POPE FRANCIS TO RECEIVE CUBAN PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO ON SUNDAY – CONGREGATION CONFIRMS JUNIPERO SERRA CANONIZATION – THE BEAUTY OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE, “DESIGNED BY GOD” – THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS, CHINESE PILGRIMS, 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF END OF WWII

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:

Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 055 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 043 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 034 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 024 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 011 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 070

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.

POPE - Marraiage AG

“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)

POPE- HARLEM; GLOBETROTTERS

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.)

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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.”

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POPE FRANCIS SAYS MASS, DINES AT U.S. SEMINARY IN ROME – AND POPE FRANCIS ALSO DID THIS…..

The Holy Father’s universal prayer intention for May is: “That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.”

His intention for evangelization is: “That Mary’s intercession may help Christians in secularised cultures be open to proclaiming Jesus.”

ARE YOU GOING TO TURIN TO SEE THE CELEBRATED SHROUD?  WILL YOU BE TAKING PART IN THE JUBILEE OF MERCY?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or both of these questions, then I have some good news:

There’s a terrific app to see the Shroud of Turin VERY up close and personal – Shroud 2.0 – a MUST have app, especially if you plan on going to Turin for the 2015 exposition of Shroud! It is available free at App Store/iTunes. I’ve downloaded it on my iPad but so far have not located app for Android. DOWNLOAD HERE: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shroud-2.0/id614248391?mt=8

We will all take part, at some time or another, in the Jubilee Year of Mercy that opens December 8, 2015 and closes on the feast of Christ the King in November 2016. The Jubilee will be celebrated in Rome, as you know, and in dioceses throughout the world. For all the news and updates about the Holy Year, go to this dedicated website (in 7 languages!) set up by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization: http://www.iubilaeummisericordiae.va/content/gdm/en.html

POPE FRANCIS SAYS MASS, DINES AT U.S. SEMINARY IN ROME

Saturday, I posted some news on Facebook of the visit that day by Pope Francis to the North American College where he presided at Mass in the seminary’s beautiful chapel and then broke bread with cardinals, bishops, priests, seminarians, faculty and staff in the college dining room. NAC rector, Msgr. James Checchio and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB were joined by four U.S. cardinals and a number of bishops, including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who had presided at the day of reflection that preceded the papal Mass.

The North American College, in fact, dedicated Saturday to a day of reflection on Blessed Junipero Serra, the Spanish Franciscan who created a series of missions throughout California and Baja California whom Pope Francis will canonize in Washington, D.C. during his late September trip to the U.S.

Click here to see a carousel of photos from the celebration on Saturday. This was the first visit by a Pope to the American seminary in 35 years. As you can see from the photos, “a good time was had by all”: http://www.lastampa.it/2015/05/02/multimedia/esteri/vatican-insider/en/pope-francis-visit-to-the-pontifical-north-american-college-ONdRYlBEvihH0yryyeeflK/pagina.html

The Holy Father, in typical Jesuitical fashion, discussed three aspects of the life of Blessed Junipero – his missionary zeal, his Marian devotion, and his witness of holiness.

“First of all,” explained Francis in his homily, “he was a tireless missionary. What made Friar Junípero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth?  Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty.  Like Paul and Barnabas, like the disciples in Antioch and in all of Judea, he was filled with joy and the Holy Spirit in spreading the word of the Lord.”

“Secondly,” continued the Holy Father, “Friar Junípero entrusted his missionary activity to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We know that before leaving for California, he wanted to consecrate his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to ask her for the grace to open the hearts of the colonizers and indigenous peoples, for the mission he was about to begin.”

“And thirdly, brothers and sisters,” the Pope explained, “let us contemplate the witness of holiness given by Friar Junípero.  He was one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country.  In this way may all Americans rediscover their own dignity, and unite themselves ever more closely to Christ and his Church.”

