IRAQI DELEGATE AT SYNOD: YOUNG PEOPLE NEED A “FAST RESPONSE” – SYNOD OF BISHOPS: “HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND DAWN IN TWILIGHT”

I posted news yesterday on Facebook about the canonization ceremony for seven news saints during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, including St. Pope Paul VI and murdered Salvadoran Archbishop St. Oscar Romero.

If you tune it tonight to EWTN’s “At Home with Jim and Joy,” you will hear me share two interesting stories about the first Pope I ever spoke to, the new saint, Paul VI. John XXIII was the first Pope I ever saw in a general audience but no words were exchanged.

It was a very busy morning today for Pope Francis as he addressed thousands of pilgrims who had come to Rome for St. Romero’s canonization, welcomed the president of Poland and later, in the Secretariat of State, presented the new Substitute for General Affairs, 58-year old Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra. Appointed by Pope Francis on 15 August, he succeeds Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was recently named Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The Romero pilgrims –

Read on for synod news: I am puzzled by some words, a bad translation probably, in one part of the press briefing, as you can see here:  Fr Marco Tasca, O.F.M., the Franciscan General, said that he has been reflecting on St Francis of Assisi who had to make a radical choice to follow a different lifestyle. He said that this is what the Church offers today. Listening, he said, has been key. He told a story that he heard about a bishop who visited a family. A young person in the house told the bishop that he is fake. He said that the bishops responded by asking the young person to help him not to be fake.

IRAQI DELEGATE AT SYNOD: YOUNG PEOPLE NEED A “FAST RESPONSE”

Iraqi auditor, Mr Safa al Abbia, speaks about his experience of the Synod and the response to his presentation to the Synod assembly.
(vaticannews – Russell Pollitt, SJ)

Mr Safa al Abbia is a 26-year-old Chaldean Catholic dentist from Iraq. He was invited to the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment currently underway in Rome.

His plea to the Bishops is that the universal Church helps young people in Iraq who are being persecuted for their faith. He explained that the main challenge for youth in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity.”

In his intervention at the Synod, which ended with rapturous applause, he told the Bishops that young people were struggling to remain as faithful witnesses to Jesus and hold onto their traditions, values and liturgy. He said that many of them have watched their brothers and sisters being martyred and their churches bombed.
He also related a painful experience. He said that he will never forget the face of his friends who, after Mass, said, “See you next week”. He never saw them again because they were “burned under the fire of the bombed car” near their church.

He told Pope Francis that he had a message for him from the young people of Iraq: “They hope one day to see you in Iraq.”

He said that he had two important experiences at the Synod: First, that he was able to tell the world what was happening in Iraq because it was important that others knew the inside story. He said he felt supported by many who were at the Synod who heard his story. Second, he discovered that many young people across the world are suffering for different reasons. He mentioned sexuality, social media and the breakdown of family life. He said that it was important because knowing what happens in other places means that young people can support each other in all sorts of ways – including through prayer and by helping people rebuild what has been destroyed.

Mr Al Abbia said that he believes that he was really heard at the Synod. He said that after the applause he received in the general assembly, many people came to him and asked how they could help the people of Iraq.

He hopes that the Synod will, in the end, result in an accurate account of reality. He does not want the Synod to be “saying a speech and clapping and support [for] the talk” but a real “positive feedback” of reality on the ground, the lived experiences of many young people.

He says that he had more than one opportunity to speak to Pope Francis. Smiling broadly he says that the first time he met the Holy Father he could not speak because he was so stunned to be standing in front of the Pope. He tells of how, in Brazil, at World Youth Day, they only saw the Pope in the distance. Now he stood before him!

The second time he met Pope Francis he says he asked him to pray for his country in general but also for all the Christians of Iraq and for him and his family.

The third time he met the Pope he made a video, asking the Holy Father to give a message to the young people of Iraq which he intends playing to them next week when the young people of Iraq will gather to pray for the Synod currently underway.

He said that Pope Francis is a wonderful person.

The Holy Father responded telling him that he would pray for the people of Iraq. Mr Al Abbia explains how, when talking about Iraq, he sees a real sadness in the Pope’s eyes.

