A GUIDE TO CHRISTIANITY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: THE NEW APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF POPE FRANCIS

Both the complete text of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Rejoice and be Glad” and a summary produced by the Vatican will be found at the end of this vaticannews story.

A GUIDE TO CHRISTIANITY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: THE NEW APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF POPE FRANCIS

On April 9, which this year marks the transferred Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Vatican releases the latest Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis: Gaudete et exsultate: On the call to holiness in today’s world.
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

“The Lord asks everything of us, and in return offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.”

In his third Apostolic Exhortation (following Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia) Pope Francis reflects on the call to holiness, and how we can respond to that call in the modern world. “My modest goal” in the Exhortation, Pope Francis says, “is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time.”

The five chapters of Gaudete et exsultate follow a logical progression, beginning with a consideration of the call to holiness as it is in itself. The Holy Father than examines two “subtle enemies of holiness,” namely, contemporary gnosticism and contemporary pelagianism.

Holiness in living the Beatitudes

The heart of Gaudete et exsultate is dedicated to the idea that holiness means following Jesus. In this third chapter, Pope Francis considers each of the Beatitudes as embodying what it means to be holy. But if the Beatitudes show us what holiness means, the Gospel also shows us the criterion by which we will be judged: “I was hungry and you gave me food… thirsty and you gave me drink… a stranger and you welcomed me… naked and you clothed me…sick and you took care of me…in prison and you visited me.”

Pope Francis devotes the fourth chapter of Gaudete et exsultate to “certain aspects of the call to holiness” that he feels “will prove especially meaningful” in today’s world: perseverance, patience and meekness; joy and a sense of humour; boldness and passion; the communal dimension of holiness; constant prayer.

Spiritual combat and discernment

Finally, the Exhortation makes practical suggestions for living out the call to holiness. “The Christian life is a constant battle,” the Pope says. “We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel.”

In the fifth chapter, he speaks about the need for “combat” and vigilance, and calls us to exercise the gift of discernment, “which is all the more necessary today,” in a world with so many distractions that keep us from hearing the Lord’s voice.

“It is my hope,” Pope Francis concludes, “that these pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness.”

The full text of the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate can be found on the Holy See website:

https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html

(And here is a not-so-brief link to a brief summary of the document put out by the Vatican: https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?view=att&th=162a8e71119cf266&attid=0.3&disp=vah&safe=1&zw&sadnir=1&saddbat=ANGjdJ-rW3-B6yvyM9TFL-v583d9T-rReJnWACPQcl0kuKf3CwPA8762bW__WMjXauIW2G1iJaM-LD4n0RBr6fNCIemqUznIQcFinFQWIMoIfMiK4wTXG8aaRnLfk9PnEwHs8CAc03Sw5pKPuY8J_LzEhpv4xjjFu9h9nXLSlpc7m6VaNgpxRyy0D-KHlqheayWNxU_1Fza9-_w7S0YdgxpYjUhgIovQ7bPYEM916HqyfgZJUa_lGZd7iuPDZWmD5viRrHeD4DcmwNw4kPs5DcMPwUnnLD12_CiAYHcEDunpqgwb3kDcQlYi8FXU3dyo4pYByPRyKww8WDDgA0P4g4PWxi5lSEROEoPKfNQvBEB5Y1jWz9IzhEH8V4la4QEdUjSLQ5Rc1i6kzjcTHRuBO55yoXDM1zpPXh_H-EOJg1WBCbk-3YOJbjx_2A2odsjGxhTlXhrgLhAWnkcdBzOGHtC4j-IupkJHMj6cqGd2Zh6RTmFsHnrLYF6NuVqHqjpAITGmx0stOY2_q2-LkQ6uOk_0rRhC9DSZ03gDI4Ss1ESq1xIrYaniMiFfTVrQNQRgd4PYGrPx09EH4tzByJUM5cVjWQ-3WDQe_xebI0pX8Q

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THE FRANCIS PAPACY AT FIVE : MARCH 19, 2013 — MARCH 19, 2018

The Vatican marks the day a pontificate began as a holiday, thus, March 19, 2013 was the day Francis’ papacy began, so today is a holiday. March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, is always Father’s Day in Italy – what a lovely day to celebrate fatherhood!

