POPE FRANCIS: THERE IS A SPIRITUAL RIGHT TO WORD OF GOD – VALENTINE’S DAY: A BAN FOR MUSLIMS, DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS

Last year on February 14, I visited the church where the head of St. Valentine can be seen, and I posted the following blog with some photos – hope you can enjoy those photos again. https://joansrome.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/irish-bishop-blesses-engaged-couple-at-shrine-of-st-valentine/

As I write Pope Francis is about to start the traditional Ash Wednesday procession from the basilica of Sant’Anselmo to the basilica of Santa Sabina where he will celebrate Mass, receive ashes and deliver a homily. There is an embargo for that homily – it may be published the moment he gives it and not before.

Given that I’ll be gone when the Holy Father gives his homily, I will post that story when I return home from the evening Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick’s church in downtown Rome, followed by a meeting of the Parish Council’s Finance Committee..

POPE FRANCIS: THERE IS A SPIRITUAL RIGHT TO WORD OF GOD

Today’s general audience took place in a rainy and very cold St. Peter’s Square but precisely because of that bad weather, Pope Francis first went to the Paul VI Hall where a group of sick people was waiting for his greeting and a blessing.

The Holy Father was in the square outside by about 9:45 and he did comment on the weather, saying “it is ugly.”

It seems that the Pope, however, did brighten up the day for two youngsters, giving them a lift in the papal vehicle –

Christopher Wells of Vatican Radio did this report for Vatican News:

“If the soul is always joyful, it is a good day.” The weather was “a little ugly,” as Pope Francis said Wednesday, but the Holy Father found a way to brighten everyone’s spirit at the weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square.

He began his audience with a small group of sick people gathered in the Paul VI Hall, and then ventured out into the wind and rain, where he delivered his catechesis to a small crowd of pilgrims who braved the inclement Roman winter weather.

The teaching at Wednesday’s general audience was focused once again on the Mass, as Pope Francis reflected on the end of the Liturgy of the Word.

Hearing the Word of God, with the explanation in the homily that follows, is a right, “the spiritual right of the people of God to receive the treasure of the Word of God in abundance.” Everyone who goes to Mass, said the Pope, “has the right to receive abundantly the Word of God, read well, proclaimed well, and then explained well in the homily. It’s a right!”

After the homily, the Pope spoke about the moment of silence, which gives people time to reflect on what they have heard.

Pope Francis then spoke about the communal recitation of the Creed at the Mass, saying it “manifests the common response to what was heard by the community in the Word of God. He emphasized the “vital connection” between hearing and faith, recalling the words of Saint Paul, that is, “faith comes from hearing.” Faith then leads to the Sacrament, so that the Creed becomes a link between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After the Creed, the Mass continues with the Prayer of the Faithful, or the Universal Prayer – so called, the Pope said, because it embraces all of the needs of the Church and of the world. The Prayer of the Faithful, he said, echoing the General Instruction of the Missal, is an exercise of their baptismal priesthood by the People of God.

Reflecting on the words of Jesus – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” – Pope Francis said we don’t believe this, “because we have little faith.” He encouraged us to have great faith when we pray together during the Mass.

“The intention for which the faithful are invited to pray should give voice to the concrete needs of the ecclesial community and of the world, avoiding having recourse to conventional and short-sighted formulas,” he said. “The Universal Prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word, exhorts us to make our own the loving gaze of God, who cares for all His children.”

VALENTINE’S DAY: A BAN FOR MUSLIMS, DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS

A story to help you appreciate the freedoms we have:

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has banned TV channels from promoting Valentine’s Day-related activities, which falls tomorrow.

For most practising Muslims, the event known all over the world as the festival of romantic love is contrary to Islamic doctrine. Speaking to AsiaNews, Church leaders expressed conflicting opinions on the matter.

According to Rev Irfan Jamil, Anglican bishop of Lahore, the anniversary has no connection to Christianity. “The ban doesn’t matter. Love should not be celebrated one day a year only.”

Fr Nasir Williams, director of the Social Communications Commission of the diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, has other ideas. “The ban is the ultimate [form of] of ignorance. Freedom of thought is already limited in our country.”
“What is next?” he wonders, “Confiscating mobile phones or banning TV dramas based on love stories? Nobody is forcing people to buy these gifts. The attempts to control people or blackout one part of media will make no difference,” he said.

Valentine’s Day is named after a Christian martyr of the 3rd century. The celebration has proven divisive among Muslims. Every year, groups of Islamic radicals organise protests and hand out leaflets urging people not to celebrate the day.

This is the second year of a ban imposed on social media as well as online and print media. Last year, the Islamabad High Court ruled that “No event shall be held at official level and at any public place.”