At the end of his speech he told the Pope that the Iraqi people, especially young people, hope he will visit the country. He says that the Holy Father laughed when he heard that.

Mr Al Abbia said that his message to the world is to ask for prayer for Iraq. He also says “do not forget us.” He said that he realises that there is a lot of suffering in the world and maybe the attention of the world has shifted to places like Syria. Although the situation in Iraq is a bit better, he says that nothing is guaranteed. “Don’t forget us because we have a wonderful group of young people that are steadfast in their faith, salt to the earth as Jesus said.”

He says that he is afraid that young people in Iraq will lose their faith and become hopeless. This he believes leads to two possibilities: young people leave the Church or immigrate from Iraq. He said that in 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, now there are only 400 thousand. This is a “miserable thing!” He reminds the world that Christianity was in Iraq from the first century.

“It is not possible to say, one day, oh there were Christians in Iraq, no, the Christians have to still be in Iraq. This is the message, we need the world to support us and at the same time we support all the young people around the world and we pray for them and their countries and their families.”

He says that the biggest challenge of this Synod will be that young people are waiting for results, they want “fast results.” He says that young people are tired and bored and they want something that reflects reality.

Mr Al Abbia said that in an email he was told that the Synod was a waste of money, that the Vatican brought people from all over the world and that this could have be done through electronic means, like Skype. He said that it was important that people came together in Rome, to share their stories like he shared his. He said that being able to share his story helped him tell the world, for example, about what is really happening in Iraq.

He said that it was important that the Church listened to young people and then responded. He adds, “but we need a fast response.”

Mr Al Abbia had to return to Iraq soon after doing this interview. His mother is unwell and he needed to be with her. He told Vatican News that he could not come back to the Synod of Bishops on Young people because his visa only allowed him one entry into the EU.

SYNOD OF BISHOPS: “HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND DAWN IN TWILIGHT”

Three General Superiors and an auditor from Chile were present at the daily press briefing on the Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment
By Russell Pollitt, SJ (vatiannews)

The message of young people to bishops

Ms Silvia Teresa Retamales Morales said that it was a great privilege and responsibility for her to be at the Synod. She said that she was here to express the voices of all those young people who wanted to come to Rome and talk to the bishops. She says that when the young heard she was coming to the Synod they reached out to her, many of whom were non-Catholic. They told her that they wanted her to bring this message: they want a multi-cultural Church that is open to all, not a Church this is judgmental. They want a Church that makes everyone feel at home, a Church that reflects the message of Jesus Christ. She also said that young people say that the Church should not discriminate against minorities – especially people of different sexual orientations and the poor.

Addressing, specifically, homosexuality, she said that young people believe that gay people have the same rights as everyone else and that they too want to live their faith in the Church. She says that she sees discrimination, people who are not open to gays. She said that the Church’s first mandate is love. Gay people must be fully recognised as brothers and sisters that need to be accompanied by us. She said that this had been discussed in the Synod assembly.

Ms Morales said that young people also want women to be given a bigger role and responsibility in the Church. In Chile, she said, women are becoming more empowered in both society and in the Church, they must be given more responsibility.

Opportunity for a renewed mission

Fr Arturo Sosa, S.J., said that many challenges, like secularisation and the digital world, are an opportunity to renew the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel. He said that the challenge of how to educate young people in an unpredictable world needs consideration.

Fr Sosa also said that a sign of our times is migration and the way that migrants are treated in every country. Migrants, he said, are people who are looking for a better life. He said that the reaction to migrants and refugees shows us just how inhumane we are becoming. He said we need to understand why people leave their countries and also why there is massive internal movement. He says this necessitates that we ask questions like why democracy seems to be weakening and nationalism is on the rise and how this is linked to migration.

The Jesuit Superior General said that people are helped in emergency situations but that he was also shocked to see how much time refugees spend in camps, some most of their lives. Can you imagine what happens to young men and women who spend their lives in refugee camps, he asked. He explained that the Jesuits are trying to use technology, the digital world, to provide education in the camps.

