POPE FRANCIS STARTS NEW CATECHESIS ON CONFIRMATION – POPE ASKS FOR PRAYERS FOR CATHOLICS IN CHINA

POPE FRANCIS STARTS NEW CATECHESIS ON CONFIRMATION

Pope Francis’s catechesis on Wednesday focused on the Sacrament of Confirmation. He was addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience. Here is the official English Summary of his address:

Dear brothers and sisters: In these days following the Church’s celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, our catechesis turns to the sacrament of Confirmation, which “confirms” the grace of our Baptism and “anoints” us with the Spirit to bear witness to Christ before the world. Jesus himself, filled with the Holy Spirit, carried out his mission as the Lord’s Anointed, and after his death and resurrection, bestowed the Spirit upon his disciples, who went forth from the Upper Room to proclaim God’s mighty works (cf. Acts 2:11). As Christ was anointed by the Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan, so at Pentecost the Church received the Spirit in order to carry out her mission of preaching the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In Confirmation, Jesus fills us with his Spirit and makes us sharers in his own life and mission, in accordance with the Father’s saving plan. May this sacrament strengthen us to be ever docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, as we strive in all our actions and words to live fully the new life received in Baptism and to advance the Church’s mission in the world.

POPE ASKS FOR PRAYERS FOR CATHOLICS IN CHINA

Pope Francis, at the end of the general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, asked for prayers for Chinese Catholics.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis has appealed to all Christians to be spiritually close to Catholics who live in China, and to pray they may live their faith in full communion with the Holy See. Speaking during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope recalled that Thursday, May 24, is the Feast Day of “Mary Help of Christians,” and noted that she is particularly venerated at the Sanctuary of Sheshan, in Shanghai.

He said this observance invites us to be spiritually close to all Catholic believers who live in China and asked for prayers so that they “may live their faith with generosity and serenity” and “be able to make concrete gestures of fraternity, harmony and reconciliation in full communion with the Successor of Peter.”

“Dear disciples of the Lord in China, the Universal Church prays with you and for you, so that even amid difficulties, you may continue to entrust yourselves to God’s will,” he said.

Pope Francis concluded his appeal saying that Our Lady will never deprive them of Her help and that She will look over them with the love of a mother.

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A TIME FOR PRAYER AND MEDITATION FOR CHILE’S BISHOPS – GENERAL AUDIENCE: FINAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM AND APPEAL FOR PEACE – CARDINAL VINCENT NICHOLS CALLS FOR PRAYERS FOR GAZA

A TIME FOR PRAYER AND MEDITATION FOR CHILE’S BISHOPS

Pope Francis gave the bishops of Chile a series of themes for meditation at their first meeting Tuesday afternoon in the Vatican. A second meeting is Wednesday afternoon and two are scheduled for Thursday, May 17. (vatianmedia photo)

The Holy Father called the meeting with the Chilean episcopate to address the crisis of clerical sexual abuse, and the failure of church leaders to respond adequately to it. The meeting was prompted by the reception of 2300-page report by two special envoys sent by Pope Francis earlier this year, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Fr. Jordi Bertomeu Farnós. Both travelled to the Americas to hear testimony from victims of clerical abuse.

Upon receiving the final report, Pope Francis “humbly” requested the bishops’ “collaboration and assistance in discerning the short-, mid-, and long-term measures that must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal, and re-establishing justice.” The meeting in Rome is intended to discuss the results of the envoys’ visit and discuss the Pope’s conclusions.

A time for meditation and prayer

The Pope held the first meeting with the bishops on Tuesday afternoon in the auletta or small hall of the Paul VI Hall. There were 34 Chilean bishops in attendance. According to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, the Pope gave each of the Bishops a text with themes for meditation. “From this moment and until the next meeting, a time is open [which is] dedicated exclusively to meditation and prayer,” the statement said. (Vatican News)

GENERAL AUDIENCE: FINAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM AND APPEAL FOR PEACE

Pope Francis began this week’s general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square by noting that, “In this, our final catechesis on Baptism, we turn to the rites illustrating the grace of the sacrament. Following an ancient tradition, the newly baptized are robed in a white garment signifying their new life in Christ, and are admonished to preserve it unstained for eternal life. Since, as Saint Paul says, the baptized have been clothed in Christ (cf. Gal 3:27), they are called to cultivate every virtue, especially charity, which binds the others together (cf. Col 3:14).

“So too,” added Francis, “the taper lighted from the paschal candle symbolizes the light of Christ and the warmth of his love which, with the help of the parents and godparents, must be nurtured through education in the Christian life. These rites evoke not only our communion in the Church on earth but also point to its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will be our light for ever (cf. Rev 22:5).”

The Holy Father explained that, “the rite of Baptism concludes with the Our Father, as the expression of our dignity as God’s adoptive children in Christ. May all of us cherish the gift of grace we received on the day of our Baptism, and let ourselves be guided at every step by the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis expressed concern at the escalation of violence in the Middle East and urged for peace: “I am very concerned at the escalation of tension in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and the spiral of violence that is moving away further from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation, …I express my great sorrow for the dead and wounded and with prayer and affection I am close to all who suffer. …I repeat that the use of violence can never lead to peace, War begets war, violence begets violence.”

