AUDIENCE CATECHESIS: HOPING AGAINST HOPE – FRANCIS: PROFOUND SORROW FOR VICTIMS OF BLOODY CONFLICT IN IRAQ – POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: REFLECT ON CHALLENGES OF EVANGELIZATION – 25,000 JOIN LENTEN WALKING PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA

After reports on the weekly general audience, the papal appeal for Iraq and his meeting with religious leaders from that nation and the Holy Father’s Message to young people in Barcelona, I offer an interesting story about the Catholic Church in India. We know the word “catholic” means universal but on occasion we can forget about the faithful in nations other than the ones we live in, the believers around the world in the Universal Church.

POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: The peace that springs from faith is a gift: it is the grace of feeling that God loves us and that he is always beside us.

AUDIENCE CATECHESIS: HOPING AGAINST HOPE

Pope Francis at today’s general audience again focused the weekly catechesis on hope, this time linking that virtue to faith. Above all, he explained how the faithful should put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible, hoping against hope.

“In the chapter from the Letter to Romans that opened today’s audience,” said the Pope, referring to the reading that precedes the weekly catechesis in all languages, “Saint Paul presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope.  Paul tells us that Abraham put his faith in the God who gives life to the dead, who calls all things into being.  Hoping against hope, he trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.

“In Abraham, we see the close bond existing between faith and hope.  Abraham’s hope in God’s promises was fulfilled in the birth of his son Isaac, and, in the fullness of time, in the ‘many nations’ gathered into a new humanity set free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection.”

Francis explained that, “faith teaches us, in fact, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  In our Lenten journey to Easter, may we be confirmed in faith and hope, and show ourselves children of Abraham by accepting the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection.”

“And now, said the Holy Father, “I would like to ask you a question: are we all convinced of this? Are we convinced that God wishes us well and that all that He promised us is able to bring it to fruition? But Father, how much do we have to pay for this? There is just one price: opening your hearts. Open your hearts and this strength of God will lead you ahead, it will do miraculous things and will teach you what hope is. This is the only price: open your heart to faith and He will do the rest. This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest, highest element of our hope! A hope based on a promise that from a human point of view seems uncertain and unpredictable, but which is no less even when faced with death, when it is the God of Resurrection and life Who promises. This is not a promise from anyone? He Who promises is the God of Resurrection and of life.

“Today we are all in the square, we praise the Lord, we will sing the Lord’s Prayer, then we will receive the blessing. But this passes. But this is also a promise of hope. If today we have an open heart, I assure you that all of us will meet in the square of Heaven that never comes to an end. This is God’s promise, and this is our hope, if we open our hearts. Thank you.”

FRANCIS: PROFOUND SORROW FOR VICTIMS OF BLOODY CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Before today’s weekly general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, in a room adjacent to the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis received participants in the meeting of the permanent Committee for Dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Iraqi superintendents: Shiite, Sunni, and those for the Christians, Yazidis, Sabeans/Mandaeans.

At the end of the weekly catechesis in Italian, Pope Francis greeted that delegation of Iraqi superintendents, noting it was “composed of representatives of different religious groups, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The richness of the dear Iraqi nation consists precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, strength in union, prosperity in harmony.

“Dear brothers,” continued the Holy Father, “I encourage you to go ahead on this road and I invite you to pray that Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity in reconciliation and harmony between the various ethnic and religious groups. My thoughts go to the civil populations trapped in the western districts of Mosul and those displaced by war, to whom I feel united in suffering, through prayer and spiritual closeness. In expressing my profound sorrow for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew to all my appeal for every effort to be made to protect civilians, an imperative and urgent obligation.”

POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: REFLECT ON CHALLENGES OF EVANGELIZATION

Pope Francis has sent a Message to a symposium for youth in Barcelona, Spain telling the young people they should reflect on the challenges of evangelization. The theme of the four-day meeting that began March 28 is “He walked by their side (Lk 24:15) – Accompanying young people to freely respond to Christ’s call.

The symposium was organized by the CCEE, Council of European Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, the Spanish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the archdiocese of Barcelona. Joining Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona are other church leaders including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, and Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow.

The message was sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. The Holy Father urged youth “to conduct a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people, so that – through dialogue and encounter and as living members of the family of Christ – young people may be enthusiastic bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas.”

25,000 JOIN LENTEN WALKING PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA

About 25,000 people took part in the annual Lenten Walking Pilgrimage in the western Indian city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in which Catholics, members of other Christian Churches and other religions also participated. A large number of priests, religious, Catholic lay people and members of other confessions and religions participated in the overnight march led by the Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay.    The pilgrimage began at night on March 25 from Cross Maidan, wound its way to the Basilica of Mount Mary (some 20 kilometers distant) the following morning, Sunday, where it concluded with Holy Mass.