THE FRANCIS PAPACY AT FIVE : MARCH 19 2013 — MARCH 19 2018
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

On March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of St Joseph, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inaugurating his pontificate. Since then, the 81-year old pontiff has certainly left his mark on the Church. The statistics put together by the Holy See Press Office (see below) give us but an outline of Pope Francis’ papacy. (photo vaticannews)

In the footsteps of John Paul II and Benedict XVI

Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is continuing in the footsteps of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The themes of both synods – the family and young people – were very dear to John Paul II. And both Encyclicals have connections with Benedict XVI. The first, Lumen Fidei, is based on a manuscript begun by Pope Benedict and concludes his Encyclicals on Faith, Hope and Charity. The second, Laudato Si not only cites Pope Benedict numerous times, but also treats a recurring theme from Pope Benedict’s pontificate.

Pope Francis’ Signature

But Pope Francis is also leaving his own mark on the papacy, one which is rooted in his formation and pastoral experience in Argentina. The creation of a special Council of Cardinals to assist him in the reform of the Roman Curia is a concrete example of the collegiality that Pope Francis embraces.

Perhaps most remarkable of all is the Pope’s affable and affectionate personality that shines through every public and personal encounter with him. Francis is a Pope who enters into the everyday lives of people with phone calls and letters, with “Good evening,” “enjoy your lunch,” and “please don’t forget to pray for me.”

Statistics released by the Holy See Press Office:

Encyclicals
Lumen fidei (20 June 2013)
Laudato si’ (24 May 2015

Apostolic Exhortations
Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013)
Amoris laetitia (19 March 2016)

Bulls
Misericordiae vultus (11 April 2015)

Motu Proprios
3 in 2013
2 in 2014
4 in 2015
9 in 2016
4 in 2017
1 in 2018

General audiences 219

Themes of the Wednesday Catechesis
Profession of Faith
The Sacraments
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Church
The Family
Mercy
Christian hope
The Holy Mass

Angelus/Regina Coeli 286

International trips: 22
Pope Francis has traveled a total of 250,000km visiting: Brasil, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, South Korea, Albania, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, the United States, Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mexico, Greece, Armenia, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Chile, Peru

Trips within Italy: 18

Pastoral visits to the parishes of Rome: 16

Synods:
III Extraordinary Synod on the Family (5-19 October 2014)
XIV Ordinary Synod on the Family (4-25 October 2015)
XVI Ordinary Synod on Youth (3-18 October 2018)
Special Synod on the Amazon (October 2019)

Special Years
Year of Consecrated Life (29 November 2014–2 February 2016)
Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy (8 December 2015–20 November 2016)

Special Months
Extraordinary Missionary month (October 2019)

World Days
World Day of fasting and prayer for Peace I: Syria (7 September 2013)
24 Hours for the Lord a Friday in Lent (inaugurated in 2014)
World day of prayer for creation: 1 September (inaugurated in 2015)
World day of the poor: 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (inaugurated in 2017)
Sunday of the Word: One Sunday during the Liturgical Year (inaugurated in 2017)
World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Second Sunday of September (inaugurated 14 January 2018)
World day of prayer and fasting for peace II: South Sudan, Congo and Syria (23 February 2018)

World Youth Days
28th World Day in Rio de Janeiro: 23-28 July 2013
31st World Day in Krakow: 26-31 July 2016
34th World Day in Panama: 22-27 January 2019

Consistories for the creation of Cardinals
Pope Francis has created a total of 61 cardinals. Of these, 49 are electors and 12 are non-electors (one of whom has subsequently died)
19 Cardinals created on 22 February 2014
20 Cardinals created on 14 February 2015
17 Cardinals created on 19 November 2016
5 Cardinals created on 28 June 2017

