THE NEW ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL: PART ONE – EXPO FUNDS CARITAS JORDAN PROJECT PROVIDING WORK FOR REFUGEES

THE LATEST PAPAL TWEETS:
May 9, 2016: Jesus, ascended into heaven, is now in the lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each one of us.

May 10, 2016: May today’s challenges become forces for unity to overcome our fears and build together a better future for Europe and the world.

After very memorable days in New York City, I am now in Washington, D.C. for some big events for my book, culminating this Sunday morning, starting at 10, with a book-signing at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

One of the highlights of my entire U.S. visit will take place tonight at a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland where I will have a “class reunion” with a sizeable group of students to whom I taught French five decades ago! I was new as a teacher at 24 and they were 14 and 15, freshman and sophomores at the Academy of the Holy Names in Silver Spring, Md.

AHN no longer exists but there is a wesbite for alumnae, two of whom, Anne Quinn and Monica Knudsen, “discovered” me on EWTN two years ago, got in touch with my through Facebook and we had our own reunion in Rome in March. I did write about that and posted some photos.

Since that time we have stayed in touch and Anne has organized the dinner that will take place at the Positano restaurant in Bethesda. I’ve also been in the AHN Facebook page an been in touch with a lot of former students. I’ll take photos and share those with you right here! And maybe a few of me signing my books – we have a shipment just for AHN!

In the meantime, today I want to share some of the photos of the newly restored and stunning St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. And also a great story about Jordan and its aid to refugees and ties with the Vatican. Caritas is doing magnificent work in Jordan and I’ve been privileged to spend some quality time with them in Amman.

THE NEW ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL: PART ONE

I have to say that I was absolutely dazzled when I visited St. Patrick’s cathedral twice last week, not having seen it since its recent restoration. The beauty of every square inch of this massive church was beyond description – everything gleamed and glittered, the stained glass windows, after years of hiding their true colors, are now sublime, the statues beckon to you, as if coming to life.

Here, in Part One, are some of the photos I took during those two visits. I had taken photos in 2009 during Cardinal Dolan’s installation and will have to go back and review those pre-restoration pictures. In the meantime, click here to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of the exterior! http://saintpatrickscathedral.org/restore-st-patricks-cathedral

This beautiful floral arrangement greeted me upon my arrival in New York and I was delightfully surprised to see they were a welcome gift from Cardinal Dolan, a longtime friend.
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Some FYI trivia (but not trivial!), interspersed by photos:

Including the St. Patrick’s Cathedral staff, the architecture team, the construction management team, the owner’s representatives and the Archdiocesan team, more than 200 people a day worked on this project.

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The Bronze Doors: Meticulously restored by G & L Popian, these 9, 200 pound doors had seen the wear and tear of more than 50 years of overlooking 5th Avenue. Walk out front now and see saints depicted on the fully-restored doors, shining for all to see.

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Narthex ceiling: When you walk in look up. Darkened by soot, pollution and years of heavy traffic, the ceiling had turned black in some places and the plaster had cracked. It shimmers and gleams majestically with the restoration.
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Exterior: Outside the Cathedral, check the spires as they now gleam as they first did when they were finished in 1888. Srones were cleaned and re-cut to return them to their original glory.

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St. Patrick’s mighty pipe organ has been refurbished and its roughly 9,000 pipes play in perfect tune. The interior pews, murals and religious statues have all been restored, as were all the stained glass windows that now allow much greater light to filter into the cathedral.
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Links to media stories about the restoration:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-restoration-of-st-patricks-cathedral/

EXPO FUNDS CARITAS JORDAN PROJECT PROVIDING WORK FOR REFUGEES

(Vatican Radio) A new project providing work for Iraqi refugees in Jordan will be inaugurated in the capital, Amman, on Thursday May 12th by the undersecretary of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’, Mgr Segundo Tejado Munoz.

The project will be funded by money raised by the Holy See’s pavilion at the Milan Expo which took place from May 1st to October 31st 2015. Pope Francis personally requested that the 150.000 dollars, collected through visitors’ donations, should go directly to the development scheme entitled ‘Promoting job opportunities for displaced Iraqis in Jordan’. Philippa Hitchen reports:

Caritas Jordan will oversee the launch of the project which guarantees a regular income for 15 Iraqi refugees and their families, employed in making preserves, as well as the production and sale of oil and vegetables.

A further 200 refugees will be offered professional training in carpentry, agriculture and food technology, while another 500 will be given temporary employment throughout the year.

After the first six months of funding by the initial donation, the project is expected to support itself through income from the sale of the produce.

The project was presented and approved by ‘Cor Unum’ as a direct response to the Pope’s desire to help the most vulnerable people suffering from the effects of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Jordan currently hosts around 130.000 Iraqi refugees and over 1.3 million Syrians who have fled from the fighting in their country – and those are just the numbers who’ve been registered by the United Nations.

The director of Caritas Jordan, Wael Suleiman, noted that despite the efforts of the local Church and of various government authorities, it remains extremely hard for refugees to find regular work.