Cardinal Gracias, president of India’s Latin-rite bishops, began the pilgrimage with his blessings and reciting prayers to the Virgin, interceding for the city of Mumbai and the whole of India.  He prayed in particular for harmony and peaceful coexistence among the different components of Indian society, asking that,”Christians in India may live their faith in peace.”

More than 50 percent of the participants were boys and girls from remote villages of Goral, Uttan, Vasai Agassi, Korlai, Roha and from the suburbs of Maharashtra. Cardinal Gracias recited a special prayer for the young people: “Mary Seat of Wisdom guide our young people, and direct their steps towards mission, both for the country and for the Church, and intercede for the young people present, to contribute mission of the Church and the growth of the nation. We also pray for our young people for their faith and for their vocational discernment.”

The cardinal led the pilgrimage for a short distance, reuniting with the crowd at the time of recitation of the Holy Rosary. The pilgrims walked for seven hours at night, animated by prayers, songs and the many volunteers.  Felix Sequeira, one of the pilgrimage organizers told AsiaNews: “About 25,000 pilgrims carried four statues in procession decorated with flowers and lights: Mary Queen of Peace, Jesus carrying the Cross, Mary Mother of Sorrows and St. Joseph Patron of the pilgrimage.”

The pilgrimage is held every year in March, during the season of Lent. The first edition took place in the Marian Year 1988, when some devotees have decided to organize a Lenten march for peace. “Since then, the number of participants has grown from year to year with people of every creed and caste,” Francis Fernandes, president of Marian Seva Sangh, a main organizer, told AsiaNews. (Source: AsiaNews)

FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII – ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII

Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.

At the audience he spoke specifically to the Italian association, Migrantes Foundation, an arm of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) that promotes the pastoral care of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy. Noting that it offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience during which he continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul that centers on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement, saying they “are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us.”

“He is also a God of encouragement,” said Francis, “who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope. Even more, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering.  But we do so with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.”

Later, speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was speaking just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rom that established the European Union.

In an appeal after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “24 hours for the Lord” initiative on March 24 and 25 with churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey.

In Rome, on Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.  (source Vatican Radio)

ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

More than 1,500 lifeguards and coastal resort business representatives wearing distinctive red jackets were at Wednesday’s General Audience to give backpacks to the Holy Father containing items like toothpaste and razors.

The initiative was organized by the “Sindacato Italiano Balneari (S.I.B),” an organization that provides vital supervision for bathers at coastal resorts throughout the country.

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The organization president, Riccardo Borgo, said: “With this gesture we came to give a concrete help to Pope Francis and his works in support of the homeless. We also delivered to His Holiness the distinctive symbol of Italian lifeguards, the red shirt with the word ‘Rescue’ identical to the one worn on our beaches by the thousands of boys and girls each summer who supervise and work so that bathing happens in complete safety and tranquility.”

He added, “For this summer, we have other charitable initiatives and solidarity planned in favor of children and the poor.”

More than 1,000 reusable backpacks made up of different products including soap, shaving foam, and deodorants were handed over to the Holy Father for distribution to the poor at Easter. S.I.B came up with the idea following Pope Francis’ initiative launched at the Vatican two years ago that provides showers and barber services for homeless people.

The lifeguards and coastal resort entrepreneurs were joined in St Peter’s Square by their families and were accompanied by the Bishop of Chioggia, Adriano Tessarolo, as well as several priests from coastal regions.

Following the audience, a delegation consisting of one representative for each coastal town met with the papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski who gave them Rosary beads as a memento of the event.

AT GENERAL AUDIENCE. FRANCIS SAYS IT IS “GRAVE SIN” TO REMOVE JOBS WITHOUT CLEAR REASON; HE GREETS EMOTIONAL CHINESE PILGRIMS – PAPAL ENVOY ASKS PRAYERS FOR HIS MISSION TO MEDJUGORJE

Pope Francis tweeted today: The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.

AT GENERAL AUDIENCE. FRANCIS SAYS IT IS “GRAVE SIN” TO REMOVE JOBS WITHOUT CLEAR REASON; HE GREETS EMOTIONAL CHINESE PILGRIMS

The Holy Father’s general audience catechesis in St. Peter’s Square today focused on hope, with a look at charity. After the catechesis in Italian and summaries in seven other languages, Pope Francis said, in off the cuff remarks: “Those who for economic reasons or to conclude unclear negotiations, close factories and business ventures and take away jobs, this person is committing a very grave sin.” The comments came after he had appealed for a resolution to a labor dispute at the satellite company, Sky Italia, whose Rome employees are facing job cuts and relocation Sky moves offices from Rome to Milan. The Holy Father called for a solution that respects the rights of all, “especially families.”

