POPE WILL BRING “WISH OF PEACE AND HOPE” TO FATIMA – THE VATICAN OBSERVATORY AND THE MODERN ‘BIG BANG’ THEORY

It was a big weekend here at the Vatican as 40 new Swiss Guards were sworn in during a colorful and historical ceremony Saturday afternoon in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard. The Pontifical Swiss Guards were created by Pope Julius II in 1506 as a stable corps, directly dependent 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 date in 1527 when 147 members of the then 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.

Sunday, Pope Francis ordained 10 priests in St. Peter’s Basilica, delivering a homily on what was Good Shepherd Sunday according to the Gospel of the day. Sunday was also the Day of Prayer for Vocations. As Vatican Radio noted, “the Holy Father delivered the standard, prepared “template” homily found in the Roman Ritual for priestly ordinations, with three significant extemporaneous deviations from the text.” To read the VR summary: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-ordains-10-new-priests-on-good-shephe

Also this FYI: “Worldwide Masses Offered on Archbishop Sheen’s Birthday –

Grassroots effort hopes the prayers will move his canonization cause along.” http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/worldwide-masses-offered-on-archbishop-sheens-birthday

Let’s indeed pray that the dispute be ended and that Abp. Sheen’s cause for canonization be resumed! To think that this amazing man of God, a beloved Archbishop appeared on commercial TV for so long, with millions thronging to his show. You’d have the PC police all over him today if he attempted to speak about God and faith today on commercial TV!  How vastly our country has changed – and how greatly we need a man like Archbishop Sheen on commercial television!

POPE WILL BRING “WISH OF PEACE AND HOPE” TO FATIMA

Pope Francis this morning welcomed the faculty, staff and students of the Pontifical Portuguese College in Rome, just days before his trip to Fatima to mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to three shepherd children, two of whom, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto, he will canonize.

Thanking his guests for the visit, the Holy Father said, “For my part, I wish peace and hope in the Lord for each of you and your families and nations of origin. In Portugal, God willing, I’ll bring this wish in person, on my now imminent pilgrimage to the Shrine of Fatima, where a hundred years ago the Madonna appeared to the three little shepherds.”

Francis said, “the encounter with Our Lady was for them an experience of grace that inspired their love for Jesus. As tender and good teacher, Mary introduced the little seers to the intimate knowledge of Trinitarian love and led them to savor God as the most beautiful reality of human existence. I cannot but wish the same to all of you, dear friends.”

He told the priests present at the audience, “Whatever your academic specialization, your first concern always remains that of growing on the path of priestly consecration, through the loving experience of God: a close and faithful God, as Blessed Francisco and Jacinta and the Servant of God Lucia felt Him to be. Today, contemplating their humble yet glorious lives, we feel drawn to entrust ourselves, too, to the care of the same Teacher. And this is not a novelty. We always pray for this in to the most ancient Latin antiphon to Our Lady: “sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix ”. It invites us to seek shelter under the mantle of a mother who takes us by the hand and teaches us to grow in the love of Christ and in fraternal communion.”

The Pope noted the rector’s words about how, “since 1929, in the college chapel, the gaze of the Mother of God has accompanied the supplications of those who approach the altar. Look to her and let her look upon you, because she is your Mother and loves you greatly; let her look upon you, to learn how to be more humble and also more courageous in following the Word of God; to welcome the embrace of her Son Jesus and, strengthened by this friendship, to love every person following the example and the measure of the Heart of Christ, to which the College is consecrated, finding love, hope and peace in Him.”

“The relationship with Our Lady,” explained Francis, “helps us to have a good relationship with the Church: both of them are Mothers. You know, in this respect, the comment of St. Isaac, the abbot of Stella; what can be said about Mary can be said about the Church, and also about our soul. All three are female, all three are Mothers, and all three give life. We must therefore cultivate the filial relationship with Our Lady because, if this is missing, there is something of the orphan in the heart.

“A priest who forgets the Mother, he continued, “and especially in moments of difficulty, is lacking something. It is as if he were an orphan, while in reality he is not! He has forgotten his mother. But in moments of difficulty a child always goes to his mother. And the Word of God teaches us to be like children, weaned in the arms of the mother.”

“I pray to Our Lady of Fátima,” concluded the Pope, “that she may teach you to believe, worship, hope and love like Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lucia. And please, do not forget to pray for me.”

THE VATICAN OBSERVATORY AND THE MODERN ‘BIG BANG’ THEORY

At 11.00 this morning, in the Holy See Press Office, Via della Conciliazione 54, a press conference was held to present the scientific congress “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities,” that will take place from May 9 – 12 at the Vatican Observatory at Castelgandolfo. Participants included Bro. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., planetologist and director of the Vatican Observatory; Fr. Gabriele Gionti, S.J., cosmologist, Vatican Observatory; Dr. Alfio Bonanno, cosmologist, INAF, Catania Astrophysical Observatory; and Dr. Fabio Scardigli, cosmologist, Polytechnic University of Milan.

