POPE PICKED FELLOW ‘STREET PRIEST’ WHEN HE NAMED HIS ALMONER A CARDINAL

My day has been so crammed with activities, meetings and appointments that when I finally got home just before 6 I felt breathless – like I’d been given only 10 minutes between flights!

About 9:15 I got on a bus to go to a 10am appointment in the center of Rome. Traffic was so bad I got out midway and got into a taxi. Five minutes into that ride I got 2 phone calls – one from EWTN saying our appointment with Iraqi cardinal-elect Patriarch Sako was at noon where he is staying in Rome. The second call was from our doorman who said the Italgas people had come and wanted to start their work to connect new gas pipes in my apartment! Finally – it’s only been 28 days! Gas won’t be on, of course, till all the apartments have been retro-fitted and the new outdoor gas pipe is actually connected to the gas main beneath the sidewalk. Pazienza!

I told the taxi driver to turn around and bring me home.

Although I had fixed an appointment to interview Patriarch Sako on Friday at 5 pm, I was now back home with enough time, I hoped, to finish the interview questions and put that, my recorder and a camera in my bag…..just in case the cardinal changed his mind and was available today. Minutes before we were all to meet, the Italgas technician finished his preliminary work and I was able to get to our meeting on time.

It was a great reunion – we have known each other for eight years. I also met one of his auxiliary bishops and his secretary with whom we’ve been communicating like mad the past 2 weeks. And we did confirm that our interview on Friday!

More appointments after that and a brief lunch in a restaurant – something I rarely do on a workday!

The best part of your day will be when you read the following story about someone I’ve known for years and admire and respect beyond words. I saw him today in the Vatican and congratulated him – Papal Almoner and Cardinal-elect Konrad Krajewski. Great story by a friend, Carol Glatz.

POPE PICKED FELLOW ‘STREET PRIEST’ WHEN HE NAMED HIS ALMONER A CARDINAL

June 26, 2018 (CNS) – Carol Glatz

ROME – Realizing he could no longer minister directly to poor people as he used to in Buenos Aires, a newly elected Pope Francis found another secret “street priest” to act in his place – Cardinal-designate Konrad Krajewski.

For years, this Polish assistant to St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI walked Rome’s streets offering meals and assistance, often accompanied by volunteers from the papal Swiss Guard.

“My arms have been shortened,” he said Francis remarked when explaining why he was naming him papal almoner.

“If we can make my arms longer with your arms, I will be able to touch the poor of Rome and in Italy. I can’t leave. You can,” the pope explained.

By elevating him to the College of Cardinals June 28, the pope is elevating the office of papal almoner, the 54-year-old liturgist told Vatican News May 20. This honor “is for the poor and the volunteers. I can take no credit,” he said.

“I only did what the Holy Father wanted,” he explained, which was to be the pope’s eyes, ears and hands, looking out for and offering direct assistance to those in need, as well as spiritual comfort and prayers.

Every morning he reads requests for help forwarded from the pope with a comment that says, “You know what you must do.”

“And so I try to think, what would Francis do if he were here?” he told the Italian magazine, Il Mio Papa.

As papal almoner, the Polish cardinal-designate distributes charitable aid from the pope; but he has taken the job to a whole new level, getting a dormitory, showers, a barbershop and laundromat set up near the Vatican for homeless people. He handed out 1,600 prepaid phone cards to refugees who survived a dangerous journey by boat to Lampedusa to let their families know they were safe. He’s also organized special private tours for poor and homeless people to the Vatican Gardens, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.

Receiving the red hat should not make a big difference in his day-to-day dealings, he told Vatican Insider. He already had enough clout just being the pope’s almoner. “When they give me donations for the poor, they have trust because they trust the pope,” he said.

Krajewski said Francis told him to sell his desk when he was hired because his job wasn’t to wait for people to come ringing, but to go out and look for those in need. The cardinal-designate went a step further, giving up his apartment for a time to a Syrian refugee family.

He said the pope wanted him to do what he had been free to do in Buenos Aires: to seek out, share with, and be there for people.

“‘You will see,’ he told me, ‘I have entrusted you with the most beautiful part’” of being a priest, the cardinal-designate said.

Born in Lodz, Poland, Nov. 25, 1963, the cardinal-designate studied in Poland and Rome, where he earned degrees in theology and sacred liturgy. He served as a hospital chaplain in Rome before returning to Lodz to teach liturgy at local seminaries and become prefect of the diocesan seminary.

He returned to Rome in 1998 to work in the Vatican’s office of papal liturgical celebrations and master of liturgical ceremonies from 1999 to 2013 when he could be seen at the side of St. John Paul and Pope Benedict assisting during papal Masses.

He was appointed papal almoner August 2013 and consecrated a bishop the next month, taking the Latin word for “mercy” as his motto.

He told journalists in late November 2013 that he had been one of the four men who dressed St. John Paul after he died, in preparation for his lying-in-state and funeral.

“Perhaps this is why I never devoted myself to praying intensely for his beatification because I had already begun to take part in it,” he said, speaking of his fellow-countryman, whom he had served for seven years.

A former recreational skier and swimmer in his native Poland – like the pope-saint – the cardinal-designate said he also tried to emulate St. John Paul with a strong life of prayer so as to be close to God. He celebrates Mass at the late pope’s tomb once a week and prays the rosary and hears confessions every day at a nearby church dedicated to the Divine Mercy.

He said Francis once told him to never stop hearing confessions because that, too, is a kind of alms.

Despite always being in the thick of things – delivering food or sleeping bags, visiting the infirm and families in crisis – Krajewski said he prefers to stay off the radar and avoid giving interviews.