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“VATICAN INSIDER” GOES TO MEXICO – GOD IS LOVE, CHARITY HIS ESSENCE

“VATICAN INSIDER” GOES TO MEXICO

My guest this weekend on Vatican Insider is Alan Holdren, a real Vatican insider who produces “Vaticano” for EWTN and also is the bureau chief for News Nightly. You saw him on the news during the days he was in Mexico with Pope Francis and that is exactly what he will tell us about this week on VI. We look at highlights of the trip, some special moments for both the Pope and Alan, and talk about a lot of behind the scenes – or on the scene! – stories.

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=

GOD IS LOVE, CHARITY HIS ESSENCE

Pope Francis, evidently recovered from his one-day indisposition and fever on Thursday, at noon today addressed participants in the international congress that, 10 years on from its publication, has been reflecting on Pope Benedict’s Encyclical Deus caritas est. The gathering was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

Deus caritas est

The Holy Father explained that, “The first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI concerns a theme that allows us to retrace the entire history of the Church, which is also a history of charity . It is a story of the love received from God, to be carried to the world: this charity received and given is the fulcrum of the history of the Church and of the history of each one of us.” He added that, “Charity, therefore, is at the center of the life of the Church and, in the words of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, is truly the heart of the Church.”

“The present Jubilee Year,” added Francis, “is also an opportunity to return to this beating heart of our life and our witness, to the center of the proclamation of faith: ‘God is love’. God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love: charity is his essence, it is his nature. He is unique, but not solitary; he cannot be alone, he cannot be closed in on himself because he is communion, he is charity; and charity by its nature is communicated and shared. In this way, God associates man to his life of love, and even if man turns away from him, God does not remain distant but goes out to meet him. This going out to meet us, culminating in the Incarnation of his Son, is his mercy. … Charity and mercy are in this way closely related, because they are God’s way of being and acting: his identity and his name.”

Pope Francis said that, “God, without ever tiring, pours out his love on us, and we are called to become witnesses to this love in the world. Therefore, we should look to divine charity as to the compass which orients our lives, … From charity we learn how to see our brothers and sisters and the world. Ubi amor, ibi oculus, say the Medievals: where there is love, there is the ability to see.”

Emphaszing a second point of Deus caritas est, the Pope said the Encyclical “reminds us that this charity needs to be reflected more and more in the life of the Church. How I wish that everyone in the Church, every institution, every activity would show that God loves man! The mission that our charitable organizations carry out is important, because they provide so many poor people with a more dignified and human life, which is needed more than ever. But this mission is of utmost importance because, not with words, but with concrete love it can make every person feel loved by the Father, loved as His son or daughter and destined for eternal life with Him.

“I would like,” continued Francis, “to thank all those who daily are committing themselves to this mission which challenges every Christian. In this Jubilee Year, my intention has been to emphasize that we can all experience the grace of the Jubilee by putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: to live the works of mercy means to conjugate the verb ‘to love’ according to Jesus. In this way then, all of us together can contribute concretely to the great mission of the Church: to communicate the love of God which is meant to be spread.”

 

 

POPE DONATES $50,000 TO VICTIMS OF TAIWAN EARTHQUAKE

Here is a link to my Facebook page with photos from last night’s book-signing event at the Domus Carmelitane residence with pilgrims from Divine Mercy parish in Paulding Ohio, and their pastor, Fr. Joseph T. Poggemeyer, and Fr. Matt Frisbee: https://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420

Both the parish and the pastor have fascinating stories as you can see on the parish website (http://divinemercycatholic.com/our-parish/). Divine Mercy is in the diocese of Toledo, led by my good friend, Bishop Danny Thomas (we met in 1990, both of us newly arrived to work at the Vatican).

divine mercy -paulòding

The group leader, Maggie McDaniels and I had met at a Santa Susanna Mass a few months back. We have mutual friends and, as Maggie explained the group’s pilgrimage to Rome, I naturally mentioned the new must have guide to the Jubilee! You can find Maggie and Teresa Grodi at www.catholicfaithjourneys.com

POPE DONATES $50,000 TO VICTIMS OF TAIWAN EARTHQUAKE

FROM ASIA NEWS: Taipei – Pope Francis has sent a donation of $50,000 for the families of the victims and the survivors of the terrible earthquake that struck the southern part of the island of Taiwan last Feb. 6. This is confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei: the sum was sent to the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

The 6.4 magnitude earthquake occurred in Tainan. There were 117 victims, of which 115 residents in a single building complex that collapsed in Yongkang district. The authorities are currently engaged in an investigation to understand how the total collapse of the recently built Weiguan Jinlong ( “Golden Dragon”) was possible.

The day after the disaster, which occurred in conjunction with the Chinese New Year, the Pope sent a telegram signed by the Secretary of State Card. Parolin. In the text, the Pope says he  “was saddened to learn of the suffering caused by the deadly earthquake which struck in Tainan, leaving many people dead or seriously injured.  He sends prayerful condolences to the families of the deceased and injured, as well as to rescue personnel and the civil authorities. His Holiness, commending the souls of the departed to the tender mercy of God, invokes abundant divine blessings of consolation and strength upon those who mourn and upon all who have been affected by this tragedy”.