Following is the Vatican Observatory press release:   What happens if you fall into a Black Hole? What happened in the early Big Bang? What is the ultimate destiny of the cosmos? These and other questions will be at the center of discussions at a scientific workshop on “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities” which will be held from May 9-12 at the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo.

Among the 35 invited participants, are renowned scientists such as the 1999 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Gerald ‘t Hooft; 1988 Wolf Prize co-winner Roger Penrose; and cosmologists George Ellis, Renata Kallosh and Andrei Linde and Joe Silk.

Telescopes in apostolic palace of Castelgandolfo  (the actual Vatican Observatory is elsewhere on the property in a former convent)(photo: JFL)

One of the aims of this conference will be to encourage a fruitful interaction among participants from both theoretical and observational cosmology, and to create a suitable environment for the emergence of new ideas and research directions in contemporary cosmology. In fact, the recent detection of gravitational waves has opened up a new way of seeing the universe and has also stimulated new speculations about the true nature of the singularities of Space-Time (Black Holes are examples of Space-Time singularities). Topics that the conference intends to explore are the limits of modern cosmology and the scientific challenges of the near future.

The conference celebrates the scientific legacy of Mons. George Lemaître, fifty years after his death. Lemaître was professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven and from 1960 to 1966 (the year of his death) he served as president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. A dedicated priest, he belonged to the Priestly Fraternity of Friends of Jesus, founded by Cardinal Mercier Bishop of Malines, who ordained him as a priest and promoted a renewal of priestly spirituality.

Lemaître was an outstanding cosmologist, nowadays considered one of the fathers of modern Big Bang theory. By the 1920s, astronomical observations of distant galaxies had revealed a mysterious recession motion whose origin was unknown; in 1927, Lemaître was the first to explain that this motion as the result of the expansion of the Universe, and not merely a peculiar motion of the observed objects. He obtained this result by solving the complicated equations of Einstein’s General Relativity Theory, at that time a very new idea which connects the mass-energy distribution of the Universe with the bending of the geometry of the Space-Time.

He became famous for his theory of the “primeval Atom,” known today as the Big Bang Theory. Through the cosmological solution he had worked out in 1927, he understood that, looking backwards in time, the Universe should have been originally in a state of high energy density, compressed into a point like an original atom from which everything started.

This Vatican Observatory workshop is a modern legacy of Lemaître’s scientific intuitions. The conference has also been organized with the support of INAF (Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica) and INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare).

More information about the workshop is available at: http://www.vaticanobservatory.va/content/specolavaticana/en/workshop-lemaitre.html

FIRST ANGLICAN ORDINARIATE BISHOP ORDAINED: ‘IT MEANS WE’RE HERE TO STAY’

Here’s a great article by my EWTN colleague Kathleen Naab for the National Catholic Register about Tuesday’s ordination of Bishop Steven Lopes as Bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter. I say “colleague” as we are both in the EWTN family but I never did meet her in Houston!

The photos and explanations are mine.

FIRST ANGLICAN ORDINARIATE BISHOP ORDAINED: ‘IT MEANS WE’RE HERE TO STAY’

National Catholic Register – Kathleen Naab

HOUSTON — In a majestic Mass at Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Tuesday evening, history was made for the Anglican ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI: Their first bishop was ordained.

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“In a nutshell, it means we’re here to stay,” summarized Msgr. Harry Entwistle, the ordinary of Australia’s ordinariate, which is under the patroness of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

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The new bishop, Stephen Joseph Lopes, 40, a native of California, was in fact instrumental in the creation of the ordinariate that he now leads — the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

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The ordinariates were established as the Vatican’s pastoral response to repeated and persistent inquiries made by Anglican individuals and groups who desired full communion with the Catholic Church, in a history that goes back to at least Pope Pius XII.

Three of the six cardinals at the ordination Mass: Donald Wuerl, Gerhard Mueller and William Levada. Also present but not in this photo were Cardinals Daniel DiNardo, Roger Mahony and Edwin O’Brien.

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In November 2009, in response to these inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. This document authorized the creation of “ordinariates” — communities that would be fully Catholic yet retain elements of Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.

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So far, there are three ordinariates globally: The first was established in the United Kingdom (the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham) in 2011. The following year, an ordinariate was established here in the United States, with jurisdiction also including Canada, and another in Australia.