Listening must move to action

Dominican General, Fr Bruno Cadoré, said that Church, through the Synod, wants to pass from listening to conversation. He says that the preparation for the Synod was accurate and detailed and that young people were listened to inside and outside of the Church.

Fr Marco Tasca, O.F.M., the Franciscan General, said that he has been reflecting on St Francis of Assisi who had to make a radical choice to follow a different lifestyle. He said that this is what the Church offers today. Listening, he said, has been key. He told a story that he heard about a bishop who visited a family. A young person in the house told the bishop that he is fake. He said that the bishops responded by asking the young person to help him not to be fake. Fr Tasca said that this is the meaning of the word listening: being open to what young people say, their style. He said that the Synod was taking place to build the Church, together. He said that the Synod must move from listening to conversation so that the Church can find its way. He said that sometimes it is “difficult to find dawn in twilight.”

Fr Sosa said that he personally believed that Vatican II introduced an ecclesiological model that has not become a reality. He said that we made some progress and then took steps back. He said that at the heart of that model is that the people of God are in the centre. This model, he said, needs to be embodied in history.

Fr Cadoré said that a hallmark of the Church is that it is open to change, orientated towards the future.

At the briefing Dr Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, clarified that on Saturday 27 Oct. 2018 the Synod Father’s will vote paragraph by paragraph on the final document. Each paragraph needs a two-third majority to be part of the final text.

The question of women auditors being allowed to vote was asked again. The Superiors present reminded journalists that this was a Synod of Bishops and the Church is marked by its culture. Fr Sosa said that Pope Francis wants a deeply synodal Church so changes might be forthcoming. He said that the discomfort with this is important as it means something is not right and it needs to be addressed.

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ARCHDIOCESAN PHASE OF CAUSE FOR CANONIZATION OF FATHER VINCENT CAPODANNO IS CLOSED – ‘GRUNT PADRE’ COULD BE PATRON SAINT OF MEMORIAL DAY

ARCHDIOCESAN PHASE OF CAUSE FOR CANONIZATION OF FATHER VINCENT CAPODANNO IS CLOSED

From the U.S. Military Archdiocesan website:

WASHINGTON, D.C.—An archdiocesan tribunal looking into whether the life of Vietnam War hero and U.S. Navy Chaplain Father Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M., merits consideration for sainthood by the Catholic Church has wrapped up its nearly four-year inquiry. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, declared the archdiocesan phase of the Cause closed in an announcement on Sunday at the end of the 23rd annual Memorial Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The decision clears the way for the tribunal’s findings to go to the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints for review and a possible decision on whether to advance the Cause to the next stage of consideration.

I am so excited about this story as I have followed the cause of Fr. Vincent Capodanno for a number of years now. I’ve participated in several events and Masses commemorating him in Italy, and I went to Vietnam in 2013 to see where he served as a Catholic Maryknoll chaplain – called “the Grunt Padre” – and where he died. I attended a memorial Mass in his honor in DaNang in Sacred Heart Cathedral that was packed  – SRO! – with vibrant Catholic Vietnamese faithful. I posted a ton of videos and photos at the time – Vietnam was an awesome visit from a spiritual and a personal standpoint.

Ted and I with the then Bishop of DaNang, Joseph Tri

Sacred Heart Cathedral in DaNang

A Vietnamese St. Joseph and Jesus

Mass celebrated in a parishioner’s house near spot where Fr. Capodanno died

This man knew Fr. Capodanno!

Just a few hundred yards from where Fr. Capodanno died Sept. 4, 1967

Now I want to go back because a number of us want to help build a chapel to honor him in the very Catholic village where he died. My friend in D.C., retired Navy Captain Ted Bronson, has spearheaded many of these tributes and was instrumental in persuading me to go to Vietnam in 2013. He is also a prime mover in an attempt to work with the Church and government in Vietnam to build this chapel.  More about that story as time goes on!

A few more of the hundreds and hundreds of pix that I took:

Our Lady of La Vang at a statue makers factory. Her shrine north of DaNang is the equivalent of a Guadalupe for Vietnamese!

