As I write, Pope Francis is celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for today’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There is a sizeable group of Mexicans present who had arrived Rome earlier in the week, many of whom appeared several days ago in colorful costumes in St. Peter’s Square. (images: Vatican Radio – St. Peter’s Basilica)



The basilica honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world. This image has always been very dear to Pope Francis who, on February 13 of this year, during his trip to Mexico, fulfilled his desire to pray before the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After Mass at the shrine, the Pope went to the little room behind the main altar of the basilica dedicated to Mary where he was able to meditate and pray in front of the miraculous mantle. The image normally faces the congregation but can be turned around to allow a closer and more private moment of veneration.



Pope Francis’ Message for the January 1 celebration of World Day of Peace was released today by the Vatican. In this, the 50th Message for this annual day, Pope Francis calls for a renewed culture of nonviolence to inform global politics today, noting that military responses to conflicts only breed more violence.

He notes early on that, in the first such Message Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity:  “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order.”

Francis calls on political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, business and media executives and all men and women of goodwill to become instruments of reconciliation and adopt nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. He states several times that violence is clearly “not the cure for our broken world.”

“On this occasion,”says the Holy Father, “I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace.  I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values.  May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.  When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking.  In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”

Violence leads to forced migrations and enormous suffering , devastation of the environment, terrorism and organized crime. It leads to retaliation and a deadly cycle that end up benefiting only a few warlords.

But, Pope Francis said, Christ’s message offers a radically positive approach. He himself walked the path of nonviolence and became an instrument of reconciliation.

And citing historical figures like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King as models of nonviolent peacemakers, the Pope said nonviolence is more powerful than violence and it  has produced impressive results.

He recalled the contribution of Christian communities in the fall of Communist regimes pointing out that peaceful political transitions were made using only the weapons of truth and justice. And he remarked that such efforts are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone but are typical of many religious traditions.

“The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.   I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God.   Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence.  Peace alone is holy.  Peace alone is holy, not war!”

Emphasizing also the domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence, Pope Francis said that while he pleads for disarmament and the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons, with equal urgency he pleads for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

“My invitation to  political, religious and economic leaders is to take up the challenge of building up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers, to choose solidarity as a way of making history.”

In a world in which everything is connected, he said, active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is more powerful and more fruitful than conflict, and that differences can be faced constructively and non-violently preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.

“All of us want peace,” Francis concludes: “In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds: (…) Everyone can be an artisan of peace,”

Click here for the complete message:


(CNA/EWTN News) – Pope Francis has officially recognized the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal as a religious institute of pontifical right, the order has announced.

Institutions of pontifical right depend immediately and exclusively on the Vatican in the matters of internal governance and discipline. It is the highest form of recognition for a religious community and is granted to institutes that show steady growth over a period of approximately 20-25 years.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, sometimes referred to as the CFRs, were founded in 1987 in the Archdiocese of New York by a group of eight American Capuchins who desired a form of Franciscan life dedicated specifically to service of the poor and evangelization.

The group was established as a diocesan institute by Cardinal John O’Connor in 1999.

Today, the order has about 100 perpetually professed members in 10 dioceses and archdioceses in six countries throughout the world. Besides the United States, the friars are located in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Father Benedict Groeschel was one of the founding members of the CFRs. During his life as a friar, he founded the St. Francis House for the homeless and Good Counsel Homes for pregnant women in crisis in New York. He also directed Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, New York, and taught at the Dunwoodie seminary.

In addition, he became known as an author and preacher. For more than 25 years, he appeared on EWTN, hosting Sunday Night: Live With Father Benedict Groeschel, among other programs. He passed away in October 2014 at the age of 81.

The friars are dedicated to their mission of serving the poor and most vulnerable, as well as preaching the Gospel as part of the New Evangelization.

Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, has been teaching and preaching retreats and parish missions for several decades. He is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the apparitions at Fatima. In additio to being the vice-postulator for the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, he hosts Sunday Night Prime on EWTN.