POPE TO MISSIONARIES OF MERCY: YOUR SERVICE IS PRECIOUS FOR THE CHURCH – YOUR MINISTRY HELPS PEOPLE “TO BE REBORN FROM ABOVE” – FROM THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE AND VICARIATE OF ROME

I had dinner last night with three Missionaries of Mercy, including EWTN’s own Fr. John Paul, and two of his friends. The three had met in 2016 when they were called to be Missionaries of Mercy towards the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. I had a ton of questions and I listened as they told their stories and how their lives had changed since accepting this assignment. Spellbinding is the word I’d best use to describe the evening. I wish Pope Francis had been in my place to hear their stories. I know how they anticipated today’s meeting and Mass with the Holy Father, and reading his words to them gave me a greater understanding of his message.

And now, a heads-up for coming days:

I have been busy in the last weeks – including my time in New York – researching, writing, editing and re-editing scripts for 11 new “Joan’s Rome” videos. We are scheduled to tape these inside the Vatican and around Rome over the next two days and there will not be a spare minute to write this column. If there is breaking news, I’ll try to post it on Facebook. Thanks for understanding!

POPE TO MISSIONARIES OF MERCY: YOUR SERVICE IS PRECIOUS FOR THE CHURCH

During an audience with some 550 Missionaries of Mercy in the Vatican, Pope Francis reaffirmed them in their mission saying they provide a much needed service to the Church and warned them that the Christian path is an arduous one, “with stones upon which to stumble and banana peels on which to slip.”

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews: photo Vatican media)

The Missionaries of Mercy have been meeting in Rome for a few days of prayer and reflection organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

During an audience with Pope Francis on Tuesday, he told them that they are providing a much-needed service to the Church.

Although his initial intention was that their mandate would cover only the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope told them that it was because of the many testimonies of conversion attributed to their service that he had decided to prolong their service.

Mercy, the Pope told them that it was because of the many testimonies of conversion attributed to their service that he had decided to prolong their service.

He said his reflections intend to be supportive of the responsibility that he had given to them so that the expression of “ministry of mercy” that they are called to live might be improved.

Message of Mercy

Pope Francis said, “the message that we bear in Christ’s name is that of making peace with God…. God needs people to bring the message of his pardon and mercy to the world.” This is the mission that Jesus entrusted to his apostles the evening of his resurrection. The lives of those who fulfill such a mission must be in harmony with it, the Pope reminded them “To be collaborators of mercy, therefore, presupposes to live the merciful love which we ourselves have first received.”

St Paul: the mirror for the true Missionary of Mercy

The Pope reflected substantially on the experience of St Paul who, acknowledging his past as a “blasphemer and persecutor,…received mercy” from the Lord. Because of his past he became an ambassador of God’s reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20), and declared that he gave scandal to no one so no one could discredit his ministry (2 Cor 6:3). The key to collaborate with God is that one always acknowledges that “God has treated me mercifully,” the Pope said.

God makes the first move

Some concrete advice the Pope gave was that priests should remember that God makes the first move. Thus, when a penitent approaches the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they need to remember that God’s grace is already at work. “Our priestly heart should perceive the miracle of the person who has encountered God and who has already experienced the efficacy of his grace,” he said.

The priests’ work is the second move

The Pope explained that the priests’ cooperation in God’s grace already at work consists in “the not rendering vain the action of the grace of God, but to sustain it, and allow it to come to perfection.” Like the father of the prodigal son, confessors need to look in the eyes of the penitent, listen to them, and throw open wide their arms to welcome them, so that they can experience the love of the Father “who forgives no matter what, clothes the son with the festal garment and the ring which is a sign that he belongs to his family.”

In conclusion, Pope Francis said: “Living in communion with the Source of Life, Missionaries of Mercy are called to be interpreters of and to bear testimony to this experience: that everyone is always welcome without distinction into the community that sustains those who find themselves in a moment of need or difficulty.”

YOUR MINISTRY HELPS PEOPLE “TO BE REBORN FROM ABOVE”

After addressing the Missionaries of Mercy earlier in the morning, Pope Francis presided at a concelebrated Mass with them at noon at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In his homily, the Pope said, “Everything starts from the Resurrection of Jesus: from it comes the testimony of the Apostles and, through this is generated the faith and the new life of the members of the community, with its frank evangelical style.”

