A PORTRAIT OF LUCIA DOS SANTOS, A FATIMA VISIONARY

I first went to Fatima in the 1990s when I was working at the Vatican Information Service and took advantage of the six days vacation Roman Curia employees traditionally receive during Holy Week and Easter to travel to Portugal, my first time there.

I travelled with my VIS colleague Grazia and, upon our arrival at Lisbon’s airport, a car and driver provided by the travel agency that had arranged our trip, was there to greet us. Upon arrival at the hotel, he gave us his card, “just in case,” he said. Grazia and I had hoped to do a tour with a group but when we saw the per person price, we called Joaquim and, for the same cost, he offered to drive us to Fatima and other sites for 8 hours. We said an enthusiastic ‘si’.”

He picked us up the following morning, Good Friday, and we began our trek to Fatima, the first stop on our itinerary.   It seems that every living Portuguese had decided to drive to Fatima on the same day and same hour as we had and, after over an hour of travelling only a few miles, Joaquim suggested that we reverse our itinerary and put Fatima as our last stop.

We spent the next delightful hours visiting Nazaré, a beautiful seaside town, and then a stupendous monastery whose name evades me as I write. I have photos – real paper photos, not digital ones, as digital cameras were either very rare or nom yet even on the market.   I’m now curious to go through my albums and see if I can find those pictures.

The day was glorious, the scenery stunning, and the towns we travelled through were picturesque and colorful and historic, and our eyes began to glaze over with the magnificent tiles for which Portugal is so well known, tiles that seemed to cover every building we saw, every roadside fountain, every terrace of private homes.

We had a wonderful lunch stop and Joaquim was a nonstop story teller. How I wish I’d had a recorder! I didn’t have a cell phone and there was no Facebook so I could not do FB Live! Do I love much of modern technology and wish I’d grown up with it? Yes, indeed! Guess I just have to go back!

The upshot of Joaquim’s decision to end our daylong excursion at Fatima was brilliant! We got there sometime after 6 pm and there were very few people at this magnificent shrine. It was like having a private visit with Our Lady. We had time to explore, to light candles, to kneel in prayer, just meters from the statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fatima before which Pope Francis will kneel and present a bouquet of flowers “of which,” he told the faithful Wednesday at the general audience, “you are the flowers.”

I will be in Fatima in spirit tomorrow and Saturday. In fact, just writing these lines, I have been reliving those wonderful days of Holy Week in Fatima, Lisbon and other beautiful spots of wonderful, hospitable Portugal, seeing so many people and places in my mind’s eye.

And now I’ll have to find those photos!

By the way, the very day my colleague Grazie was married, May 13, 2000, there was another Fatima connection. I had accompanied members of both her Italian family and the American family of her spouse to the site of the reception and was acting as a hostess and translator. For the longest time we wondered why our VIS colleagues had not arrived at the reception and, just as we sat down to eat, they came running into the dining room, with Piers waving a sheet of paper and shouting, “The Third Secret of Fatima has just been revealed!” Our colleagues had been told after the actual wedding ceremony about the Third Secret and were asked to return to the office and translate the news bulletin into four languages!

**************

The following piece was done by CNA/EWTN’s Elise Harris, She leaves tomorrow on the papal plane for Fatima, joining most of the Rome CNA/EWTN office in Fatima for Pope Francis’ 19th international apostolic trip. You will find coverage of the papal trip on EWTN television and can follow on our Facebook page and YouTube as well as the FB and Youtube sites of CAN

A PORTRAIT OF LUCIA DOS SANTOS, A FATIMA VISIONARY

Fatima, Portugal, May 10, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fatima visionary Lucia dos Santos was saintly woman – not because she saw visions of Mary, but because of her raw humanity, simplicity, and even her sense of humor, says the cardinal who opened her cause for canonization.

When asked about the most “saintly” quality Lucia had, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins said it was “her humanity. She was a person that was human.”

“The saints are all human, they are like any other person. Very intelligent, very concrete, very pleasant and welcoming,” he said.

As for Sister Lucia, “she was a very smart, concrete woman.” This can be seen in the way she documented what she saw during the Fatima apparitions, he said, noting that since her cousins had passed away, all of it was done by her alone.“If Lucia weren’t a concrete, intelligent person, not all of the documentation that’s there would have been done, through which we know the whole story of Fatima,” he said.

But despite to her intelligence and her humanity, the cardinal said the visionary was “very simple,” but was also “a jokester” with a healthy sense of humor.