Loved this little one –

One way to get around in Vietnam

The announcement occurred on Memorial Day. To read more:

http://www.milarch.org/archbishop-broglio-closes-archdiocesan-phase-cause-beatification-canonization-father-vincent-capodanno-m-m/

And here’s a great piece in CRUX:

‘GRUNT PADRE’ COULD BE PATRON SAINT OF MEMORIAL DAY

Archbishop Timothy Broglio has formally closed the archdiocesan phase of the cause of canonization for Father Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest and Navy chaplain killed during a fierce battle in Vietnam almost 50 years ago at the age of 38. The chaplain was nicknamed the “Grunt Padre,” because of his personal care for and ministry to the “grunts,” meaning members of the infantry.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CRUX) – For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time when pools open and families celebrate backyard barbecues.

But for Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the military archdiocese in the United States, “Memorial Day now has a face. It’s a face that I recognize. You meet the relatives, the spouses and parents of men and women who have died as a result of combat,” he told Crux in an interview. “Also, you meet countless young men and women who are willing to take the risks to serve our country.”

When people lose a loved one in combat, “you always sense the loss,” he said.

Some day, Memorial Day may also have a patron saint, especially for those killed or wounded in action, for their families, and for military chaplains and those they serve.

At the end of the Military Archdiocese’s 23rd annual Memorial Day Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Broglio formally closed the archdiocesan phase of the cause of canonization for Father Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest and Navy chaplain killed during a fierce battle in Vietnam almost 50 years ago, on Sept. 4, 1967 at the age of 38. Now the cause goes on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

For the rest of this fascinating CRUX story, click here: https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2017/05/29/grunt-padre-patron-saint-memorial-day/

 

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”.

 

POPE FRANCIS’ SURPRISE VISIT WITH PILGRIM CYCLISTS – POPE SAYS PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL MUST BE A “GREAT WORK OF MERCY” – HOW ONE PILGRIM LIVED CANONIZATION DAY

The past several days, as you might well imagine, have been memorable beyond telling. They have been filled with the beautiful excitement of a canonization, with hours of television and radio reports and commentary, with shared meals with so many friends from the U.S. and abroad who knew and loved and volunteered with and for St. Teresa of Calcutta – everyone’s “Mother Teresa.”

I hope to find some quiet time to sit down and reflect what all this has meant to me personally – Mother Teresa’s life and work, the stories I heard from those who knew her so well, who knew she was a saint long before her official canonization. A saint of our times! Our days! Someone we knew and saw and heard and read about.

What have I learned about her life that has changed mine? Have my thoughts, my work, my priorities changed in some way – or been added to by what I learned?

I want to ponder all of this because I do know I am a changed person.

POPE FRANCIS’ SURPRISE VISIT WITH PILGRIM CYCLISTS

(Vatican Radio) A surprise meeting on Tuesday morning in the Vatican made the day for a group of young pilgrims from northern Italy who has cycled to Rome in pilgrimage for this Holy Year of Mercy. (photo news.va)

cyclists-pope

Pope Francis himself stepped out of his Vatican residence at Casa Santa Marta and into the square in front of the building to greet the young ‘pilgrim cyclists’ and to bestow his blessing upon them and ‘don Andrea’, the priest who has accompanied them on their pilgrimage.

The young people traveled on bicycle down the backbone of Italy from two parishes that are part of the Milan diocese. They intend to resume their pilgrimage with a torchlight procession “on wheels”.

“Now that we have received Pope Francis’ apostolic blessing, we shall set off with extra joy,” they said.

POPE SAYS PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL MUST BE A “GREAT WORK OF MERCY”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday encouraged the President of the Vatican’s ‘Bambino Gesù’ pediatric hospital to continue to promote the institution’s good work and promised his personal contribution.

In the course of a private audience with Mariella Enoc – at the head of the children’s hospital since February 2015 – the Pope assured her of his continuing support and said the hospital must evermore be a ‘great work of mercy’.

bambin-gesu

During the heart-to-heart conversation that ‘Bambino Gesù’ President Mariella Enoc said took place in an atmosphere of great friendliness and intimacy, Pope Francis expressed deep interest in an ongoing charity project that sees the Vatican institution actively supporting the Pediatric Hospital of Bangui, in the Central African Republic.

