PAPAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM, STRENGTH AGAINST EVIL – HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE COMMUNIQUES

Today, April 25, is Liberation Day, a national holiday in Italy that marks the fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy in 1945, towards the end of the Second World War. I always know when it’s a holiday in Rome – even without a calendar – because of the extreme quiet in the neighborhood. Many stores are closed and there’s little traffic and hardly any movement or noise on the streets adjacent to my building, just across from Vatican City. I don’t know what it’s like in the center of Rome or around historic monuments but I know I’m loving the peace and quiet!

On another topic: We all have interests and passions and hobbies, whether in the fields of sports, handicrafts, the arts, travel, languages, libraries, cuisine, or merely collecting items – stamps, coins, dolls or, as I do, plates and bells. When it comes to my interest in languages and travel and history, I think you know of my passion for the Middle East and the Holy Land, for the story of the Catholic Church, for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, in that part of the world.

If you have a similar interest, I’d like to point you to an excellent site for news from and about that region: http://en.abouna.org/en/world

Fr. Rifat Bader, a friend of mine from Jordan, began this site years ago. He also launched CCSM – the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan – on April 25, 2012 to serve as a media arm for the Latin Patriarchate. By the way, the word “abouna” in the website means “father.” Happy anniversary, Abouna Rifat and CCSM!

Father Rifat and I met over the years in his native Jordan, in both Cyprus and Lebanon during trips by Pope Benedict, in the Holy Land for Francis’ three-day trip in 2014 and a number of times here in Rome. When it was just a seed, the CCSM was the subject of many of our conversations and emails and I am delighted to follow its success.

Another fascinating link: You can access the annual magazine of the Grand Magisterium of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, “Jerusalem Cross” here: http://www.oessh.va/content/ordineequestresantosepolcro/en/media/le-nostre-pubblicazioni/la-croce-di-gerusalemme-2017.html

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON BAPTISM, STRENGTH AGAINST EVIL

Pope Francis bases his General Audience catechesis on Philippians 4:12-13: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me”. Through our Baptismal anointing we receive the strength needed for the spiritual struggle.

By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Pope Francis continued reflecting on the Sacrament of Baptism during the catechesis portion of the Wednesday General Audience. He focused on the anointing with the oil of catechumens that is part of the Rite of Baptism.

Faith is a response to the Gospel

Those who request Baptism have responded to the Gospel that has prompted them to believe, the Pope said. They have learned how to listen to Jesus’ teaching and works. They experience the thirst of the Samaritan woman. Their eyes are opened like the blind man. They come forth from the dead like Lazarus.

Not alone

Those who approach the baptismal font are accompanied by the entire Church. This is concretely expressed with the Litany of the Saints before the exorcism and anointing with the oil of catechumens at the beginning of the Rite of Baptism. “They are gestures that, since ancient times, assure those who are preparing to be reborn as children of God that the prayer of the Church assists them in the fight against evil”, Pope Francis said.

Strength against evil

Pope Francis reminded those present that Jesus “fought against and cast out demons to manifest that the kingdom of God had come” (cf Mt 12:28). His victory over evil is a clear sign of his lordship. Through Baptism, which is not magic but a “gift of the Holy Spirit”, Jesus gives us the ability “to fight against the spirit of evil”. Pope Francis cited the Baptismal Rite: “God sent his Son into the world to destroy the power of satan and to transfer man from darkness to the kingdom of infinite light”.

Anointing with oil

The Baptismal candidates receive a second anointing on their chest. Pope Francis explained that long ago, “fighters would cover themselves with oil in order to tone their muscles and in order to more easily escape their enemy’s grasp”. Unpacking this sacramental sign, Pope Francis concluded his catechesis saying that the Christian life is one long, tiring struggle against evil. But we are accompanied by “Mother Church who prayers that her children, regenerated by Baptism, might not succumb to the snares of the evil one, but might conquer by the power of Christ’s Passover.” Therefore, “we too can repeat with the faith of St Paul: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

At the end of the audience, Francis made the following appeal:

Next Friday, April 27 in Panmunjom, an inter-Korean summit will be held in which the leaders of the two Koreas – Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un – will take part. Such an encounter will be a good occasion to start a transparent dialogue and a concrete path of reconciliation and rediscovered fraternity with the goal of guaranteeing peace on the Korean peninsula and in the entire world.

I assure the Korean people, who so ardently desire peace, of my personal prayer and the closeness of the entire Church. The Holy See accompanies, supports and encourages every useful and sincere initiative to build a better future, as the sign of an encounter and friendship among people.

I ask those responsible for direct political talks to have the courage of hope, to make yourselves artisans of peace while I also exhort you to pursue with trust the path undertaken for the common good.

As God is the Father of all and the Father of peace, I invite you to pray the Our Father, God, Father of all, for the Korean people, those in the South and those in the North.