Cardinal Martins, 85 and the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, knew Lucia personally during the last few years of her life. He spoke to CNA about his relationship with visionary, sharing memories of Lucia and some of the light-hearted jokes the two of them exchanged.

Who was Lucia?

Lucia dos Santos was the youngest in a family of seven. However, at 10-years-old, she was the oldest of the three shepherd children who witnessed apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary from May-October 1917. The other two were her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who were just 9 and 7, respectively.

While the Marto siblings died shortly after the apparitions, as Mary had predicted, Lucia outlived her cousins by many years, and was the one to write down accounts of everything they had seen.

Shortly after the deaths of her cousins, at age 14 Lucia was sent to attend school with the Dorothean Sisters of Villar, and in 1928 became a sister of St. Dorothy. In 1946, she transferred to the convent of the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra, Portugal and took the name Sister Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart.

She received visions and messages from both Mary and Jesus on several more occasions throughout her life, including the visions in 1925 that led to the Five First Saturday devotions, which include saying the rosary, receiving communion and confession, and meditation during the first Saturday of five consecutive months.

Sr. Lucia died in 2005 at the age of 97, at the Carmelite convent of Santa Teresa in Coimbra, where she had lived since 1948.

Memories

Cardinal Martins, who himself is Portuguese, said he had “many interactions” with Sr. Lucia, particularly during his tenure at the Congregation for Saints. He headed the dicastery from 1998-2008, during which he brought forward some 1,320 blesseds, though many were part of large groups done together.

Having lived in Rome for at least three decades, serving in various capacities, the cardinal said he, like the rest of the city, typically takes his vacation in mid-August.

It was during one of these vacations that he accepted an invitation to go to Coimbra and celebrate Mass for the Carmelite sisters on the Aug. 15 Feast of the Assumption. After Mass, the cardinal sat with the community and talked with them for a while, even answering some questions.

“We spoke about everything, they asked whatever questions they wanted, without limits, and I responded,” he said, noting Sr. Lucia was also present, and he was also able to speak with her for the first time.

Lucia “was a very humble person, simple, very intelligent, and very confident,” he said, explaining during another visit, he was again sitting with the community after celebrating Mass for them.

He recalled that there was an empty seat by him, so he motioned for Lucia to come sit next to him.

Martins recalled that once she sat down, she leaned over and told him, “Eminence, you’ve made me your secretary, eh?” After a laugh, the cardinal jested, saying in return, “Sister Lucia, please, don’t say this, I am not worthy of having you as a secretary!”Martins said Lucia was always full of little quips, and at one point jokingly threatened to stop sending rosaries to the Pope if he didn’t allow the beatification of her cousins – Francisco and Jacinta Marto – to take place in Fatima, rather than in Rome.

At the time, as a rule of thumb both canonization and beatification Masses were held Rome. However, it was Cardinal Martins who later changed this, requesting that beatifications take place in the local diocese instead. His request was approved by Benedict XVI, and the change was made in September 2005.

The cause of Francisco and Jacinta was officially opened in 1946, and although the change hadn’t officially been made yet, they were beatified by St. John Paul II May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition, during his third visit to the Fatima shrine.

But a year before the beatification, while plans were still in the works, Lucia had jokingly told Martins to relay to the Pope “if the beatification is not done in Fatima, but in Rome, I, Lucia, won’t send him rosaries anymore.”

The jest was in reference to the fact that in her final years Lucia made rosaries and sent large numbers of them to the Pope, who would distribute them to pilgrims and people he met.

“Clearly, I didn’t say it,” the cardinal said, recalling that on the day of the beatification, both he and Lucia had a brief conversation in the sacristy before the celebration began.

He told Lucia she could be now grateful to the Pope for having approved celebrating the beatification Mass in Fatima. However, Lucia again jested, saying “I’m not grateful to the Pope, absolutely no. I am grateful to God who inspired the Pope for the beatification.”

“This is how it was. With Lucia, we were like siblings,” the cardinal said, adding that Lucia’s humor wasn’t the only thing that stood out about her.

“She was also very intelligent,” he said. People often perceived her as someone “in another world,” who was perhaps a bit disconnected, but in reality, the opposite was true: “she was very concrete, and very intelligent.”

As an example, he recalled that at one point the Carmelite sisters had to build another convent when they exceeded the maximum number of sisters who can live in one of their monasteries.

When it came time to start construction on the convent after plans had been laid, Lucia was the one sent to oversee the project, making sure the architect built new monastery according to the specifics of how Carmelite convents are organized.