Canonizations
Pope Francis has canonized a total of 880 saints, 800 of whom are the Martyrs of Otranto
9 canonization ceremonies in the Vatican
3 canonizations ceremonies outside of the Vatican: United States, Sri Lanka, Portugal
5 canonizations equipollent

POPE FRANCIS – A MAN OF HIS WORD

POPE FRANCIS – A MAN OF HIS WORD

Released on the 5th anniversary of his Pontificate, a new film entitled “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” opens a unique window onto the Holy Father’s ideas and his encounters with people from all walks of life.

“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word”, written and directed by three-time Academy Award® nominee Wim Wenders, is intended to be a personal journey with Pope Francis, rather than a biographical documentary about him.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, set the project rolling when he invited Mr. Wenders to make a film with the Holy Father. The result was a rare co-production between Focus Features and the Vatican.

Pope Francis’ ideas and message are central to the film, which presents his work of reform and his answers to today’s global questions regarding death, social justice, immigration, ecology, wealth inequality, materialism, and the role of the family.

The film’s direct-to-camera visual and narrative concepts place the audience face-to-face with the Pope, creating a dialogue between him and the world. Pope Francis responds to the questions of farmers and workers, refugees, children and the elderly, prison inmates, and those who live in favelas and migrant camps. All of these voices and faces are a cross section of humanity that join in a conversation with Pope Francis.

This “symphony of questions” provides the backbone for the film, which also shows the Holy Father on his many journeys around the world. It features footage of him speaking at the United Nations, addressing the Congress of the United States, and mourning with those gathered at Ground Zero and at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. He speaks to prisoners in correctional facilities and to refugees in Mediterranean camps.

Throughout the film, Pope Francis shares his vision of the Church and his deep concern for the poor, his involvement in environmental issues and social justice, and his call for peace in areas of conflict and between world religions. There is also a presence of Saint Francis in the film, connecting back to the Pope’s namesake, through accounts of legendary moments in the Saint’s own life as a reformer and ecologist.

In an era of deep distrust of politicians and people in power, Pope Francis – A Man of His Word shows us a person who lives what he preaches and who has gained the trust of people of all faith traditions and cultures across the world.

The film is produced by Mr. Wenders with Samanta Gandolfi Branca, Alessandro Lo Monaco (The World’s Smallest Army), Andrea Gambetta, and David Rosier (The Salt of the Earth). The film is a production of Célestes Images, Vatican Media, Solares Fondazione delle Arti, PTS Art’s Factory, Neue Road Movies, Fondazione Solares Suisse, and Decia Films. (vaticannews.va)

I contacted vaticannews.va and was told the film will be released in the United States on March 18.

FOR A PREVIEW: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-03/pope-francis-_-a-man-of-his-word.html#play

VATICAN INSIDER TAKES YOU TO ROME’S 40 LENTEN STATION CHURCHES – MERCY FRIDAY: POPE VISITS WOMEN IN SEMI-DETENTION WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

I have been privileged in my life to have been a lector in many beautiful churches and in different circumstance. The truly special times are always those Sundays in my parish – for years that was Santa Susanna’s here in Rome, now St. Patrick’s –as the parish has always been my spiritual family.

And there are also the unforgettable occasions: doing the second reading at Midnight Christmas Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Pope John Paul: being a reader at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica that opened the Great Jubilee Year 2000 under John Paul: doing the first reading at a private Mass in his Santa Marta Chapel for Pope Francis: doing readings at two commemorative Masses for Mother Angelica in St. Peter’s as well as the Vatican parish church of St. Anne: and last but not least, reading twice in the basilica of St. Francis in Assisi (the chapel of his tomb and the upper basilica) during Masses with Bishop Baker of Birmingham, Alabama.