He urged all parties concerned and the international community to renew their commitment to ensure that dialogue, justice and peace prevail, and recited the Hail Mary, asking everyone to join him in praying to Mary, Queen of Peace.

In closing greetings, the Pope extended his “cordial wishes” to Muslims worldwide who on Thursday begin their fasting month of Ramadan. He said he hoped this “privileged time of prayer and fasting help in walking the path of God which is of peace.”

CARDINAL VINCENT NICHOLS CALLS FOR PRAYERS FOR GAZA

The following statement from Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster was released today, May 16:

‘Today I have had a phone conversation with Fr. Mario da Silva, the Catholic parish priest in Gaza to offer our prayers and support. He told me that life is so hard and everyone is desperate with shortages of water and other basic necessities. He said that knowing Catholics in England & Wales and across the world remembered the people of Gaza and were praying for them was a great encouragement.

“Please pray for peace in the Middle East and especially for the people in Gaza. They are living through traumatic times of remembrance and protest at the dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation. This is a people who are both extremely vulnerable and deprived. Their fate is central to peace and peace can never be built on neglect.”

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM, STRENGTH AGAINST EVIL – HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE COMMUNIQUES

Today, April 25, is Liberation Day, a national holiday in Italy that marks the fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy in 1945, towards the end of the Second World War. I always know when it’s a holiday in Rome – even without a calendar – because of the extreme quiet in the neighborhood. Many stores are closed and there’s little traffic and hardly any movement or noise on the streets adjacent to my building, just across from Vatican City. I don’t know what it’s like in the center of Rome or around historic monuments but I know I’m loving the peace and quiet!

On another topic: We all have interests and passions and hobbies, whether in the fields of sports, handicrafts, the arts, travel, languages, libraries, cuisine, or merely collecting items – stamps, coins, dolls or, as I do, plates and bells. When it comes to my interest in languages and travel and history, I think you know of my passion for the Middle East and the Holy Land, for the story of the Catholic Church, for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, in that part of the world.

If you have a similar interest, I’d like to point you to an excellent site for news from and about that region: http://en.abouna.org/en/world

Fr. Rifat Bader, a friend of mine from Jordan, began this site years ago. He also launched CCSM – the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan – on April 25, 2012 to serve as a media arm for the Latin Patriarchate. By the way, the word “abouna” in the website means “father.” Happy anniversary, Abouna Rifat and CCSM!

Father Rifat and I met over the years in his native Jordan, in both Cyprus and Lebanon during trips by Pope Benedict, in the Holy Land for Francis’ three-day trip in 2014 and a number of times here in Rome. When it was just a seed, the CCSM was the subject of many of our conversations and emails and I am delighted to follow its success.

Another fascinating link: You can access the annual magazine of the Grand Magisterium of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, “Jerusalem Cross” here: http://www.oessh.va/content/ordineequestresantosepolcro/en/media/le-nostre-pubblicazioni/la-croce-di-gerusalemme-2017.html

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM, STRENGTH AGAINST EVIL

Pope Francis bases his General Audience catechesis on Philippians 4:12-13: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me”. Through our Baptismal anointing we receive the strength needed for the spiritual struggle.

By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Pope Francis continued reflecting on the Sacrament of Baptism during the catechesis portion of the Wednesday General Audience. He focused on the anointing with the oil of catechumens that is part of the Rite of Baptism.

Faith is a response to the Gospel

Those who request Baptism have responded to the Gospel that has prompted them to believe, the Pope said. They have learned how to listen to Jesus’ teaching and works. They experience the thirst of the Samaritan woman. Their eyes are opened like the blind man. They come forth from the dead like Lazarus.

Not alone

Those who approach the baptismal font are accompanied by the entire Church. This is concretely expressed with the Litany of the Saints before the exorcism and anointing with the oil of catechumens at the beginning of the Rite of Baptism. “They are gestures that, since ancient times, assure those who are preparing to be reborn as children of God that the prayer of the Church assists them in the fight against evil”, Pope Francis said.

Strength against evil

Pope Francis reminded those present that Jesus “fought against and cast out demons to manifest that the kingdom of God had come” (cf Mt 12:28). His victory over evil is a clear sign of his lordship. Through Baptism, which is not magic but a “gift of the Holy Spirit”, Jesus gives us the ability “to fight against the spirit of evil”. Pope Francis cited the Baptismal Rite: “God sent his Son into the world to destroy the power of satan and to transfer man from darkness to the kingdom of infinite light”.