“I’d like to stay hidden, without any ruckus,” he told the Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana in 2014, explaining why he was turning them down for an interview request. “Poverty is something serious; it’s not there to give oneself publicity.”

But what he does not hide is his faith. “It is helpful for the Church when we do not hide God, but we reveal him with our lifestyle,” he told the magazine reporter. Doing good “is contagious,” he said.

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FOR CHRISTIANS THE LITURGY IS TRUE SCHOOL OF PRAYER – ROME CIRCUS OFFERS 2100 TICKETS TO POPE FRANCIS FOR POOR, HOMELESS, REFUGEES, AND NEEDY FAMILIES – CONGREGATION APPOINTS COMMISSIONER FOR CHRISTIAN LIFE SOCIETY

MISSING IN ACTION – Apologies for two days of silence on this page, especially after a weekend filled with big stories – the Epiphany celebrations on Saturday, the 34 children baptized by Pope Francis in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday and the annual papal “state of the world” address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday. I was under the weather, as the expression goes, on Monday and spent Tuesday recovering from Monday. Being online, researching and reading Vatican news and then posting stories was not high on my agenda, important as they were.

I was briefly online Monday to read the papal speech to the diplomats, given its importance and the subjects and places he covers in this “lights and shadows” look at the world. The 5300-word talk lasted about 45 minutes and was published in 8 languages by the Vatican.

Along with the papal speech, the Vatican published a “Note on the Diplomatic Relations of the Holy See, 08.01.2018.” It listed the number of countries and organizations with diplomatic ties to the Holy See, the new ambassadors as of January 2017, and also listed the resident and non-resident ambassadors. I was fascinated by one paragraph dedicated to the women ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, noting that there were 25 women diplomats.

When I returned to the news site today to look for that specific information about women ambassadors, it was gone. It no longer appears on the press office bulletin, on http://www.vatican.va or http://www.vaticannews.va. I searched the Internet to see if some colleague or news source has published it but my search for “women ambassadors accredited to the Holy See” was in vain. I also looked for “accredited to the Vatican” although that is technically incorrect.

Just moments ago I had my own epiphany, remembering where I first saw that information in Italian – in my own mailbox! I went back to January 8 and sure enough, there it was! I found the two press office attachments when I opened that (then) embargoed papal talk and the Note that I received via email at 9:45 am on January 8. I had not dreamed up the numbers and I do have a good memory!

Here is the info (my translation from the Italian) missing from Vatican websites:

Among the ambassadors, 25 are women: 12 are resident ambassadors (Australia, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Panama, Perú, San Marino, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States of America); 13 are non-resident: (Burundi, United Arab Emirates, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mauritania, Zimbabwe, Qatar and Sweden).

This too was in an original text from the Holy See Press Office:

Between January1, 2017 and January 7, 2018, 31 new ambassadors, of whom 17 are resident, presented their Letters of Credence (Credentials) to the Holy Father: (Ghana, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Nigeria, Mexico, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, South Africa, USA, Uruguay); e 14 non residenti: (Mauritania, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Niger, Sudan, Trinidad e Tobago, Yemen, New Zelanda, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein, India).

I wonder who decided and why it was decided not to include those two paragraphs, especially on women ambassadors, in the final version of the news sites.

A CHOIR, A HOTEL AND A POLISH SAINT – In addition to Vatican and papal news, I had every intention of sharing the wonderful Saturday evening I spent in the presence of two choirs that sang at the papal Mass on the Epiphany, principally the young people’s amazing choir of Christ Cathedral in Orange County, California, along with members of St. Anne’s choir from Laguna Niguel. I was invited to join them for dinner at a hotel I had heard of but never visited, the Kolbe Hotel.

From their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristCathedralMusic/

The hotel was named for St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan Friar who died in the Auschwitz concentration during World War II. The Nazi prison guards chose 10 people to be put to death and prisoner 16670 Kolbe offered to take the place of a stranger. We commemorated his birthday on Monday, January 8. The hotel premises are part of a structure built in 1625 that became a Franciscan monastery in 2012. Renovations started on the premises in 2007 and the result is what we see today, the Kolbe Hotel, part of which is still a Franciscan monastery.

In coming days, I’ll bring you some of the photos and stories I intended to publish Monday on this page.

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A CHRISTMAS TREE – I’m sure you saw the news and photos over the holidays of Rome’s unbelievably scrawny Christmas tree placed in the capital’s central Piazza Venezia. Nicknamed “the mangy one” it eventually found a fond place in the hearts of Romans and visitors, but not before the world’s media found every way possible to make fun of it.

Now that the holidays are over, what will become of the much-mocked tree?

Well, it will be carved up and turned into souvenirs and a lactation hut for mothers and babies, city officials said Tuesday. Here’s the story:
http://www.yourconroenews.com/news/world/article/Rome-s-mangy-Christmas-tree-to-be-carved-up-into-12484838.php

And now, some Vatican news stories from today…..

FOR CHRISTIANS THE LITURGY IS TRUE SCHOOL OF PRAYER

Pope Francis continued his series of general audience catecheses on the Mass that he began last November by pointing out. “In our catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, we now turn to the Gloria and the Opening Prayer. Having confessed our sinfulness and asked God’s forgiveness in the penitential rite, “ he said, “we recite, on Sundays and holydays, the ancient hymn “Glory to God in the highest”. Echoing the song of the angels at our Lord’s birth, we praise the mercy of the Father in sending his Son who takes away the sins of the world.