In a rather remarkable moment at the audience today, there was a very emotional encounter between the Pope, as he circled St. Peter’s Square in his jeep, and a small group of Chinese pilgrims where he stopped the car. Rome Reports carried video and explained how excited the Chinese were: A father and his son approached Pope Francis to ask for his blessing. The Pope kissed the little boy, who was in the arms of his father, who was crying and then knelt to kiss the ground. Others came forward, crying and filled with emotion, and asked him to bless their statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Pope Francis embraced them, kissed them and gave them his blessing.

Chinese pilgrims wave flags as Pope Francis leads his Wednesday general audience, in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

PAPAL ENVOY ASKS PRAYERS FOR HIS MISSION TO MEDJUGORJE

(from Aleteia.org)

I wish to ask Aleteia readers to pray for the success of my mission in Medjugorje, for coming as close as possible to objective truth and for obtaining very good, concrete results, Archbishop Henryk Hoser tells our readers.

Pope Francis appointed the archbishop in February to be the Holy See’s special envoy to the site, where millions of pilgrims have visited since the apparitions were said to begin, in 1981.

The archbishop told Aleteia some of the details of his mission.

Konrad Sawicki: When will Your Excellency leave for Medjugorje?

Archbishop Hoser: I have recently heard that I am allegedly there and that I have been miraculously healed by the Holy Virgin Mary… Joking aside, my first visit to Medjugorje, an orientation one, will start at the end of March.

I will meet first with the Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Archbishop of Sarajevo. Then, naturally, I will meet with the local Bishop of Mostar and the Franciscan friars who work in the shrine. First of all, however, I will listen intently to different opinions and examine the local pastoral situation.

This will be Your Excellency’s first visit to the shrine. Yet this is not going to be Your Excellency’s first special mission, is it?

It is true I have never visited Medjugorje myself, but a lot of the faithful from my Diocese of Warsaw-Praga go there and I am well-familiar with their accounts.

It is also true that this is not going to be my first mission as a special envoy of the pope. I have so far held three such missions. Two apostolic visitations were short; I have spent two weeks in Togo and Benin, respectively. I looked into the questions of seminaries there. The third mission was long; I spent one and a half years in Rwanda immediately after the genocide. This experience gives me courage to embark on another visitation, to Medjugorje.

As to the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje and their authenticity, let us clarify the current situation for our readers.

In 2010 the Holy See appointed a special doctrinal commission led by His Eminence Cardinal Camillo Ruini. In 2014 the commission concluded its operation and submitted its conclusions to the Holy Father. He subsequently forwarded the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To date, the Congregation has not adopted its final position.

Your Excellency’s mission concerns not only the apparitions themselves; it is pastoral in character. However, not everyone understands why a Polish archbishop received a special mission from Francis. One website announced that Your Excellency is to “examine the conflict concerning Marian apparitions.” 

The mission entrusted to me is auxiliary to what the doctrinal commission has accomplished. Every year the shrine is visited by 2 to 2.5 million pilgrims from across the world. It has become a charismatic place. The fact that Medjugorje is visited by so many faithful, who are no doubt spiritually enriched there, is something to be borne in mind.

A demand for pastoral care in this place is huge. Imagine – there are 50 confessionals on the premises. The problem is that often there are not enough confessors speaking different languages.

My mission, as has been stipulated in the communiqué released by the Holy See, is to closely examine the local pastoral situation, in particular the needs of the pilgrims. I am also supposed to indicate possible new pastoral initiatives. The underlying objective is to enhance pastoral outreach and to better coordinate local pastoral actions.

After the nomination of the special envoy and the publication of a letter by the local bishop, which contests the authenticity of the apparitions, many faithful around the world are concerned. Was their pilgrimage to no avail? Were their prayers untrue? – they ask. Could Your Excellency as a papal pastoral envoy explain the current situation to them and dispel their worries?

We should by no means worry! The Church has not yet spoken on the authenticity of the apparitions. We should calmly wait for the final position. This is by no means the first situation when the Church is slow to take a decision, especially given that the form of the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje significantly differs from that of earlier well-known apparitions.