“The Pope even pledged his personal help ” – she told Vatican Radio  – “an economic contribution that will help us ‘adopt’ the African hospital and help it to grow by providing medical formation, by establishing a school that specializes in pediatric care and by building new wards”.

Enoc also spoke to the Pope about how the Bambino Gesù Hospital has been active in helping support refugees and about an agricultural initiative in collaboration with FAO and the Italian state that aims to provide long-term solutions for the poor in the Central African Republic.

Of course much attention was dedicated to the work carried out by the pediatric hospital itself that offers quality health care, taking in children from across the world, many of whom from families who cannot afford to pay.

And this is exactly what the ‘Pope’s Hospital’ that has its roots in the Gospel is expected to do – Enoc pointed out – as she presented Francis with the gift of a one of the beautiful “Madonna of Bangui” photographs that are part of the Bambino Gesù project to raise money for its sister hospital in the Central African Republic.

After the audience Mariella Enoc presented the ‘Santa Marta pediatric dispensary’, where a team of Bambino Gesù doctors offer voluntary service, with an ultrasound scanner as sign of concrete commitment to help in the Pope’s works of mercy.

HOW ONE PILGRIM LIVED CANONIZATION DAY

I thought this was a terrific description of what it was like to participate in the canonization Sunday of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. The entire story reminded me of many similar moments I’ve spent getting to St. Peter’s Square for a big Vatican event, both as a pilgrim and as a journalist! This was written by Terry Wilson for the Dispatch-Argus QCOnline:

Terry Wilson is business development/marketing director for the Dispatch/Argus. He traveled to Rome last week with a tour group of 52 people primarily from the Quad-Cities area. The tour was organized by The Catholic Messenger newspaper and led by the Rev. Marty Goetz.

ROME — We began the day with a 4 a.m. wake-up call and were loaded on the bus and headed to St. Peter’s Square by 5 a.m., more than five hours before the canonization service for Mother Teresa was scheduled to begin.

As our bus neared Vatican City, there were people everywhere. Buses usually park underground there, but the lot was closed due to security and the volume of traffic. We were dropped off a few blocks outside Vatican City. Enza Volpe, our Italian-born tour manager, made things so much easier.

We were provided small fold-up chairs, and with Enza leading the way, we headed toward St. Peter’s Square. After a short walk, we found the streets already blocked with people waiting. The line continued to build behind us, and from the side streets intersecting ours.

The wait in line was an international experience. Waiting along with the rest of us were priests and nuns from many different countries and orders. It would seem that with all of us there to celebrate someone like Mother Teresa, the wait would have been an orderly social exchange. It was just the opposite. The longer we waited, the more people tried to reposition themselves for the best spot, and the pushing and shouting began to escalate. Finally the first of two security checkpoints was opened, and the line began to move.

We had arranged to gather at a meeting place after the service, so getting separated wouldn’t be a concern. Once the mass of people began pushing us through the security funnel, our group was indeed separated, but we all managed to gather in small groups. Our English was of no use at this point, but fortunately for me, Enza ended up with a group of five of us that managed to stay together in the crowd. This gave us the advantage of knowing what the guards and security officers were saying, and helped us move forward to the second security check, just outside St. Peter’s Square.

Once through the second security check, we entered St. Peter’s Square. The sight was breathtaking, with the basilica directly in front of us and with everything now focused on the stage and altar that had been placed on the stairway leading into the church. The view from where we stood was good enough that we decided to stay there rather than moving back into the crowd closer to the front.

We moved to a wooden railing that had been installed to created a corridor between us and the next section and staked our turf. Several other members of our group spotted us, and 10 of us ended up together. We still had several hours to wait, so we made use of our small stools and watched the crowd continue to grow.

There was security everywhere you looked, from the Swiss Army Guard in their colorful uniforms and Vatican Police in their uniforms to numerous security personnel dressed in perfectly pressed black suits.