Francis explained that, “the Opening Prayer is also called the ‘Collect’, because it gathers up and presents to the Triune God all our individual prayers. The priest’s invitation, ‘Let us pray,’ is followed by a moment of silence, as we open our hearts and bring our personal needs to the Lord. The Opening Prayer praises the Father’s provident love revealed in history and then implores his continued help as we strive to live as his sons and daughters in Christ.

“With the invitation ‘Let us pray,’ the priest exhorts the people to recollect themselves with him in a moment of silence, in order to be conscious of being in the presence of God and to have arise, in each one’s heart, the personal intentions with which he takes part in the Mass.” In this moment of silence, “each one thinks of the things of which he is in need, what he wishes to ask for in prayer.”

“By ancient tradition,” said the Pope, “the prayer is addressed to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. By reflecting on these rich prayers, and uniting ourselves with the Church in lifting them up to God, we see how the liturgy becomes for each Christian a true school of prayer.”

ROME CIRCUS OFFERS 2100 TICKETS TO POPE FRANCIS FOR POOR, HOMELESS, REFUGEES, AND NEEDY FAMILIES

Pope Francis through his apostolic almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, has invited the poor, the homeless, refugees, a group of prisoners, needy persons and families together with their volunteers, to attend a circus.

The Medruno circus – its owners, benefactors and performers – has placed at the disposition of the Holy Father all of its 2,100 seats in the big tent for this charity event. In fact, the Casartelli family and entrepreneur Fabrizio Grande are calling this “a circus of solidarity” with the Holy Father’s poor.

Once, during a general audience, Pope Francis spoke of circus performers, saying they “create beauty, they are creators of beauty and this does the soul good! How great is our need for beauty!” This then is the gift offered by the artists of the circus who, with constant commitment and many sacrifices, succeed in creating and giving beauty to themselves and to others. This can become also for our poorest brothers an encouragement to overcome the bitter moments and the difficulties of life that so many times seem so great and impossible to overcome.

Also available will be a medical service offered by volunteer doctors and nurses with an ambulance and a mobile ambulatory from Vatican City. At the end of the circus, those in need will receive also a carry out dinner bag,

CONGREGATION APPOINTS COMMISSIONER FOR CHRISTIAN LIFE SOCIETY

The Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life promulgated today, Wednesday 10 January 2018, the Decree for the Compulsory Administration of the Society of Apostolic Life Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (Christian Life Society), appointing as Apostolic Commissioner of the aforementioned Society H.E. Msgr. Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago, C.Ss.R., bishop of Jericó (Antioquia), Colombia.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., continues to be the referent for the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as Delegate ad nutum in relation to Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and with regard to economic issues in particular.

The Holy Father Francis has closely followed all the information that, for several years, has come to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on the situation of the Christian Life Society. The Pope has shown himself to be particularly attentive to the seriousness of the information concerning the internal regime, formation and economic and financial management, which is why he has asked the Dicastery to pay particular attention. In addition to this, a series of measures have recently been adopted by the Peruvian judicial authority against Mr. Luis Fernando Figari. After a thorough analysis of all the documentation, the Dicastery issued the Decree for Compulsory Administration.

VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT THE LIFE OF NORMA MCCORVEY – PAPAL ALMONER SUPPORTS FARMERS, PRODUCERS FROM EARTHQUAKE-STRUCK TOWNS – COULD ONE BISHOP’S IDEA HELP THE WORLD’S DIOCESES?

Pope Francis on Twitter today: The Christian heart is always full of joy. Always. Joy received as a gift and kept in order to be shared with everyone.

Shall we all try to share a moment of joy with one new person this weekend!

If you follow events in the Holy Land, having perhaps made several pilgrimages to Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon (yes, all are the Holy Land), there are two websites you really might want to visit to keep well informed on all that is happening in the area, especially vis-à-vis the Catholic Church.

The first is http://en.lpj.org/

The LPJ stands for Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and it is a fact-filled site with daily news stories (such as “Don’t Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Bishops Ask Secretary of State), videos, upcoming events, a look at the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (to which I belong) and information for visitors and pilgrims. You might already be familiar with this site: if not, it is a must-visit site if you love the Holy Land, or are simply curious to know more.

A second site will probably be less familiar: http://en.abouna.org/

The “en” in the site refers to the English version, as you probably guessed: the original is in Arabic (abouna.org). “Abouna” is Arabic for Father. A good friend of mine in Amman, Jordan, Fr. Rifat Bader, put this together a few years ago and he and his team (a fairly small one) are doing a great job. He is the founder and director of the Amman-based Catholic Center for Studies and Media.

Father is pointing at me – we are at the Beirut Airport in September 2012 for the arrival of Pope Benedict:

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I saw a story here this morning (also on lpj.org) about the arrival in Amman today of another friend, Bishop William Shomali, as the new patriarchal vicar of Jordan (for the Latin Patriarchate). He succeeds Bishop Maroun Lahham whom I interviewed in 2014 on my trip to Jordan. When Bishop Shomali and I first met, he was rector of the Patriarchate seminary in Beit Sahour, not far from Bethlehem.. I had lunch with then-Father Shomali, the seminarians and staff just before they all left on Christmas vacation.

He is on the right on this photo –

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…and on the top of the group photo, wearing a gray scarf.

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VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT THE LIFE OF NORMA MCCORVEY

My guest this week on “Vatican Insider” in the interview segment is Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life. As I wrote last weekend on these pages, she was in Rome last week with Fr. Frank Pavone and I had interviewed her about their work at Priests for Life, the March for Life in DC, etc. She suggested that we do a separate interview about someone big in the prolife movement and a good friend to Janet and Father Frank who was in failing health – that is, Norma McCorvey, the Roe of Roe v Wade in the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.