Besides, this issue will not change anything in the teaching of the Church concerning Marian veneration. If Marian devotion has flourished in Medjugorje, if such multitudes arrive there, it is therefore a place where veneration will continue, since Our Lady can be venerated everywhere, especially in those locations where this veneration is so fruitful, as we hear it has been from so many testimonies.

The Holy Father is aware of it and therefore would like to examine not only the pastoral situation in Medjugorje, but also, if necessary, find methods of improving the pastoral care provided to the pilgrims in this place, so strongly dedicated to Our Lady.

Let me take this opportunity to greet Your Excellency on behalf of the editors and readers of Aleteia and wish you a complete and fast recovery. Would Your Excellency like to address our staff and readers?

I would like to ask the Aleteia readers to pray for the success of my mission in Medjugorje. I embark on this mission on behalf of the Church, entrusted to me by the Holy Father. I want this mission to come closest to objective truth and to produce very good and concrete results.

I am an emissary of the Church but the Church should pray for me, as She prayed at one time for St. Peter and St. Paul. After all, prayer is the driving force of our actions in the Church, both the tangible and the invisible ones.

Henryk Hoser, Bishop of the Diocese of Warsaw-Praga, was born in 1942 in Warsaw. A graduate of a university school of medicine, in 1968 he entered the Society of Catholic Apostolate (the Pallottines). Having obtained degrees in philosophy and theology and having been ordained to the priesthood, he left for Paris and then for a mission to Rwanda (1975–1996). In 1978 he established a Medical and Social Centre in Kigali and led it for 17 years. He also set up the Family Formation Center (Action Familiale). After the civil war in Rwanda, the Holy See appointed him apostolic visitor in Rwanda. In 2005 John Paul II appointed him archbishop and auxiliary secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Chairman of the Pontifical Missionary Works. In 2008 Benedict XVI named him Bishop of the Diocese of Warsaw-Praga. On 11 February 2017 Pope Francis nominated him a special envoy of the Holy See to Medjugorje. At the beginning of 2017 Archbishop Hoser revealed that he is suffering from malaria.

LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE – ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS – COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Pope Francis tweeted today: Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.

A bit of trivia about Ash Wednesday from an Aleteia article by Gerith Gardner: This year, Ash Wednesday falls on the March 1 feast day of Saint David, and there couldn’t be a more fitting saint to share this day with. David founded a monastery in Wales, where both he and his monks drank no beer or wine, as he practiced extreme asceticism—abstaining from all forms of indulgence.

Today’s Station Church in Rome – Santa Sabina: https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-of-ash-wed/ash-wednesday-santa-sabina/

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LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE

Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday by presiding at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square and, later in the afternoon, by processing from the Benedictine church of Sant’Anselmo to the nearby Dominican basilica of Santa Sabina where he celebrated Mass and received ashes. (file photo: Ash Wednesday)

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His catechesis at the audience focused on Lent and he opened his weekly lesson by noting that “today, Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten journey towards Easter.  Lent is essentially a pilgrimage of hope, a season of penance and spiritual renewal that prepares us to share more fully in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.”

Francis said, “We relive the experience of the Exodus, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.”  The Scriptures tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.

“Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism.”

Francis explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross. “This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything… it doesn’t mean he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage. That is not how it works.”

He stated that “our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation.”

“By following Christ along the way of the Cross,” continud the Holy Father, “we share in his victory over sin and death; by living the new life bestowed by the Holy Spirit in the communion of the Church, we are united more fully to the Lord in the sacraments, prayer and adoration.

ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) issued the following statement after the resignatiuon of commission member and abuse survivor, Mrs. Marie Collins:

On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs. Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.

Mrs. Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church.  In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia.

Mrs. Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O’Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.

The Holy Father accepted Mrs. Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

At the bottom of the letter on Commission letterhead, they listed two contacts: info@tutelaminorum.va and www.protectionofminors.va

The Holy See Press Office released the following Statement from PCPM President, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap.

“On behalf of the Members of the Commission I have expressed to Marie Collins our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the Commission.  We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission.  As the Commission gathers for the plenary meeting next month we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters.  With the members of the Commission I am deeply grateful for Marie’s willingness to continue to work with us in the education of church leaders, including the upcoming programs for new bishops and for the dicasteries of the Holy See.  Our prayers will remain with Marie and with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”

COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Marie Collins, in a piece she wrote for ncronline, said she intended “to respect the confidentiality of my former colleagues on the Commission and the work they are doing,” although some has already been made public.

She outlined some of the stumbling blocks the commission has run into: “lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance. The most significant problem has been reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”

She said she could “no longer be sustained by hope. As a survivor I have watched events unfold with dismay.”