 

 

POPE TO FAMILIES: PATCH UP PROBLEMS IN YEAR OF MERCY – A JUBILEE YEAR RETREAT FOR THOSE AT SERVICE OF CHARITY

For those of you who will be in Rome early next month and want to see the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio for the days they will be in the Eternal City and in Vatican City, click here (the official Vatican Jubilee website) for details: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/news/evidenza/2016-01-06-pcpne.html

POPE TO FAMILIES: PATCH UP PROBLEMS IN YEAR OF MERCY

It was a fun day for pilgrims attending Pope Francis’ weekly general audienc, held this week in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, because the circus was in town and performed in front of the Holy Father who gave every indication of greatly enjoying the colorful performance. (CNS photo)

AG JAN 27 - CIRCUS

“I greet the circus performers,” he said after they had performed, “and I thank them for their very welcome exhibition. You are champions of beauty: you make beauty, and beauty is good for the soul.” Then, extemporaneously, he said, “Beauty brings us closer to God, but behind this spectacle of beauty, how many hours of training there are! Go forward, keep it up!”

Earlier, the Pope delivered his weekly audience catechesis in Italian, with summaries delivered in seven other languages by monsignori from the Secretariat of State. (photo new.va)

Ag JANUARY 27

“Continuing our weekly catecheses inspired by this Holy Year devoted to divine mercy,” began Francis, “we now consider God’s mercy at work in the history of the Chosen People. The Scriptures show the Lord’s merciful concern for Israel throughout its history, beginning with the call of Abraham. God’s mercy is expressed particularly, however, in the experience of the exodus from Egypt. God heard the cry of his people, as he hears the cry of the poor and oppressed in every age. He raised up Moses to be the mediator of his mercy and salvation.

“Through Moses,” continued the Pope, “he led Israel to freedom and, through the covenant, he made them his own possession, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, a people precious in his eyes. The mystery of God’s mercy culminates in the sending of his Son, the Lord Jesus, in that “new and eternal covenant” inaugurated in his blood, whereby we are granted the forgiveness of our sins and become truly God’s children, beloved sons and daughters of our good and merciful Father.

The Holy Father explained that, “Moses, one of God’s chosen ones, saved from the waters of the Nile by divine mercy, becomes a mediator for the liberation of his people. “And we too, in this Year of Mercy, can be mediators … with the works of mercy, being close to our neighbours, to relieve them. They are many good things we can do.

In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis said, “I think about so many brothers and sisters who are estranged from their families; they don’t speak to each other. This Year of Mercy is a good occasion to meet up again, to embrace each other and forgive each other, to leave bad things behind.” And he urged those with such issues to try and settle them, to patch things up, to take advantage of this year of mercy

Pope Francis emphasized performing both spiritual and corporal works of mercy uring this Holy Year – and beyond – and this was also the core of his just-released 2016 Message for Lent.

A JUBILEE YEAR RETREAT FOR THOSE AT SERVICE OF CHARITY

(Vatican Radio) During his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called attention to a Jubilee Year initiative of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, promoting a day of spiritual retreat for persons and groups dedicated to the service of charitable works. These days of retreat, to be offered in each diocese during the coming Lent, will offer an opportunity to reflect on the call to be merciful as the Father is merciful. “I invite you to welcome this initiative,” Pope Francis said, “making use of the suggestions and materials prepared by Cor Unum.”

The day of retreat will have as its theme “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5,14: the love of Christ compels us). In a letter announcing the initiative, Cor Unum suggests that each individual charitable group should celebrate its own day of reflection, citing the Holy Father’s desire that the Jubilee be celebrated in local communities. The letter suggests the retreat be organized in three parts: “a penitential celebration with individual confessions; a time of sharing in group and the Eucharistic celebration.”

More information on the Day of Spiritual Retreat can be found here.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, its tasks are to orient and coordinate the Organizations and charitable activities promoted by the Catholic Church.

POPE FRANCIS’ DAY IN A NUTSHELL – THREE POPES AND AN ARCHBISHOP

Pope Francis spent a very busy morning, meeting with and speaking to a number of groups, as you’ll see in a minute with the very brief summaries I will post. When I worked at the Vatican and many offices were preparing in some way, for weeks and months, for a papal trip, it always seemed to me that, as departure day approached, Popes tried to squeeze in a huge number of appointments, audiences meetings an speeches, often more activity than on a normal day.

Perhaps we all do similar things when we prepare for a trip or vacation – put some order into the house, make sure laundry is done, have mail held while we are away, make phone calls and answer emails we may have put on the back burner – all this (occasionally frantic) activity so that we can go away and think only of having a good time, not about the things we still have on our to-do list.

