As you know, the past week has been marked by three important events, by three Pope Francis “Moments of Mercy,” as I call them.

The first was last week’s announcement that confessors during the Year of Mercy can absolve the sin of abortion; the second occurred last Sunday at the Angelus when Francis asked that “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family (of refugees);” and the third was yesterday’s announced reform, via two papal Motu proprio, of the canonical process of nullity of marriage.

Big moments, each and every one. Today I’d like to take a look at how the Pope leads by example, at least vis-à-vis the huge refugee crisis in Europe.

How can the Holy Father ask parishes, monasteries, etc. to take in a refugee family unless he leads the way? And he has.

According to Cardinal Angelo Comastri, vicar for Vatican City and archpriest of the Vatican basilica, the Pope’s announcement, his appeal, Sunday at the Angelus, “took all of us totally by surprise but we are used to Pope Francis’ surprises. No one knew of this initiative but the response was immediate and enthusiastic!”

Cardinal Comastri and the Papal Almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, both responsible for such a gesture of charity and mercy, jumped into action.

As the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano tells us:

“The parishes of St. Peter and St. Anne in the Vatican will soon find a home for least two families of refugees. As soon as Pope Francis asked at the Angelus for parishes to open their doors to welcome refugees, both parishes, as well as Cardinal Vicar Angelo Comastri and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Almoner, began organizing just that.

“The Pope ‘wants two apartments very close to the Vatican to be made available to welcome two nuclear families of refugees,” the cardinal and archpriest of the basilica of St. Peter’s told us, explaining that the families will be selected by the Offices of Papal Charities. APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) and its president, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, are in the process of choosing the proper apartments. ‘The Pope wants the apartments to be close to him’, Cardinal Comastri said, ‘ensuring that they receive health care so as not to weigh on the Italian system, ensuring also that these families have all the material support they need.”

“Both parishes – run by Augustinians, Fr. Bruno Silvestrini of St. Anne’s and Fr. Mario Bettero of St. Peter’s – have a long history of hospitality. ‘I am very, very happy’, Fr Bettero said, ‘that Pope Francis is asking everyone to make this beautiful gesture for the Jubilee. We will do our best’. The parish priest of St. Anne’s is also enthusiastic about the proposal. ‘The Pope has awakened us from the slumber of simply watching’, said Fr. Silvestrini, ‘and now we are returning to help people, giving them back their dignity’. ‘In addition to a home, we will find work for the head of the family’.”

Cardinal Comastri indicated in an interview with Vatican Radio that the Caritas offices of Agrigento and Lampedusa are looking for two families, each averaging perhaps 5 components, to bring to the Vatican. He said it would take a bit for APSA to figure out what apartments to offer.

On a personal note: There are several large Vatican-owned apartment buildings right across from Vatican City (and across from the Santa Marta residence where Pope Francis lives), though I have no idea if there are available apartments (I’m guessing our doormen will know!). Obviously there will have to be translators available as so many of the refugee families are from the Middle East or North African countries where Arabic is spoken as a first language.

I cannot even remotely imagine having to flee for my life, leaving everything that was my life, everything and everyone familiar to me – friends, a home, a neigborhood, my church – taking my family with me and able to bring only what I can carry on my back or in pockets or perhaps one small piece of luggage. Not only fleeing persecution and violence but seeking safe haven in a place where the people, the language, the culture, even the food, are foreign to you. If we can help these people get acclimated to a new language and culture, I for one am ready.


(VIS) – The relationship between the family and the Christian community, “a ‘natural’ bond, since the Church is a spiritual family and the family is a small Church,” was the theme chosen by the Pope for the catechesis of today’s Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (photo

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The Christian community is the home of those who believe in Jesus as the source of fraternity between all humanity, said the Pope. The Church journeys among peoples, in the history of men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. “This is the history that matters to the Lord,” he explained. “The great events of world powers are written in history books, and stay there. But the history of human affections is inscribed directly on God’s heart, and it is the history that remains for eternity. It is the place of life and faith. The family is the locus of our initiation – irreplaceable, indelible – into this history of full life that culminates in the contemplation of God for all eternity in heaven, but begins in the family.”

“The Son of God also learned human history in this way, and experienced it to its end. … Then, when he left Nazareth and began his public life, Jesus formed a community around him, an ‘assembly’, a convocation of people. This is the meaning of the word ‘church’.”

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In the Gospels, Jesus’ assembly has the form of “a hospitable family, not an exclusive closed sect.” Pope Francis observed that, “we find Peter and John, but also the hungry and the thirsty, the outsider and the persecuted, the sinner and the publican, the Pharisees and the masses. And Jesus never ceases to welcome them all and to speak with them, including those who did not expect to encounter God in their lives. It is a powerful lesson for the Church! The same disciples were chosen to take care of this assembly, of this family invited by God.”

In order to continue to experience the reality of Jesus’ assembly, Francis said, “it is essential to revive the alliance between the family and the Christian community. We could say that the family and the parish are the two places in which the communion of love that finds its ultimate source in God Himself is realized. A true Church according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with open doors, always. Churches, parishes and institutions with closed doors cannot call themselves churches – they should call themselves museums”.

“Today this alliance is crucial. Against the centers of power – ideological, financial and political – we posit our experiences in these centers of love: evangelizing, full of human warmth, based on solidarity and participation, and also mutual forgiveness. Certainly, it requires a generous faith to find the intelligence and the courage to renew this alliance. Families at times pull back, saying that they are not up to the challenge. … But no-one is! … Without God’s grace, we cannot do anything. And the Lord never arrives in a new family without some kind of miracle. Let us remember what He did at the wedding in Cana. Yes, the Lord, if we place ourselves in His hands, makes us perform miracles: these everyday miracles, when the Lord is there, in the family”.

“Naturally the Christian community must play its part. For instance … favoring interpersonal dialogue, and mutual understanding and respect. May families take the initiative and be conscious of their responsibility to bring their precious gifts to the community!” exclaimed the Pope. “We must all be aware that Christian faith plays on the open field of life shared with all, and the family and parish must perform the miracle of achieving a more community-based life for the whole of society.”

After the catechesis, in his greetings to various groups of faithful, the Pope remarked that today the Church celebrates the liturgical memory of the Jesuit St. Peter Claver, patron of the missions in Africa, and he expressed his hope that the saint’s example, with his tireless service to the weakest, impel the young to choose solidarity with the needy. “May his spiritual vigor help the sick to carry the cross with courage, and his love for Christ be a model for newlyweds of the love that should occupy the center of the family”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI carries the tragedy of migrants and refugees in his heart and he prays for them, acording to his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein.

After celebrating Mass in the Italian city of Ancona on Sunday, Abp.Gaenswein told the faithful that the Pope Emeritus is following the migrant situation closely. The archbishop is also Prefect of the Papal Household. He was in this port city to celebrate Mass for the city’s annual celebration of the sea.

“Unfortunately the sea for many has become a tomb, but it should be a bridge. It must not be considered a border: the sea connects one country to another, one continent to another. If there are problems in a country or in a continent, the opposite shore should be there to help,” he said.

During the Eucharistic celebration some of the prayer intentions were dedicated to the many migrants and refugees forced to flee conflict and hunger who have found death in the sea.

During the homily Archbishop Gaenswein said, “we live in times of difficulty and crisis (…) and in a society that is becoming more and more cruel and sometimes inhuman. … We must find ways to recuperate hope and the serenity that comes from knowing that God’s living presence is among us,” he said.

He exhorted the faithful not to be closed within themselves but to re-discover a sense of justice, mercy, honesty and the capacity to truly love.