As St. Peter’s Square continued to fill, so did our area. We were all glad we had the railing with the open corridor next to us, since it offered some relief from the pushing and shoving crowd that surrounded us as we waited. St. Peter’s Square was soon completely filled, and you could see the roads outside the square were also filled with people who couldn’t fit inside.

They began playing music from the stage, and then about 45 minutes before the service started, reciting the Rosary. A peace began to come over the crowd, and listening to the Rosary in many different languages, recited in unison by thousands of people, was truly beautiful. It didn’t change the fact that we were all uncomfortable, standing in direct sunlight with the temperatures in the mid 80s, and people were still vying for the best spot to stand, but  we were in a holy place to celebrate a holy woman.

Soon Pope Francis was center stage, and the service began. We were all given a 112-page soft- cover book with the order of the service, but since neither the books nor the service were in English, it was hard to follow what was happening.

But there was no doubt what was going on when Cardinal Amoto began speaking to the pope. Before Pope Francis could finish his reply, the crowd broke out in excited applause.

The feeling of being present for such a historic moment is hard to explain. I was interviewed by a reporter while standing in the crowd. My answer to her was how personal Mother Teresa’s sainthood is to each of us. This is someone from our time, that we watched, knew and grew to love for all she did for others.

One of the people traveling with my group is Sister Mary Seraphin Beck, OSF, whose Mother House is in Davenport, across the street from St. Alphonsus. She stated simply that being there made us think of not only who we are, but more important, who we want to be.

As the Mass continued, I couldn’t imagine how people were going to move forward for communion, but everything was well organized, and knowing the crowd of over 100,000 was so packed in that people couldn’t move, what seemed like hundreds of priests, including our own Father Goetz, moved out into the crowd to serve communion to the people.

As the service came to a conclusion, anticipation began to build. Would Pope Francis take his customary ride out into the crowd, standing in the Popemobile? We watched the Swiss Guard and the other security officers begin to survey our area of the crowd closely. We then realized the railing we had decided to stand next to was creating the corridor for the Popemobile’s route. Soon he entered the vehicle, the crowd cheered, and out he went to the people. He did indeed pass directly in front of us!

In many ways, attending the canonization was hot, uncomfortable and unpleasant. But not if you compare it to the trials Mother Teresa suffered in her lifetime. It was an amazing experience to see over 100,000 people from all over the world gathered to honor the faith and sainthood of Mother Teresa.

MOTHER TERESA, A GENEROUS DISPENSER OF DIVINE MERCY

A glorious day for the Church, for the Missionaries of Charity and for each of us but especially for the poor, the marginalized, the outcast and the forgotten! The following is Pope Francis’ homily:

MOTHER TERESA, A GENEROUS DISPENSER OF DIVINE MERCY

“Who can learn the counsel of God?” (Wis 9:13). This question from the Book of Wisdom that we have just heard in the first reading suggests that our life is a mystery and that we do not possess the key to understanding it. There are always two protagonists in history: God and man. Our task is to perceive the call of God and then to do his will. But in order to do his will, we must ask ourselves, “What is God’s will in my life?”

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We find the answer in the same passage of the Book of Wisdom: “People were taught what pleases you” (Wis 9:18). In order to ascertain the call of God, we must ask ourselves and understand what pleases God. On many occasions the prophets proclaimed what was pleasing to God. Their message found a wonderful synthesis in the words “I want mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos 6:6; Mt 9:13). God is pleased by every act of mercy, because in the brother or sister that we assist, we recognize the face of God which no one can see (cf. Jn 1:18). Each time we bend down to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we give Jesus something to eat and drink; we clothe, we help, and we visit the Son of God (cf. Mt 25:40).

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We are thus called to translate into concrete acts that which we invoke in prayer and profess in faith. There is no alternative to charity: those who put themselves at the service of others, even when they don’t know it, are those who love God (cf. 1 Jn 3:16-18; Jas 2:14-18). The Christian life, however, is not merely extending a hand in times of need. If it is just this, it can be, certainly, a lovely expression of human solidarity which offers immediate benefits, but it is sterile because it lacks roots. The task which the Lord gives us, on the contrary, is the vocation to charity in which each of Christ’s disciples puts his or her entire life at his service, so to grow each day in love.