And now, some highlights of the Pope’s day:

POPE FRANCIS’ DAY IN A NUTSHELL

POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY, SPEAKING TO PARTICIPANTS OF A MEETING ON THE IRAQI-SYRIAN HUMANITARIAN CRISIS, called for a peaceful solution to the conflicts in those countries. He said, “the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.” The meeting, promoted by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” is attended by Catholic charities that are active in the Middle East and by the bishops of the region. Francis said the consequences of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria are “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need.” Highlighting “this ocean of pain,” he spoke of the particularly cruel predicament of Christians in the war-torn nations “where many brothers and sisters are oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, kept in prison or even killed”. Pointing out that today’s media broadcasts live the images and stories pertaining to the catastrophe, Francis said: “No one can pretend not to know! Everyone is aware that this war weighs in an increasingly unbearable way on the shoulders of the poor. We need to find a solution, which is never a violent one, because violence only creates new wounds.”

THE HOLY FATHER SENT A MESSAGE TO PARTICIPANTS AT AN  INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF STREET PEOPLE in which he said abandoned children and exploited sex workers are a “shameful reality in our societies.”The five-day meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, has focused especially on the plight of women and children living on the streets. Pope Francis praised the commitment of the many different organizations that care for street children and for girls or women who are exploited by criminal gangs, or even by their own family members. He said “every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organizations, is a cry rising up to God, who created man and woman in his own image.  It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticized for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice.” He said, “the often sad realities which you encounter are the result of indifference, poverty, family and social violence, and human trafficking.  They involve the pain of marital separations and the birth of children out of wedlock, frequently doomed to a life of ‘vagrancy’.  Street children and street women are not numbers, or ‘packets’ to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity.”

POPE FRANCIS ALSO ADDRESSED A GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN CONSECRATED LIFE ON THURSDAY MORNING. The special audience was the highlight of the International Congress for Young People in Consecrated Life taking place in Rome this week in the context of the ongoing Year of Consecrated Life, which will close on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2nd), 2016. Putting his prepared remarks aside, the Holy Father answered a series of three questions from the participants. The questions covered areas ranging from the Holy Father’s own first calling to religious life, to the mission of consecrated young people in the Church today, to the advice the Holy Father might have for young people who have completed their formation and lived some time in religion and are anxious not to lose the impetus of their original vocation.. He asked the young people to reflect on the “dangers” of a life that becomes “comfortable,” and renewed his repeated warning against the danger of gossip in religious life. “Never!” he said, “Never: gossip is the plague of community life.” In a particularly candid moment of the particularly frank and unguarded exchange, Pope Francis returned to the first question, about his memory of his first conscious experience of a vocation to religious life. “Memory,” he said. “You asked me to share my memory – how it was – that first call on September 21st, 1953 – but I don’t know how it was: I know that, by chance, I walked into church, I saw a confessional, and I came out different.” (Sources for above: news.va)

ALSO THURSDAY, THE HOLY FATHER RECEIVED THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG, His Excellency Mr. Xavier Bettel who also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. The Vatican statement said: “the cordial discussions offered the opportunity to reaffirm the wish to consolidate the existing good relations between the Holy See and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to consider issues of common interest, with special attention to the relationship between Church and State, underlining the relevance of religious freedom and spiritual values for social cohesion. Within the context of Luxembourg’s term of presidency of the European Union, attention then turned to various matters of a European and international nature, with particular reference to current conflicts, the issue of migration and the need to provide assistance to refugees and displaced persons, as well as the situation of persecuted religious minorities.”

THREE POPES AND AN ARCHBISHOP

Just days before Pope Francis’ plane lands in Havana, Cuba, making him the third Pope to visit that Caribbean nation, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana penned a piece for L’Osservatore Romano in which he describes the background of this papal trip, as well as his encounters with Francis’ two predecessors, St. John Paul and Benedict XVI. In fact, Cardinal Ortega y Alamino notes the special place he holds in papal travels: “I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See.”

Following is Cardinal Ortega y Alamino’s story:

During the Extraordinary Consistory last February, after I greeted the Pope Francis before the start of the first session, he turned to me and said: “I have an idea: to come to Cuba”. I shared with him my enthusiasm at the idea and suggested he add it on to his visit to Latin America in July. The Holy Father looked a bit perplexed, as Cuba was out of the way and the extended journey would already span three countries. But he said: “We shall see”.

In the afternoon session of the second day, Pope Francis motioned for me to come up to his table and he said, smiling: “I have decided to come to Cuba and I’ve already told Msgr. Angelo Becciu. A visit to Cuba will be added onto my journey to the United States in September”. I answered him: “Your Holiness, I am returning to Cuba with tremendous joy!”, and I thanked him. I then heard him say something that touched me even more deeply: “It’s the least I can do for you all”.

I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See. During that final afternoon of the Consistory, many recollections of these three popes flew through my mind in such rapid succession that I was barely able to follow the speeches of my brother Cardinals.

I recalled with deeply filial affection St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba — this pope had risen on the horizon of my vocational discernment like a bright beacon, he had led me to become, first, a young Bishop of Pinar del Río (1978) and, three years later, to be the Archbishop of Havana (1981). Then, at the Consistory of 1994, it was he who created me cardinal. What closeness and fatherly affection I always sensed, what steadfast support at every moment, even when, at the end of his precious life, all his strength seemed to have left him!

For economic and social reasons, at the start of the 90s, Pope John Paul II was unable to accept the Cuban Bishops’ invitation to visit our country, an invitation he very much wanted to accept due to his interest in the situation of our Church, which had lived through situations similar to his own Poland.