“Lucia went in car to tell the architects concretely how they had to do the cloister. This is a very concrete person, no?” the cardinal said. “She wasn’t an abstract person like many thought, no.”

Cause for Canonization

After Lucia passed away in 2005, the diocese had to wait five years before opening the beatification cause, as is custom in any potential saint.

However, after just two years, Cardinal Martins asked Benedict XVI to grant a dispensation for the three remaining years, allowing them to open the cause immediately.

I began the process of beatification. Certainly she knows, that to begin the beatification process for a person, five years need to pass after their death. Five years. To research the person, talk to people, etc.

Martins said he asked for the dispensation because “it’s a very big grace for the Church in Portugal and for the universal Church.” In response, Benedict granted it, saying “you know the situation better than me, so let’s do whatever you say.”

A few days later, the cardinal traveled to Coimbra with the official decree in hand. However, since the news hadn’t yet been made official, he was not allowed to say anything, not even to the sisters in Lucia’s convent.

“Everything was secret,” he said, explaining that he simply told the sisters he was passing through and requested to say Mass. “The sisters thought I was passing through Coimbra for another reason, they didn’t know anything about the reason I was there.”

“It was my duty to keep it a secret,” Martins said, recounting how at the end of Mass, before giving the final blessing, he read aloud the decree, signed by himself and the Pope, stating that the beatification process for Lucia would officially begin early.

Immediately “the sisters began to cry,” he said, and were amazed that he hadn’t let on anything of his real intention for coming beforehand.

The local Church in February 2017 finished collecting documents to examine Lucia’s heroic virtue, concluding the diocesan phase of the investigation.

“Now it’s up to the congregation for the Roman phase. They must study the documents gathered on Lucia,” he said, noting that this will be a hefty task given the fact that there are some 300-400,000 letters written by Lucia during her lifetime, including letters written by her and her responses to letters she received from other people.

Although many have speculated that the speed with which Lucia’s cause moves forward could go into turbo-mode with the aim of having a beatification during the centenary year of the apparitions, Cardinal Martins said that given the vast amount of content to study, it will likely still be a while.

http://www.fatima.org/essentials/facts/popeapprov.asp

 

MARY IS MOTHER OF HOPE, SAYS POPE AT AUDIENCE – POPE FRANCIS SENDS VIDEO MESSAGE TO PEOPLE OF PORTUGAL – HOW US DIOCESES ARE COMMEMORATNG FATIMA

MARY IS MOTHER OF HOPE, SAYS POPE AT AUDIENCE

This week’s general audience began at 9.25. in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, where thousands of pilgrims and faithful from around the world listened to Pope Francis who, after greeting everyone present, explained that, “In our catechesis on Christian hope, today we look to Mary, Mother of hope,” and he highlighted her role as Mother.

“Mary went through more than one dark night on her journey as a mother,” he said. “From her earliest appearance in the history of the Gospels, she stands out as if she were a character in a drama. It was not easy to answer ‘yes’ to the angel’s invitation: yet she, a woman still in the flower of youth, answers with courage, despite knowing nothing about the fate that awaited her. Mary at that moment appears to us like one of the many mothers of our world, brave to the extreme when it comes to welcoming in her womb the story of a new person to be born.

“Thus,” said Francis, “Mary appears in the Gospels as a silent woman who often does not understand all that is happening around her but ponders every word and every event in her heart.

He then described Mary’s psychology: “She is not a woman who is discouraged by the uncertainties of life, especially when nothing seems to go in the right direction. Nor is she a woman who protests with violence, who inveighs against the destiny in life that often reveals a hostile face. Instead, she is a woman who listens: do not forget that there is always a great relationship between hope and listening, and Mary is a woman who listens. Mary welcomes existence just as it is given to us, with its happy days, but also with its tragedies we would never have wished to encounter. Up to the supreme night of Mary, when her Son is nailed to the wood of the cross.

“Until that day, Mary had almost disappeared from the story of the Gospels: the sacred writers leave implicit this slow eclipse of her presence, her remaining silent faced with the mystery of a Son Who obeys His Father. But Mary reappears precisely at that crucial moment, when a good number of His friends have fled out of fear.”