Anointing with oil

The Baptismal candidates receive a second anointing on their chest. Pope Francis explained that long ago, “fighters would cover themselves with oil in order to tone their muscles and in order to more easily escape their enemy’s grasp”. Unpacking this sacramental sign, Pope Francis concluded his catechesis saying that the Christian life is one long, tiring struggle against evil. But we are accompanied by “Mother Church who prayers that her children, regenerated by Baptism, might not succumb to the snares of the evil one, but might conquer by the power of Christ’s Passover.” Therefore, “we too can repeat with the faith of St Paul: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

At the end of the audience, Francis made the following appeal:

Next Friday, April 27 in Panmunjom, an inter-Korean summit will be held in which the leaders of the two Koreas – Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un – will take part. Such an encounter will be a good occasion to start a transparent dialogue and a concrete path of reconciliation and rediscovered fraternity with the goal of guaranteeing peace on the Korean peninsula and in the entire world.

I assure the Korean people, who so ardently desire peace, of my personal prayer and the closeness of the entire Church. The Holy See accompanies, supports and encourages every useful and sincere initiative to build a better future, as the sign of an encounter and friendship among people.

I ask those responsible for direct political talks to have the courage of hope, to make yourselves artisans of peace while I also exhort you to pursue with trust the path undertaken for the common good.

As God is the Father of all and the Father of peace, I invite you to pray the Our Father, God, Father of all, for the Korean people, those in the South and those in the North.

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE COMMUNIQUES

I. Next July 7, Pope Francis will travel to Bari (on Italy’s Adriatic coast), window to the East that is the guardian of the the relics of St. Nicholas, for a day of reflection on and prayer for the dramatic situation in the Middle East that afflicts so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith. He intends to invite to this ecumenical encounter for peace the Heads of Churches and Christian communities in that region. As of now, Pope Franccis exhorts all to prepare for this event with prayer.

II. POPE TO RECEIVE CHILEAN ABUSE VICTIMS THIS WEEKEND

(I published this earlier this morning as a separate column) – In response to questions by journalists about an encounter of the Holy Father Francis with several victims of abuse in Chile, Holy See press office director Greg Burke this morning declared the following:

“This coming weekend the Holy Father will receive at the Santa Marta residence three victims of abuse committed by clergy in Chile; respectively Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andres Murillo.

The Pope thanks them for having accepted his invitation. During these days of personal and fraternal encounter he wants to ask pardon of them and to share their pain and his shame for what they have suffered, and above all listen to all their suggestions with the scope of avoiding that such terrible facts repeat themselves.

The Pope will receive victims individually, allowing each one to speak for all the time they need.

The Holy Father asks for prayers for the church in Chile in this very sad moment, expressing the hope that these encounters can take place in a climate of serene trust and that they might be a fundamental step to remedy and to avoid for all time abuses of conscience, power and, in particular, sexual abuse in the heart of the Church.”

FRANCIS VISITS POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI – PASCHAL TRIDUUM IS CENTER OF OUR FAITH AND VOCATION – FROM THE PASSION TO PENTECOST AND BEYOND, CHRIST’S MISSIONARIES OF HIS WORD

I learned something new and interesting a few years ago when a priest friend, having read my column about Holy Week in Rome, asked me if I knew what the other name was for Wednesday of Holy Week. I did not know and looked it up and learned the answer was Spy Wednesday.

As I looked it up in the EWTN Q&A area, I found this from Father John Echert: “Spy Wednesday is the name given to Wednesday of Holy Week, marking the fact that on this day, Judas agreed with Jewish officials to betray our Lord, for the price of 30 pieces of silver. And while we do not give much attention to this in our own Country, in Poland there is a tradition by which an effigy of Judas is cast down from a height, dragged through the streets while being stoned, and then “drown” in a river or pond.”

This column will be silent for a few days as I celebrate Holy Week liturgies in New York, arriving in the Big Apple early afternoon tomorrow. However, I’ll be back on these pages after Easter. EWTN allows its staff time off during these days so that we can participate in Holy Week liturgies.

I hope you all have a beautiful and Blessed Easter and that you feel renewed in your spiritual life and in your knowledge of God’s love for you!

Just a quick note: No guest this weekend in the interview segment of VATICAN INSIDER. Rather, I bring you a special that is about facts and figures, monuments and moments, things to see and do, places to visit in and around the Vatican. Some fun trivia as well!

FRANCIS VISITS POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI

Tuesday afternoon, Pope Francis met Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his Mater Ecclesiae Monastery residence in the Vatican and offered him best wishes for Easter.


Earlier Tuesday, he visited the Vatican Secretariat of State where some 300 persons are employed. In particular, he visited and blessed the offices of the new Third Section, which was set up in November for the diplomatic personnel of the Holy See. He then personally greeted all the officials and employees, wishing them Happy Easter and thanking them for their work. The last time Pope Francis met the officials and staff of the Secretariat was in April 2013.

PASCHAL TRIDUUM IS CENTER OF OUR FAITH AND VOCATION

The Holy Father presided at the weekly general audience today in St. Peter’s Square and dedicated his catechesis to the upcoming Easter celebrations. “Tomorrow,” he said, “begins the Church’s celebration of the Paschal Triduum, in which we re-live the great mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection. It is thus the center of our faith and vocation.”

The Triduum – meaning “three days” – begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and ends on Easter Sunday. The Holy Father said Christians are called to live the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection as “the matrix of their personal and communitarian lives.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” began Francis. “The Gospel message that Jesus died for our sins and rose to new life is a source of joy and hope for all the world. At the same time, it is a summons to our responsibility and mission as the Lord’s followers to proclaim the victory of the Risen Jesus by our lives.