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE COMMUNIQUES

I. Next July 7, Pope Francis will travel to Bari (on Italy’s Adriatic coast), window to the East that is the guardian of the the relics of St. Nicholas, for a day of reflection on and prayer for the dramatic situation in the Middle East that afflicts so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith. He intends to invite to this ecumenical encounter for peace the Heads of Churches and Christian communities in that region. As of now, Pope Franccis exhorts all to prepare for this event with prayer.

II. POPE TO RECEIVE CHILEAN ABUSE VICTIMS THIS WEEKEND

(I published this earlier this morning as a separate column) – In response to questions by journalists about an encounter of the Holy Father Francis with several victims of abuse in Chile, Holy See press office director Greg Burke this morning declared the following:

“This coming weekend the Holy Father will receive at the Santa Marta residence three victims of abuse committed by clergy in Chile; respectively Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andres Murillo.

The Pope thanks them for having accepted his invitation. During these days of personal and fraternal encounter he wants to ask pardon of them and to share their pain and his shame for what they have suffered, and above all listen to all their suggestions with the scope of avoiding that such terrible facts repeat themselves.

The Pope will receive victims individually, allowing each one to speak for all the time they need.

The Holy Father asks for prayers for the church in Chile in this very sad moment, expressing the hope that these encounters can take place in a climate of serene trust and that they might be a fundamental step to remedy and to avoid for all time abuses of conscience, power and, in particular, sexual abuse in the heart of the Church.”

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PAPAL APPEAL FOR JERUSALEM

Pope Francis said these words at the end of the general audience this morning in the Paul VI Hall. It certainly is a speedy Vatican response to news coming from the Trump administration about the status of Jerusalem.

Following is my translation of his appeal made in Italian:

My thoughts now turn to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot be silent about my very deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days, and at the same time I make a heartfelt appeal that it becomes everyone’s commitment to respect the status quo of the city in conformity with the pertinent United Nations resolutions.

Jerusalem is a unique city sacred for Jews Christians and Muslims and in it they venerate the Holy Places of their respective religions, and it has a special vocation to peace.

I pray the Lord that this identity will be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and of the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence will prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension to a world panorama already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts.

WE MUST “BE MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER” – URGENT PAPAL APPEAL FOR SYRIA

I leave tomorrow morning for Washington, D.C. to attend the wedding in nearby Maryland of one of the daughters of some very close and dear friends of mine. I rarely get to attend weddings, First Communions and other family events in the U.S. but was able to take advantage of this occasion for a few days.

In the meantime, I’ve been preparing segments for “At Home with Jim and Joy” in my absence and have also been putting together “Vatican Insider” for this coming weekend. In fact, I have prepared a special on the College of Cardinals that I hope you will enjoy.

If time allows I’ll put an update and/or photos on “Joan’s Rome” or on Facebook (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) while I am away. If not, “pazienza,” as the Italians say!

In the meantime, here are two links from announcements in Indianapolis and Chicago about two of the new U.S. cardinals announced Sunday by Pope Francis:

+Monday’s press conference from Indianapolis announcing Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR as Cardinal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw9wIiZMsCg

Link to statement of Archbishop Blase Cupich on being named a Cardinal: https://www.archchicago.org/news_releases/news_2016/stmnt_161009.html

WE MUST “BE MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER”

Today is a glorious day in Rome, following an overcast Tuesday and some torrential rain in the afternoon. That rain seemed to have cleared the delft-blue sky of clouds and the air of pollution as thousands of pilgrims joined Pope Francis for the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Continuing his series of weekly catechesis on mercy, the Holy Father reflected on the reading from Saint Matthew’s Gospel in which the Lord tells us that we will be judged by the the mercy we show to others.

appeal-syria

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began the Pope, to great applause. “During this Holy Year of Mercy, we have reflected on God’s mercy, revealed especially in the incarnation of his Son, and on our duty, as followers of Jesus, to be ‘merciful like the Father’.  In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord tells us that we will be judged by the mercy we show to him, present in the least of our brothers and sisters.

“His words,” explained Francis, “have inspired the seven traditional ‘corporal’ works of mercy – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, healing the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead.”

He noted that “the Church’s tradition also adds seven ‘spiritual’ works of mercy – counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offences, bearing patiently those who do us ill, and praying for the living and the dead.

“As expressions of living faith,” said the Pope, “these works are often carried out quietly and with simple gestures.  Yet, as Saints like Mother Teresa of Calcutta show us, they reveal the merciful face of Christ and can change the culture around us.  Let us keep them always in mind and strive to practice them daily.”

URGENT PAPAL APPEAL FOR SYRIA

After the Wednesday general audience catechesis on mercy, Pope Francis once again appealed for peace in Syria, Pope Francis said, “I want to emphasize and reiterate my solidarity with all victims of inhuman conflict in Syria. It is with a sense of urgency that I renew my appeal, begging, with all my strength, those responsible, to take steps toward an immediate ceasefire, one imposed and respected at least for the time necessary to allow the evacuation of civilians, especially children, who are still trapped under cruel bombardment.”

News agencies report that, in the last 24 hours, Russian-led airstrikes have resumed, once again targeting the besieged city of Aleppo. At least 25 people are reported to have died, including children.