The Pope asked what “the cruellest passion was: that of an innocent man who dies on the scaffold of the cross, or the agony of a mother who witnesses the last moments of her son’s life. The Gospels … record in a simple verb the presence of the Mother: she “stood” (John 19:25). She was standing. They say nothing of her reaction: whether or not she wept… nothing; not even a brushstroke to describe her grief: the imagination of poets and painters were to seize upon these details, giving us images that have entered the history of art and literature. But the Gospels just say, she was “standing”. She was there, in the worst moment, in the cruellest moment, and suffered with her son. ‘She stood’. Mary ‘stood, she was simply there.”

The Holy Father pointed out that, “We find her again in the first day of the Church, she, mother of hope, in the midst of that community of disciples, so fragile: one had renounced, many had fled, and all had been afraid. But she was simply there, in the most normal of ways, as if it were something entirely natural.”

And, concluded Francis, “this is why we all love her as a Mother. We are not orphans: we have a Mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God. Because she teaches us the virtue of waiting, even when everything seems to be without meaning; she is always trustful in the mystery of God, even when He seems to be eclipsed by the evil in the world. In moments of difficulty, may Mary, the Mother who Jesus gave to all of us, always be able to sustain our steps, may she always be able to say to our heart, ‘Arise! Look ahead, look to the horizon’, because she is the Mother of hope. Thank you.”

POPE FRANCIS SENDS VIDEO MESSAGE TO PEOPLE OF PORTUGAL

Pope Francis has sent a message of greeting to the people of Portugal as he prepares to travel to Fatima on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to three shepherd children on May 13th 1917. Click here to see message: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-sends-video-message-ahead-of-fatima-pilgrimag

HOW US DIOCESES ARE COMMEMORATNG FATIMA
Brian O’Neel (National Catholic Register)

Celebrations abound across the country –

While the Blessed Mother has appeared several dozen times in Christianity’s history, it is likely no apparition has had the same impact as Our Lady of Fatima.

Therefore, it is not surprising that parishes and dioceses, and even individual apostolates, around the nation are planning events to commemorate the centennial of an event that arguably changed the world.

While some of these are relatively humble, several dioceses are planning major programs to bring the Fatima message home to the faithful.

In the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, Bishop John Barres has penned a pastoral letter to rekindle diocesan devotion to Mary in 2017.“She is asking us to repent from sin and follow the path of holiness and eternal life right now, without delay, in the present moment. She wants us to care about and pray for the souls around us and for the salvation of the whole world.”

At the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, New York, the anniversary of the first apparition, May 13, will see a Rosary procession, blessing of a new statue set of the three seers — Lucia dos Santos and cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto — and a solemn Mass with Bishop Richard Malone of the Buffalo Diocese.

The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, will commemorate the event with two Masses on first Saturdays at the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus provincial headquarters in Cherry Hill. The first was on May 6. The next takes place June 3. The Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will also see several events throughout the year at Our Lady of Fatima Mission in Jonestown.

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, will celebrate a Mother’s Day Mass as part of the anniversary celebrations on May 13 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, which stands where St. Isaac Jogues was martyred.

At the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin — the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States — Green Bay Bishop David Ricken will celebrate Mass on May 18, inaugurating a daylong program featuring David Carollo, director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, and Father Francisco Pereira, who serves as chaplain at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal.

The Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, will host two events, both on May 13, one at the cathedral and the other at Christ the King Church in Mandan.

Each year on the first Sunday of May the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, has an annual Marian Rosary Festival featuring a different patroness. This year the patroness is Our Lady of Fatima.

In Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski and the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary are instigating a campaign to pray 13 million Rosaries in the centennial year. In conjunction with this, on the date of each of the six Fatima apparitions, there will be a special event at a different parish.

Additionally, the Trinitarian Fathers in Palmetto Bay are hosting a novena that started May 5 and closes on May 13.

Overall, most commemorations are one-time events, by and large on May 13, although in Fort Worth, Texas, Bishop Michael Olson will celebrate a Mass on Oct. 13, the date marking the final apparition, “The Miracle of the Sun,” where the sun “danced” in the sky and even seemed to people as far as 25 miles away to plummet to the earth. He will also dedicate a special statue at the event carved by craftsmen in Vietnam.

Several dioceses are doing something extraordinary.

In Providence, Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas Tobin inaugurated a “Year With Mary, Our Mother” on Jan. 1. Its purpose for the centennial year is to “provide special opportunities for Catholics in the diocese to increase their devotion to a particular aspect of the Catholic faith.”

In his monthly column, the bishop writes, “The Fatima centenary invites us to hear and heed with renewed attention the message of our Blessed Mother at Fatima.”