He added that, “The readings of today’s Mass brings out these two inseparable aspects well: personal rebirth and community life. So, turning to you, dear brothers, I think of the ministry you carry out, starting from the Jubilee of Mercy. A ministry that moves in both these directions: at the service of the people, so they may be “reborn from above”, and at the service of the communities, so that they may live the commandment of love with joy and coherence.

Francis then proposed “two indications” he wants the Missionaries to grasp.

The first, he said, is that “those who are called to bear witness to the Resurrection of Christ must themselves, in the first person, ‘be born from above’. Otherwise one ends up becoming like Nicodemus who, despite being a teacher in Israel, did not understand the words of Jesus when He said that to “see the kingdom of God” we must ‘be born from above’, be born ‘of water and the Spirit’.

“Nicodemus did not understand the logic of God, which is the logic of grace, of mercy, so that those who become small are great, those who become last are first, those who recognize themselves ill are healed.” The Pope said this means “ordinary priests, simple, gentle, balanced, but able to let themselves be constantly regenerated by the Spirit, docile to His strength, inwardly free – above all by themselves – as they are moved by the ‘wind’ of the Spirit Who blows where He wants.

Francis explained that “the second indication concerns community service: to be priests capable of ‘raising’ in the ‘desert’ of the world the sign of salvation, that is, the Cross of Christ, as a source of conversion and renewal for the whole community and for the world itself.”

Pointing to the “communion manifested from the beginning in the community of Jerusalem where – as the Book of Acts attests – “all the believers were one in heart and mind, he said, “It was a communion that was made of the concrete sharing of goods, so that ‘they shared everything they had’. And ‘there were no needy persons among them’.”

“Dear brothers,” said the Holy Father, “put your specific ministry of Missionaries of Mercy at the service of this dynamism. In fact, both the Church and the world today are in particular need of Mercy so that the unity desired by God in Christ may prevail over the negative action of the evil one who takes advantage of many current means, in themselves good, but which when misused, instead of uniting tend to divide. We are convinced that “unity is greater than conflict” (Evangelii Gaudium, 228), but we also know that without mercy this principle does not have the strength to be implemented in the reality of life and history.”

The Pope said he hoped the Missionaries “leave this meeting with the joy of being confirmed in the ministry of Mercy, confirmed in the grateful confidence of being the first to be called to be reborn always ‘from above’, from God’s love and… confirmed in the mission of offering to all the sign of Jesus ‘lifted up’ from the ground, so that the community may be a sign and instrument of unity in the midst of the world.”

FROM THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE AND VICARIATE OF ROME

SUNDAY, April 15, Pope Francis will visit the Roman parish of St. Paul of the Cross at Corviali and say Mass.
TUESDAY, May 1 at 5 pm, Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Divine Love to recite the rosary at the beginning of the Marian month.
SATURDAY, May 5 at 11 am, the Pope will preside at a meeting of the Neocatechumenal Way at Tor Vergata, on the 50th anniversary of the “Way.

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POPE TO CHILDREN: YOU CAN BEST FOLLOW JESUS BY BRINGING HIM JOY

I posted yesterday about the five new cardinals named by Pope Francis at the Regina Coeli so no need to review that today. However, I want to tell you about his other big moment of the day – a visit to a parish outside of Rome. I think you’ll really enjoy his dialogue with young childten so offer Vatican Radio’s transcript of that event.

This afternoon I was briefly in Pza. Pio XII, the small piazza just in front of and adjacent to St. Peter’s Square. The Vatican has been busy preparing for the president’s visit to Pope Francis and the Vatican Wednesday morning. Platforms are going up in Pza. Pio XII for the media, some streets already have parking restrictions and that will get a lot worse by tomorrow evening.

Stay tuned –

POPE TO CHILDREN: YOU CAN BEST FOLLOW JESUS BY BRINGING HIM JOY

Sunday, after his surprise announcement at the Regina Coeli that he will create five new cardinals on June 28, Pope Francis went to the parish of San Pier Damiani ai Monti di San Paolo in Casal Bernocchi, Acilia, south of Rome. He was accompanied to a sports center where, as he usually does on parish visits, he met with children, young adults awaiting confirmation and youth who attend the center.

At about 4:15 pm he went directly to the parish where he greeted the sick, the Neocatechumenal community and the poor people assisted by the diocesan Caritas. Before celebrating Mass at 5:55 pm, the Pope confessed four penitents At Mass he delivered an off-the-cuff homily.

Following is the English transcript from Vatican Radio of the Q&A session the Pope had with children at the Sports Center :

Pope Francis, I would like to ask you what sport you practised at my age – I am 11. I would also like to know if you played football and, if so, in which position.

