbreakable bond between us Christians” so that, “by virtue of Baptism, we can consider ourselves brothers.

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More than anything, prayed the Pope, may the Lord, in this week of prayer, “help all Christians to grow in that unity that is greater than what divides us. .. Together, may we respond to his call to share with others, especially with the poor and forgotten of our world, the gift of divine mercy which we ourselves have received.”

POST AUDIENCE NOTES

After the audience, as Pope Francis was receiving a delegation of Muslims who invited him to visit the mosque of Rome, Marie and I made our way out to St. Peter’s Square and, following the indications of the Jubilee volunteers, climbed the broad steps to the atrium of the basilica and joined others to go through the Holy Door. This was, as you can imagine, a very special moment that became the prelude to a prayerful visit to this historical basilica built over the tomb of the first Pope, St. Peter, and to prayer time at the tomb of St. John Paul, the tomb of St. John XXII and to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

The photo of the Holy Door as we approached it is not very good because we were not supposed to stop and take photos.

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A bonus, on the way out, was a visit to the basilica’s nativity scene (I’ll post photos another day).

POPE FRANCIS TO DAVOS ECONOMIC FORUM: DON’T FORGET THE POOR

The Holy Father was asked to address the annual economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, but ecided to express his thoughts to members of this exclusive yearly gathering in the form of a message. His principaal appeal was to never forget vthe poor, reflecting what he tweeted yesterday: The Gospel calls us to be close to the poor and forgotten, and to give them real hope.

Click here to read full message: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-to-world-economic-forum-do-not-forget-the-poo