Similarly, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver has instituted a “Fatima Pilgrimage Year” and designated a holy door with an attached indulgence at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Lakewood, and there is an affiliated campaign to pray two million Rosaries.

The bishops of the Dioceses of Tyler, Texas, and Santa Rosa, California, will consecrate their dioceses to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Every diocese and eparchy in Pennsylvania will also be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Each year Tyler holds a Marian conference. Usually in October, this year it will take place May 13 at Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School’s chapel. During Mass at the event, Bishop Joseph Strickland will consecrate the diocese to help the faithful “grow in holiness … under the … Mother of God.”

Santa Rosa’s consecration renews the one done in 1983 by the late Bishop Mark Hurley. In preparation, each parish will have a “Marian promoter” who will oversee one or more retreats based on Father Michael Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory. The diocese will supply materials for this preparation.

“Rather than simply hosting a one-day event,” Bishop Robert Vasa wrote in April, “I ask that every parish participate in a thorough spiritual catechesis and preparation for this personal, parish and diocesan consecration or entrustment.” He has an eloquent explanation of his reasons for doing this.

As for Pennsylvania, the dedication grew out of a meeting of the commonwealth’s bishops on May 1. According to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, “What prompted the proposal was the intent for the dioceses and eparchies in the commonwealth to observe the 100th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima.”

According to a news release, the dedication will take place over two separate occasions. “The official dedication will be marked with a special Mass to be celebrated in St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 27, by all bishops in the state. … The second part of the dedication will be an observance in each diocese and eparchy the weekend of Oct. 14-15.”

In the Archdiocese of New York, the Dominicans will inaugurate a new shrine to Pope St. John Paul II at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in the city. The dedication will take place on May 13 at a 3pm Mass. Central to the shrine is a relic that consists of a blood-stained portion of the sash that St. John Paul II was wearing during the 1981 attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square. The relic will be ensconced below a smaller version of the statute of Our Lady of Fatima found on the façade of the shrine church in Fatima, Portugal.

Shrine official and Dominican priest Father Thomas More Garrett told the Register, “At Fatima, Our Lady echoed that first message of the Gospel delivered by her Son: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15).  The call to repentance, through acts of penance, formed much of the core of Our Lady’s message to the children at Fatima.”

“St. John Paul II, throughout his pontificate, urged the world to turn to God’s mercy. Confidence in God’s mercy begins with repentance. Our hope is that this new shrine of St. John Paul will merge the mission of Fatima with that of our saintly pope and turn many toward those first words of Jesus’ own ministry.”

Even if one’s parish or diocese is not doing anything for the centenary, respected German Mariologist Father Manfred Hauke tells the Register the faithful can do their own commemoration that not only keeps Fatima alive this year, but in the years to come.

Of special importance, he noted, are the First Saturday devotions, which includes 15 minutes of meditation on the Rosary’s mysteries, with the intention to expiate offenses against the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts: confession and receiving Communion in reparation for sins. He also commends the daily Rosary, “especially in the family and in the parishes,” which carries with it a plenary indulgence.

It is possible that, for many of the faithful, the best commemoration they can make for this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary — beyond prayer — is to learn more about the apparitions. See NCRegister.com for ongoing Fatima coverage. EWTN also has a website (EWTN.com/Fatima).

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”.

 

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.

 

NATIONAL SHRINE CHOIR, IN ROME, CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY

NATIONAL SHRINE CHOIR, IN ROME, CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY

The choir of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. this year marks its 50th anniversary and, as part of those celebrations, the choir has scheduled several concerts in Rome.

The choir arrived Rome October 3, dedicating their first full day in the city to rehearsals and some sightseeing. Family members and shrine benefactors are accompanying the choir on their five-day stay in the Eternal City.

A special Mass for Pope Francis and his intentions was celebrated yesterday morning in a chapel of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Pope’s cathedral as bishop of Rome, with the choir providing the music. I have known choir director Peter Latona, as well as Msgr. Walter Rossi, director of the shrine and Callista Gingrich, a member of the choir, for years and was invited to the Mass and to speak to the choir afterwards about my work and my life here in Rome.

Last evening was the choir’s first public concert in Rome. They sang at the extraordinarily beautiful church of San Antonio dei Portoghesi (St. Anthony of the Portuguese) in the center of Rome. This is the Portuguese national church in Rome and is truly a jewel.

20161005_185840

20161005_185945

The Portuguese ambassador to the Holy See was present, and the rector of the church, Msgr. Agostinho Borges, briefly addressed the crowd, reminding us all that the beloved saint we call St. Anthony of Padua was actually born in Portugal. He also reminded us that San Antonio dei Portoghesi offers concerts every Sunday evening at 6:30.

