One of my favorite Vatican events is the annual swearing-in ceremony of the new Swiss Guards. I will miss it this year as I have a parish council meeting and some of the timing of the two events overlaps. In any case, I might be able to bring you a few photos tomorrow from a German friend who is a photographer and will be at the ceremony. Here are a few I took at a ceremony:
The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 as a stable corps, directly dependant on the Holy See, whose main duties were to guard the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces. The traditional swearing-in date of May 6 commemorates that day in 1527 when 147 members of the 189-member Swiss Guards lost their lives during the Sack of Rome when they fell in battle, protecting Pope Clement VII and the Church from the onslaught of the troops of Emperor Charles V.
POPE FRANCIS TO RECEIVE CUBAN PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO ON SUNDAY
(I posted this news on Facebook yesterday as it was announced) – Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Office, issued the following statement to journalists Tuesday afternoon: “I confirm that on Sunday morning May 10, 2015, the Holy Father will receive in a strictly private manner the President of the Republic of Cuba, Mr. Raúl Castro Rux. The meeting will take place in the study of the Paul VI Audience Hall.
As we already know, President Raúl Castro has publicly thanked the Pope for his role in fostering the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America. The Pope will visit the Caribbean island in September en route to the United States.”
CONGREGATION CONFIRMS JUNIPERO SERRA CANONIZATION
Better late than never, as the saying goes. It is now – more or less – official:
Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and, among the decrees he approved, was“the affirmative sentence of the ordinary session of the cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation regarding the upcoming canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra.”
Of course, this had already been announced on January 15 by Pope Francis as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the final leg of his apostolic trip in Asia. He said at the time, “In September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States. He was the evangelizer of the West in the United States.”
The September canonization will be what is known as an equivalent canonization. The process was established in the 18th century by Pope Benedict XIV. In an equivalent canonization, the Pope waives the usual judicial process and declares that a blessed’s liturgical cult is extended to the universal Church.
THE BEAUTY OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE, “DESIGNED BY GOD”
During his weekly general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his catechetical reflections on the family, speaking of the nature and purpose of marriage in the order of creation and in the Divine plan of salvation. He focused specifically on Christian marriage as a Sacrament: an efficacious sign of God’s love for each and every person, for all humanity and for the whole world, a means of grace, and a genuine way of living our common baptismal call to holiness.
He was addressing 60,000 faithful and pilgrims who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square for this weekly papal event.
“Christian marriage,” said Francis, “is that sacrament which builds up the community of the Church and of society. Marriage has been inscribed in creation’s design by God, and, by his grace, countless Christian men and women have lived married life fully.”
The Holy Father went on to describe marriage as an act of faith in God’s plan for humanity and an act of selfless love. Drawing on the writings of St. Paul the Apostle, the Pope focused especially on the duties of husbands to their wives, saying that married love is an image of the love between Christ and his Church, and that a husband is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, by giving himself completely for her.
Francis said that marriage was “not just a ceremony that takes place in the Church, with flowers, a dress and photographs. Christian marriage is a Sacrament that happens in the Church, but it also makes the Church. It starts a new family life.”
Referring to a letter of St. Paul, he reiterated that a husband has the responsibility to love his wife, just as Christ loves the Church.
He had this to say to all husbands in off-the-cuff remarks: “I hope all you husbands here understand this. You must love your wives just like Christ loves His Church. This is serious business,” he said to applause, “this is no joke.”
“When a man and a woman marry in the Lord, they participate in the missionary life of the Church, by living not only for themselves or their own family, but for all people,” explained Pope Francis. Therefore, the life of the Church is enriched through every marriage which shows forth this beauty, and is impoverished when marriage is disfigured in any way.”
The Pope explained that “every couple that faithfully and courageously lives the grace of this sacrament assists the Church in offering the gifts of faith, hope and love to all people, and helps others to experience these gifts in their married lives and their families.” Francis prayed that married couples everywhere “live this mystery ever more fully, trusting in God’s tenderness and the Church’s maternal care.”
THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS, CHINESE PILGRIMS, 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF END OF WWII
At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis met with members of the Harlem Globetrotters, the famous basketball team from the United States, who gave the Pope a jersey with the name “Pope Francis” and the number 90. Before they met, some of the players entertained the faithful by spinning their signature red-white-and-blue basketballs. (photo: news.va)
The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team founded in the 1920’s, featuring African-American players at a time when most sports were segregated. In later years, they were known for adding comedy and stunts to their routines. They are currently in Italy as part of their 2015 international tour.
Before the start of the audience catechesis, as Pope Francis circled St. Peter’s Square in his trademark jeep, he spotted a group of pilgrims from the Chinese diocese of Wenzhou. He stopped the popemobile and greeted the group as they carried a placard from their diocese. Wenzhou is a city on the east coast of the Chinese mainland, which counts more than 9 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. (Wenzhou is in the Annuario Pontificio, the Pontifical Yearbook, as Yongjia: it gives a street address as contact but, unlike other dioceses of the world, there are no name of a bishop, no numbers for total Catholics, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, etc.)
Later, after finishing the catechesis summary in different languages and multi-lingual greetings to pilgrims, the Holy Father noted that, “n the next few days various capital cities will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. On this occasion I entrust to the Lord, by the intercession of Mary Queen of Peace, my hope that society may learn from the mistakes of the past and that, faced with the current conflicts that are tearing asunder various regions of the world, all civil leaders may persevere in their search for the common good and in the promotion of a culture of peace.”