PEMRA General Manager Operations Muhammad Tahir PEMRA said that all broadcast media and distribution services must “desist from promoting Valentine’s Day through their respective channels and networks.”

Yet, despite the ban, it is still very common to find stands in malls and shops selling heart-shaped stuffed toys and teddy bears, balloons and other red-coloured gadgets

This year, the Pauline Books and Media communications centre in Lahore is not selling Valentine’s Day greeting cards. “The tradition of exchanging cards is dead,” said Sister Irshad Maqsood. “Usually we order stock, but now people have turned to digital media.”

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POPE FRANCIS: A GOOD HOMILY NEED BE ONLY 10 MINUTES LONG – POPE FRANCIS APPEALS FOR END TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING – “MAY OLYMPICS BE A FESTIVAL OF FRIENDSHIP AND SPORT,” SAYS POPE – PAPAL TELEGRAM FOR EARTHQUAKE IN TAIWAN – TWO FORMER VATICAN BANK OFFICIALS GUILTY OF MISMANAGEMENT

I read the papal telegram for the earthquake in Hualien, Taiwan and immediately thought of the beauty of the region and its people which I had the privilege to visit in 2001. I hope the numbers of victims does not grow and that re-building comes speedily.

POPE FRANCIS: A GOOD HOMILY NEED BE ONLY 10 MINUTES LONG

At today’s general audience, the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Eucharist, turn to the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word in the Gospel and in the homily.

He said, “The Gospel sheds the light of the mystery of Christ on the scriptural readings that precede it. By our acclamations and the rites that accompany its proclamation, we venerate the Gospel as the living and saving word of God, who speaks to us in the midst of the liturgical assembly and awaits our response.”

Francis then noted that, “this dialogue between the Lord and his people continues in the homily, which seeks to make God’s word incarnate in our hearts and in our lives. The homily draws us more deeply into the mystery of the communion in Christ that we celebrate in the Eucharist. The homily makes demands on both the homilist and the congregation; both must be disposed to consider how the word of God applies to the here and now of our lives, even when its summons to conversion proves challenging or painful.”

“The preacher must pay due attention, taking on the correct interior dispositions – without subjective pretexts – and knowing that every preacher has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the congregation has reason to be bored by a homily that is too long, irrelevant, or incomprehensible; at other times, it is prejudice that becomes an obstacle.”

He then spoke off the cuff, addressing deacons, priests and bishops who preach, telling them a good homily is well prepared and brief. The best way to prepare “is with prayer, study of the Word of God, and a clear, brief synthesis, which must not go over 10 minutes.”

POPE FRANCIS APPEALS FOR END TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING

At the end of today’s general audience, the Holy Father noted that tomorrow, February 8, marks the liturgical memory of St Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese nun, who as a child had the traumatic experience of being a victim of human trafficking.

February 8 is also, he said, “the World Day of Prayer and Reflection on Human Trafficking. The theme this year is “Migration without Trafficking. Yes to Freedom! No to Trafficking!”

“Having few possibilities of regular channels, many migrants are forced to choose illegal channels of migration where they are submitted to abuses of every kind, exploitation and slavery. Criminal organizations that engage in the trafficking of persons make use of migratory routes to hide their victims among the migrants and refugees.

I therefore invite everyone, citizens and institutions, to join forces to prevent trafficking and to guarantee protection and assistance to the victims. Let us pray that the Lord may convert the hearts of traffickers and give hope to those who suffer because of this shameful scourge so they may regain their freedom.”

“MAY OLYMPICS BE A FESTIVAL OF FRIENDSHIP AND SPORT,” SAYS POPE

Speaking at the end of the weekly general audience, Francis noted that the XXIII Winter Olympics are being inaugurated in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang on Friday, February 9, with the participation of teams from 92 countries.

He said “the traditional Olympic truce takes on a particular significance since delegations from both North and South Korea will be marching together at the opening ceremony and competing together on the same team. This makes up hope for a world in which conflicts can be peacefully resolved through dialogue and mutual respect, reflecting the values which sport embodies.

I greet the International Olympic Committee, the athletes who will participate in the Pyeongchang games and the people of the Korean peninsula. I accompany everyone with my prayer and renew the commitment of the Holy See to support every initiative in favor of peace and meetings among peoples. May these Olympics be a great festival of friendship and sport! May God bless you and keep you!

A Vatican news story noted that the Pope’s words came as North Korea announced that the sister of North Kim Jong-un will attend Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony. Kim Yo-jong, a senior Workers’ Party official promoted to the politburo last year, will be the first member of the immediate Kim family to cross the border between North and South Korea.

The move is widely being seen as an effort to ease tensions between the two neighbours who never signed a peace treaty at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The border, or demilitarized zone between the two countries, remains one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world today.