St. John Paul and (then) Archbishop Ortega y Alamino (news.va)

Pope Francis spent a very busy morning, meeting with and speaking to a number of groups, as you’ll see in a minute with the very brief summaries I will post. When I worked at the Vatican and many offices were preparing in some way, for weeks and months, for a papal trip, it always seemed to me that, as departure day approached, Popes tried to squeeze in a huge number of appointments, audiences meetings an speeches, often more activity than on a normal day.

Perhaps we all do similar things when we prepare for a trip or vacation – put some order into the house, make sure laundry is done, have mail held while we are away, make phone calls and answer emails we may have put on the back burner – all this (occasionally frantic) activity so that we can go away and think only of having a good time, not about the things we still have on our to-do list.

And now, some highlights of the Pope’s day:

POPE FRANCIS’ DAY IN A NUTSHELL

POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY, SPEAKING TO PARTICIPANTS OF A MEETING ON THE IRAQI-SYRIAN HUMANITARIAN CRISIS, called for a peaceful solution to the conflicts in those countries. He said, “the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.” The meeting, promoted by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” is attended by Catholic charities that are active in the Middle East and by the bishops of the region. Francis said the consequences of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria are “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need.” Highlighting “this ocean of pain,” he spoke of the particularly cruel predicament of Christians in the war-torn nations “where many brothers and sisters are oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, kept in prison or even killed”. Pointing out that today’s media broadcasts live the images and stories pertaining to the catastrophe, Francis said: “No one can pretend not to know! Everyone is aware that this war weighs in an increasingly unbearable way on the shoulders of the poor. We need to find a solution, which is never a violent one, because violence only creates new wounds.”

THE HOLY FATHER SENT A MESSAGE TO PARTICIPANTS AT AN  INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF STREET PEOPLE in which he said abandoned children and exploited sex workers are a “shameful reality in our societies.”The five-day meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, has focused especially on the plight of women and children living on the streets. Pope Francis praised the commitment of the many different organizations that care for street children and for girls or women who are exploited by criminal gangs, or even by their own family members. He said “every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organizations, is a cry rising up to God, who created man and woman in his own image.  It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticized for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice.” He said, “the often sad realities which you encounter are the result of indifference, poverty, family and social violence, and human trafficking.  They involve the pain of marital separations and the birth of children out of wedlock, frequently doomed to a life of ‘vagrancy’.  Street children and street women are not numbers, or ‘packets’ to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity.”

POPE FRANCIS ALSO ADDRESSED A GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN CONSECRATED LIFE ON THURSDAY MORNING. The special audience was the highlight of the International Congress for Young People in Consecrated Life taking place in Rome this week in the context of the ongoing Year of Consecrated Life, which will close on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2nd), 2016. Putting his prepared remarks aside, the Holy Father answered a series of three questions from the participants. The questions covered areas ranging from the Holy Father’s own first calling to religious life, to the mission of consecrated young people in the Church today, to the advice the Holy Father might have for young people who have completed their formation and lived some time in religion and are anxious not to lose the impetus of their original vocation.. He asked the young people to reflect on the “dangers” of a life that becomes “comfortable,” and renewed his repeated warning against the danger of gossip in religious life. “Never!” he said, “Never: gossip is the plague of community life.” In a particularly candid moment of the particularly frank and unguarded exchange, Pope Francis returned to the first question, about his memory of his first conscious experience of a vocation to religious life. “Memory,” he said. “You asked me to share my memory – how it was – that first call on September 21st, 1953 – but I don’t know how it was: I know that, by chance, I walked into church, I saw a confessional, and I came out different.” (Sources for above: news.va)

ALSO THURSDAY, THE HOLY FATHER RECEIVED THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG, His Excellency Mr. Xavier Bettel who also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. The Vatican statement said: “the cordial discussions offered the opportunity to reaffirm the wish to consolidate the existing good relations between the Holy See and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to consider issues of common interest, with special attention to the relationship between Church and State, underlining the relevance of religious freedom and spiritual values for social cohesion. Within the context of Luxembourg’s term of presidency of the European Union, attention then turned to various matters of a European and international nature, with particular reference to current conflicts, the issue of migration and the need to provide assistance to refugees and displaced persons, as well as the situation of persecuted religious minorities.”

THREE POPES AND AN ARCHBISHOP

Just days before Pope Francis’ plane lands in Havana, Cuba, making him the third Pope to visit that Caribbean nation, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana penned a piece for L’Osservatore Romano in which he describes the background of this papal trip, as well as his encounters with Francis’ two predecessors, St. John Paul and Benedict XVI.

In fact, Cardinal Ortega y Alamino notes the special place he holds in papal travels: “I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See.”

Following is Cardinal Ortega y Alamino’s story:

During the Extraordinary Consistory last February, after I greeted the Pope Francis before the start of the first session, he turned to me and said: “I have an idea: to come to Cuba”. I shared with him my enthusiasm at the idea and suggested he add it on to his visit to Latin America in July. The Holy Father looked a bit perplexed, as Cuba was out of the way and the extended journey would already span three countries. But he said: “We shall see”.