Francis explained that, “in Baptism, we were given a share in Christ’s passover from death to life. Each of us has been called to live fully this new life in union with him and in imitation of his loving concern for the least of our brothers and sisters. In the poor, the suffering, the lonely and all those in need, we are asked to see the face of Jesus, and to become, in him, a means of redemption and hope, life and resurrection for our world.”

The Holy Father prayed, “May Mary, who knew both the sufferings of the cross and the joy of the resurrection, obtain for us the grace to be united ever more fully to the Risen Lord and to reflect in our lives the reconciling and transforming power of his divine love.

In language greetings after the catechesis in Italian and summaries in seven languages, the Pope said, “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States of America. I offer a special greeting to the delegates taking part in the Seminar organized by the Vatican Observatory in preparation for the forthcoming UNISPACE+50 Conference. May this Holy Week lead all of us to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. God bless you!”

Click here and scroll down to see Vatican media images from today’s general audience:
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-03/pope-general-audience-easter-triduum-catechesis.html

FROM THE PASSION TO PENTECOST AND BEYOND, CHRIST’S MISSIONARIES OF HIS WORD

Following is the homily given yesterday afternoon by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien in St. Peter’s basilica at the Mass marking the second anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica.

He offered some reflections on Holy Week, starting with the sadness of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, and, noting that, “In every age and culture Christ’s disciples have preached the word, often at critical times for his Church,” Cardinal O’Brien moved on to reflections about the life and work of Mother Angelica.

Here is that homily:

The Liturgy of this solemn Tuesday of Holy Week focuses upon the tragic betrayal of Judas as the Church moves closer to the Passion and Death of Jesus. The sad event begins the spiral of the disciples into confusion and despondency as the capture and trial of Jesus immediately follow.

There is a light of hope, however, to balance the Gospel’s foreboding and we find it in the first reading.

The Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people has come to an end, and Isaiah is speaking in the name of the newly liberated Jews. Israel and her every member has from of old been called to be a prophetic people, commissioned by Yahweh to spread the Word of God.

While for all these years of captivity, and before, God’s eternal word – God’s sharp edged sword and polished arrow have been concealed, mute and ineffective. Now, Israel is inspired by new strength as she hears the Lord’s promise: Not only, will I grace you with my word to revive my despondent nation. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

And Pentecost was the answer: From the Cenacle, God’s eternal word speaks in the language of every nation: the throng were all amazed and bewildered because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

In every age and culture Christ’s disciples have preached the word, often at critical times for his Church. Think of Augustine of Canterbury, Cyril and Methodius, Francis and Dominic, Loyola and Xavier, John Paul II, surprising and often unexpected missionaries of the word.

And when we speak of the millions who hear his eternal word, might not Canton Ohio’s Rita Antoinette Rizzo come to mind! A worldly-wise contemplative, a handicapped hobbler, an unsophisticated, but highly intelligent charismatic voice still touching the hearts of millions around the world, Mother Mary Angelica would surely be an unexpected choice to enable God’s word to reach to the ends of the earth.

Some years ago, Time magazine profile called her “an improbable superstar of religious broadcasting and arguably the most influential Roman Catholic woman of America.”

Started with $200 in 1981, the Eternal World Television Network now transmits to more than 261 million homes in 150 countries, energizing 400 dedicated lay workers. Not to mention Mother’s founding along the way of communities of men and women religious, two shrines of the Blessed Sacrament visited annually by tens of thousands of pilgrims at the very heart of Baptist country.

Her accomplishments could go on-and-on. But did I say “her accomplishments”? In saying that, I fear I’d be victim of one of her patented scowls – and rightly so! All this, she insists has not been her work. “This network doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to God.”

Her every living moment was spent in a scrupulous discernment of God’s will in her life – an active life of contemplation guided by the Eucharist and that well-worn Bible always clutched in her arms.

Throughout her life Mother suffered greatly – physically, for sure, but also what she called interior suffering, a sometimes greater cross. Her steel-willed, tenacious determination resulted in amazing achievements but could bring about a confrontation or two which could go too far. She once admitted: Lord, there were people in my path who touched off painful weaknesses in my soul – weaknesses I did not want to see…. Give to those I have offended many graces; make them holy. Bless those who have offended me and forgive them.”

But of all the trials this active contemplative experienced, the most difficult challenge was yet to come. A series of serious strokes left her physically powerless the last 15 years of her life and, more frustrating for this great communicator, speechless. As never before she now realized the life of a true contemplative. Now, words written earlier for others’ inspiration resonated in her very own mind and heart:

“Love speaks loudly in silence and that silence touches our souls. The Voice of Jesus sounds in our hearts like the voice of mighty waters, cleansing the debris collected during the storms of life. Our parched souls, tired of the journey, find refreshment in the living water flowing from the tabernacle… His silent presence hidden in the tabernacle, says to each of us, Come to me all you who labor and I will refresh you.”