Collins wrote: “The Commission’s recommendation for a Tribunal to be put in place whereby negligent bishops could be held accountable was approved by Pope Francis and announced in June 2015. Yet it was found by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as Baroness Sheila Hollins stated to the Royal Commission, to have unspecified “legal” difficulties, and so was never implemented.”

Marie Collins, who was harsh in her criticism of various Vatican offices, wrote: “When I accepted my appointment to the Commission in 2014, I said publicly that if I found what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public I would not remain. This point has come. I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity.”

“In the past three years,” the former commission member wrote, “I have never had the opportunity to sit and talk to the pope but if I had I would ask him to do three things:

  1. Give the Commission the responsibility and the power to oversee implementation of the recommendations when they are approved. No matter how much work is put into the recommendations given to the Holy Father and no matter how much he supports them they must be properly implemented to have any effect.
  2. Give the Commission an adequate, independent budget to do its work without having each item of expenditure go through the internal Vatican approval process.
  3. Remove the restriction on the recruitment of professional staff from outside the Vatican.

She did write that, “Despite everything I have said, I do believe there is value in the Commission continuing its work. The members are sincerely putting every effort into very important projects with the intention of moving things forward.”

POPE RECEIVES TORAH FROM JEWISH LEADERS – POST SCRIPTUMS FROM WEDNESDAY – CATHOLIC MEDIA CALLED TO COUNTER FAKE NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH

Pope Francis tweeted today: Do not underestimate the value of example, for it is more powerful than a thousand words, a thousand “likes”, retweets or YouTube videos.

POPE RECEIVES TORAH FROM JEWISH LEADERS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received his long-time friend from his native Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Thursday, along with a delegation of Jewish leaders involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Torah.

The annotated, illustrated edition is already being hailed as an achievement in both the literary and visual arts. (photo: news.va)

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Pope Francis told his guests, “The extensive introduction to the text and the editor’s note emphasize this dialogical approach and communicate a cultural vision of openness, mutual respect and peace that accords with the spiritual message of the Torah.”

The Holy Father went on to say, “The important religious figures who have worked on this new edition have paid special attention both to the literary aspect of the text and to the full-colour illustrations that add further value to the publication.”

Also in his remarks, Pope Francis spoke of the Torah as a building-block of community – the worldwide Jewish community and the Christian community. “The Torah,” said the Holy Father, “manifests the paternal and visceral love of God, a love shown in words and concrete gestures, a love that becomes covenant.”

“The very word covenant is resonant with associations that bring us together. … This publication is itself the fruit of a ‘covenant’ between persons of different nationalities, ages and religious confessions, who joined in this common effort.”

The Pope went on to say, “God desires a world in which men and women are bound to him and as a result live in harmony among themselves and with creation. In the midst of so many human words that lead to tragic division and rivalry, these divine words of covenant open before all of us paths of goodness to walk together.”

POST SCRIPTUMS FROM WEDNESDAY

BEFORE THE GENERAL AUDIENCE WEDNESDAY, in a small room adjacent to the Paul VI Hall, the Pope received thirty relatives of the victims of the attack that took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 1, 2016 accompanied by Bishop Valentino di Cerbo of Alife-Caiazzo, Italy.

POPE FRANCIS ON WEDNESDAY RECEIVED A SOCCER JERSEY embossed with the words (in Italian) “Let’s give a kick to bullying” on the front and “Papa Francesco” on the back. He was given the jersey by Stefano Roma, director of the San Cesareo Sporting Club in Rome. The campaign aims to shine the spotlight on the phenomenon of bullying in the world of sports and teach young people about its effects. The club initiative, supported by the region of Lazio, hopes to get its message across through a series of events, in which psychologists and experts speak to young sports aficionados about bullying and how to prevent it.

THE HOLY FATHER BLESSED THE “BENEDICTINE TORCH OF PEACE” which, since 1964 – the year St. Benedict was named a patron of Europe – has been sponsored by the city of Norcia to promote unity and peace in Europe. This year, the Torch is helping to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which established what is now the European Union. The Pope greeted a delegation that included Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia, Father Donato Ogliari, abbot of Montecassino, and Father Mauro Meacci, abbot of Subiaco,.

FRANCIS MET WITH MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION NAVAL FORCE MEDITERRANEAN (EUNAVFOR Med)  –  known as Operation Sophia – which has been tasked to stop people being smuggled across the Mediterranean Sea. The officers gave Pope Francis a commemorative plate reading “Operation Sophia – a message of hope in the central Mediterranean.” The Pope has often called for more action to save migrants attempting the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean.

