POPE FRANCIS AND ARMENIAN PATRIARCHS BLESS A BRONZE STATUE OF ST GREGORY OF NAREK – POPE FRANCIS PRAYS FOR BRITISH BABY ALFIE EVANS AND FAMILY – POPE’S APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION ON HOLINESS TO BE PRESENTED ON MONDAY

A crowded schedule, work on scripts for 11 new videos for Joan’s Rome and a move from my hotel to the NYC residence of the Paulist Fathers precluded my having time to post a column yesterday. The Paulist Fathers, of course, are in charge of St. Patrick’s parish in Rome (and for 95 years before that, they administered the church of Santa Susanna) and, whenever I can, I renew friendships with some of the Paulists residing here who, in previous years, were at Santa Susanna’s.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook a Paulist feature about Father James Lloyd who turned 97 – an amazing man and story! I wonder if he blew out 97 candles!

This page might be dark again tomorrow as I leave for Rome in the evening, but let’s see what the day brings!

In the meantime, I wish everyone a beautiful and blessed Divine Mercy Sunday!

POPE FRANCIS AND ARMENIAN PATRIARCHS BLESS A BRONZE STATUE OF ST GREGORY OF NAREK

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Thursday, in the company of outgoing Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, two Patriarchs of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church, Pope Francis presided over the inauguration and blessing of the statue of St Gregory of Narek in the Vatican Gardens.

Thursday thus marks a high point in the ecumenical journey between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. For the first time in history, all three Armenian Church leaders are gathered together with the Roman Pontiff. It is something that Pope Francis prayed for in 2015: “Through the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice, may the blood which has been shed bring about the miracle of the full unity of his disciples. In particular, may it strengthen the bonds of fraternal friendship which already unite the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.”

The event does not end today in the Vatican Gardens. A copy of the same statue is currently in production and will be placed in the gardens of the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin where an inauguration ceremony will be held at the end of 2018. The Cathedral of Etchmiadzin is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and is considered by scholars to be the oldest Cathedral built in ancient Armenia, and is among one of the oldest Cathedrals in the world.

The groundwork for today’s ceremony was laid by Pope Francis on April 12, 2015 when he celebrated Mass in St Peter’s marking the centenary of the genocide of a million and a half Armenians whom the Pope referred to as martyrs. “A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ,” Pope Francis said on that occasion.

During that same liturgy, Pope Francis elevated St Gregory of Narek to the dignity of Doctor of the Universal Church. The Pope characterized St Gregory as a monk who “knew how to express the sentiments of your people more than anyone,” and who, as “an extraordinary interpreter of the human soul, offers words which are prophetic for us.”

Later in June 2016, he visited Armenia. Calling the genocide “the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century,” Pope Francis praised the faith of the Armenian people, “who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity.”

St Gregory of Narek is recognized as a saint in both the Catholic Church and in the Armenian Apostolic Church, being venerated in a particular way among Catholics of the Armenian Rite.

His legacy lives on through this ecumenical effort that is centered on him. In an interview with Vatican News, Mikayel Minasyan, ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See, described St Gregory of Narek as a symbol of brotherhood and a bridge between the two Churches and for all Christians, “above all those of the Middle East.”

Gregory of Narek was a 10th century Armenian monk, poet, and mystical writer and composer. His most well-known literary work is a book of prayers, known as the “Book of Lamentations”. It is considered a masterpiece of Armenian literature. St Gregory himself defined the work as an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations”. He hoped that his book would provide guidance in prayer for people of all walks of life in order to reach God.

POPE FRANCIS PRAYS FOR BRITISH BABY ALFIE EVANS AND FAMILY

In a tweet posted to his official @Pontifex account Wednesday evening, Pope Francis prays for British baby Alfie Evans. His parents’ legal battle to keep him alive on life support in hope of further treatment has failed.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Wednesday tweeted his prayers for Alfie Evans, a 23-month old English baby who is in a “semi-vegetative state” in a Liverpool hospital. It is believed that Alfie has a rare degenerative neurological condition, but doctors have not yet definitively diagnosed his condition.

In his tweet, the Holy Father said, “It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”

Pope Francis said he is “praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.”

Little Alfie has been on life support at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital since December 2016 following a chest infection, which caused seizures. Alfie overcame the infection and started breathing on his own. But another chest infection led to more chronic seizures, and he had to go back on a ventilator. Doctors at Alder Hey said it was in Alfie’s best interests to stop “mechanical ventilation.”

Alfie’s parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, fought for the right to keep him alive, taking their case to the courts. An English High Court ruled on March 6th that he should only receive palliative care. The Supreme Court upheld that decision, and the European Court of Human Rights refused to examine the case. They have now exhausted every legal means of preventing the hospital from withdrawing Alfie from life support. The British press say this could happen by Friday.

Kate and Tom Evans want to transfer Alfie to another hospital to try experimental therapies with money raised from a crowd funding effort. The courts have also rejected this request.

His parents say Alfie is now showing signs of improvement after having his medication reduced.

The case brings to mind two other English babies, Charlie Gard and Isaiah Haastrup, who died after their life support was removed on July 28, 2017 and March 7, 2018, respectively. Alfie Evans is thought to have a mitochondrial condition, similar to Charlie Gard.

People around the world have come out in support of Alfie’s cause through prayer, petitions, and demonstrations.

Alfie’s parents had pleaded with the Pope to help. With his Tweet, Pope Francis has brought worldwide attention to little Alfie’s fight for life.

POPE’S APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION ON HOLINESS TO BE PRESENTED ON MONDAY

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” will be presented at the Holy See Press office in the Vatican on Monday, April 9.

A statement released by the Holy See Press Office on Thursday said a Press Conference to launch and present Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and be glad), and subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world” will take place on 9 April at noon.

An Apostolic Exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching, after an Encyclical Letter.

Since his election as Pope, Francis has issued two other Exhortations: “Evangelii Gaudium” in 2013 and “Amoris Laetitia” in 2016.

Set to speak at the presentation of “Gaudete et Exsultate” are Bishop Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general of the Rome diocese, Italian journalist Gianni Valente and Paola Bignardi, a former president of Catholic Action Italy.

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