Can we doubt that Jesus would have abandoned this faithful servant of his without strong graces of perseverance and insights into the Cross of his suffering and death for the sake of the world! And we can but imagine what graces which those years of silent suffering have won for the spread of the eternal word, even as we speak.

For that we give thanks to the Lord as we continue to commend her soul to God’s mercy.

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON HOW TO RECEIVE COMMUNION – POPE TO ATTEND WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES IN DUBLIN

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON HOW TO RECEIVE COMMUNION

The weekly general audience was held in St. Peter’s Square today under sunny skies, something of a rarity in Rome in recent weeks, and Pope Francis continued his weekly series of catecheses on the Mass, turning to the “culminating moment in the rite of Holy Communion.”

Francis said, “the Lord’s gift of Himself at the Last Supper is renewed at each Mass in the offering of His body and blood under the signs of bread and wine. After the breaking of the bread, the priest asks us to acknowledge the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. His words invite us to acknowledge our sins, to trust in the reconciling power of Christ’s sacrifice, and to receive the medicine that unites us ever more closely to him.”

The Pope explained that, “at the moment of communion, we respond ‘Amen’ to the words ‘The body of Christ’. In this way, we signify our openness to the transformative power of God’s grace, which enables us to grow in the unity of Christ’s mystical body, which is the Church.”

“If it is we who move in procession to receive communion,” said the Holy Father, “in reality it is Christ Who comes to meet us, to assimilate us to Him. Being nourished by the Eucharist means letting ourselves be changed by the One Who comes to us.”

And the Pope gave a mini-catechesis on how to receive communion:

“The Church strongly desires that even the faithful receive the Body of Christ with hosts consecrated in the Mass itself; and the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is expressed with greater fullness if Holy Communion is done under both species, even with the knowledge that Catholic doctrine teaches that, even under one species, all of Christ is received. According to ecclesial practice, the faithful normally approach communion in a processional form and receive communion with devotion while standing, or while kneeling, as established by the Episcopal conference, receiving the sacrament by mouth or, where allowed, in the hand, as they prefer. After communion, silent prayer helps us keep in our hearts the gift received, as does a psalm or hymn of praise.”

“Nourished by the bread of life,” said Francis, “we become a living Eucharist; in a word, we become what we receive. Our silent prayer after receiving communion is gathered up in the final prayer of the Mass, which thanks God for making us sharers in this holy banquet and asks that we may grow daily in union with him, until we share at last in the wedding feast of heaven.”

At the end of the catechesis and greetings to pilgrims in various languages, Pope Francis announced that he intends to participate this summer in the August World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, travelling there on August 25 and 26.

POPE TO ATTEND WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES IN DUBLIN

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference warmly welcomed the announcement today by Pope Francis that he will attend part of the 9th World Meeting of Families that will take place August 21 to 26 in Dublin on the theme, “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.

According to a press release from the Irish bishops, Pope Francis, 81, will arrive in Dublin on Saturday, August 25, and will take part in the “Festival of Families” in Croke Park. The Festival is the faith-based cultural concert of the World Meeting of Families six-day program. The next day, Sunday 26 August, Pope Francis will be the chief celebrant at Holy Mass in Phoenix Park, the concluding liturgy of the World Meeting of Families 2018. Full details of the papal schedule will be released at a later date.

The bishops said, “On behalf of the faithful of Ireland we warmly welcome today’s announcement, by the Holy Father himself, that he plans to visit Dublin in August for the World Meeting of Families. We are deeply honored that Pope Francis will come to our country to participate in this universal Church celebration of faith and joy, as well as of the contemporary challenges that face families. With great anticipation we also look forward to hearing the apostolic guidance of His Holiness during his stay with us.”

“Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin,” said the bishops, “as president of the World Meeting of Families 2018, has been charged with undertaking the significant task of organizing this global celebration and each of the other 25 dioceses on the island of Ireland is supporting the host diocese to ensure its success for the whole country and for the world. We eagerly await the visit of Pope Francis which no doubt will be an occasion of spiritual renewal for our laity, religious and clergy as well as a strengthening of Christian family life.

“The preparations for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin are benefiting from the 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops in Rome which discussed the role of the modern family in the world and how the Church should respond. Both synods were hosted by Pope Francis and were preceded by a worldwide consultation. The subsequent publication by the Holy Father in April 2016 of his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), represents the fruit of these synods as he reflected on the significance of the deep mutual love of spouses and on their love for their children for the good of humanity and for the stability of society.”

Also today, two Irish families presented the official World Meeting of Families 2018 “Icon of the Holy Family” to Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square. The Tobin family is from County Kildare and the Bushell family resides in Rome. The delegation was led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, president, and Father Timothy Bartlett, secretary general, of the World Meeting of Families 2018. The group also included the iconographer Mihai Cucu.

PAPAL CATECHESIS FOCUS ON “OUR FATHER”, “THE VERY WORDS JESUS PRAYED” – DON’T LET GENDER IDEOLOGY CONFUSE STUDENTS, ENGLISH CARDINAL URGES

We really have to pray for the people in the UK and for the citizens of any country who want their laws to reflect the gender theories we read about in the story about Cardinal Nichols of London!