It was Norma’s courageous decision later in life, to renounce abortion – the goal she had espoused as the plaintiff in Roe v Wade – and to denounce it as the deliberate killing of a human being in its mother’s womb that led her to spend successive decades trying to overturn the law she had been instrumental in creating – even though she never set foot in court.

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Listen as Janet tells the inside story of Norma McCorvey who died one hour after we did our interview!

PAPAL ALMONER SUPPORTS FARMERS, PRODUCERS FROM EARTHQUAKE- STRUCK TOWNS

(Vatican Radio)  The Office of Papal Charities this week helped out the earthquake-hit regions of central Italy at the express wish of Pope Francis, buying typical food products from local producers and distributing it to several soup kitchens in Rome.

Central Italy was hit by a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake in August 2016, which killed nearly 300 people. Other earthquakes have since caused major damage to the area.

Farmers and merchants in the affected areas have since suffered a drastic reduction in their revenues.

A communique from the Office of Papal Charities said the organization selected “several groups of farmers and producers at risk of closure because of the damages provoked by the earthquake” from which to buy alimentary products.

Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, is standing on the right:

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It said vendors were chosen in conjunction with Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, Archbishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche, and Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

“The Office of Papal Charities bought a large quantity of their products with the intention, expressed by the Holy Father, to help and encourage them in their activities. It is a gesture in line with the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often said that ‘when a person does not earn their bread, their dignity is lost’”.

The food products bought in the name of the Pope were distributed to several soup kitchens in Rome to make meals for homeless people in need.

The Vatican supermarket currently sells products from the earthquake hit zones of central Italy, in an effort to help out the local economy.

COULD ONE BISHOP’S IDEA HELP THE WORLD’S DIOCESES?

(Vatican Radio) A bishop in Scotland has high hopes for his diocese as a new fundraising initiative was recently launched at his cathedral.

Bishop John Keenan is encouraging the faithful of the Diocese of Paisley to become ‘Friends’ of certain diocesan projects in a bid to combat a £3 million (€3.5 million) deficit. Bishop Keenan explained in a letter read out at all Masses in St Mirin’s Cathedral that the cause for the deficit is not surprising. “It is the same deadly combination of rising costs and falling income that you know all too well from your own home finances.” (photo: news.va)

bishop-keenan

The bishop emphasised that a change in culture is needed. In his letter, he tells the lay faithful that he would rather put his trust in his own people than in professional fundraisers. If his desire for a deficit-free diocese is to be realised, then annual savings worth £300,000 must be found. He added that the “bulk of our efforts to eradicate the deficit will come from fundraising.”

He has appointed Fr Oliver Freney, administrator of St Mirin’s Cathedral, as the new diocesan Director of Fundraising and has challenged him to raise £100,000 annually. He said that the ‘Friends Project’ will be the “heart and soul of his fundraising campaign.”

Fr Freney was joined by several young people from the diocese for the launch at St Mirin’s. His fellow priests will be launching it in their parishes over the coming weeks. He said after the launch: “If every member of our diocese signed up to give just £5 a year, we would be in surplus.” He added that he encourages parishioners to “think about our situation and give thoughtfully and generously.”

The diocesan treasurer attended the launch. Fr Stephen Bailey explained that the faithful could opt to become ‘Friends’ of particular projects like ‘vocations’, ‘education’ and ‘youth’.  He added that Bishop Keenan wants to let people know how their money is being spent.

Bishop Keenan recently led the diocesan community through a synod, during which the important role of the lay faithful within the Church was highlighted.

“SPOTLIGHT” NOT AN ANTI-CATHOLIC FILM – THE OFFICE OF PAPAL CHARITIES OPENS A CLINIC UNDER THE COLONNADE IN ST PETER’S SQUARE – DOCTORS FOR THE HOMELESS

This is a “Good News” column today, focusing on two fascinating pieces in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano.

The first is the Vatican reaction to the film, “Spotlight,” which won an Oscar Sunday night for best film and the second is about the just-opened health center for homeless men and women near the new showers installed months ago just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

On the film “Spotlight”: Seems that a number of pundits gleefully predicted Vatican outrage and anger over the Oscar being awarded to a film that highlighted the Boston Globe’s probe into clerical sex abuse cases in the archdiocese and then elsewhere. The Vatican, instead, saw the film in a a positive light because, says the editorial at the outstart, “it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.”

A very worthwhile article. The question that remained in my mind, following the Oscar awards ceremony, is when will the same producers and directors (or even the media) delve into abuse cases in families, in schools, in sports venues,etc., in other words, some place other than the Catholic Church?

And then the piece about the new mini health center for the homeless at the Vatican: Another brilliant gesture by Pope Francis and his superactive Almoner, Abp. Konrad Krajewski, to help restore a sense of dignity to so many people who feel they have nothing left in life, including dignity.

“SPOTLIGHT” NOT AN ANTI-CATHOLIC FILM

Spotlight, the Oscar-winning film, has a compelling plot. The film is not anti-Catholic, as has been written, because it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.

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Of course, the narrative does not delve into the long and tenacious battle that Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as Pope, undertook against pedophilia in the Church. But one film cannot tell all, and the difficulties that Ratzinger met with do not but confirm the film’s theme, which is that too often ecclesiastical institutions have not known how to react with the necessary determination in the face of these crimes.

Of course, and we all know it, children are vulnerable beings, and therefore privileged victims of abuse even in families, sport circles, and secular schools. Not all monsters wear cassocks. Pedophilia does not necessarily arise from the vow of chastity. However, it has become clear that in the Church some are more preoccupied with the image of the institution than of the seriousness of the act.