POPE FRANCIS GREETED MEMBERS OF THE RONY ROLLER CIRCUS which presented a short performance at the end of the general audience. Acrobats, fire-breathers, dancers, and other performers entertained the Holy Father and all those present in St. Peter’s Square. Speaking of the cuff, the Holy Father thanked them, saying “You make something beautiful! Beauty carries us to God. It is a path that arrives at God. Continue to make beautiful things! Continue to make good things for all of us! Thank you!”

According to the Washington Examiner, Senator Tim Kaine, former Democratic nominee for vice president, on Wednesday met with Pope Francis in Vatican City to discuss the millions of refugees from countries in the Middle East and North Africa who have fled their countries as a result of unrest in the region. “I had a chance to visit with Pope Francis to discuss the global crisis of refugees and migrants which is relevant around the world and to my work in the Senate.” (JFL: They met in St. Peter’s Square after the audience. The article also mentioned that Kaine  “met with Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.” His title is Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

CATHOLIC MEDIA CALLED TO COUNTER FAKE NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH

This is an interesting story done by the English language staff for Africa at Vatican Radio about Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nsukka diocese in Nigeria. His words should echo well beyond Nigeria – and we see that “fake news” is not limited to politics or to the United States.

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Catholic media professionals and practitioners have been called upon to brace themselves for the challenges brought about by social media and stand ready to counter false publications about the Church.

The call was made by the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN)’s Episcopal Chairman of the Directorate of Social Communications, Godfrey Onah. Bishop Onah made the remarks when he addressed staff of the Directorate during their first statutory meeting for the year 2017, in Abuja, recently.

According to Bishop Onah, “Today in social media there is anonymity, and with the anonymity of the Internet people do a lot of harm: A lot of harm by spreading falsehoods, not just half-truths but falsehoods. And what makes it more dangerous is that young people now depend on this form of information than on (information from) the classroom or the Church,” he said.

Bishop Onah noted that social media had weakened the authority of traditional systems of education saying, “parents no longer know what their children know; teachers no longer know what their students know in the sense that it is not what you taught (because) the person is picking up information from everywhere.” Describing this situation as a great challenge, Bishop Onah contended: “We are to ask ourselves how we rise to meet this problem with regard to Christian faith, and the Catholic faith. It’s a big problem,” he emphasised.

The Church should stand ready to address untruths.

“I think the challenge we have to face constantly is how to respond to this provocation, if I may call it that, and use the media available in a way that is suitable to our own mission and apostolate. It’s not an easy assignment. It requires continuously reinventing ourselves and having the courage of departing from the way we have always done things. There are risks involved, but they are necessary risks that we must take.”

Bishop Onah noted that members of the Catholic Media Practitioners (CAMP), which is to be re-inaugurated nationally in Port Harcourt later this year, would be expected to champion the cause of the Church in countering false publications in the social media against the Church and the Catholic faith.

 

C9 COUNCIL OF CARDINALS CONTINUES STUDY OF CURIA REFORM – POPE MEETS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, TALKS HOPE AT WEEKLY AUDIENCE – THERE’S ALSO THIS…..

C9 COUNCIL OF CARDINALS CONTINUES STUDY OF CURIA REFORM

A briefing was held at the Holy See Press Office this morning to summarize the 18th meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals that ended a three-day meeting that began Monday, February 13.

Press office Vice Director Paloma Garcia Ovejero noted that Pope Francis was not present for the second part of the Monday morning meeting because of the ad limina visit of the of Costa Rica. He was absent this morning due to the weekly general audience but will be present at the afternoon session of the C9. Following is the summary of this week’s meetings:

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On Monday and Tuesday the Cardinals concelebrated Mass with the Pope.

Following their first meeting on February 13, the Cardinals released the following statement through the Holy See Press Office:

The Council of Cardinals began its eighteenth session today.

At the beginning, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the group, after greeting the Holy Father, thanked him on behalf of all the Members for his words in the Christmas address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2016, acknowledging his encouragement and guidance for the work of the Council. In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals pledges its full support for the Pope’s work, assuring him at the same time of its adhesion and loyalty to the figure of the Pope and to his Magisterium.

The working sessions of the Council’s meeting took place each morning from 9:00-12:30, and each afternoon from 16:30-19:00; and were dedicated to further considerations concerning the different curial dicasteries. In particular, they continued the discussion on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide), the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

The cardinals also began their examination of the “Diakonia of Justice,” and thus considerable time was dedicated to the tribunals: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura, and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

During the meetings, the Council also studied the process for the selection of candidates to the Episcopate.