PAPAL CATECHESIS FOCUS ON “OUR FATHER”, “THE VERY WORDS JESUS PRAYED”

Pope Francis, at today’s general audience in a (finally!) sunshine-splashed St. Peter’s Square, continued his catechesis on the Mass, focusing on the liturgical rites that follow the Eucharistic Prayer, in particular the Our Father and the “breaking of the bread.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” began Pope Francis, “In our catechesis on the Mass, we now turn from the Eucharistic Prayer to the Communion Rites, which begin with our common recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Immediately following the Great Amen, the assembly recites together the Our Father, which was taught us by Christ Himself. This, the Pope said, is not just one Christian prayer among many. Rather, it is “the prayer of the children of God,” in which, as Jesus teaches us, we call God Father.”

Putting aside, his prepared remarks, Francis spoke off the cuff and stressed the importance of this prayer, saying several times that “Jesus Himself prayed this way. We must pray like him. We do so when we recite the Our Father. This is Jesus talking to His Father, and this is how we must talk to our Father.” He said, “do you realize these are Jesus’ very words. We must pray like Him.”

“The Our Father,” said the Pope, “recited not only in the Mass, but also in the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church, gives a Christian character to the whole day, forming in us a filial attitude towards God, and a fraternal relationship with our neighbor. The prayer we offer to the Father as his adoptive children in Christ, disposes us to receive the Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion.

“We ask the Father for “our daily bread,” Francis continued, “for the forgiveness of our sins and for deliverance from evil. These petitions are then expanded in the following prayers, which invoke God’s peace and unity upon the Church and our world.”

He noted that, “In the exchange of the sign of peace, we demonstrate our commitment to be reconciled with one another, so as to worthily approach the altar to receive the Lord’s gift of himself.

“The rite of the breaking of the bread, accompanied by our invocation of Christ as the Lamb of God, acknowledges the saving presence of the risen Lord among us and implores the peace he won for us on the Cross. May our conscious celebration of these rites help us to experience ever more fully the Eucharist as the sacrament of our communion with God and with all our brothers and sisters.”

In remarks to Polish pilgrims following the catechesis, the Pope emphasized that it is necessary, if anyone has committed a grave sin, to receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Holy Communion – and he reminded the faithful that Lent is a good time to make a good Confession in order to encounter Christ in the Eucharist.

“The Lord’s Prayer also calls us to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters, when we pray for our sins to be forgiven, ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ And so, while we open our hearts to God, the Our Father disposes us also to fraternal love.”

DON’T LET GENDER IDEOLOGY CONFUSE STUDENTS, ENGLISH CARDINAL URGES

London, England, Mar 13, 2018 (CNA/EWTN News).- Criticizing ideological trends regarding gender identity, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said that accepting that one’s biological sex is built-in to humanity helps escape destructive individualism through participation in the human family.

“At a time of great confusion about the rules of sexual behavior, about exploitation and abuse in every part of society, some firm points of reference, that are already built into our humanity at its best, are of vital importance,” Cardinal Nichols told a February meeting of Catholic head teachers.

“In an age of fluidity, even in gender identity, and at a time when the response to ‘difference’ is to become closed in a self-selecting world of the like-minded and reject that which is different, such foundations are so important,” the cardinal continued. These foundations “affirm that there are ‘givens’ which come with birth and with solid identities and which project across generations.”

“They help up keep hold of the reality that we are not single, self-determining individuals but members of a great family, with all its trials, diversities and struggles, and within that family, not alone, will we find our greatest joy,” he said.

Young people need help to develop a sense of justice grounded in an “innate understanding of human nature and its dignity,” not ideology, Cardinal Nichols said.

“The Christian faith is not an ideology,” he said. “An ideology proceeds by destroying what is in its way… An ideology seeks to remove all that is opposed to it and to impose its ‘ideals’, no matter the objective cost.”

According to Cardinal Nichols, the Christian faith looks upon the reality of which it is a part.

“The Christian faith, more than any other, takes the reality of sin seriously, not pretending that we live in a utopia, or on a pathway of endless progress, but rather in a world marked by limitations and distortions.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales will consider its response to transgender issues in April.

Heather Ashton with the transgender advocacy group TG Pals said the cardinal’s remarks were “not helpful” and said “a religious bias should not have any impact on a transgender child’s needs,” the Mail on Sunday newspaper reports.

Scotland is considering changes to its Gender Recognition Act of 2004, which is likely to inspire similar changes in England and Wales, the British newspaper the Catholic Herald says.

The change would allow self-declaration to change gender recognized by law. Current law requires assessments for “gender dysphoria” over a two-year period before a person may legally change his or her gender. The proposals would allow 16-year-olds to self-declare a new gender, while those under 16 would be able to change gender without parental consent if they appeal to the courts.