In the afternoon session of the second day, Pope Francis motioned for me to come up to his table and he said, smiling: “I have decided to come to Cuba and I’ve already told Msgr. Angelo Becciu. A visit to Cuba will be added onto my journey to the United States in September”. I answered him: “Your Holiness, I am returning to Cuba with tremendous joy!”, and I thanked him. I then heard him say something that touched me even more deeply: “It’s the least I can do for you all”.

I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See. During that final afternoon of the Consistory, many recollections of these three popes flew through my mind in such rapid succession that I was barely able to follow the speeches of my brother Cardinals.

I recalled with deeply filial affection St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba — this pope had risen on the horizon of my vocational discernment like a bright beacon, he had led me to become, first, a young Bishop of Pinar del Río (1978) and, three years later, to be the Archbishop of Havana (1981). Then, at the Consistory of 1994, it was he who created me cardinal. What closeness and fatherly affection I always sensed, what steadfast support at every moment, even when, at the end of his precious life, all his strength seemed to have left him!

For economic and social reasons, at the start of the 90s, Pope John Paul II was unable to accept the Cuban Bishops’ invitation to visit our country, an invitation he very much wanted to accept due to his interest in the situation of our Church, which had lived through situations similar to his own Poland.

St. John Paul and Cardinal Ortega y Alamino (news.va)

ABP HAVANA AND JOHN PAUL

Several years passed before our invitation was accepted by the Pope. In 1998, nearing the close of the millennium, weakened in the few years that had passed since we invited him, Pope John Paul II was finally able to embark on his emotional visit to Cuba. It would remain a ray of sunshine for the Church in our country and a milestone in her history and in that of the Cuban people as a whole. In his opening address to Cuba and the world, he made reference to our country’s isolation from the American continent and from the world, calling for this isolation to be broken — “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba”. This call resounded around the world; it can still be heard today and it grows stronger with every event that seems to confirm the hope and prayer of that Holy Shepherd. An example was last 17 December, when the presidents of Cuba and the United States announced simultaneously the reinstatement of diplomatic relations between the two countries with the opening of embassies in their respective capitals.

And so began a new phase in diplomacy between two nations that have been separated for more than 50 years. During that historic announcement the two presidents thanked Pope Francis for his part in the process that led to this reconciliation and paved the way for coexistence and dialogue. Behind this agreement stands Pope Francis’ discrete but effective and clear conviction: that the creation and fostering of dialogue is indispensable in the resolution of tension and conflict. It’s not the first time he has stood by that conviction in his pontificate, but perhaps the continuously tense situation between Cuba and the US made it all the more important for the Holy Father’s silent intervention.

The path of dialogue between religions, of the Church’s dialogue with other Christian confessions and with Judaism, was significantly strengthened by Pope John XXIII and his convocation of the Second Vatican Council, which brought the Church, in a renewed way, into the concrete history of humanity in the 20th century. This call to dialogue was accepted by Pope Paul vi, who admirably promoted it throughout his pontificate. The best expression of that is contained in a few decisive words from Pope Montini: “Dialogue is the new name of love”. With these words the Pope illustrated how human beings must relate and the style that must prevail in the Church, among nations, among different groups in society and between Christians and the the world.

The pontificate of St John Paul II was enveloped in this journey of dialogue. He lived through a difficult dialogue as bishop in his native Poland, but he nevertheless promoted it, even when it seemed barren and impossible. His direction and his teachings were faithful to that fundamental spirit of Vatican II, in which he himself had participated.

Seeing these things close up, I found in Pope Benedict XVI a clear continuity with the Church’s line of interaction with the modern world, in her structures, in her political-social function and in the realm of ideas and conceptions that underlie current thought. In the latter context, Pope Benedict expressed himself magisterially: in his brilliant contribution to the style in which the Church dialogues, in his literary and personal contact with modernity and in the formulation of his thought regarding dialogue in interreligious, social and political spheres. All these constitute an inestimable treasure in the understanding of the fundamental role of dialogue in the life of the Church and of all Christians.

In June 2012, the current Pope emeritus visited Cuba as a pilgrim during our jubilee — we were celebrating the 400th anniversary of the rediscovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity, Patroness of Cuba, which had been lost at sea. In an unforgettable conversation, the Pope expressed his happiness about the trip, for which we, the Cuban bishops, were so grateful. He warmly recalled the official welcome he had received, and the friendly gestures towards him. It was in that context that he spoke of dialogue as the rightful path of the Church. On various occasions I have cited these words from Pope Benedict, who struck me by the conviction with which he spoke them. He said: “Dialogue is the only path for the Church…. The Church is not in the world to change governments, but to penetrate the hearts of men and women with the Gospel”.