All this cannot justify the extremely grave fault of those who, while seen as God’s representatives, use this authority and prestige to exploit the innocent. The film is adept at recounting this detail, giving space to the inner devastation that these acts generate in the victims, who no longer have a God to plead with, to ask for help.

The fact that a call arose from the Oscar ceremony — that Pope Francis fight this scourge — should be seen as a positive sign: there is still trust in the institution, there is trust in a Pope who is continuing the cleaning begun by his predecessor, then still a cardinal. There is still trust in a faith that has at its heart the defence of victims, the protection of the innocent.

Lucetta Scaraffia

THE OFFICE OF PAPAL CHARITIES OPENS A CLINIC UNDER THE COLONNADE IN ST PETER’S SQUARE – DOCTORS FOR THE HOMELESS

A sign which reads “medical-health care clinic” is posted on a wooden door situated in the colonnade of St Peter’s Square. It is Pope Francis’ latest gift – by way of the Office of Papal Charities – to the homeless of Rome. The clinic, which stands alongside the showers and barber shop which were previously made available to Rome’s needy, opened on Monday, 29 February. Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, explained that the Italian Association of Podiatrists will also provide a free-of-charge service because, he added, “feet are the most affected part in people living in the street”.

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The decision to open on a Monday is no accident. The first day of the week is when approximately 150 people use the showers and barber shop. This service – which opened last year – allows them to change into clean clothes, leaving their dirty ones to be laundered at the shelter which recently opened on Via dei Penitenzieri. “It seemed right”, Archbishop Krajewski explained, “to also provide free medical visits. For now, we will begin like this but soon the podiatrists will visit twice per week, and then eventually this service could become daily”. “We are equipped”, said Archbishop Krajewski, “to help all those who come knocking on our door. It is Pope Francis who wants this and those of us who are close to him in this venture are honoured and highly motivated to make this possible”.

Medical specialists and healthcare personnel of the Holy See, of the University of Rome – Tor Vergata and of the volunteer association Medicina Solidale see patients, prescribe tests and treatments, and recommend hospitalization, if necessary. It is “an indispensable service”, the Papal Almoner continued, “to the health of the poor who live among us”. “In taking care of these people, we cannot overlook medical visits, preventive care and continous outpatient care”, of which the homeless “are especially in need. That is why the Holy Father wished that, under the colonnade of St Peter’s Basilica, a medical center be built for those who ask to be cared for”.

 

PAPAL GESTURE OF MERCY FOR HOMELESS MOTHER AND NEWBORN – CHRISTIAN UNITY, MERCY, BAPTISM ARE FOCUS OF PAPAL CATECHESIS – POPE FRANCIS TO DAVOS ECONOMIC FORUM: DON’T FORGET THE POOR

PAPAL GESTURE OF MERCY FOR HOMELESS MOTHER AND NEWBORN

What an amazing story of mercy from Rome, from the Vatican actually – a heartwarming story during days which have seen frigid temperatures in Rome, especially overnight.

At 2 am Tuesday, one of the coldest nights Rome has seen in a very long time, a 36-year old Romanian homeless woman gave birth to a 7-pound baby girl in Pius XII Square, the small square adjacent St. Peter’s Square. She had been sleeping under the porticos on Via della Conciliazione when her labor pains began. A homeless companion called the police who happened to be patrolling at that time and the woman, Maria Claudia, gave birth at about 2 am. The two police who came to her aid – a man and a woman – took off their own coats in the very cold weather to place over the mother and newborn who was named Irene.

The policewoman who helped the Romanian woman was also named Maria. Mother and child were brought to nearby Santo Spirito hospital, just several hundred yards from St. Peter’s Square.

A big role was also played by Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. He had tried to help Maria Claudia in the past but she had never wanted assistance- However, on Tuesday, having heard the story, he saw to it that Maria Claudia went to the hospital and he went to visit them. He later told Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office that mother and daughter are doing well.

Archbishop Konrad said that, though the mother refused offers of help in the past she was able to use the showers the Vatican has built for the homeless as well as other services that Pope Francis has placed at the disposition of the homeless in the vicinity of the Vatican.

Although the two police officers who came to help Maria Claudia had called for an ambulance, it arrived quickly but only after Maria Claudia had given birth on the cold sidewalk. Every evening there are dozens of homeless people under or near the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square and in the doorways of many of the Vatican buildings on Via della Conciliazione, including the Holy See Press Office.

While the homeless very often come at sunset and spend the night outdoors, most leave in the morning when offices open.

Archbishop Krajewski has become the most active ever of all papal almoners, those who distribute help to the poor, the needy, and the homeless. His work, especially with the homeless, has become a hallmark of Pope Francis’ papacy. The Pope has seen to it that showers were set up for the homeless just off of St. Peter’s Square. He also saw to it that barbers gave freely of their service one day a week for these same homeless people. In addition, last fall a dormitory was built several blocks from St. Peter’s Square that houses up to 34 homeless people a night – all the work of Pope Francis and his almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.

And now for the happy ending to this story:

Archbishop Krajewski let Maria Claudia know that, in the name of the Pope, she and her daughter may stay for a year in the home for unwed mothers that is run by the sisters of Mother Teresa in the Primavalle neighborhood of Rome.

CHRISTIAN UNITY, MERCY, BAPTISM ARE FOCUS OF PAPAL CATECHESIS

Marie, a friend from Toronto who is in Rome for only a few days, had written to ask if I might get a ticket for this week’s general papal audience and asked if I could accompany her. I write about but rarely attend a general audience but felt this would be a wonderful experience and also quality time to spend with a friend.