PAPAL TELEGRAM FOR EARTHQUAKE IN TAIWAN

 

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, sent the following telegram in Pope Francis’ name to Bishop Philip Huang Chao-ming Bishop of Hualien.

“His Holiness Pope Francis wishes to express his solidarity with all those affected by the earthquakes in Taiwan these past days, and he offers the assurance of his prayers for those who have lost their lives and for those who have been injured. As he encourages the civil authorities and emergency personnel engaged in rescue efforts, His Holiness willingly invokes upon all the Taiwanese people the divine blessings of strength and peace.”

The magnitude 6.4 quake hit the island at 11:50 last evening, local time. As of 10 this morning Rome time (3 am Taiwan), there was notable damage, collapsed roads, bridges and buildings, 4 dead, 200 injured and140 missing.

TWO FORMER VATICAN BANK OFFICIALS GUILTY OF MISMANAGEMENT

The following was released by IOR, commonly called the Vatican bank, at 8:30 pm Rome time last night. Shortly afterwards I posted it on Facebook.

PRESS RELEASE
Vatican City State, February 6th, 2018 –
By a decision published today, the Civil Court of the Vatican City State found two former senior managers of IOR liable for mismanagement. The Court has ordered them to compensate IOR for the resulting damages.

The Court’s decision is the outcome of a civil liability action started by IOR in September 2014 supported by a comprehensive review of financial investments made by IOR before mid 2013.

This ruling is an important step illustrating the significant work of IOR senior management over the last 4 years to transform the Institute. It demonstrates IOR’s continuing commitment to strong governance, transparency to its operations and its determination to meet best international standards. It confirms IOR’s will to pursue by judicial proceedings any misconducts carried out to its detriment, no matter where and by whom.

 

POPE INVITES THE FAITHFUL TO OPEN THEIR EARS AND HEARTS TO GOD’S WORD – NEWS ABOUT CHINA AND THE VATICAN – SOME GOOD NEWS FROM CHINA: CELEBRATIONS AS BISHOP SHAO ZHUMIN RETURNS TO WENZHOU

The China story continues as you will see below, including an interview with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Partolin on Vatican-China relations and then a story about a Chinese bishop released after 7 months of being held by Chinese officials. If you want to know what the issues are for the Catholic Church and the Vatican in China this is a short but must-read article.

There was also the weekly general audience today and Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Mass, highlighting the importance of the Liturgy of the Word.

POPE INVITES THE FAITHFUL TO OPEN THEIR EARS AND HEARTS TO GOD’S WORD

During his catechesis at the weekly general audience, Pope Francis told those present that Christians need to be constantly open to and challenged by the Word of God. By Linda Bordoni (for Vaticannews)

Pope Francis invited the faithful to place themselves in silent openness to God’s saving message as it resounds in the ecclesial assembly and is a fundamental aspect of God’s constant dialogue with his people.

The Pope’s words came on Wednesday during the general audience as he continued his ongoing catechesis dedicated to the Eucharist with a reflection on the Liturgy of the Word.

During Mass, he said, God speaks to his people through the Liturgy of the Word, and the same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred Scriptures opens our minds and hearts to that living word.

“That’s why,” he explained, “personal choices regarding the readings are not acceptable.” He invited priests to use the readings listed in the Church’s Lectionary, and not replace them by reading from other sources – such as newspaper articles. This is something, he said, that favours ecclesial communion.“God’s Word is God’s Word! We can read the newspaper later on. In Church we read God’s Word. It is the Lord speaking to us.”

If you chat you cannot be listening to the Word of God

The Pope also reflected on the behavior of Church-goers pointing out that if one chats during Mass, one doesn’t hear God’s Word. He urged them to open their hearts in silence to be able to receive His message and then put its indications into practice.

“We need to listen! Since we do not live ‘by bread alone’, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, we need to be constantly open to, and challenged by, that word, in our lives as individuals and in our life as a Church. This is why we talk about the Liturgy of the Word as ‘the table of God’s Word’ that the Lord sets to nourish our spiritual life.”

Active participation

The Responsorial Psalm, Francis said, favors God’s dialogue with his people as it sets the meditative mood for the next reading and he invited the faithful to participate “at least in the response”. The Liturgical proclamation, he added, expresses and favors ecclesial communion and accompanies believers in their journey of faith.

We need good readers

Francis also reflected on the need for good readers and psalmists, whom, he said, must practice: “this favors an atmosphere of receptive silence” he said. “We know that the Lord’s Word is an indispensable aid to avoid getting lost: it lights up our path. …. How could we undertake our earthly pilgrimage, with all of its burdens and challenges without being regularly nourished and enlightened by God’s Word that resounds in the Liturgy?”
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In conclusion the Pope noted that it is not enough to listen only with ears, but with open hearts so that the Word can make its way inside us and make itself evident in our hands “as we carry out good works”.