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We heard in the Gospel, “Large crowds were travelling with Jesus” (Lk 14:25). Today, this “large crowd” is seen in the great number of volunteers who have come together for the Jubilee of Mercy. You are that crowd who follows the Master and who makes visible his concrete love for each person. I repeat to you the words of the Apostle Paul: “I have indeed received much joy and comfort from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philem 1:7). How many hearts have been comforted by volunteers! How many hands they have held; how many tears they have wiped away; how much love has been poured out in hidden, humble and selfless service! This praiseworthy service gives voice to the faith and expresses the mercy of the Father, who draws near to those in need.

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Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and to give oneself in their service. In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love. Just as the Lord has come to meet me and has stooped down to my level in my hour of need, so too do I go to meet him, bending low before those who have lost faith or who live as though God did not exist, before young people without values or ideals, before families in crisis, before the ill and the imprisoned, before refugees and immigrants, before the weak and defenceless in body and spirit, before abandoned children, before the elderly who are on their own. Wherever someone is reaching out, asking for a helping hand in order to get up, this is where our presence – and the presence of the Church which sustains and offers hope – must be.

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Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.

(Note from Joan: This tapestry was inspired by several photographs from world renown portrait photograph Michael Collopy. His photos led artist Chas Fagan – who never met Mother Teresa – to create the painting that is the canonization tapestry. The two men spoke over the phone and by Skype to get this portrait and Fagan and Collopy met for the first time in Rome on September 3. I interviewed Michael Collopy, who followed and photographed Mother Teresa for 15 years, on Sept. 3 after that meeting and you will hear the interview on “Vatican Insider”)

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Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness! May this tireless worker of mercy help us to increasingly understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion. Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile”. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.

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INSIDE THE VATICAN AND “VATICAN INSIDER” – HUGE CROWDS EXPECTED FOR CANONIZATION OF MOTHER TERESA

INSIDE THE VATICAN AND “VATICAN INSIDER”

What a week this has been and what amazing days are ahead of us, culminating in the canonization Sunday of a holy woman known the world over simply as Mother Teresa. Members of the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, have been pouring into Rome and they have organized a grand number of events to honor their foundress and soon to be Saint Teresa of Calcutta, including concerts, symposiums, art exhibits, and multi-lingual Masses.

I took this photo this morning as I was entering Vatican Radio for my weekly program, “Joan Knows.” These Missionaries of Charity Sisters were all waiting at the bus stop just out front.

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Before I go further let me tell you about my guest in the interview segment. I talk with Fr. Brian Kolodeijchuk, MC, the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause for canonization. He has, of course, terrific insight and wonderful stories about this diminutive nun who was larger than life for everyone who came into contact with her.

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Another big event on the calendar this weekend is the three-day Jubilee of Volunteers that culminates Sunday with the papal Mass in St. Peter’s square. This event was already on the Jubilee calendar when the Vatican announced in March that Teresa’s canonization would be the same September day.

Tomorrow morning there is a catechesis event for volunteers, expected to number 25,000, in St. Peter’s Square with Pope Francis. Sunday, as you know, the canonization Mass takes place in the square, and Monday, as is usual after a canonization, there will be a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Square presided over by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

HUGE CROWDS EXPECTED FOR CANONIZATION OF MOTHER TERESA

The Director of the Holy See Press Office Greg Burke said it would be impossible to predict how many people will attend Sunday’s canonization Mass for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Speaking at a Vatican press conference giving details about the highly-anticipated event, Burke said all 100,000 tickets had been distributed for the Mass but that the crowd would likely be far greater, spilling into the streets around St. Peter’s Square.

Some 600 journalists from all over the world have flocked to Rome to cover Mother Teresa’s canonization which is being seen by many as the highlight of this Jubilee Year of Mercy. More than a dozen heads of state or government will be among the many dignitaries attending the Mass.

Among those speaking at the packed press conference on Friday morning were Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the Superior General of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for her sainthood cause and Marcilio Haddad Andrino, the Brazilian who was declared miraculously healed through Mother Teresa’s intercession.