Pope Francis: When I was your age, I played soccer, but I wasn’t ‘bravo’ at playing soccer, and where I come from, they call you ‘pata dura,’ ‘stiff leg.’I was a ‘pata dura’ and that’s why I usually was the goalie, so I wouldn’t have to move around. It is not a curse, this, you can say it: pata dura , it is not a swear word.

Child: What can we do to help the world?

Pope Francis : It is a good question! You asked this: “What can we do to save, to help”. You said “to save the world”. But the world is large! Can a child – think, think carefully before answering – can a boy, a child, a girl, help in the salvation of the world? Can he or she do this, or not?

Children : He can’t…

Pope Francis : Can’t he do anything? Don’t you count at all? Can you or not?

Children : Yes, we can!

Pope Francis : Good! A bit louder, I can’t hear…

Children : [shouting] Yes, we can!
Pope Francis : And I would like to hear you, which of you is the best at answering this question. Think carefully: how can I help Jesus to save the world? How can I help Jesus to save the world? Raise your hands, those of you who want to answer. … Raise your hand if you want to answer. [Someone says: “With prayer”]. With prayer can we help Jesus to save the world? Can we, or not?

Children : We can!

Pope Francis : But what is happening? Are you all asleep?

Children : No! Pope Francis : Ah, the sun… the sun sends us to sleep. With prayer. Very good. Another thing. You…

Child : Respecting people.

Pope Francis : Respecting people. And people, should they be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Dad, mother, grandfather, grandmother: are they to be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : And the people we do not know, are they to be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : And the people who live on the street, the homeless, are they to be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Yes. Everyone, all people are to be respected. Shall we say it together?

Pope and children : All people are to be respected!

Pope Francis : And a person who isn’t good to me, must I respect him?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Are you sure?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : But wouldn’t it be better just to give him a slap?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Really?

Children : Yes.

Pope Francis : Good: even a person who is not good to me must be respected.

Pope and children : Even a person who is not good to me must be respected.

Pope Francis : And a person who has done me harm, think carefully about this: what must I do? If a person has done harm to me, can I do harm to him?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : No. It is not nice. Can I telephone the mafia to ask them to do something?

Children : No…

Pope Francis : You aren’t convinced… Can we do this?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Can we make agreements with the mafia?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : No! Even those [who do harm] must be respected. You have answered well. You see in how many ways we can help Jesus save the world. And this is good, it is very good! And if I have done my homework and my mother lets me go out and play with my friends, or have a match, is this good?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Playing – think hard – playing, playing well, does this help Jesus save the world?

Children : Yes…

Pope Francis : You are not convinced…

Children : Yes!
Pope Francis : Yes! Because joy helps Jesus save the world. Let us all say it together.

Children : Joy helps Jesus save the world

Pope Francis : Joy is something very beautiful, very beautiful. You, today, are you joyful?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Yes? Are you joyful?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : And this is very good. And I think that with this I have answered to “what can I do to help Jesus save the world?”. And so think about it, later, always. Another question was: how did I become aware of my vocation. Every person has a place in life. Jesus wants one person to get married, to have a family; he wants another to be a priest, another to be a nun… But each one of us has a path in life. And for the majority it is for them to be like you, to be like everyone, to be like your parents: lay faithful who have a beautiful family, who raise their children, who make faith grow. … And I was in a family: we were five brothers and sisters and we were happy. Father went to work, and came home from work – in that time there was work – and we played. Once – this will make you laugh, but do not do what I am telling you! – we had a competition to play at being parachutists, and we took an umbrella and went onto the terrace, and one of my brothers was the first to jump off, down from the terrace. He survived, only just! These are dangerous games. But we were happy. Why? Because father and mother helped us to get along, at school, and they were also concerned with us. It is very good, very good. Listen well: it is very good in life to be married, it is very good. And it is very good to have a family, a father and a mother, to have grandparents, aunts and uncles. Do you understand? It is very good, it is a grace. And each one of you has parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, a family. And why don’t we greet them now? Let’s applaud them, all of them [applause]. Your parents make sacrifices for you, to let you grow, and this is a good thing, a beautiful vocation: having a family. But there is another vocation: being a nun, being a priest. And one day I felt – all of a sudden – I was sixteen and I felt that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. And here I am! I am a priest. This is the answer. You feel it in your heart: when a boy feels warmth in his heart, and then that warmth goes further, and he feels love for a girl, and then they get engaged and then they marry, that is what it is like in your heart when the Lord says to you: “You must go ahead on the path to become a priest”.  And that is what I felt. Just as we feel the good things in life. Because it is a beautiful thing! Do you understand? Good, you must be tired of staying here, the sun is strong.