And this morning: A priest known to all of you, Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, especially for his many appearances on EWTN television, celebrates Mass on the First Friday of the month for EWTN employees at the altar of the tomb of Saint John XXIII in St. Peter’s Basilica. John XXIII was the first Pope I ever saw in person, up close and personal, during a Rome visit when I was a junior in college studying in Switzerland. I cherished that day, decades ago, and I cherished being at his side, so to speak, today.

Come join us at 8:45 am if you are Rome on a First Friday!

IN THE VATICAN: It was announced today that Pope Francis will go to Geneva on June 21 to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. A press conference at the Vatican Friday focused on that anniversary and the papal trip. http://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-03/pope-to-visit-geneva-for-world-council-of-churches-anniversary.html

VATICAN INSIDER TAKES YOU TO ROME’S 40 LENTEN STATION CHURCHES

Lent is Rome is perhaps a bit more special than other dioceses in the world for one principal reason – the lovely, historical tradition of the 40 Lenten Station Churches. Instead of an interview this week I will bring you a Special dedicated to the history of these churches, where they are and how to participate in a 7 am English-language Mass at one of the churches while you are in Rome.

Stay tuned for that after this news summary and the Q&A (If you have a question, email me at joansrome@ewtn.com)

You will undoubtedly want to tune in to the Q&A as it answers the questions: Can Catholics have destination weddings? Does the Church allow Catholics to be married on a beach?

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

MERCY FRIDAY: POPE VISITS WOMEN IN SEMI-DETENTION WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

Today Pope Francis continued his Mercy Friday tradition, surprising mothers, their children, and the staff of “Casa di Leda” in Rome’s EUR district.

By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Pope Francis continues expressing his closeness to those who find themselves living in difficult situations. Today, he visited “Casa di Leda,” home to 5 mothers and their children. His visit was a complete surprise. Pope Francis was accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Promoting the New Evangelization that organized this initiative.

A surprise visit from Pope Francis

At 4:00 in the afternoon the Pope surprised the 5 mothers (between the ages of 25 and 30), their children and the staff as they were going about their normal afternoon activities. Pope Francis exchanged a word with the mothers and staff on duty, and he played with the children. The children welcomed his gift of large Easter eggs with shouts of joy. They then invited him to have a snack with them. (Vatican photo)

The mothers in turn gave the Pope a gift that is the product of the many simple activities and tasks that they carry out inside the shelter. They also had the chance of telling the Pope about the wonderful opportunity they have of being able to raise their own children, despite their situation.

Casa di Leda Director, Dr. Lillo Di Mauro, told the Pope, “Your Holiness, dear Father, we are the invisible ones.” He then described the effort it took in setting up the structure. There was an awareness of the importance of transforming a space that had contributed to criminal activity, in order to give back to society a project fostering civilization and humanity.

The Holy Father also left gifts for the mothers, including a parchment signed in memory of his visit. His visit lasted about an hour, after which he returned to Santa Marta, in the Vatican.

Casa di Leda: transformation

Located in Rome’s EUR district, and hidden in a beautiful, green residential area, “Casa di Leda” was formerly owned by persons connected to organized crime. Seized by the State, it has been transformed into a haven for women in difficulty.

Casa di Leda: first of its kind

Opened in March 2017, Casa di Leda is run by the non-profit “Cecilia.” At Casa di Leda, mothers detained for minor offenses whose parental rights are still legally recognized can live their period of detention with their children within a family setting. The mothers are accompanied by staff, educators, and volunteers from the volunteer association called “A Roma Insieme” (In Rome Together). Other associations involved in the project are “P.I.D. Emergency Intervention Disagio Società Cooperativa Sociale Onlus” and the “Ain Karim” Association.

The mothers staying in the structure are allowed to drop off and pick up their children from school. They take part in activities that prepare them to hold a job in view of future reintegration into society. This is the first structure of its type in Italy, and perhaps, in the world.