NEWS ABOUT CHINA AND THE VATICAN

Cardinal Parolin, “Why we are in dialogue with China”

An interview with the Secretary of State who responds to the accusations made against the Holy See regarding the ongoing contacts, “We trust that the Chinese faithful, thanks to their spirit of faith, will know how to recognize that our action is animated by trust in the Lord and does not answer to worldly logic”


(From a La Stampa interview) – Several signals (including opaque operations, actual political manipulations, and even sabotage) indicate that important developments may occur in contacts between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The time is right to listen to an authoritative word, which will help to grasp what the Pope and the Holy See really have at heart. And with our Chinese brothers and sisters in mind, help to dispel suspicions and artificial fumes, to look at the ecclesial heart of the whole question, outside politicized narratives. For this reason, Vatican Insider interviewed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness.

Eminence, what can you tell us about the dialogue between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China?
“As it is well known, with the advent of “New China”, there were, for the life of the Church in that great country, moments of serious contrasts and severe suffering. Since the eighties, however, contacts have been established between representatives of the Holy See and of People’s China, who have known different seasons and alternating events. The Holy See has always maintained a pastoral approach, trying to overcome the contrasts and making itself available for a respectful and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities. Pope Benedict XVI well represented the spirit of this dialogue in his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, “the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities ” (n. 4). In Pope Francis’ pontificate, the ongoing negotiations move exactly along these lines: constructive openness to dialogue and fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church”.

What are the concrete expectations of the Holy See from this dialogue?
“First of all, I would like to make a premise: in China, perhaps more than elsewhere, Catholics have been able to preserve, despite the many difficulties and sufferings, the authentic deposit of faith, keeping firmly the bond of hierarchical communion between the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, as a visible guarantee of faith itself. In fact, communion between the Bishop of Rome and all Catholic Bishops touches the heart of the Church’s unity: it is not a private matter between the Pope and the Chinese Bishops or between the Apostolic See and civil authorities. Having said that, the main purpose of the Holy See in the ongoing dialogue is precisely that of safeguarding communion within the Church, in the wake of genuine Tradition and constant ecclesiastical discipline. You see, in China there are not two Churches, but two communities of faithful called to follow a gradual path of reconciliation towards unity. It is not, therefore, a matter of maintaining a perennial conflict between opposing principles and structures, but of finding realistic pastoral solutions that allow Catholics to live their faith and to continue together the work of evangelization in the specific Chinese context”.

TO READ ENTIRE INTERVIEW, CLICK HERE: http://www.lastampa.it/2018/01/31/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/parolin-why-we-are-in-dialogue-with-china-C8mlJsD0PDNsmsx7db6ZIJ/pagina.html

SOME GOOD NEWS FROM CHINA: CELEBRATIONS AS BISHOP SHAO ZHUMIN RETURNS TO WENZHOU

He had been in the hands of the police for seven months. Pressure exerted to make him join the Patriotic Association (Click here for video: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Celebrations-as-Msgr.-Shao-Zhumin-returns-to-Wenzhou-(Video)-42977.html

Wenzhou (AsiaNews) – Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), recognized by the Holy See but not by the government, has returned to his diocese. On January 27th he was welcomed by the faithful with a celebration, prayers and a song specially composed for his return. The song praises him as “our dear bishop who leads us to Christ. Our bishop is the good shepherd … your name is always in our hearts “. (AsiaNews photo)

On May 18 he was taken from his diocese by public security forces and members of the Religious Affairs Bureau and held in Xining (Qinghai), 2500 km from Wenzhou, still under police escort. As of January 4 he is free to move and is no longer escorted by security personnel. Sources from the diocese had told AsiaNews that he would stop in Beijing at the hospital to be treated following an ear operation.

In all these months, police exerted psychological pressure on him to make him join the Patriotic Association, the Party body that wants a Church independent of the Holy See. Faced with his refusal, in early December, representatives of religious affairs asked him to sign a document with the four conditions for receiving government recognition. They include his support for the principle of an independent Church; support for self-nomination and self-ordination [of the bishops]; concelebration with an illegitimate bishop, not recognized by the Vatican; submission to the new religious regulations that will be launched next February. But again Msgr. Shao refused.


For decades the Catholic community of Wenzhou – about 130,000 faithful – has been divided between official and non-official communities: more than 80 thousand belong to the unofficial community. There are 70 priests, divided equally between the two communities. Msgr Shao, 54, despite being a member of the underground Church, is also appreciated by the official community.
Following the bishop’s abduction, the German ambassador to Beijing Michael Clauss spoke up for his release. Even the Holy See had expressed concern over its fate.