20161005_191639

20161005_190506

The choir sings again this evening at the Italian embassy to the Holy See and I’ll try to record some music from that concert. For now I just offer a few photos from last night’s event.

20161005_191424

20161005_185928

After the concert I met a young couple from Lisbon, Luis and Maria Levezinho, who are huge fans of EWTN. We spoke at length after the program and they specifically mentioned how much they enjoy Joan’s Rome and At Home with Jim and Joy! I now have a standing invitation to return to Portugal, especially next year for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima!

20161005_202717

THE PRODIGAL SON, A FATHER’S LOVE AND MERCY – ST. JOHN PAUL AND FATIMA

My reunion last evening with my former students of the Academy of the Holy Names was one of the most beautiful, moving, memorable evenings of my life! I intended to bring you that story today, along with some photos, but a technical issue (having to unwrap the enigma of an unknown password to access Internet) interfered with that and all I have been able to do was download the photos, so stay tuned tomorrow for a remarkable story!

In the meantime I have a golden nugget for you: I saw this in a novel I just finished reading and emailed it myself as I thought it was expressed a basic truth to extraordinarily well. The original author is Miles Kington – a British journalist, musician and broadcaster.

“Knowledge is knowing tomatoes are fruit but wisdom means not putting them in fruit salad”

THE PRODIGAL SON, A FATHER’S LOVE AND MERCY

(Vatican Radio) At his Wednesday general audience Pope Francis focused on the parable of the prodigal son to show how God welcomes us all with an unconditional love. Even in the most difficult situations, he told pilgrims and visitors gathered in St Peter’s Square, God waits for us and longs to embrace us.

 
Pope Francis began his reflections at the moment the prodigal son returns home, asking forgiveness for what he has done and telling his father: “I no longer deserve to be called your son”. But on the contrary, he continued, the only thing that matters to the father is that his son has returned home safe and sound. Thus he runs out to embrace him, restores his dignity by giving him clothes, sandals and a ring on his finger, and calls for a feast to celebrate his return.

 
The Pope said the father’s tenderness and mercy overflows and, in the same way, we know that even in the most difficult moments of our lives, God waits for us and longs to embrace us as his children. Jesus’ words, he went on, can encourage parents who worry about their children becoming alienated and tempted by all kinds of dangers. They can help priests and catechists who wonder if their work is all in vain. They can even help those in prison, or those who’ve made mistakes and are unable to see any future for themselves.

 
The Pope went on to explain how this parable talks about both the prodigal son and his older brother, who also needs to learn to accept the father’s mercy. Though he has remained at home with his father, his words display no tenderness or thought for anyone but himself. How sad for the father, the Pope exclaimed, with one son who went away and the other who was never really close to him!

 
Both the younger son, who is expecting to be punished, and the older son, who expects a reward for his good behavior, are not acting according to God’s love, which transcends both reward and punishment, the Pope said.
The two brothers do not speak to each other, they live different lives, but neither of them lives according to the logic of Our Lord. Their logic is overturned by the words of the father, “let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found”.

 

The greatest joy for the father, the Pope stressed, is to see his two sons reunited and recognizing each other as brothers.

 

Pope Francis noted that this parable ends without our knowing how the older brother responds to the father’s invitation to celebrate his brother’s return. Jesus is challenging each one of us, he said, to think about how we respond to God’s invitation, to open our hearts to his reconciling love and to become “merciful like the Father”.

ST. JOHN PAUL AND FATIMA

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said Our Lady of Fatima “invites us once again to turn to prayer, penance, and conversion.”
The Holy Father noted the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima is commemorated this year on this Friday (13 May) during his remarks to Polish-speaking pilgrims at his General Audience.

 
“She asks us to never offend God again. She forewarns all humanity about the necessity of abandoning oneself to God, the source of love and mercy,” Pope Francis said.

 
“Following the example of St. John Paul II, a great devotee of Our Lady of Fatima, let us listen attentively to the Mother of God and ask for peace for the world,” – he continued – “Praised be Jesus Christ!”

 
Thirty-five years ago, Pope St. John Paul II was shot by Mehmet Ali Ağca during the General Audience, which took place on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981.

 

The saint attributed his survival to Our Lady, and gave one of the bullets used in the attack to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. The bullet was placed in the crown of the statue of the Virgin Mary which is housed at the shrine.