NEVER A DULL DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CORRESPONDENT…. – POPE APPROVES DECREES OF MIRACLES, MARTYRDOM, AND HEROIC VIRTUES – PAPAL TELEGRAM FOR QUAKE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA – GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER, SPECIAL OLYMPICS AND “24 HOURS FOR THE LORD”

NEVER A DULL DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CORRESPONDENT….

What an interesting workday this has been! I did the commentary this morning for EWTN’s television coverage of the weekly papal general audience in the Paul VI Hall, and enjoyed being part of, so to speak, all the pre-catechesis moments when the Holy Father arrives, walks down the central aisle of the hall, meets the faithful, kisses babies, receives gifts from well-wishers including lovely drawings by children and a half dozen red roses from one group or family, and so on. There are also some lovely moments after the catechesis as well (today there large numbers of babies and toddlers!) but, unfortunately these less formal moments are generally not seen on TV. I followed them on the closed circuit TV in the studio and they were delightful.

Pilgrims gathered in both the Paul VI Hall and St. Peter’s Basilica because the weather has been so bad – rain non-stop for at least a week! – that it was deemed prudent to have the audience inside. There was indeed sun for a few hours but the blue sky quickly turned to gray and we’ve had rain all afternoon.

The commentary is done from a small radio studio where there is a flat screen TV and all the various electronics that link us to EWTN in Birmingham which, in turn, is linked to Vatican Television in Rome! There’s also a computer linked to a printer but I used my iPad and translated the papal remarks from the official text that arrived via email. Until the papal speech or homily arrives, the heart beats a bit faster because simultaneously translating what the Pope says, rather than having the official text, is not an easy chore.

There’s always a lot more than meets the eye when you turn on a radio or television to listen to or watch a program. If things go smoothly and seem well choreographed, it’s because a team of talented people – like the EWTN engineers and technical people – put their skills together to create a seamless tapestry. Kudos to the behind-the-scenes people!

As today is Wednesday I also have my usual weekly appointment with Teresa Tomeo on Catholic Connection that airs on Ave Maria and EWTN radio at 9:40 am ET (3:40 pm in Rome).

Today we spoke about the sudden and tragic death in Rome of the archbishop of Ho Chin Minh Ville (Saigon), Vietnam. The Vietnamese bishops have been in Rome this week on the mandatory “ad limina” (to the threshold) visit all bishops must pay to Rome – usually every five years. During these visits, they meet with the Pope and visit various offices of the Roman Curia.

Archbishop Paul Bùi Văn Đọc had a stroke yesterday morning while concelebrating Mass in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls. He had met Pope Francis the day before with the other Vietnamese bishops.

Originally from Da Lat, he was consecrated bishop of My Tho by John Paul II. Pope Francis appointed him coadjutor archbishop of Ho Chi Minh in 2013. He served as the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City from 2014 to 2018 and was president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam from 2013 to 2016. Born in November 1944, he was 73.

Teresa and I also spoke about the upcoming canonizations of Blessed Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador and three others (see story below). The only date that has been announced is the canonization Mass for Paul VI – that will be in October at the end of the Synod of Bishops. St. John XXIII was the first Pope I ever saw and Blessed Paul Vi was the first Pope I ever spoke to (I do not have a digital copy of the photos I took that day at Castelgandolfo – will have to remedy that).

Teresa spoke of the long and complex process for the creation – the recognition, really! – of Blesseds and Saints. I told her I was now a formal part of that process because several months ago I became an official member of the Brother Joseph Dutton Guild in the diocese of Honolulu. We are in the very initial, exploratory stages of his cause: these are the stages where you discover what the Vatican requires for a process to begin. What information do they need? How do we prove heroic virtues? What has the person said or written? All their works – their entire life – have to be studied. How is a postulator for the cause chosen? What are their attributes? This is just the nutshell version of the work laid out ahead of the Guild!

And the nutshell version of ‘Who is Joseph Dutton?” He worked alongside St. Damien and St. Marianne of Molokai for 44 years, spending the final 44 years of his long life in service to these two saints and to the patients of leprosy whom they served so lovingly and faithfully on the peninsular of Kalaupapa – Damien for 16 years and Mother Marianne for 30.

Longtime readers of this column know of my passion for Hawaii, for these saints and for this future third saint of Molokai. I first went to Hawaii and to Kalaupapa in 2008. I was a passionate newcomer to the story of Fr. Damien who was canonized in Rome in October 2009. During the 2008 visit I also learned of Mother Marianne – and just a bit about Brother Joseph – and I followed their stories right through my 2012 return visit to Hawaii and Marianne’s canonization in 2012.

I have been back to Hawaii every year since, in fact, twice last year as I was there in September on vacation (and participated in my first meeting with the Guild!) and returned to give a speech at the Hawaii Convention Center for the First Saints Damien and Marianne Conference.

At some point in the future I will bring you Brother Joseph Dutton’s story. By the way, he was not a religious brother: It was Fr. Damien who told him one day, “You are like a brother to everyone here, and that is what I will call you.”
And now, some news from the Vatican:

POPE APPROVES DECREES OF MIRACLES, MARTYRDOM, AND HEROIC VIRTUES

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints published the following decrees that Pope Francis authorized in a meeting with Cardinal Angel Amato, prefect of the congregation.