(This man in black with a small staff or baton-like item is a verger. A verger (or virger, so-called after the staff of the office) is a person, usually a layperson, who assists in the ordering of religious services, particularly in Anglican churches. This is part of the Anglican tradition that was allowed when the personal ordinariate was created)

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Bishop Lopes was working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as this process unfolded, having been named an official of that congregation in 2005. For seven of his 10-plus years at the Vatican, he served as secretary to the cardinal prefect, and he was in effect the coordinator for the three ordinariates. Hence, he knows well his flock and their unique home in the Church.

Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the CDF, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave a beautiful homily.

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Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the CDF, ordained Bishop Lopes:

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An act of humility by the bishop-to-be before the laying on of hands and anointing as the faithful chant the litany of the Saints.

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Placing the Gospel over the bishop’s head:

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Anointing the new bishop:

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Blessing the staff or crozier:

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HABEMUS EPISCOPUS!

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Mass

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‘Stories of Faith and Courage’

Bishop Lopes explained at the end of his ordination Mass that his episcopal motto — Magna Opera Domini (“Great are the works of the Lord”) — flows from this intimate knowledge of the ordinariate.

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Addressing the priests gathered for his ordination — just for the U.S.-Canada ordinariate, there are 62 of them, along with six deacons, four candidates for the priesthood or diaconate and one seminarian, in service to 42 parishes and communities — he noted, “I have met each one of you.”

Reminiscing about a clergy assembly held several years ago in Florida, he explained that the event was one of the first occasions that he had to put faces to the names and autobiographies that he had read and studied at the CDF.

“Yours were stories of faith and of courage, and of a passion and zeal for the truth and the search of the truth in sacred Scripture,” Bishop Lopes told the priests. “And they were also often enough stories of sacrifice, suffering and the anguish of leaving what was familiar and comfortable in order to embark on an unknown and sometimes lonely path toward the fullness of Catholic communion.”

Seeing the faces of these priests and knowing their stories, he said as he named some of them by name, “in that moment, beholding, if you will, before me, the great work of communion manifest in that chapel, my heart was moved to only one thought: We did not do this. God did this. This is the work of the Lord, and great are the works of the Lord!”

For his priests as well, Bishop Lopes’ long involvement with the ordinariates is a source of consolation and hope.

“We all know him very well. He knows each one of us priests very well,” explained Father John Vidal, pastor of St. Anselm Catholic Community in Corpus Christi, Texas. “It’s like a brother priest is being ordained. He’s not coming from the Anglican Communion, but he knows it just as much as we do, if not better, which is really exciting.”

Father Vidal remarked that Bishop Lopes is, in fact, “kind of the one who defined who we were.”

“I’m just thrilled,” he said. “For him, but even more for us.”

Proper Catholics

The ordinariates are still in their infant stage (what’s five years in the history of the Church?), so much of the work before Bishop Lopes is furthering their establishment.

And many Catholics are still unaware that the ordinariates even exist. Msgr. Keith Newton, the ordinary of the U.K. ordinariate, in a presentation prior to the ordination Mass, joked that he still gets Catholics asking him, “Why don’t you become a proper Catholic?”

But the ordination of a bishop will undoubtedly help to further awareness of the ordinariates and their mission.

With our own bishop, said Msgr. Entwistle, “we have become a particular Church. This is a statement of confidence from the Holy Father.”

The Australian ordinary added that the ordinariates’ mission is for the entire Church: “We have a spirituality and a distinctiveness that will enrich the whole of the Catholic Church,” he said. “So we are not a ship passing in the night. … The influence of that English spiritual, theological and pastoral tradition will in fact hopefully enrich [the whole Church].”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and thus the host for Tuesday’s celebrations, echoed those thoughts, noting the distinctiveness of the ordinariate now having a bishop. He said the ordination underlined “a sense of the unity of the Church” and “a true sense of unity with Peter, too.

Said Cardinal DiNardo, “I think it’s great.”

(For further information, the website of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter is here: http://ordinariate.net/)

FRANCIS ADDRESSES SYNOD OF ARMENIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH – USCCB REPORTS INCREASE IN PRIESTLY ORDINATIONS

Pope Francis’ 18 million followers in 9 languages on Twitter saw this tweet today: Lord, give us the gift of tears, the ability to cry for our sins and so receive your forgiveness.

The Holy Father today welcomed President Andrej Kiska of the Slovak Republic. The audience took place before the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the then Czech and Slovak Federative Republic on April 19, 1990 following St. John Paul II’s visit to the country. (photo: news.va)

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FRANCIS ADDRESSES SYNOD OF ARMENIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

On April 12, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will preside at Solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the faithful of the Armenian Rite, in commemoration of the centenary of the “Medz Yeghern” (the “Great Crime”) – the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman government in what is now Turkey.