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Now there is a bit of a breeze, but… I don’t remember: if someone is not good to me, must I give him a slap?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Ah, I had forgotten. And must I pray for the people who hate me?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Yes, yes: pray for those who are not good to me, for this… I must pray. And must I be obedient to my mother and father?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : I, or my neighbour?

Children : Everyone!

Pope Francis : Ah, everyone! Someone said “I”.

Children : I!

Pope Francis : I must obey my mother and father: everyone!

Children : I must obey my mother and father.

Pope Francis : It is very important, because they make sacrifices for us. Do you understand?

Children : Yes.

Pope Francis : Very good. And now, what shall we do?

Well, let us pray. In the first question we spoke about prayer. Now let us pray for each other. Everyone, hold hands. Like brothers, like friends. Hold each other by the hand. And let us pray to Our Lady, who is our Mother: Ave O Maria… And now I will give the blessing to all of you. In silence, each one of you, think of your parents, of your relatives, your friends; think also of your enemies, of the people who hate you or do not wish you well. And may this blessing descend upon them too, upon everyone. [Blessing] Thank you!

SWISS GUARDS HAVE NEW COMMANDER – POPE FRANCIS PAYS SURPRISE VISIT TO MIGRANT CAMP – POPE FRANCIS, IN HOMILY, SAYS DEVIL IS “FATHER OF HATE, OF LIES,” WHO SEEKS DISUNITY – VATICAN COMPLETES WORK ON SHOWERS FOR HOMELESS

From Fr. Tom Rosica, English-language assistant to Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office:  Prayers for Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, RSM

After a nearly 30-year career as a journalist in Washington, D.C. and Rome, working with Catholic News Service, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and most recently AMERICA Magazine, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, who is 67, has returned to the Sisters of Mercy convent in Albany, New York, to live out her final days with metastatic breast cancer.  Kindly remember this wonderful woman and communicator in your prayers. Click here for a Sisters of Mercy profile of Mary Ann, friend to all of us accredited at the Holy See Press Office, and countless more in the U.S.: http://www.sistersofmercy.org/blog/2015/02/06/facing-terminal-illness-with-mercy-part-ii/?utm_source=t&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=cwm

This is a big week for “red hats” here in Rome, starting today with the eighth meeting of the Council of 9 Cardinals with the Pope at the Santa Marta residence. The meeting will  go to Wednesday, February 11, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick. The following two days – February 12 and 13 – the College of Cardinals will hold their consistory in the Synod Hall and will discuss the reform of the Roman Curia being studied by Francis and C9 Council.

This coming weekend, new members will be joining the College of Cardinals as the Holy Father creates 20 new cardinals on Saturday, February 14 (15 of whom are under age 80 and therefore cardinal electors). That afternoon, the new cardinals will greet friends and relatives in both the Paul VI Hall and rooms of the Apostolic Palace. Sunday, the Pope and new eminences will concelebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

And now, some of the stories from this weekend, especially Pope Francis’ unscripted stop Sunday at a migrant camp on his way to say Mass in a Roman parish!

SWISS GUARDS HAVE NEW COMMANDER

The Vatican announced that Pope Francis has appointed Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Graf as the new commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Graf, who joined the guards in 1987, succeeds Colonel Daniel Anrig, who retired last month and had been commander since 2008. The Swiss Guards were formed in 1506 by Pope Julius II to protect the person of the Pope and the security of the Apostolic Palace.

Cardinal Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, the Philippines, is in Rome for the events this week with the College of Cardinals. He presided at Mass Sunday morning for the new commander and fellow guards in the Swiss Guard Chapel. Click on the Swiss Guards Facebook page to see some photos: https://www.facebook.com/gsp1506

POPE FRANCIS PAYS SURPRISE VISIT TO MIGRANT CAMP

Late afternoon Sunday, on his way to the Roman parish San Michele Arcangelo in the Roman Pietralata neighborhood to say Mass, Pope Francis – no surprise! – made an impromptu visit to a migrant shantytown. The papal car stopped and the Pope got out, accompanied by the papal photographer and head of security and just walke through a gate, unannounced. The camp is called Campo Arcobaleno or Camp Rainbow and is only about 300 yards from the parish.