The five Blesseds named below will become Saints in future canonizations. Blessed Paul VI’s canonization has been announced for the end of the October Synod of Bishops in Rome. October is a traditional month for canonizations, and such ceremonies often also take place in the spring. (vaticannews.va photo)

– a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini), Supreme Pontiff; born in Concesio (Italy) on 26 September 1897 and died inCastel Gandolfo (Italy) on 6 August 1978;

— a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Archbishop of San Salvador (El Salvador), Martyr; born in Ciudad Barrios (El Salvador) on 15 August 1917 and murdered in San Salvador (El Salvador) on 24 March 1980;

— a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francesco Spinelli, Diocesan priest, Founder of the Institute of the Sister Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; born in Milan (Italy) on 14 April 1853 and died at Rivolta d’Adda (Italy) on 6 February 1913;

— a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Vincenzo Romani, Diocesan priest; born at Torre del Greco (Italy) on 3 June 1751 and died there on 20 December 1831;

– a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Maria Catherine Kasper, Foundress of the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; born on 26 May 1820 in Dernbach (Germany) and died there on 2 February 1898;

Other decrees regarded miracles, heroic virtues and martyrdom for 8 Servants of God: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2018-03/pope-francis-paul-vi-saints-miracle-martyrdom-heroic-virtues.html

PAPAL TELEGRAM FOR QUAKE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Pope Francis sent a telegram expressing his condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Papua New Guinea through Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.

It was with great sadness that His Holiness Pope Francis learned of the tragic loss of life following the recent earthquake in Papua New Guinea. Commending the souls of the deceased to the mercy of Almighty God, he sends his heartfelt condolences to their families, and he assures all those affected by this disaster of his closeness in prayer. Upon all those who mourn at this difficult time, and upon the emergency personnel involved in the important relief efforts, Pope Francis willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation. Cardinal Pietro Parolin

UNICEF reports that in Papua New Guinea approximately 270,000 persons need humanitarian assistance in the wake of last week’s earthquake. This number includes more than 130 thousand children.

Since the 7.5 magnitude quake, there have been about 100 aftershocks as well as another 6.0 magnitude earthquake on Sunday. An estimated 65 percent of Papua New Guinea’s health facilities remain closed and schools may remain closed for the duration of the school year due to the damage sustained. This was a week after a larger quake flattened villages and killed at least 55 people.

GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER, SPECIAL OLYMPICS AND “24 HOURS FOR THE LORD”

Pope Francis during his general audience on Wednesday continued his catechesis on the Mass, focusing his attention on the Eucharistic Prayer. Speaking off the cuff, he said, “one does not pay to go to Mass,” as “the Mass is the sacrifice of Christ which is free. If you want you can make an offering, but you do not pay.”

Pope Francis also said there were three approaches that should never be lacking in disciples of Jesus: the first is, learn how to give thanks, the second, to make our life a gift of love, and third, to build concrete communion in the Church and with everyone.

Speaking to the pilgrims in the Paul VI hall the Pontiff spoke in particular about the Eucharistic Prayer noting that “this central prayer of the Mass educates us, little by little, to make a “Eucharist” of our whole life, that is an action of grace ”

The Pope went on to say that, “in offering the bread and wine which become the body and blood of Christ, we unite ourselves to his sacrifice of reconciliation on the cross.”

As the memorial of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, the Pope added, “the Eucharistic prayer asks that we may be drawn, in the Holy Spirit, into communion with one another in the mystical Body of Christ, and united to the Son in his eternal sacrifice of praise and intercession before the Father.”

In conclusion, Pope Francis prayed that at every Mass, the faithful would “enter more fully into this “mystery of faith”, which brings the forgiveness of sin, builds up the Church in unity and prays for the reconciliation and peace of our entire human family.”

At the end of his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis said sport can overcome disabilities and build bridges between peoples in his greetings to the International Paralympic Committee and all the athletes taking part in the winter games in the South Korean city of PyeongChang.

Noting that the city recently hosted the Olympic games, the Pope said that major sporting event showed how “sport can build bridges between countries in conflict, giving a valid contribution and perspectives for peace among peoples”.

He said the Paralympic Games are a further sign of the way in which sport can help overcome disabilities. He described the athletes are “an example for everyone of courage, tenacity and perseverance”, refusing to let themselves be held back by their limitations. Sport, the Pope said, is a school of inclusion, of inspiration for our personal lives and of commitment to transform our societies.

Pope Francis concluded with a greeting to the Paralympic Committee, to all the competing athletes and to all the Korean people. He assured them of his prayers that this event may encourage days of peace and joy for everyone. The Paralympic games are due to take place in PyeongChang from March 9th to 18th.

The Holy Father also noted that this Friday, March 9, in St Peter’s Basilica he will celebrate a penitential Lenten liturgy known as ‘24 hours for the Lord’. He said he hoped that churches would remain open in order to welcome all those wishing to prepare for Easter by celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation and finding God’s mercy in this way.
(Vatiannews.va)