During Mass, the Holy Father will inscribe the great Armenian Saint Gregory of Narek among the Doctors of the Universal Church.

Ahead of this commemoration, Pope Francis on Thursday met with 20 bishops of the Patriarchal Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church, who will be present for Sunday’s Mass. In prepared remarks, the Pope prayed that Divine Mercy “might help us all, in love for truth and justice, to heal every wound and to hasten concrete gestures of reconciliation and peace among the Nations that have not yet reached a consensus on the reading of such sorrowful events.”

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In his address to the bishops, the Holy Father remarked that on Sunday they will “raise a prayer of Christian intercession for the sons and daughters of your beloved people, who were made victims a hundred years ago.”

Pope Francis greeted not only the many Armenians who travelled to Rome with their bishops, but also the many Armenians of the diaspora throughout the world,, “such as the United States, Latin America, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, up to the Motherland.”

He recalled Armenians in those places that, during the Medz Yeghern were places of safety for Armenian Christians, but are now places where Christianity itself is threatened: “I think with particular sadness of those areas, such as that of Aleppo, that a hundred years ago were a safe haven for the few survivors. In such regions the stability of Christians, not only Armenians, has latterly been placed in danger.”

The Holy Father noted the long history of Christianity in Armenia, and its rich spiritual and cultural heritage going back to 301, when Armenia became the first Christian nation. Pope Francis called on the Bishops to “always cultivate a feeling of gratitude to the Lord” for the ability to keep the Faith even in the most difficult times. He reminded them that, if the Armenian people have, in a certain sense, shared in the Passion of the Lord, their suffering nonetheless contains the seeds of His Resurrection.

Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis also paid tribute to those who worked to relieve the suffering of the Armenian people during the “Great Crime,” notably Pope Benedict XV, the Pope at the time, who intervened with the Ottoman rulers to try to halt the massacres.

In closing, Pope Francis entrusted the ecumenical dialogue between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church to Saint Gregory of Narek, while recognizing that the shared sufferings of one hundred years ago have already produced a certain “ecumenism of blood.”

The ecumenical aspect of Sunday’s Liturgy was also highlighted by the Catholicos Patriarch of Cilicia, Nerses Bedros XIX. He noted that, in addition to the Armenian Catholic Bishops and faithful, representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church – including Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin and Catholicos Aram I of Antelias – will also be present for the Liturgy, along with the president of the Republic of Armenia. (sources: VIS, Vatican Radio)

USCCB REPORTS INCREASE IN PRIESTLY ORDINATIONS

An April 7 post on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) notes that the ordination class of 2015 shows an increase in the number of ordained, and says this “reflects positive impact of support from families, Catholic schools, and parish priests.” http://www.usccb.org/news/2015/15-055.cfm

The reports states that the 2015 class of men ordained to the priesthood reports that they were, on average, about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood and encouraged to consider a vocation by an average of four people. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest, as well as friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent). On average, they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 15 years before entering seminary. Religious ordinands knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before entering.

The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2015, 595, is up from from 477 in 2014 and 497 in 2013.

The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) gathered the date for “The Class of 2015: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood.” CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 69 percent of the 595 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 411 respondents include 317 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood, from 120 different dioceses and archdioceses, and 94 ordinands to the religious priesthood.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gave reason for hope but also provide areas for further growth.

“It is encouraging to see the slight increase in the number of ordinations this year in the United States,” Bishop Burbidge said. “When asked about the positive influences they encountered while discerning the call, those to be ordained responded that the support from their family, parish priest, and Catholic schools ranked very high.”

Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat, cited educational debt as a growing concern. “Over 26 percent of those ordained carried educational debt at the time they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $22,500 in educational debt at entrance to the seminary. Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future.”

Among the survey’s major findings: •  The average age for the Class of 2015 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31. Eight in 10 respondents are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2014, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.

  •  Two-thirds (69 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the adult Catholic population of the United States, they are more likely to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent of responding ordinands), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (14 percent of responding ordinands). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religious ordinands are less likely to report their race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
  •  One-quarter (25 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside of the United States.
  •  Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7 percent became Catholic later in life. Eighty-four percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  •  More than half completed college (60 percent) before entering the seminary. One in seven (15 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (34 percent) report entering the seminary while in college. The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20 percent), liberal arts (19 percent), and science (13 percent).
  •  Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate higher than that of all Catholic adults in the United States. In addition, ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (45 percent, compared to 7 percent among U.S. Catholic adults
  •  Six in ten ordinands (61 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Four percent of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About one in six ordinands (16 percent) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces
  •  Eight in 10 (78 percent) indicate they served as an altar server and about half (51 percent) reporting service as a lector. One in seven (14 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
  •  About seven in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (70 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70 percent) before entering the seminary.
  •  Almost half (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.