POPE FRANCIS - SHANTYTOWN

According to a report by Vatican Radio, “he got out of the car and people were shocked when they saw him in front of their shacks,” said Father Aristide Sana, the pastor of the parish who quickly traveled to the camp when he got word of the visit. Pope Francis received a boisterous welcome.

“Viva il Papa!” the crowd shouted, engulfing the Pope, chanting and shaking his hand.  Pope Francis asked how many spoke Spanish, and the crowd shouted out “All of us!” Actually, though many of the residents are from Peru and Ecuador, many others were from Eritrea, Ukraine, Russia, and other parts of the world. However. In what ever language, they joined the Pope in his request to pray the Our Father together in Spanish.

It was only a ten-minute visit, one the migrants will never forget, and Pope Francis seemed totally delighted at the occasion.

To enjoy that encounter with the Pope, here is a video I also posted on my Facebook page: http://www.romereports.com/pg160276-a-look-at-the-pope-s-powerful-visit-to-an-immigrant-shantytown-en

POPE FRANCIS, IN HOMILY, SAYS DEVIL IS “FATHER OF HATE, OF LIES,” WHO SEEKS DISUNITY

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday evening visited the parish of San Michele Arcangelo in the eastern Roman district of Pietralata, on the periphery of Rome and home to 8,000 families. After arriving at the parish hall, Pope Francis’ first stop was to meet with a group of homeless people who are cared for by the Sant’Egidio Community.

“The fact that people do not know your name, and call you ‘homeless’ and you carry this: It is your cross, and your patience,” said Pope Francis. “But there is something in the heart of all of you – of this, please be assured – there is the Holy Spirit.”

He then held a meeting with parents whose children had been baptized in the previous year, and he asked them to teach the Faith well, lamenting that there are “Christian children who cannot make the sign of the cross.”

In his meeting with older children, many of whom were part of the Scouting movement, Pope Francis pointed out that wars are not only those – and he asked them to make a list – that kill children in Iraq, Ukraine, and Africa. Wars are come about much earlier in people who do not possess God.

“Who is the father of war?” Pope Francis asked. “The devil!” the children answered.

Pope Francis said the devil is the “father of hate,” “the father of lies,” who seeks disunity.

“But God wants unity,” Pope Francis said. “If in your heart you feel jealousy, this is the beginning of war. Jealousies are not of God.”

And this is the theme Pope Francis continued during his homily at Mass.

“It is sad when in a family, brothers do not speak because of something stupid,” Pope Francis said.

“Because the devil takes stupidity and makes a world,” he continued. “Then these enmities continue and multiply for years.  It destroys the family: Parents suffer because their children do not speak to each other, or with the wife of a son…And so this jealousy and envy, it is sowed by the devil. And the only one who can drive out demons is Jesus.  The only one who can heal these things is Jesus. So to each of you: Have yourself healed by Jesus.”

As he often does during parish visits, he urged the congregation to listen to Jesus in the Gospel, to read a passage and ask themselves, what does it say to me?

“Have this daily contact with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.  “Pray with the Gospel.”

VATICAN COMPLETES WORK ON SHOWERS FOR HOMELESS

(Vatican Radio) Work has now been completed on the building of three showers and a barber’s booth for the homeless under the colonnades of St Peter’s Square. The shower unit was commissioned by Pope Francis after learning from his Almoner that homeless people in Rome lacked places where to wash themselves or have their hair cut. (AP/L’Osservatore Romano pool photos)

HOMELESS SHOWERS - AP Photo(L'Osservatore Romano pool

The 3 showers and the barber’s booth have been installed in an existing lavatory block used by pilgrims and tourists visiting the Vatican area that was completely refurbished for this purpose. The showers will be available every day, except on Wednesday during the Pope’s general audience and when celebrations take place, either in St Peter’s Basilica or in the Square.

HOMELESS SHOWERS  -  2

The barber service will be available on Monday between 9am and 3pm.  A number of barbers in Rome have volunteered to offer their services as well as final-year students from a hairdressing school in Rome.  Sisters from Mother’s Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Order will be among those helping to welcome the homeless who come to use the showers.

Each of the homeless people using the shower units will receive two free kits, a complete change of underwear and a kit containing towel, soap, toothpaste and brush, deodorant plus razor and shaving cream for the men. Many of the articles have been offered free of charge by various firms and private individuals who have wanted to show their solidarity with this project. The Pope’s Almoner will be responsible for purchasing, as needed, future supplies using money raised from the selling of parchments with a Papal Blessing.

The Vatican has called for ten nearby parishes to install showers as well. The bill will be paid with money from the Pope’s charity fund.