Pope Francis then went on to give a sort of litany of American saints and holy people, saying, “with the universal communion of saints and, in particular, with the assembly of American saints, may Friar Junípero Serra accompany us and intercede for us, along with the many other holy men and women who have distinguished themselves through their various charisms:

  • contemplatives like Rose of Lima, Mariana of Quito and Teresita de los Andes;
  • pastors who bear the scent of Christ and of his sheep, such as Toribio de Mogrovejo, Francois de Laval, and Rafael Guizar Valencia;
  • humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord, like Juan Diego and Kateri Tekakwitha;
  • servants of the suffering and the marginalized, like Peter Claver, Martín de Porres, Damian of Molokai, Alberto Hurtado and Rose Philippine Duchesne;
  • founders of communities consecrated to the service of God and of the poorest, like Frances Cabrini, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel;
  • tireless missionaries, such as Friar Francisco Solano, José de Anchieta, Alonso de Barzana, Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa and Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero;
  • martyrs like Roque Gonzalez, Miguel Pro and Oscar Arnulfo Romero; and so many other saints and martyrs, whom I do not mention here, but who pray before the Lord for their brothers and sisters who are still pilgrims in those lands.”

AND POPE FRANCIS ALSO DID THIS …..

ON SUNDAY HE RECITED THE REGINA COELI with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. Before the Marian prayer he reflected on the day’s Gospel about Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches – Jesus is the true vine, and we are the branches, dependent on Him. Through this parable, “Jesus wants us to understand the importance of remaining united to Him.” “Jesus is the vine,” Pope Francis continued, “and through Him, the very love of God passes” to us “the branches”. Following the prayer, the Holy Father had a special greeting for the Méter Association on the Day for Child Victims of Violence, thanking them for their “commitment to preventing these crimes. We must all commit ourselves so that every human person, and especially children, might always be defended and protected.”

SUNDAY AFTERNOON, THE POPE celebrated Mass at the Roman parish of Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) in the seaside suburb of Ostia. Before Mass, the Holy Father met with members of the parish, including they elderly and the sick. He spoke about their wisdom of life, which comes from experience – an experience the has the wisdom of sorrows, and of patience. “It is a wisdom we often forget,” he said. But the elderly have an experience of life that they hand down to their children, giving them “the memory of our people, the memory of our family.” The sick, he said, are similar to Jesus in their suffering: they suffer with Him, and bear the Cross as Jesus did. In that sense, they are privileged. Pope Francis spoke, too, about the children of the parish, who will carry life forward – with the wisdom, the patience, the constancy of those who go before them. As he concluded his visit with the sick and elderly, the Pope asked for prayers for himself, noting that he too “is a little old, a little sick,” but “not too much!” he said, laughing.

MONDAY, FRANCIS RECEIVED BISHOPS from the Republic of Congo and encouraged them to continue in their efforts of cooperation with other faiths because “unity in diversity is a feature of the Church’s requirements.” The bishopd are in Rome for their Ad Limina visit. The Holy Father also expressed his joy before the “young and dynamic Christian communities seeking to take root in the love of the Lord.” He said the recent creation of three new dioceses shows the vitality of the Catholic Church in Congo, and the zeal of its pastors in their push for evangelization.

MONDAY MORNING, THE POPE RECEIVED Antje Jackelén, the head of the Church of Sweden and Archbishop of Uppsala. Originally from Germany, Archbishop Jackelén is Sweden’s first foreign-born archbishop since the 12th century and the first female head of the Church there. Lutheran-Catholic dialogue was at the heart of their conversation.

ALSO MONDAY, POPE FRANCIS sent a message to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, on the occasion of a celebration held at the Italian Senate on Monday morning marking the 750th anniversary of the birth of the poet Dante Alighieri. In the message, the Pope said that he joined “the chorus of those who believe Dante Alighieri is an artist of the highest universal value, who still has much to say and to give, through his immortal works, to all those who are willing to walk the path of true knowledge.”

FRANCIS MET WITH SWISS GUARDS and their families on Monday, ahead of the annual May 6th swearing-in ceremony for new Guards. He said the meeting was an opportunity to “strengthen a [significant] friendship,” noting the words of Christ who said “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

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Pope Francis said a Swiss Guard is “a person who truly seeks to follow the Lord Jesus and who loves in a particular way the Church; [he] is a Christian with a genuine faith.” He underscored how prayer and an active sacramental life will help them in their service. “So when you meet the people, the pilgrims, you convey – with your kindness and competence – this ‘greater love’ that comes from friendship with Christ,” Pope Francis said. “In effect, Swiss Guards are a ‘billboard’ of the Holy See!”  (added source: Vatican Radio)