Cardinal George Pell reported on his work at the Secretariat for the Economy, entrusted to him for the full realization of the economic reform requested by the Holy Father, with particular attention to the activity of personal formation and human resources.

The prefect for the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, presented the current state of the reform of the communications of the Holy See, or the unification of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center in the dicastery entrusted to him. Meetings have been initiated with the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat for the Economy, APSA, and the Labor Office to accompany this new phase of the reform. Further, the plan for restructuring Vatican Radio frequencies, and the new policies for the world of social networks were presented. Finally, there was a reflection on the project for the beginning of the reform of the Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals will take place April 24-26, 2017.

POPE MEETS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, TALKS HOPE AT WEEKLY AUDIENCE

The Pope’s Wednesday morning meeting with the faithful took an interesting turn today when Pope Francis, before the start of the weekly audience in the Paul VI Hall, met separately with a group of indigenous attending the Third Indigenous Peoples’ Forum convened by IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Noting that they have have come together “to identify ways of giving greater economic empowerment to indigenous peoples,” Francis said: “I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories. (photo: news.va)

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He went on to say, “This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth. In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail, as foreseen in Article 32 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.”

Those words were seen as indirect criticism of the Trump administration’s plan, over opposition from Indian groups, to allow the building of the multi-billion dollar Dakota oil pipeline. The Vatican has said this is not the case, according to media reports.

Later, in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father continued his weekly catechesis on Christian hope, saying that God’s peace, God’s love for us, remains with us, no matter what, even in fears, sufferings and disappointment. “Christian hope then is not based on who we are or what we are capable of, but on God’s love for each one of us. May we be instruments of hope, so that our greatest boast will be of a Father who excludes no one, but opens his home to all. And may we be a people who sustain one another with this message of Christian hope.”

THERE’S ALSO THIS…..

CARDINAL RAYMOND BURKE HAS BEEN SENT TO GUAM to oversee a Church trial that is investigating accusations of sexual abuse by Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana. The former head of the Church’s supreme court, the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the patronus of the Order of Malta, arrived today in Guam and will start meetings with witnesses Thursday morning. Cardinal Burke will preside a five-member “tribunal of the first instance” that was set up for this case last fall. Four other bishops acting as judges are also members of this tribunal. When Abp. Apuron, who claims he is innocent of the charges made as long ago as the 1970s, refused to resign, Pope Francis named a former Detroit auxiliary bishop as coadjutor, giving him full authority over the archdiocese. Bishop Michael Byrnes was named to this post last October by Pope Francis. Prior to that appointment, Pope Francis had named Abp. Savio Hon Tai Fai, secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization, to oversee the Catholic Church on Guam.

ORDER OF MALTA GOVERNING COUNCIL TO CONVENE APRIL 29 TO ELECT NEW GRAND MASTER – The electing body will meet in the Order’s Magistral Villa in Rome. On 29 April the Council Complete of State, the Order’s constitutional body, will elect the next Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta (or, as provided for in the Constitution, a Lieutenant of the Grand Master, to hold office for a year). Following the resignation of the 79th Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, on 28 January, the government of the Order of Malta – the Sovereign Council – met this morning in Rome, and established the April date.

HOPE SHOULD COME FROM TRUST IN GOD’S WORD, NOT FALSE IDOLS – MEDIA CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY VATICAN MIGRATION, REFUGEE OFFICE – TWO PRIESTS ATTACKED IN ST. MARY MAJOR – 800 DEAD, 16 CHURCHES DESTROYED IN NIGERIA BY TERRORIST GROUP

HOPE SHOULD COME FROM TRUST IN GOD’S WORD, NOT FALSE IDOLS

Pope Francis continued his series of catecheses on Christian hope at his Wednesday audience in the Paul VI Hall and stressed that true hope is born of trust in God’s word, not in false idols such as wealth, power, beauty or even fortune tellers.

At one point, he departed from his prepared catechesis about false idols to tell a story about fortune tellers in a park in his native Buenos Aires. He said he used to walk through the park and see countless very small tables where these seers or fortune tellers were seated, talking to individuals.

Francis said: “It was always the same story: there’s a woman in your life, a man will come, everything will be just fine.” The Pope lamented that people paid these seers to get a sense of security, “ a false sense of security, one of – and pardon me! – stupidity.” He said it was so sad that people could feel better, more hopeful, with such false idols rather than having hope in Jesus Christ: “How very sad we do not trust Him as much!”

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Our hope, said the Holy Father, “must be rooted in what can actually help in living and giving meaning to our existence,” not in illusions that are both useless and meaningless.