POPE VISITS PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL ON “MERCY FRIDAY”

POPE VISITS PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL ON “MERCY FRIDAY”

At 3 pm this afternoon, Friday, January 5, 2018 Pope Francis went to the
Palidoro campus of Rome’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital. This site is located about 30 kilometers north of Rome. The visit continues the Mercy Friday experiences that the Pope initiated during the Jubilee of Mercy that began December 8, 2015 and ended in November 2016.

According to a note from the Vatican press office, the Holy Father visited various wards, greeted the children who are patients there and had words of comfort for the parents who are with their children in these tiring and painful trials. (photos from Vatican News)

THIS BOY INVITED POPE FRANCIS ON A PILGRIMAGE – AND HERE’S HOW HE RESPONDED – EXCLUSIVE CHURCHPOP 360° VIDEOS REVEAL THE BEAUTY OF ROME IN A NEW WAY

I am finally back home and sitting at my desk – though just briefly these first days – trying to get back in the groove of things. The serious infection is gone and we’re now working on getting the tendon to 100 percent. I’ll certainly have a new appreciation of tendon issues whenever I read of athletes who injury the Achille’s tendon and need a lot of time and therapy to heal it.

I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about the healthcare bill in the U.S. Congress – or at least attempts to create a new bill to replace Obamacare. Two things are important for me – and probably for millions. Healthcare must cover pre-existing conditions and insurance companies must be allowed to compete in order to offer good policies at reasonable, affordable prices – not prices that will put families in the poor house with a single hospital stay.

The clinic I was in is run by the marvelous Sisters of St. Joseph of Gerona, a Spanish order of nursing nuns. I saw five of them at Mass in the clinic chapel the first weekend I was there – they all remembered me from a prolonged stay 15 years ago, as I did each of them! Loving, caring, ever-smiling sisters.  And Sr. Guadalupe still plays the organ at the 10:30 Mass.  Her real life sister, Sr. Isabella, accompanied the priest who brought me communion every morning at 7.

I had my iPad so could keep up with news during my stay. Today I offer a story by my EWTN colleagues that I found delightful, and then some stunning video images of Rome. Hope you enjoy both!

I cannot leave you with expressing my heartfelt thanks for all the prayers and rosaries and emails that came my way these past days. You’ll never know what they meant! Mille grazie! Thanks a million!

THIS BOY INVITED POPE FRANCIS ON A PILGRIMAGE – AND HERE’S HOW HE RESPONDED

Loreto, Italy, Jul 23, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nine-year-old Andrea is an Italian boy who joined 130 children last month for a “Pilgrimage of Joy” to the Marian Shrine of Loreto, Italy.

He was so moved by the experience that he wrote a letter about it to Pope Francis, inviting the Pope to accompany him and the other children for another pilgrimage next year.

And the Pope offered a surprising response, leaving the door open to the possibility in a letter of reply.

“Thanks for the invitation you have made me to go on a pilgrimage with you, being with children is for me the greatest joy. A proverb says: ‘Never say never.’ Therefore let us entrust this dream into the hands of Providence,” the Pope wrote.

Andrea’s letter to Pope Francis was sent on behalf of himself and the 130 other children who traveled to the Marian Shrine of Loreto from June 22-26. The letter was reprinted by several Italian media outlets.

The pilgrimage was organized by the Rome-Lazio chapter of the National Italian Union of Transportation of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines (UNITALSI) with the goal of teaching young children the importance of prayer and closeness to God, while at the same time allowing them to play, have fun, and make new friends.

We are more than 130 children, and many are sick, others in wheelchairs and others are going alone and are accompanied by some nuns,” Andrea said in his letter, adding that they are praying for the Pope every day.

Andrea also included a group photo of all the children, and asked for the Holy Father’s blessing.

Pope Francis responded saying that “it was so nice to receive your letter and to hear about the enriching adventure you experienced with UNITALSI during the Pilgrimage of Joy to Loreto for children.”