It was a bitter cold morning outside but the lines for security went quite well, quickly and efficiently. Being in a much warmer Paul VI Hall was all we needed to bring a real smile to our faces. We got inside about 90 minutes before the audience but that kind of time passes quickly as you talk, watch people, listen to groups sing or watch groups wave flags, etc.

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Before the Pope arrives, announcements are made in 8 languages about how the audience wil proceed, praying the Our Father at the end of the audience with the Pope, having rosaries and other religious goods blessed, etc. The final announcement was the one that broight joy to our hearts: at the end of the audience, whoever wished to go through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica should follow the directives of the Jubilee volunteers!

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Marie had earlier asked me how to go about this and I told her that reservations had to be made online or at the Visitor’s Office on Via della Conciliazione and that the starting point of the long walk to the basilica Holy Door was at Castel Sant’Angelo, Now, we could take a shortcut!

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Announcements made, Pope Francis arrived about 10 am on the dot and strolled up the center aisle of the Paul VI Hall to reach the stage.

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The Holy Father focused his attention on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that began, as is tradition, on January 18 an ends on the 25, feast of the conversion of St. Paul. The Pope told us that the theme for this special week was taken from the first letter of Saint Peter, “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,” and he explained, with apparent delight, that this had been chosen by an ecumenical group in Latvia.

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Francis said this week of prayer invites us to “reflect on, and bear witness to, our unity in Christ as God’s People. … all those who are baptized, reborn to new life in Christ, are brothers and sisters, despite, ‘our divisions’.”

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Baptism was also a focus of the weekly catechesis. The Pope said, “baptism means rediscovering the source of mercy, which is a source of hope for all.” He said once – and then repeated it, looking up from his text – that “no one is excluded from God’s mercy.”  Sharing this grace, “creates an unbreakable bond between us Christians” so that, “by virtue of Baptism, we can consider ourselves brothers.

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More than anything, prayed the Pope, may the Lord, in this week of prayer, “help all Christians to grow in that unity that is greater than what divides us. .. Together, may we respond to his call to share with others, especially with the poor and forgotten of our world, the gift of divine mercy which we ourselves have received.”

POST AUDIENCE NOTES

After the audience, as Pope Francis was receiving a delegation of Muslims who invited him to visit the mosque of Rome, Marie and I made our way out to St. Peter’s Square and, following the indications of the Jubilee volunteers, climbed the broad steps to the atrium of the basilica and joined others to go through the Holy Door. This was, as you can imagine, a very special moment that became the prelude to a prayerful visit to this historical basilica built over the tomb of the first Pope, St. Peter, and to prayer time at the tomb of St. John Paul, the tomb of St. John XXII and to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

The photo of the Holy Door as we approached it is not very good because we were not supposed to stop and take photos.

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A bonus, on the way out, was a visit to the basilica’s nativity scene (I’ll post photos another day).

POPE FRANCIS TO DAVOS ECONOMIC FORUM: DON’T FORGET THE POOR

The Holy Father was asked to address the annual economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, but ecided to express his thoughts to members of this exclusive yearly gathering in the form of a message. His principaal appeal was to never forget vthe poor, reflecting what he tweeted yesterday: The Gospel calls us to be close to the poor and forgotten, and to give them real hope.

Click here to read full message: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-to-world-economic-forum-do-not-forget-the-poo

MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER: MESSAGE FOR THE JUBILEE OF MERCY FOR THE YOUNG – VATICAN HOSTING TWO REFUGEE FAMILIES – HOMELESS AND POOR ATTEND CIRCUS, THANKS TO PAPAL ALMONER

MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER: MESSAGE FOR THE JUBILEE OF MERCY FOR THE YOUNG

(VIS) – Pope Francis’ message for the Jubilee of Mercy for young boys and girls was published today. In the text, dated 6 January 2016, Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Holy Father addresses youngsters aged 13 to 16, many of whom intend to make a pilgrimage to Rome from 23 to 25 April, and who are “preparing to be Christians capable of making courageous choices and decisions, in order to build daily, even through little things, a world of peace., He encourages those who live in difficult situations not to lose hope as the Lord “has a great dream” for them that He wishes to come true. He invites them not to be “taken in by the messages of hatred or terror all around us”, and instead to make new friendships.

Click here to read the message in English: http://www.news.va/en/news/merciful-like-the-father-message-for-the-jubilee-o

VATICAN HOSTING TWO REFUGEE FAMILIES

A communique announced today that two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the September 6, 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees, starting with his own diocese of Rome.

The parish of Sant’Anna has provided a nearby apartment for a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children, whereas the parish of St. Peter’s Basilica has provided an apartment for an Eritrean family consisting of a mother and her five children. Three of those children, including one only several months old, are already in Italy, and two others are in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, but are expected to be reunited in Rome the coming weeks. Another woman and her child also live in the apartment which the Vatican communique described as ‘large’.

This entire project has been under the direction of Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal Almoner, and the Sant’Egidio Community. Pope Francis met briefly with the Syrian family shortly after they moved into their apartment in September.

HOMELESS AND POOR ATTEND CIRCUS, THANKS TO PAPAL ALMONER

(Vatican Radio) The Office of the Papal Almoner has announced a unique charity event scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Rome: a circus for the poor. (AP photo: news.va)

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The homeless, refugees, prisoners, and those most in need, were invited to the entertainment, offered free of charge at the Rony Roller Circus, which made all 2000 seats under its big top available for the event.