Pope Benedict XVI said this to me just before stepping down from the See of Peter. When, some months later, we Cardinals gathered together for the conclave that would quickly elect Cardinal Bergoglio as Supreme Pontiff, I had the opportunity to speak with the future Pope about Latin America and Cuba. At a certain moment in the conversation, while alluding to dialogue and its importance in the current climate of grand transformation in Latin America, I remembered my last conversation with Pope Benedict. He had said to me that dialogue was the only path for the Church in her relationship with political structures. Applying his words to the context at hand, I repeated them to the future Pope Francis, who raising his arms up in the air, exclaimed: “This should be written on a plaque and placed at the entrance of every city in the world”, and he repeated it, word for word: “The Church is not in the world to change governments, but to penetrate the hearts of men and women with the Gospel”. He then added: “Every social and political climate should be accompanied in a climate of dialogue”.

Shortly after Cardinal Bergoglio was elected to the Chair of Peter, we were filled with joy over having a Latin American Pope. He was someone close to us, who had handed to the Episcopate of Latin America in Aparecida, Brazil, the conviction that the Church is Christ’s mission for our people, that we all, bishops, priests, and lay people, should be conscious of our being missionaries. Seeing that the new Pope would surely communicate that evangelical zeal, I could not but ponder what Pope Benedict had said about the Church’s mission: “The Church is in the world to penetrate the hearts of men and women with the Gospel”. This is what the new Pope had repeated to me with such profound conviction, and which fervently inspires his pontificate.

This is Pope Francis, who will soon be with us in Cuba: a missionary pope who comes to our little country, as he did to Sarajevo, Sri Lanka or Albania; who comes to a country which has overcome isolation and distance, thanks also to the dialogue that the Church and the Popes of 20th century fostered. And it was Pope Francis who spurred and supported dialogue between the people and the governments of Cuba and the US. He comes among us to reaffirm the missionary condition of the Church and her preference for the little ones, the poor. He comes as a missionary of mercy. No other motto could better describe him in this world of ours laden with hardship, loneliness, every form of poverty, faded hopes and void of God, where love is seen as a game in which sad losers and false victors play for themselves and never manage to find true Love. And this has thrown the family, whose role is irreplaceable in the formation of new generations, into crisis, which is why it is at the centre of the Holy Father’s pastoral concern.

There is an essential link between the family and the restlessness and longing of the young people, whom Pope Francis will meet in Havana on Sunday evening. That meeting will, thus, be a very special moment during his visit to our country.

The God who is Love will be presented in Cuba by Pope Francis — to young people, to families, to priests, to sisters and to everyone: the merciful God who understands and forgives.

In the “José Martí” Plaza de la Revolución, before the altar where Pope Francis will preside at the Eucharistic Celebration, there will be a giant display of the Merciful Christ spanning ten floors of the National Library. At this moment, our Cuban people, like all people of the earth, need to experience mercy, not pity or mere condescension, but understanding of the human heart in all its restlessness and limitations. We will feel the encouragement of one who reaches out to us to lift our soul with simplicity and humility, just as Pope Francis will know how to do in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, as he passes through the streets of Havana, and especially during his meeting with young people.

How much can really be done in such a short period of time, just a glimpse of the Pope passing by in the distance? Sometimes a glance, a gesture, a smile is all it takes to know that God comes among us and that, through his Vicar on earth, Christ is visiting his people.

Thus we welcomed St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and thus we wait for Pope Francis. The people have not always been the same: some have gone to God the Father, many have emigrated. Emigration has left its mark on every family in Cuba; it is a perennial temptation for our youth. The emigration of young people and the low birth rate means that the population of Cuba is rapidly declining and aging, and this worries us all; but we also have other worries at the moment.

Facing the new path that appears to be opening now before the Cuban people, with all its risks and its benefits, our people, believers for the most part, must turn their gaze to God and place their future in the hands of merciful Jesus. The Holy Father will invite them to do just that. Therein lies our hope. Pope Francis will come to spread hope among us. It is no more than trusting in the action of a merciful God who will help us in the future to overcome these risks and to discover, also with His help, that the benefits can outweigh the risks on this new path opening before us, if we are capable of making room in our lives for God.

This must free our families and our young people from the paralyzing skepticism, that is alien to the Christian faith and in which God is never present. The Pope comes to tell us something new in this new moment of our history. This is surely the presentiment of the people of Cuba as they wait for Pope Francis.

I am certain that those who welcome him with an attitude of faith, as one who comes in the name of the Lord, will not be disappointed. It’s true that the people of Cuba want progress and prosperity to the fair benefit of all, but not only that; on the spiritual level our people long for stable love and endurance in the family, for peace in the life of the family and the nation. In short, they long to enjoy a life of reconciliation and happiness. This is not a hopeless yearning, so long as in our hearts we do not forget that God is the giver of every good thing and that in Him nothing is impossible.

Pope Francis comes precisely for this reason, that we do not forget this, that we do not forget God, and he will be welcomed by our people with devotion and love. His presence in Cuba will leave an indelible mark, of this I am certain.