POPE FRANCIS WEIGHS IN ON FAKE NEWS, “A SIGN OF INTOLERANT AND HYPERSENSITIVE ATTITUDES” – POPE DECRIES “UNTHINKABLE, BARBARIC” TREATMENT OF YEZIDIS – AUDIENCE CATECHESIS FOCUSES ON PAPAL TRIP TO CHILE AND PERU, APPEAL FOR PEACE IN DRC

Today is January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists. In years past, the late Pontifical Council for Social Communications used to organize a Mass for journalists on this date at Santa Maria in Traspontina on Via della Conciliazione. It was always a well-attended event and members of the media were lectors and sang in the choir. I enjoyed going to those Masses and praying for our mission as journalists, and I hope they resume some day.

This year, officials of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications (SPC) assisted in organizing the annual meeting of Catholic journalists and Church communications professionals that took place this year in Lourdes, France. The SPC was co-organizer of the gathering with the Federation of the Catholic Media and SIGNIS. The theme this year was, “Media and Truth,” inspired by Pope Francis’ Message for World Communications Day 2018. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin addressed the media.

One year on this feast day, Cardinal John Foley, who headed the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for many years, gave a talk and, with his never-failing sense of humor and a touch of self-deprecation, pointed to three similarities between himself and St. Francis de Sales: “We were both bishops, both in communications and both of us were bald!”

POPE FRANCIS WEIGHS IN ON FAKE NEWS, “A SIGN OF INTOLERANT AND HYPERSENSITIVE ATTITUDES”

Today, feast of St, Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ Message for the 52nd World Day of Social Communications on May 13. It is entitled, “’The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.”

CLICK HERE FOR ENGLISH: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/01/24/0062/00120.html#en

It is a riveting read and, if I had the time, I’d email it to every major secular news organization. It does not take that long to read and you’ll find yourself saying every few lines, “right on, Holy Father!”

I don’t see how one could call oneself a serious journalist who strives for the truth and then disagree with what the Holy Father writes.

The following paragraphs of the papal Message best describe how I see my work, my mission as a journalist (mission being a word that Pope Francis also uses):

“The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people: people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge; people who are attracted by goodness and take responsibility for how they use language. If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news, then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectors of news.

“In today’s world, theirs is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission. Amid feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop, they must remember that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons. Informing others means forming others; it means being in touch with people’s lives. That is why ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.”

POPE DECRIES “UNTHINKABLE, BARBARIC” TREATMENT OF YEZIDIS

At nine this morning in a small room of the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received in audience a representation of the Yezidi community in Germany. Here are his words to them in my translation:

“Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you fraternally and I thank you for this encounter through which I can ideally embrace all members of the Yezidi community, in particular all those who live in Iraq and Syria. My thoughts and prayerful solidarity go to the innocent victims of such unthinkable and inhuman barbaric actions. It is unacceptable that human beings are persecuted and killed because of their religious belief. Every person has the right to freely and without restrictions profess their own religious creed. Your history, rich in spirituality and culture, has been unfortunately marked by unspeakable violations of the fundamental human rights of the person: kidnappings, slavery, torture, forced conversions and murder. Your shrines and places of worship have been destroyed. The most fortunate among you have been able to flee, but leaving everything you had behind, including your dearest and most sacred possessions. In many parts of the world there are still ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians, persecuted because of their faith. The Holy See never tires of intervening to denounce these situations, asking for recognition, protection and respect. At the same time the Holy See exhorts people to dialogue and reconciliation in order to heal everyone.

“In the face of the tragedy that is taking place and harming your community, one sees how, as the Gospel says, from the heart of man can explode the darkest forces, capable of reaching the point of planning the annihilation of one’s brother, of considering him an enemy or even an individual who does not have human dignity. I also think of the members of your community who are still in the hands of terrorists; I sincerely hope that everything will be done to save them, as well as trying to find those who are missing and to identity and give a worthy burial to those who have been killed. The international community can no longer remain a silent and insert spectator in the face of your drama. I therefore encourage institutions and people of good will to contribute to rebuilding your homes and places of worship, and to make concrete efforts to creating ideal conditions for the return of refugees to their homes and to preserving the identity of the Yezidi community. God help us in building together a world where everyone can live in peace and fraternity.”

AUDIENCE CATECHESIS FOCUSES ON PAPAL TRIP TO CHILE, PERU, APPEAL FOR PEACE IN DRC

Following his meeting with the Yezidis residing in Germany, the Holy Father proceeded to the Paul VI Hall where he encountered a group of ill people, including a number of children suffering from leukemia from Terra dei Fuochi, an area in southern Italy, accompanied by their parents.