He noted that, “hope in God demands strength and perseverance, whereas these false gods promise an easy security, a future we can control. The Psalmist denounces this kind of idolatry, stating that those who put their trust in images that are the work of human hands, will come to be like them: spiritually blind, deaf and insensible.”

The false idols that the Pope mentioned, “with their illusion of eternity and omnipotence,” include values such as physical beauty, he said. This is not bad itself, but “when it becomes an idol to which we sacrifice everything, they are all realities that confuse the mind and the heart.”

The Pope interrupted himself once again to tell a story. When we have false idols and don’t trust in the Lord, “It’s terrible, it hurts the soul what I heard one time years ago in the diocese of Buenos Aires: a woman, a good woman, beautiful, very, very beautiful and who bragged about her beauty, said with great naturalness, ‘Yes, I had to have an abortion because my figure is so important’.He said this surely puts one on the wrong path and does not lead to lasting happiness.

“God is always greater than we are,” said Francis, “and we, created in his image and likeness, cannot reduce him to our size or fabricate other gods, made in our own image and tailored to our desires. By trusting in God’s word and hoping in his promises, we become more and more like him, sharing in his life and rejoicing in his provident care, revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus his Son.”

At the end of the catechesis, the Pope said, “Now I must tell you something that I don’t want to tell you.” He held up a red audience ticket, saying tickets to papal events, whether in St. Peter’s Square or the audience hall are always entirely free, noting that the tickets say this in six languages. Anyone who wants you to pay for a ticvket, said Francis, is a fraud, devious and a delinquent.

audience-ticket
He called weekly audiences a chance “to talk to the Pope, to visit the Pope. If someone says you must pay, they are ripping you off. Beware – tickets are free!”

MEDIA CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY VATICAN MIGRATION, REFUGEE OFFICE

The Migration and Refugee Section of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development has announced it is launching its first media campaign.

Although the Dicastery is run by Cardinal Peter Turkson – who had been serving as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – the Migration and Refugee Section is being led for the time being by Pope Francis himself, to show his particular concern during the ongoing refugee crisis.

The new media campaign is being launched to coincide with the 103rd World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which is observed 15 January 2017.

From 12 to 15 January 2017, the tweets of Pope Francis will focus on migrants and refugees, and will link directly to the Section’s Facebook page, which will present a brief story and reflection relevant to each day’s topic.

The media accounts of the new section are listed below
Twitter Accounts:
English – https://twitter.com/M_RSection
Italian – https://twitter.com/M_RSezione
Spanish – https://twitter.com/M_RSeccion
French – https://twitter.com/M_RSection_Fr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MandRSection/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/migrants-&-refugees-section

TWO PRIESTS ATTACKED IN ST. MARY MAJOR

A man entered the sacristy of a Roman basilica on January 7 and used a broken bottle to attack two priests.

Worshippers at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore heard shouts from the sacristy as a 42-year-old man cut the faces of Father Angelo Gaeta, the sacristan, and Father Adolfo Ralf. Police soon apprehended the perpetrator.

The victims, according to Italy’s state radio and television network, are priests of the Franciscan Friars of Immaculate who have been critical of the institute’s founder, Father Stefano Maria Manelli. The network reported that the attacker’s motive was unknown and that he may have been psychologically disturbed. He was heard to have said, “I am misunderstood.”

800 DEAD, 16 CHURCHES DESTROYED IN NIGERIA BY TERRORIST GROUP

A report from Nigeria from Fides News service, an agency of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples states that over 800 people have been killed and 16 churches destroyed by the terrorist group of Fulani herdsmen.

Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri of Kafanchan in the state of Kaduna told Fides, “In the last three months attacks have increased carried out by the Fulani Herdsmen Terrorist (FHT) in more than half of the territory of the southern State of Kaduna.” Bishop Bagobiri was speaking in Rome where he was visiting the Italian headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“In the West, this group is almost unheard of, he said, “but it has been responsible since September of fires in 53 villages, of the death of 808 persons, the wounding of 57 others, the destruction of 1,422 houses and 16 churches.

He also noted that from 2006 to 2014, more than 12,000 Christians were killed and 2,000 churches destroyed because of terrorism in Nigeria. These crimes were mainly committed by the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram, he said, but Boko Haram is not the only group that spreads terror in the African country, and he highlighted the role of Fulani herdsmen in recent years.

The Fulani are a nomadic ethnic group that has been protagonists of recurrent conflicts with farmers in the area. However in recent times the attacks are of a completely different kind compared to the old clashes between farmers and herders, as the latter use “sophisticated weapons that did not exist before, such as the AK-47, said Bishop Bagobiri, adding that it is not known where the weapons come from.