– by Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Cardinal Archbishop of Havana

 

“VATICAN INSIDER”: CARDINAL DOLAN ON POPE FRANCIS – POPE CALLS MEETING ON HAITI FOR JANUARY 10 – A MILLION FAITHFUL PROCESS IN MANILA FOR THE BLACK NAZARENE

You’ll read an interesting story (below) about the faithful who processed in Manila for the statue of the Black Nazarene, an annual event in the Philippines. What the story says about the crowd for this statue makes you wonder about the crowds for Pope Francis!  The thought of millions coming to see him is both exhilarating and scary. When st. Pope John Paul was in Manila for the World Meeting of Families, 5 million attended the Mass and, if I correctly remember the story, the Pope had to be brought to the altar area by helicopter!

As I said today on my Facebook page about this story: When I posted the news recently that almost 6 million people saw Pope Francis in 2014 in Rome and at the Vatican, one reader wrote me from the Philippines to say that 6 million would be seeing the Pope on just one day in the Philippines! This story may be a precursor!

FYI: Click here to see the winning numbers for the prizes of Vatican-sponsored lottery for papal charities (I did not win the car or even a bike or espresso coffee machine!)http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/dam/vaticanstate/documenti/estrazione-lotteria.pdf

“VATICAN INSIDER”: CARDINAL DOLAN ON POPE FRANCIS

The interview segment this week on “Vatican Insider” features Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York when he spoke at a conference in October at the North American College to introduce CRUX, an online religious news website from the Boston Globe. John Allen, well-known vaticanista and editor for CRUX, presided at the evening’s events that featured talks by Cardinals George Pell and Timothy Dolan. I had taped Cardinal Dolan’s talk about Pope Francis and it was only when I got home that I learned my recorder was not functioning. I lost 3 interviews that day but Rome Reports, which had taped the talks, came to the rescue and, with their permission, I bring you Cardinal Dolan’s very interesting talk.

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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=

POPE CALLS MEETING ON HAITI FOR JANUARY 10

A communique from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum announcd that Pope Francis has called a meeting in the Vatican on Haiti for Saturday, January 10 on the theme “The Communion of the Church: Memory and Hope for Haiti Five Years after the Earthquake.” The meeting has been organized by Cor Unum and by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, in collaboration with the bishops of Haiti. The intention of the meeting is to keep the focus on Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010 and to evaluate the aid offered thus far by Pope Francis, the Vatican and the Church and individuals and organiztions, and to repeat the closeness of the Church to Haitians.

In January 2010, Haiti was struck by an earthquake whose epicenter was located near the capital, Port-au-Prince, causing the death of 230,000 people and devastating the territory, destroying much of the infrastructure, thousands of homes, and all the hospitals on the island. According to Red Cross estimates, the disaster affected three million people.

Expected to attend the Vatican meeting are representatives of the Holy See, the local Haitian church, various episcopal conferences, workers from Catholic charitable organizations, religious congregations and several Holy See-accredited diplomatic representatives. Participants include Cardinal Chibly Langlois, bishop of Les Cayes and president of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, U.S.A., Alberto Piatti, president of the AVSI (Association of Volunteers in International Service) Foundation, engaged in a charitable works on the island, and Eduardo Marques de Almeida, former representative of the Inter-American Development Bank in Haiti.

The conference is set to start at 9 a.m. in the St. Pius X building with greetings from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and a report from Cardinal Robert Sarah who, as president of “Cor Unum” until the end of 2014, managed the Holy Father’s donations to the local Church of the island.  He has since been appointed a prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Participants will debate the material and spiritual reconstruction process and there will be interventions by At 11.30 a.m. the delegates present will be received in audience by Pope Francis. Saturday afternoon, there will be presentations by those who work in the context of reconstruction, to enable an exchange of experiences regarding the issue of international cooperation and the priorities and criteria for future action. At the end of the meeting, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of “Cor Unum,” will give an overview of the problems that remain to be resolved.

The conference will end with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, at 6.30 p.m.

A MILLION FAITHFUL PROCESS IN MANILA FOR THE BLACK NAZARENE

More than a million barefoot Filipinos paraded a centuries-old icon of Jesus Christ through Manila on Friday in the nation’s biggest religious festival, less than a week before Pope Francis visits Asia’s most Catholic country.  In fervent displays of devotion, huge crowds of men, women and children chanted “Viva!” (Long live!) as they marched through streets in light rain for the annual procession of the Black Nazarene.  The procession got under way by mid-morning after organizers took nearly two hours to control huge crowds surging dangerously toward the icon to rub white handkerchiefs against it. (Photo by AFP)

PHILIPPINES-BLACK NAZARENE

Many Filipinos believe the statue holds miraculous healing powers and make lifetime vows to join the annual parade, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with an image of Christ crowned in thorns.  Isko Moreno, the vice mayor of Manila city, told ABS-CBN television that about a million people took part at the start of the procession, and many more were waiting along a circuitous route through Manila’s old quarter. One man died Friday when he suffered a heart attack near the statue, Johnny Yu, head of the Manila disaster office, told the television station.  An estimated 82% of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Catholics, and the Black Nazarene festival is a display of the vibrancy of the religion ahead of the papal visit which begins on January 15.

During his four-day stay, Pope Francis will comfort victims of deadly Super Typhoon Haiyan in central Leyte island, and celebrate mass for millions in the capital’s largest outdoor park.  (Source: Vatican Radio, Philippine newspapers)