Francis then proceeded to St. Peter’s Square where the faithful heard a catechesis on the Pope’s just-completed trip to Chile and Peru. (AFP photo)

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the English language summary of the catechesis, “in my recent Apostolic Journey to Chile and Peru, I had the joy of encountering God’s pilgrim people and encouraging the growth of social harmony in respect for the rich diversity of those nations. In Chile, I stressed the importance of listening to the voices of all: the poor, the young and the elderly, the immigrant and the voice of the earth itself. I encouraged the Church in its path of purification and renewal, and, appealing to the example of Saint Alberto Hurtado, I encouraged educators to help the young to share in the building of a just and inclusive society.

“In Peru, I expressed my confidence that the nation’s environmental, spiritual and cultural riches can contribute to building unity and cooperation in meeting the grave challenges facing society. In my meeting with the Amazonian peoples, I stressed the importance of mutual respect and care for the natural environment. In Trujillo, hard hit by natural disasters, I invited all to work together in confronting the social problems of crime and the lack of education, employment and housing. In Lima, I concluded my visit to these two countries by appealing to the example of the saints and asking their intercession as the Church pursues the path of conversion and mission, and strives to be a messenger of unity, hope and peace for all peoples.”

After the catechesis in various language summaries, Francis expressed a heartfelt appeal for the deteriorating situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: “Unfortunately, troubling news continues to come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, I renew my call for everyone to commit to avoiding all forms of violence. On her part, the Church wants nothing other than to contribute to the peace and to the common good of society.”

FOR CHRISTIANS THE LITURGY IS TRUE SCHOOL OF PRAYER – ROME CIRCUS OFFERS 2100 TICKETS TO POPE FRANCIS FOR POOR, HOMELESS, REFUGEES, AND NEEDY FAMILIES – CONGREGATION APPOINTS COMMISSIONER FOR CHRISTIAN LIFE SOCIETY

MISSING IN ACTION – Apologies for two days of silence on this page, especially after a weekend filled with big stories – the Epiphany celebrations on Saturday, the 34 children baptized by Pope Francis in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday and the annual papal “state of the world” address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday. I was under the weather, as the expression goes, on Monday and spent Tuesday recovering from Monday. Being online, researching and reading Vatican news and then posting stories was not high on my agenda, important as they were.

I was briefly online Monday to read the papal speech to the diplomats, given its importance and the subjects and places he covers in this “lights and shadows” look at the world. The 5300-word talk lasted about 45 minutes and was published in 8 languages by the Vatican.

Along with the papal speech, the Vatican published a “Note on the Diplomatic Relations of the Holy See, 08.01.2018.” It listed the number of countries and organizations with diplomatic ties to the Holy See, the new ambassadors as of January 2017, and also listed the resident and non-resident ambassadors. I was fascinated by one paragraph dedicated to the women ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, noting that there were 25 women diplomats.

When I returned to the news site today to look for that specific information about women ambassadors, it was gone. It no longer appears on the press office bulletin, on http://www.vatican.va or http://www.vaticannews.va. I searched the Internet to see if some colleague or news source has published it but my search for “women ambassadors accredited to the Holy See” was in vain. I also looked for “accredited to the Vatican” although that is technically incorrect.

Just moments ago I had my own epiphany, remembering where I first saw that information in Italian – in my own mailbox! I went back to January 8 and sure enough, there it was! I found the two press office attachments when I opened that (then) embargoed papal talk and the Note that I received via email at 9:45 am on January 8. I had not dreamed up the numbers and I do have a good memory!

Here is the info (my translation from the Italian) missing from Vatican websites:

Among the ambassadors, 25 are women: 12 are resident ambassadors (Australia, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Panama, Perú, San Marino, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States of America); 13 are non-resident: (Burundi, United Arab Emirates, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mauritania, Zimbabwe, Qatar and Sweden).

This too was in an original text from the Holy See Press Office:

Between January1, 2017 and January 7, 2018, 31 new ambassadors, of whom 17 are resident, presented their Letters of Credence (Credentials) to the Holy Father: (Ghana, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Nigeria, Mexico, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, South Africa, USA, Uruguay); e 14 non residenti: (Mauritania, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Niger, Sudan, Trinidad e Tobago, Yemen, New Zelanda, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein, India).

I wonder who decided and why it was decided not to include those two paragraphs, especially on women ambassadors, in the final version of the news sites.

A CHOIR, A HOTEL AND A POLISH SAINT – In addition to Vatican and papal news, I had every intention of sharing the wonderful Saturday evening I spent in the presence of two choirs that sang at the papal Mass on the Epiphany, principally the young people’s amazing choir of Christ Cathedral in Orange County, California, along with members of St. Anne’s choir from Laguna Niguel. I was invited to join them for dinner at a hotel I had heard of but never visited, the Kolbe Hotel.