A press release with details of the spectacle highlights the show’s opening number: a song composed by a Spanish singer-songwriter, who was also homeless at one time, dedicated to Pope Francis and written to serve as an opening prayer and expression of gratitude to the Holy Father for his closeness to the guests.

In a January audience last year Pope Francis said that those who create circus shows create beauty which is good for the soul. “How much we need beauty,” he said. He applauded circus artists who with perseverance and sacrifice give beauty to others.

The Almoner’s announcement also explained that medical personnel from Vatican Health Services would be available to give treatment free of charge to any of the event’s attendees with a mobile camper and Vatican ambulances. A small snack will be offered the end of the show.

 

VATICAN INSIDER, INSIDE THE PREPARATIONS FOR A PAPAL TRIP – CUBANS RECEIVE VIDEO MESSAGE FROM FRANCIS ON VIGIL OF TRIP – POPE ENCOURAGES DIALOGUE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION, NAMES NEW DIRECTOR OF VATICAN OBSERVATORY – SECRETARY OF STATE SPEAKS ON PAPAL VISIT TO CUBA, U.S. – VATICAN WELCOMES SYRIAN REFUGEE FAMILY OF 4

Pope Francis tweeted today, Friday, September 18: I ask you to join me in praying for my trip to Cuba and the United States. I need your prayers.

A plethora of interesting stories about and from the Vatican today. One great story concerned the Holy Father’s nomination of someone I’ve know for quite a number of years, Jesuit astonomer Bro. Guy Consolmagno, as director of the Vatican Observatory. Bro. Guy, an enormously respected astronomer and highly requested as a speaker, is a native of Detroit.

As I said on my Facebook page this morning: When I discovered that Vatican astronomers were in Hawaii for the IAU general assembly at the same time I was vacationing there, I did not know how to reach them so I wrote Bro. Guy, whom I have known for years and have interviewed, and he contacted the four Vatican representatives in Honolulu. The result was my interview with Fr. Christopher Corbally that aired the last two weekends on my radio show, “Vatican Insider.” Congratulations, Bro Guy!

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An even greater story was that the Vatican has accepted a refugee family from Syria an will house the four members in a Vatican apartment near St. Peter’s (that story below – really fascinating reading!)

VATICAN INSIDER, INSIDE THE PREPARATIONS FOR A PAPAL TRIP

As you know, Pope Francis leaves tomorrow morning for Cuba where he will visit Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. He is the third Pope to visit this Caribbean island but the first whose native tongue is Spanish. He’ll depart Cuba at 12:30 pm on Tuesday, September 22 for the U.S., arriving in Washington D.C. at 4 that afternoon at Andrews Air Force base where he will be officially welcomed by President Obama. Francis will be received at the White House and, while in Washington, he will canonize Fr. Junipero Serra and address a joint session of Congress. His second U.S. stop is New York where he will speak at the United Nations as it marks the 70th anniversary of its founding. The Holy Father will then spend tine in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, the principal focus of his 10th foreign trip and his longest one to date. Interestingly enough, this is Francis’ first time ever in the United States and Cuba. although he said recently in an interview that he was on once at the Havana airport between flights.

This weekend, in place of an interview on Vatican Insider, I look at the behind the scenes preparations for a papal trip, at what goes into the making of a papal trip. So stay tuned for that special report that I prepared in July for his trip to Latin America.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

CUBANS RECEIVE VIDEO MESSAGE FROM FRANCIS ON VIGIL OF TRIP

Pope Francis, in a videomessage to Cubans just hours before departing for this Caribbbean nation, said he was visiting their country to share their faith and their hope. He expressed the joy he felt when thinking about their fidelity to the Lord, and the strength it gave him thinking about the courage with which they face the difficulties of everyday and the love with which they help and support each other along the path of life. (photo news.va)

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Vatican Radio said in a report that the Pope thanked the Cuban people for their prayers in advance of his visit, saying he wanted to be with them as a missionary of mercy, adding “let me also encourage you to be missionaries of the infinite love of God.”

POPE ENCOURAGES DIALOGUE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION, NAMES NEW DIRECTOR OF VATICAN OBSERVATORY

Pope Francis today named Jesuit Bro. Guy Consolmagno, an American and native of Detroit, as the new head of the Vatican Obseratory. Bro. Consolmagno is the current President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, as well as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world. His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Friday addressed participants at a symposium organized by the Vatican Observatory, saying their scientific research on the universe can help promote interreligious dialogue which is more urgent than ever nowadays. He also encouraged an ever deeper dialogue between science and religion.

He began his address by recalling the history of the Vatican Observatory in Castelgandolfo which was formally inaugurated by Pope Pius XI back in 1935 with the words “Deum Creatorem venite adoremus” carved into the wall. The Observatory’s management was entrusted to the Society of Jesus.

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Quoting from his encyclical Laudato Si, the Pope said: “Rather than a (scientific) problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with joy and praise. … The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us.”

Pope Francis noted that the participants at the symposium were discussing themes related to the dialogue between science and religion and recalled the words of St. John Paul who, in a letter to a previous director of the Vatican Observatory, stressed the need for an ever deepening dialogue between the two. He said such a dialogue, while protecting the integrity both of religion and science, should, at the same time, promote progress for both.

The Holy Father said when it comes to interreligious dialogue, which nowadays is more and more urgent, scientific research on the universe can offer a unique perspective, shared by believers and non-believers, which helps us to reach a better religious understanding of creation. It’s for this reason, he said, that the Astrophysics (Summer) Schools that the Observatory has organized during the past 30 years are a precious opportunity for young astronomers from across the world to dialogue and collaborate in the search of truth.