“Thanks also for the group photo you sent me, where I could see that there are a lot of you, and you all look so nice. As I was looking at each face in the photograph, I was praying to Our Lady of Loreto for you, and I blessed you straight from the heart, along with your parents, volunteers, priests and the UNITALSI leaders,” the Pope said in his reply.

EXCLUSIVE CHURCHPOP 360° VIDEOS REVEAL THE BEAUTY OF ROME IN A NEW WAY

https://churchpop.com/2017/07/22/exclusive-churchpop-360-videos-reveal-beauty-rome-new-way/

 

POPE TO PRIESTS IN AHIARA DIOCESE: “ACCEPT YOUR BISHOP OR BE SUSPENDED A DIVINIS”

Here is a terrific update from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia about the progress in re- building since last fall’s devastating earthquake. I could not get the Facebook icon in their email to work so this is the next best thing: http://mailchi.mp/nursia/springatthemonastery-494285

POPE TO PRIESTS IN AHIARA DIOCESE: “ACCEPT YOUR BISHOP OR BE SUSPENDED A DIVINIS”

(Vatican Radio) At an audience for a delegation from the Nigerian diocese of Ahiara, Pope Francis said he had been “deeply saddened” by the refusal of the diocese to accept the Bishop appointed for them. (photo: news.va)

During the audience, the Pope requested explicitly that the diocese receive Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed to Ahiara by Pope Benedict in 2012. In his address to the delegation, the Holy Father, while asking pardon for the harsh language, said the Church in Ahiara “is like a widow for having prevented the Bishop from coming to the diocese.” He called to mind the parable, from the Gospel of Matthew, of the murderous tenants who wanted to steal the inheritance. “In this current situation, the Diocese of Ahiara is without the bridegroom, has lost her fertility, and cannot bear fruit. Whoever is opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the diocese wants to destroy the Church.”

In such a situation, Pope Francis continued, where the Church is suffering, “the Pope cannot remain indifferent.”

In response to that situation, which he described as “an attempted taking over of the vineyard of the Lord,” Pope Francis asked “every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally. We all must share this common sorrow.”

Whoever fails to do so within thirty days, the Pope said, “will be ipso facto [by that very fact] suspended a divinis [‘from divine things,’  such as the celebration of the sacraments] and will lose his current office.”

This course of action was necessary, he continued, “Because the people of God are scandalized. Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences. Maybe someone has been manipulated without having full awareness of the wound inflicted upon the ecclesial communion.”

Following the Pope’s address, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja and Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara, thanked the Holy Father. Following his remarks, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, asked the Holy Father that the Diocese of Ahiara, with its Bishop, might make a pilgrimage to Rome to meet with him when the situation was resolved; a request the Pope accepted.

The audience concluded with a prayer to Mary and the blessing of the Holy Father.

Complete text of Papal letter here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-receives-delegation-from-nigerian-diocese-of

SOME BACKGROUND FROM CNS:

When Okpaleke was appointed to the diocese, the announcement was met by protests and petitions calling for the appointment of a bishop from among the local clergy.

Nevertheless, he was ordained a bishop in May 2013, although the ordination took place not in the Ahiara diocese, but at a seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri.

Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo State in southern Nigeria.

Okpaleke is from Anambra State, which borders Imo to the north.

A petition to Pope Benedict launched by the “Coalition of Igbo Catholics” said, “That no priest of Mbaise origin is a bishop today … is mind boggling. Mbaise has embraced, enhanced the growth of and sacrificed for the Catholic Church, has more priests per capita than any other diocese in Nigeria and certainly more than enough pool of priests qualified to become the next bishop of the episcopal see of Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise.”

According to the Vatican, the diocese has close to 423,000 Catholics and 110 diocesan priests.

Trying to calm the situation, in July 2013 Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Onaiyekan to serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese, and the following December he sent Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to Ahiara to listen to the concerns of the diocesan priests and local laity.

Onaiyekan joined Okpaleke on the “ad limina” visit to Rome, as did Kaigama and Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri. Three priests, a religious sister and a traditional elder also made the trip.