From their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristCathedralMusic/

The hotel was named for St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan Friar who died in the Auschwitz concentration during World War II. The Nazi prison guards chose 10 people to be put to death and prisoner 16670 Kolbe offered to take the place of a stranger. We commemorated his birthday on Monday, January 8. The hotel premises are part of a structure built in 1625 that became a Franciscan monastery in 2012. Renovations started on the premises in 2007 and the result is what we see today, the Kolbe Hotel, part of which is still a Franciscan monastery.

In coming days, I’ll bring you some of the photos and stories I intended to publish Monday on this page.

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A CHRISTMAS TREE – I’m sure you saw the news and photos over the holidays of Rome’s unbelievably scrawny Christmas tree placed in the capital’s central Piazza Venezia. Nicknamed “the mangy one” it eventually found a fond place in the hearts of Romans and visitors, but not before the world’s media found every way possible to make fun of it.

Now that the holidays are over, what will become of the much-mocked tree?

Well, it will be carved up and turned into souvenirs and a lactation hut for mothers and babies, city officials said Tuesday. Here’s the story:
http://www.yourconroenews.com/news/world/article/Rome-s-mangy-Christmas-tree-to-be-carved-up-into-12484838.php

And now, some Vatican news stories from today…..

FOR CHRISTIANS THE LITURGY IS TRUE SCHOOL OF PRAYER

Pope Francis continued his series of general audience catecheses on the Mass that he began last November by pointing out. “In our catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, we now turn to the Gloria and the Opening Prayer. Having confessed our sinfulness and asked God’s forgiveness in the penitential rite, “ he said, “we recite, on Sundays and holydays, the ancient hymn “Glory to God in the highest”. Echoing the song of the angels at our Lord’s birth, we praise the mercy of the Father in sending his Son who takes away the sins of the world.

Francis explained that, “the Opening Prayer is also called the ‘Collect’, because it gathers up and presents to the Triune God all our individual prayers. The priest’s invitation, ‘Let us pray,’ is followed by a moment of silence, as we open our hearts and bring our personal needs to the Lord. The Opening Prayer praises the Father’s provident love revealed in history and then implores his continued help as we strive to live as his sons and daughters in Christ.

“With the invitation ‘Let us pray,’ the priest exhorts the people to recollect themselves with him in a moment of silence, in order to be conscious of being in the presence of God and to have arise, in each one’s heart, the personal intentions with which he takes part in the Mass.” In this moment of silence, “each one thinks of the things of which he is in need, what he wishes to ask for in prayer.”

“By ancient tradition,” said the Pope, “the prayer is addressed to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. By reflecting on these rich prayers, and uniting ourselves with the Church in lifting them up to God, we see how the liturgy becomes for each Christian a true school of prayer.”

ROME CIRCUS OFFERS 2100 TICKETS TO POPE FRANCIS FOR POOR, HOMELESS, REFUGEES, AND NEEDY FAMILIES

Pope Francis through his apostolic almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, has invited the poor, the homeless, refugees, a group of prisoners, needy persons and families together with their volunteers, to attend a circus.

The Medruno circus – its owners, benefactors and performers – has placed at the disposition of the Holy Father all of its 2,100 seats in the big tent for this charity event. In fact, the Casartelli family and entrepreneur Fabrizio Grande are calling this “a circus of solidarity” with the Holy Father’s poor.

Once, during a general audience, Pope Francis spoke of circus performers, saying they “create beauty, they are creators of beauty and this does the soul good! How great is our need for beauty!” This then is the gift offered by the artists of the circus who, with constant commitment and many sacrifices, succeed in creating and giving beauty to themselves and to others. This can become also for our poorest brothers an encouragement to overcome the bitter moments and the difficulties of life that so many times seem so great and impossible to overcome.

Also available will be a medical service offered by volunteer doctors and nurses with an ambulance and a mobile ambulatory from Vatican City. At the end of the circus, those in need will receive also a carry out dinner bag,

CONGREGATION APPOINTS COMMISSIONER FOR CHRISTIAN LIFE SOCIETY

The Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life promulgated today, Wednesday 10 January 2018, the Decree for the Compulsory Administration of the Society of Apostolic Life Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (Christian Life Society), appointing as Apostolic Commissioner of the aforementioned Society H.E. Msgr. Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago, C.Ss.R., bishop of Jericó (Antioquia), Colombia.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., continues to be the referent for the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as Delegate ad nutum in relation to Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and with regard to economic issues in particular.

The Holy Father Francis has closely followed all the information that, for several years, has come to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on the situation of the Christian Life Society. The Pope has shown himself to be particularly attentive to the seriousness of the information concerning the internal regime, formation and economic and financial management, which is why he has asked the Dicastery to pay particular attention. In addition to this, a series of measures have recently been adopted by the Peruvian judicial authority against Mr. Luis Fernando Figari. After a thorough analysis of all the documentation, the Dicastery issued the Decree for Compulsory Administration.