The Pope noted that the symposium was also discussing the importance of communicating the message that the Church and its pastors are embracing, encouraging and promoting authentic science. He concluded his address by telling the participants that it was very important for them to share the gift of their scientific knowledge of the universe with other people, freely giving what they received for free. “I encourage you to continue along this journey of exploring our universe.”

SECRETARY OF STATE SPEAKS ON PAPAL VISIT TO CUBA, U.S.

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin says migration will be one of the most important themes raised by Pope Francis during his visit to Cuba and the U.S. from the 19th to the 28th of September. Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with the Vatican Television Center, Cardinal Parolin also confirmed that the Pope would definitely relaunch his message during his speeches to the U.S. Congress and the United Nations about the need to care for creation that was at the heart of his recent encyclical Laudato Si. The cardinal also spoke about how he hoped the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, would encourage integration within the U.S. Church of an increasingly relevant and important Hispanic component in the nation.

Asked first about the journey to Cuba and the rapprochement between Havana and Washington, Cardinal Parolin reiterated the Holy See’s view that the (U.S.) economic embargo against Cuba should be lifted.  At the same time, he said the bishops hoped that this step could be accompanied “by a greater opening (in Cuba) when it comes to freedom and human rights.”

Touching next on the Pope’s visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre in Cuba, Cardinal Parolin said it was a “normal” thing to do, because of “the strong Marian devotion of the Latin American and Cuban people” and by going there the Pope would encounter the heart of the Caribbean island and its people.

Asked next whether migration would be one of the main themes of the papal visit to the U.S., Cardinal Parolin said he was sure this would be the case because this is an issue very keenly felt by the Pope to which he often refers.  The Cardinal said it was his earnest hope that this encounter between the Pope who is carrying this problem within his heart and a nation that has experienced many waves of migrants landing on its shores “can offer some guidelines” for resolving this ongoing migration crisis.

During his visit to the U.S. Pope Francis is due to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, whom he has described as the founding father of the United States.  When asked whether this event is a call for the U.S. to rediscover its Spanish and Catholic history, Cardinal Parolin agreed.  He said the main message offered by this canonization is to encourage integration within the U.S. Church of an “increasingly important and relevant Hispanic component” in the nation.

Turning next to two keenly awaited speeches by Pope Francis, one to the U.S. Congress and another to the United Nations, Cardinal Parolin was asked whether the Pope is likely to relaunch the message contained within his Laudato Si encyclical.  He replied saying “yes, definitely” but added that he believed the Pope’s remarks would extend beyond the issue of climate change and encompass a “more integral ecology” that takes into consideration the transcendental nature of the human person possessing fundamental rights, “especially the right to life and religious freedom.”

Asked about the criticism that has been raised by some in the U.S. who consider the papal encyclical an excessively strong attack on the capitalist system, Cardinal Parolin responded by saying he believed the Pope would invite everybody to reflect on those issues, adding that it was realistic to realize that “things are not going in the right direction” and therefore there’s also a need to find ways of solving this. “We need a change,” he said.

The final question put to Cardinal Parolin concerned the Pope’s meeting with families from around the world in the U.S. city of Philadelphia and whether that would be the final chance to listen to families on the road leading to next month’s Synod of Bishops on the Family taking place in the Vatican. The Cardinal said he agreed with that and said what will emerge from this meeting is the beauty of the family and the help that the Gospel can offer to families.  He said this would be the positive side, without forgetting the great challenges on this issue.  Concluding, the cardinal said the meeting in Philadelphia would give the whole Church “a new enthusiasm” and a desire to proclaim the gospel of the family, whilst at the same time, “helping families who find themselves in whatever type of difficulties in living the Gospel in its fullness which is a source of joy, peace and happiness for all.”

VATICAN WELCOMES SYRIAN REFUGEE FAMILY OF 4

(VIS) – According to a press release issued today by the Apostolic Almoner, the parish community of St. Anna in the Vatican has received a family of refugees, consisting of a father, mother and two children. They are Syrian Christians of Catholic Greek-Melkite rite, and fled from their war-torn home city of Damascus, arriving in the Vatican on Sunday, September 6, at the moment when, during the Angelus, the Pope launched an appeal to each parish, religious community, monastery and shrine in Europe to offer shelter to a family.

The four members of the family will stay in an apartment in the Vatican near St. Peter’s. The procedures for requesting international protection were initiated immediately. According to the law, for the first six months after presenting the request for asylum, applicants may not accept paid work. In this period they will be assisted and accompanied by the St. Anna parish community. Until the decision is made in Italy as to whether or not their status of refugee will be granted, further information regarding this family cannot be given. Furthermore, to protect them during this phase it would be appropriate for the mass media to respect their wish not to be sought or interviewed.

With regard to the accommodation of a second family in the Vatican parish of St. Peter, the Almoner is not currently able to provide further information.

In this context of Christian charity towards those who flee war and famine, it is worth highlighting that for many years the Popes, through the Apostolic Almoner, have contributed to the payment of taxes for the issue of stay permits for refugees through the Centro Astalli, directed by the Jesuits (since 2014, 50,000 euros have been disbursed for this purpose). In addition, the Almoner, again on behalf of the Pope, helps many individuals and families of refugees on a daily basis, as well as meeting needs, including healthcare, for many reception centres located in Rome.

Furthermore, a modern mobile clinic, donated to the Pope a few years ago and so far reserved solely for events at which he presides, has been made available several times a week to assist refugees in reception centers, including irregular ones, situated in the outskirts of Rome. The volunteers, who are doctors, nurses and Swiss Guards, are employees of Vatican City State institutions, the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and members of the Association of the “Medicina Solidale Onlus” Institute.