Andrino described how he was suffering from a viral brain infection and the doctors had lost all hope of saving his life when his wife Fernanda prayed to Mother Teresa and immediately afterwards he found himself miraculously healed from the illness. He expressed gratitude for his recovery but said he is just one example of God’s ample mercy and love and stressed he “did not feel special.” Within a year, his wife became pregnant and they were able to have two children even though Andrino had been told that the powerful drugs he had taken had made him infertile. He called his two children “the extension of that miracle.”

Turning to the technical side of the canonization Mass, Burke told journalists that the event will be filmed using 4K Ultra High Definition and using nine television cameras. He said the Canonization can also be seen on the Vatican’s YouTube platform, on the Vatican player of Vatican Radio and on the website of the Vatican Television Service (CTV). (from Vatican Radio)

TRADEMARK SAREES ARE TITAGARH’S GIFT TO THE VATICAN

TRADEMARK SAREES ARE TITAGARH’S GIFT TO THE VATICAN

(From the Hindustan Times – Joydeep Thakur)

The otherwise dull eyes of septuagenarian Shefali Roy sparkled with excitement and her face filled up with joy as she went on to narrate how sisters from the Missionaries of Charity across the world would be donning the iconic white and blue saree during the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa at Vatican on September 4.

These sarees are, however, no ordinary ones. They are not found in the market no matter what price one offers for them. These sarees are woven and stitched by leprosy patients at a home in a dingy lane at Titagarh in North 24-Parganas.

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Titagarh is about 20 km from Kolkata and is a part of the area along the Hooghly river that developed into an industrial in the 19th century.

Roy is one of the senior-most and oldest members of that home – the Gandhiji Prem Nivas. It is a home for leprosy patients run by the Missionaries of Charity. After being detected with leprosy more than 40 years ago, she was forced to leave her home in Cooch Behar. She had since then taken refuge in the Niwas along with her daughter like many others.

Mother Teresa’s mission survives beyond her life

“You could hardly imagine our feelings when we used to see Mother wearing a saree which had been weaved and stitched by us. Society ostracized us for the disease but the sarees which we make are worn by sisters of the charity the world over. The Mother also wore it till her last breath. Now the sisters wear them,” she said sitting in a room, the walls of which are adorned with pictures of the Mother and Pope Francis.

The Gandhiji Prem Nivas was established in 1979 when sisters of the Missionaries of Charity used to come to Titagarh to organise a medical camp under a tree to treat leprosy patients. Later, it was upgraded and a makeshift hut was built with just a few inmates.

Now it is a full-fledged home the foundation of which was laid in the early 90’s by then chief minister Jyoti Bas

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The welfare home for leprosy patients was established in 1979. None of the 5,500 sisters of Missionaries Of Charity working in more than 130 countries wear anything except these sarees.

Work starts at this welfare home at 8 am every day. More than 400 men and women – all leprosy patients – work round the year to produce around 4,000 hand-woven sarees. These are then directly sent to the Missionaries of Charity’s headquarters in Kolkata from where they are supplied to the sisters across the world. There are more than 5,500 sisters working in more than 130 countries now.

“In fact, all the sisters, including Sister Mary Prema Pierick, who is the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, would also wear the same sarees that have been woven by the leprosy patients of the Nivas when they attend the canonisation ceremony at Vatican on September 4,” said Brother Marinus, who is in charge of the Titagarh home.

Sunday would be a big day for the inmates and workers of the leper home. They are preparing to celebrate it in their own small way with evening prayers and probably a small supper, if funds permit. Even though it would be a Sunday and a holiday for the workers who stay in adjacent leper colonies, the authorities of the home are planning to set up a giant screen to project the canonisation process from the television and show it to the workers.

But while just three days remain for the world to witness the canonisation process of Mother, the saree weavers don’t really understand the complexity and gravity of the ceremony.

“We are not sure what exactly canonisation is. We just know that it is something very important and that Mother would be honoured,” said 65-year-old Arati Roy, one of the inmates of the colony.