PAPAL APPEAL FOR JERUSALEM – POPE EMPHASIZES “BRIDGES OF DIALOGUE” IN MEETING WITH PALESTINIANS – COMMUNIQUE FROM PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

Today’s stories all concern the Holy Land and, in a special way, Jerusalem, given the indications by the Trump administration that the U.S. will declare Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and announce plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, thus making it the only nation in the world with ties to Israel that has its embassy in Jerusalem.

I published the first story on my blog and Facebook page the instant it happened.

The second story is a summary of the Pope’s remarks to a group of Palestinians following their meeting yesterday in the Vatican with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The third story is the communiqué from the pontifical council about yesterday’s meeting, The breaking news in that communiqué was the announcement that the two sides decided to establish a Joint Working Group for Dialogue, through the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding. The Pope was told about the joint group this morning at the general audience and, said the communiqué, he “expressed his joy for the establishment of the Joint Working Group, wishing it success in its mission.”

PAPAL APPEAL FOR JERUSALEM

Pope Francis said these words at the end of the general audience this morning in the Paul VI Hall. It certainly is a speedy Vatican response to news coming from the Trump administration about the status of Jerusalem.

Following is my translation of his appeal made in Italian:

“My thoughts now turn to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot be silent about my very deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days, and at the same time I make a heartfelt appeal that it becomes everyone’s commitment to respect the status quo of the city in conformity with the pertinent United Nations resolutions.

“Jerusalem is a unique city sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims and in it they venerate the Holy Places of their respective religions, and it has a special vocation to peace.

“I pray the Lord that this identity will be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and of the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence will prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension to a world panorama already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts.”

POPE EMPHASIZES “BRIDGES OF DIALOGUE” IN MEETING WITH PALESTINIANS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis, before his general audience on Wednesday, greeted a Palestinian delegation hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

He told them that it was his hope “that your consultations may help to open a space of sincere dialogue for the benefit of all the members of Palestinian society, and the Christian community in particular, given its small numbers and the challenges it faces, especially with regard to emigration.”

The Holy Father emphasized that, “for the Catholic Church, it is always a joy to build bridges of dialogue with communities, individuals and organizations,  adding that it was a particular joy to do so with Palestinian religious and intellectual leaders.” Dialogue, said the Pope, “takes place at every level: with ourselves through reflection and prayer, in our families, in our religious communities, between different religious communities, and also in civil society.”

He noted that the primary condition of that dialogue was “reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be.”

The Pope remarked that the Holy Land was for Christians “the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind.”  He also highlighted the fact that the culmination of this dialogue took place in Nazareth between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary.

The Holy Father went on to say, “that dialogue continues in a unique way between Jesus and his people, in representation of humanity as a whole.”

Concluding his greeting, Pope Francis recalled the “kindness that the Authorities of the State of Palestine have shown to the Christian community, acknowledging its place and its role in Palestinian society.”

COMMUNIQUE FROM PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

On Tuesday, December 5 2017, a meeting took place in Rome between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Palestinian Commission for Interreligious Dialogue.

The delegation of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president. The Palestinian Commission for Interreligious Dialogue was headed by Shaykh Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Supreme Judge of the State of Palestine and President of the same Commission.

The other participants from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue were H.E. Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, Secretary, and Monsignor Khaled Akasheh, Bureau Chief for Islam.

The other members of the Palestinian Delegation were Mr Ziad Al-Bandak, Minister and Counsellor to the President for Church Affairs, Mr Adnan Al-Husseini, Governor of Jerusalem and Member of the Higher Islamic Council, Mr Issa Kassissieh, Ambassador of the State of Palestine to the Holy See, and Mr Ammar Al-Nisnas, Counsellor of the Embassy.

The two sides decided to establish a Joint Working Group for Dialogue, through the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding.

The two delegations were pleased to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis, on Wednesday December 6, who expressed his joy for the establishment of the Joint Working Group, wishing it success in its mission.

 

PAPAL APPEAL FOR JERUSALEM

Pope Francis said these words at the end of the general audience this morning in the Paul VI Hall. It certainly is a speedy Vatican response to news coming from the Trump administration about the status of Jerusalem.

Following is my translation of his appeal made in Italian:

My thoughts now turn to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot be silent about my very deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days, and at the same time I make a heartfelt appeal that it becomes everyone’s commitment to respect the status quo of the city in conformity with the pertinent United Nations resolutions.

Jerusalem is a unique city sacred for Jews Christians and Muslims and in it they venerate the Holy Places of their respective religions, and it has a special vocation to peace.

I pray the Lord that this identity will be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and of the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence will prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension to a world panorama already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts.