POPE TO ACADEMY FOR LIFE: PROMOTE HUMANISM OF FRATERNITY

The Pontifical Academy for Life was originally instituted by St. John Paul on February 11, 1994 with the Motu proprio “Vitae mysterium.” It was dedicated to “study, information and formation on the principal problems of biomedicine and of law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s Magisterium”.

In 2016 and 2017 Pope Francis overhauled one of the stars of his predecessor’s pontificate, creating a new academy, statues and members, including at least one who is pro-abortion. Remarkably the original requirement for members to sign a “Declaration of the Servants of Life” was removed. This aimed at making explicit the members’ willingness to follow Church teaching on the sacredness of human life and to defend life on the Magisterium’s teaching.

Pope Francis also included the idea of “human ecology” and creation in outlining the focal points of the academy.

Today’s papal message comes just before 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Friday, January 18, and the 13th edition of the March for Life in Paris on Sunday, January 20.

The Vatican news portal on Monday published a Message from Francis to the Paris March with words of encouragement.

As I read – and re-read – today’s Message I noted something interesting: the words “right to life,” “pro-life” and “unborn” do not appear. “Abortion” appears once. Humanism 5 times, humanity 5 times, human 9 times (separate from humanity and humanism).

POPE TO ACADEMY FOR LIFE: PROMOTE HUMANISM OF FRATERNITY

On the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis calls on its members to promote human fraternity and a humanism of life.
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

Pope Francis made the “human community” the focus of a letter addressed to the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life on the 25th anniversary of its foundation by Pope St John Paul II. (vaticannews photo)

God’s dream
“The human community is God’s dream even from before the creation of the world,” the Pope said, emphasizing that we must “grow in the awareness of our common origin in God’s love and creative act.” He explained that “in our time, the Church is called once more to propose the humanism of the life that bursts forth from God’s passion for human beings.”

A state of emergency
After briefly reviewing the history of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis went on to outline the “serious obstacles” facing humanity today. In particular, he noted the “state of emergency existing in our relationship with the history of the earth and its peoples.” This emergency, rooted in concern for oneself at the expense of the common good, has led to a paradox: despite rapid economic and technological progress, humanity finds itself “creating our most bitter divisions and our worst nightmares.”

A difficult task for the Church
In response, the Pope said, the Church is called to react against the negativity that “foments division, indifference, and hostility.” This is a difficult task for the Church, which is in danger of failing to recognize the gravity of the contemporary emergency. “It’s time,” he said, “for a new vision aimed at promoting a humanism of fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples.”

Speaking of the future of the Academy, Pope Francis said, “We need to enter into the language of men and women today, making the Gospel message incarnate in their concrete experience.” He expressed his hope that the Pontifical Academy for Life might be “a place for courageous dialogue in the service of the common good.” In particular, the Pope spoke of the importance of seeking universal criteria for making decisions, as well as a deepening understanding of the relationship between rights and duties. He called, too, for continued study of “emergent” and “convergent” technologies, mentioning specifically information and communication technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, and robotics.

The unkept promise of modernity
Finally, Pope Francis said, “The kind of medicine, economy, technology, and politics that develop within the modern city of man must also, above all, remain subject to the judgment rendered by the peripheries of the earth.” We should remember, he said, “that fraternity remains the unkept promise of modernity.”

“The strengthening of fraternity,” he said in conclusion, “generated in the human family by the worship of God in spirit and truth, is the new frontier of Christianity.”

Read the full text of Pope Francis’ Letter to the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life for the 25th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Academy.  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2019/documents/papa-francesco_20190106_lettera-accademia-vita.html

 

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20 FORMER LATIN AMERICAN HEADS OF STATE WRITE POPE FRANCIS

FYI: Reports are that Starbucks is set to open two stores in Rome in the fall of 2019 – one in the neighborhood of the Vatican Museums and the second in the center of Rome, a location still top secret. Starbucks debuted in Milan last year and is apparently doing well in what is known as the Reserve Roastery. The U.S. chain is due to open new stores there, including one at Milan’s Malpensa Airport.

I am curious to know the numbers at the Milan stores, in particular the number of Italians who frequent this café as opposed to tourists, foreigners and visitors. The typical Italian loves his espresso or cappuccino as prepared at home, at the neighorhood bar or a favorite bar near work. They are very loyal coffee drinkers and café customers.

20 FORMER LATIN AMERICAN HEADS OF STATE WRITE POPE FRANCIS

A fascinating article that appeared in the Rome newspaper IL MESSAGERO, written by its Vatican correspondent Franca Giansoldati: This is a translation from the Italian:

Vatican City – With a never seen before, almost spectacular initiative, 20 former Latin American heads of State have taken to pen and paper to send a shocking letter to Pope Francis, substantially contesting the appeal made on Christmas Day from the basilica loggia on the situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua, an invocation to concord between the parties in conflict Urbi et Orbi Message: “This time of blessing – Pope Bergoglio said – allows Venezuela to find harmony and all the social components to work fraternally for the development of the country and to assist the weakest sections of the population.”

According to the signatories of the letter, the appeal formulated in this way risks giving a somewhat approximate political vision of the seriousness of the general situation. In the letter sent to the Pope on the initiative of IDEA (the democratic initiative of Spain and the Americas) that also appeared in various local press organs, we read: “In this way there is no emphasis on the fact that Venezuelans are the victims of oppression of a militarized narco-dictatorship, which has no qualms about systematically conciliating the rights to life, liberty and personal integrity.”

The 20 former presidents explain to Pope Francis they are aware of his concerns about the suffering suffered by both Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. “The former are victims of the oppression of a militarized narco-dictatorship (…), the second in a wave of repression that has caused 300 deaths and 2,500 injured.” In Venezuela, they add, deliberate policies aimed at a corruption are carried out in a systematic way that is scandalizing the world while people are impoverished to the point that they no longer have even medicines. What they tell the Pope is that his appeal, structured in that way, risks being understood as “a request to the oppressed peoples, who are victims to agree with their respective torturers,” particularly in the case of Venezuela, where “there it is a government that has caused 3 million refugees” and where the prospect, for 2019, is to reach 5.4 million, according to UN figures.

“The expressions of His Holiness that we know to be in good faith and dictated by his spirit as a pastor can also be interpreted in a negative way for the majority of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. Especially when there is currently, in both countries, a political disagreement that calls for tolerance and understanding, between forces of speech and distant narratives, within a very democratic framework “where lying is elevated to a system, where there is no freedom of the press, on the contrary, where the different voices risk prison and persecution and often death as well as the American and European human rights.

Signatories include: Oscar Arias, Costa Rica; Nicolás Ardito Barletta, Panama; Enrique Bolaños, Nicaragua; Alfredo Cristiani, El Salvador; Felipe Calderón, México; Rafael Ángel Calderón, Costa Rica; Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica; Fernando De la Rúa, Argentina; Vicente Fox, México; Eduardo Frei, Chile; César Gaviria T., Colombia; Osvaldo Hurtado, Ecuador; Luis Alberto Lacalle, Uruguay, Jamil Mahuad, Ecuador; Mireya Moscoso, Panama; Andrés Pastrana A., Colombia; Jorge Tuto Quiroga, Bolivia; Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Costa Rica; Álvaro Uribe V., Colombia; Juan Carlos Wasmosy, Paraguay. The petitioners then ask for a meeting, even at the Vatican, “under favorable circumstances”.

Since the beginning of his mandate, Pope Francis has spent himself in trying to find a way to mediate the Venezuelan crisis. He invited Maduro to the Vatican, he sent people of trust to Caracas, he followed the facts with apprehension through the bishops, the nuncio but especially through Cardinal Parolin (who was nuncio to Caracas until 2013) and the Deputy Pena Parra, recently called to the Secretariat of State. The Venezuelan stall remains one of the thorns in the side. There has been no shortage of appeals for refugees who continue to flee because of poverty, uncertainty and persecution against opponents of the system.

The Venezuelan bishops yesterday, during a plenary assembly, affirmed that Maduro’s new mandate is illegitimate. In the current situation “it’s a pity – they write – that it shouts to the heavens to want to keep the power at all costs and try to prolong the bankruptcy and inefficiency of these last decades: it is morally unacceptable! God does not want the people to suffer submitting to injustice ». Hence the urgency to arrive at a solution and a change. The bishops consider the vote of 20 May to be illegitimate for the election of the President of the Republic, as well as the National Constituent Assembly imposed by the executive branch. Therefore “the intention to start a new presidential term on 10 January 2019 – the bishops continue – is illegitimate because of its origin and opens a door to the non recognition of the government because it lacks the democratic support in justice and law”.

POPE FRANCIS REMOVES BISHOP HOLLEY FROM DIOCESE OF MEMPHIS – THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT IS A CALL TO FIDELITY, LOYALTY IN RELATIONSHIPS – POPE FRANCIS AND “SHARING THE WISDOM OF TIME”: AN ALLIANCE BETWEEN GENERATIONS

I posted a note you might find interesting at the end of the first story about the Pope removing Bishop Martin Holley from his diocese – how the Vatican used to announce resignations and how it is done now.

About the third story: I’d like to think that every grandchild might find time to sit down with their grandparents (or their great Aunts and Uncles!) to listen to their stories and to ask questions: What was life like then you were a child? Were your parents (or grandparents) born in America or did they come from another country? Did you learn another language at home? Was religion important on your home and family? What was your church? Did you know priests and nuns as you grew up? What was school like? How were holidays celebrated? Your favorite moments as a child? Favorite foods? Favorite friends? teachers? sports and games? vacations? How did you live without social media? Did you have television? What hobbies did you have? How did your parents discipline you? Did you need discipline? And so on…..Sharing the Wisdom of Time…

POPE FRANCIS REMOVES BISHOP HOLLEY FROM DIOCESE OF MEMPHIS

A statement released by the Holy See Press Office on Wednesday revealed that Pope Francis has removed Bishop Martin D. Holley from the pastoral care of the diocese of Memphis in the United States.

The statement also said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville has been appointed as temporary apostolic administrator to oversee the diocese until further notice.

The removal follows a Vatican investigation into the Diocese of Memphis in June to address concerns about major changes Bishop Holley had made.

Holley was installed as Bishop of Memphis in October 2016 after serving as Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, D.C. for 12 years.

CNA/EWTN News noted that, “the removal follows a Vatican investigation into the Diocese of Memphis in June to address concerns about major changes Bishop Holley, 63, had made. Among these was the reassignment of up to two-thirds of the 60 active priests in the diocese, according to local media reports.

The apostolic visitation, as it is called, was carried out by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. They spent three days “fact-finding” in the diocese, including conducting interviews with Memphis-area clergy and laypeople, according to Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal.

The outcome of the apostolic visitation has not been made public.

In a letter to his priests in June, reported on by The Commercial Appeal, Holley said: “Many of you may have read, seen or heard news this week that an apostolic visitation was made to our diocese. We are respectful of the confidentiality of the apostolic nunciature’s process and are thankful that some of you were invited to participate in that process.”

*** (JFL) What I have found interesting for quite some time is how the Vatican presents the resignation of a bishop compared to how we announced them when I worked at VIS, Vatican Information Service. The daily news stories came to VIS from the Secretariat of State via the Holy See Press Office. One of the young men at the press office front desk always brought us copies of that day’s papal speech or homily or some other document, including lists of nominations and resignations.

In a column entitled “Other Pontifical Acts” (namely, appointments and resignations) a resignation was presented in one of two ways:

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
Vatican City, date (VIS) – The Holy Father:

– Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of ABC, Germany, presented by Bishop XYZ in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

– Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of ABC, Hungary presented by Bishop XYZ upon having reached the age limit.

We presented a resignation as it came to us from the Secretariat of State and it was based on Canon 401 of the Code of Canon Law. In early years, we specifically noted the Canon, ie, Bishop So and So resigned in accordance with Canon 401, Para 1, having reached the age limit of 75.

OR: Bishop So and So resigned in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law, that is, he is “less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause.”

CANON 401 §1. A diocesan bishop who has completed the seventy-fifth year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provision after he has examined all the circumstances.

§2. A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.

No reference is made any more to this Canon when the Vatican announces resignations. Interesting…..

Want to see two decades of VIS stories: http://visnews-en.blogspot.com/

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT IS A CALL TO FIDELITY, LOYALTY IN RELATIONSHIPS

Pope Francis Wednesday at the general audience continued his catechesis on the Ten Commandments, reflecting this week on the Sixth Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.” He said the primary call of this Commandment is a call to fidelity and loyalty in our relationships.


We cannot love another only as long as it is convenient, he said. True love for another is revealed in fidelity, which is a characteristic of “free, mature, responsible human relationships.” Even in friendships we see that a true friend is one who is there for us even in trials.

This speaks to a real human need: the need to be loved without conditions. Without this kind of love, the Pope said, we feel incomplete, even if we often don’t recognise it. When that love is lacking, we seek to feel the emptiness within us with substitutes, which are only a reflection of true love.

So, the Pope said, we can find ourselves overestimating the value of physical attraction. Attraction is a gift from God, but it is ordered to a faithful and authentic relationship with the other person. Quoting Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis said we must learn, “with perseverance and consistency, the meaning of the body.”

“The call to married life,” Pope Francis continued, “requires an accurate discernment of the quality of the relationship,” including a suitable period of preparation. This cannot simply be a few meetings of “marriage prep” at the parish, but rather a true catechumenate. And it must be based, not simply on good will, or a vague hope that “things will work out,” but on the faithful love of God.

The Pope said that the Sixth Commandment helps us understand that fidelity is a “way of being, a style of life.” Fidelity, based on the faithfulness of Christ, must enter into our whole life, so that it permeates all our thoughts and actions.

For this to happen, the fidelity of God must enter our lives. Christ’s fidelity “can take from us an adulterous heart and give us a faithful heart,” Pope Francis said. Only He can help us to give ourselves completely, without “parentheses,” and with fidelity to the very end. Our communion with Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the source of communion among ourselves, and helps us to faithfully live our commitments to one another.

POPE FRANCIS AND “SHARING THE WISDOM OF TIME”: AN ALLIANCE BETWEEN GENERATIONS

A new book published by Loyola Press highlights the wisdom of the elderly, their experiences and their insights as fundamental contributions to society. In the preface to the book, written by Pope Francis, he calls for an alliance between the young and the old to help counter the culture of waste.
By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

Pope Francis asked young and elder people to join forces to make the world a better place. Answering questions during a book launch at the Augustinianum Institute in Rome, the Pope invited young people to listen and to bond with their elders in an effort to counter a culture of waste, a growing indifference to the plight of migrants and refugees, and a dangerous resurgence of populism that spurns hatred and intolerance.
The event, dubbed as an “intergenerational conversation” presented a book published by Loyola Press and curated by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, entitled “Sharing the Wisdom of Time”.

The book contains stories gathered from elderly persons from all over the world. Its inspiration comes from Pope Francis himself who repeatedly expresses his belief that the young can only sink roots into the soil of tradition through their relationships with the elderly.

The 175-page book fleshes out what Pope Francis said he feels “the Lord wants me to say: that there should be an alliance between the young and old people.”

In the preface, written by the Pope, he explains this alliance entails sharing the experiences of older people, heeding their advice and creating a strong bond with the new generations who are hungry for guidance and support as they prepare for their future.

“Sharing the Wisdom of Time” offers a collection of stories and wisdom from older people from 30 countries and from every walk of life.

The stories are organized in five thematic chapters: work, struggle, love, death and hope, and each chapter begins with the Pope reflecting on each theme.

Speaking off-the-cuff during the book launch, Pope Francis touched on current themes and issues such as migration and the tragedy of so many forced migrants and refugees who die during their journeys of hope and of the responsibility of policy-makers and world leaders to find solutions that safeguard the lives and dignity of all; the importance of cultivating memory so that evils – such as wars – witnessed in history are not repeated; the danger of populism that gives rise to hatred and intolerance.

POPE SURPRISES COUPLE BY OFFICIATING THEIR MARRIAGE

I know the couple in this wonderful story and knew they were married Saturday in Santo Stefano degli Abissini church inside Vatican City and I’ve seen some great photos of the ceremony taken by friends of the couple in attendance. What a lifetime of memories in just an hour!

I knew of it but did not tweet or do a FB post about it – hopefully that shows I am a better friend than a journalist!

It has been sweltering in Rome and was indeed the same inside the church on Saturday as there is no air conditioning in this centuries old church, the oldest in Vatican City State. The church is rather small and may have been hot due to the presence of the 50 or 60 people inside for the wedding. Usually, however, as many of you know who have been to Rome in the summer, if you want to stay cool on a hot and humid day, you enter a church!

St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, dedicated to Stephen the Protomartyr, is the national church of Ethiopia whose liturgy is celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. In terms of architectural history, it is the oldest surviving church in the Vatican. (it’s obviously the little church on the left in this photo)

Tradition says the church was built by Pope Leo I (ca. 400–461) and named Santo Stefano Maggiore. It was rebuilt in 1159 under Pope Alexander III, who also built a monastery for Ethiopian monks next to it.

In 1479, Pope Sixtus IV restored the church and assigned it to the Coptic monks in the city. It was at this time that the name was changed to reflect that it was served by Ethiopians (Abyssinian). It was altered under Pope Gregory XI (1700–1721), and again in 1928.

In recent years the church has undergone restoration and today is used principally for weddings or celebrations of special importance for the clergy who work in the Vatican.

I have also attended several wakes for Vatican prelates in Santo Stefano, including the late Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli.

POPE SURPRISES COUPLE BY OFFICIATING THEIR MARRIAGE

A Swiss guard and his Brazilian wife-to-be were taken aback to see Pope Francis appearing unannounced in the church to bless their wedding.

By Robin Gomes (vaticanmedia)

Pope Francis on Saturday surprised a Swiss guard and his would-be Brazilian wife, by appearing un-announced in the sacristy just ahead of the wedding ceremony and decided to marry them.

Surprise!

Neither the couple nor the few attending the ceremony knew about the Pope’s surprise move, said Brazilian Father Renato dos Santos, one of those present. The priest entered the sacristy of the church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians in Vatican City to prepare for the celebration when he was taken aback by a smiling pope seated there waiting for him. The Holy Father took charge and went ahead.

“Never in my life, never would I have thought of finding the Pope in a sacristy,” Fr. dos Santos told Vatican News. The Brazilian priest noted the people inside the church were so surprised they were wondering if it was really Pope Francis. “I saw him as a true parish priest who takes care for his own sheep in the parish,” Fr. dos Santos said. “He’s always done it this way.”

Three verbs – success to marriage

The Holy Father’s homily was on three verbs: ‘to begin’, ‘to stop’, ‘to resume the journey’ – which he explained are needed to be able to live their marriage in fullness. “The Pope showed how dear to his heart marriage is,” Fr. dos Santos pointed out. “The Pope has great love for this sacrament which helps start a family and which wants to put God at the center,” he added.

POPE FRANCIS TO CELEBRATE MASS WITH 5 CHILEAN PRIESTS

POPE FRANCIS TO CELEBRATE MASS WITH 5 CHILEAN PRIESTS

FROM HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE:

Pope Francis to celebrate Mass at 4 pm today with five Chilean priests who have been his guests at the Santa Marta residence since yesterday, June 1. He will have individual meetings with these priests. The aim of these meetings is to look more deeply into the reality lived by part of the faithful and the Chilean clergy. With the help of these five priests the Pope will try to put an end to the internal rupture in the community. Thus, one can begin to rebuild a healthy relationship between the faithful and their pastors once everyone becomes aware of their own wounds.

POPE FRANCIS CONTINUES “MERCY FRIDAYS”

POPE FRANCIS CONTINUES “MERCY FRIDAYS”

In the framework of the Jubilee Year of Mercy’s “Mercy Fridays” Pope Francis this afternoon at 4 went to the main offices of the Elisa Scala Institute in Rome, a state-run school on the southwest periphery of Rome.

Born in the 1950s, with demographic changes the institute added four additional buildings over the years. This institute is home to diverse ethnic groups and cultural and economic realities, and has always supported activities and initiatives aimed at promoting the integration of foreigners and the culturally deprived. The Pope was greeted by the head of school and hundreds of children who attend after-school activities.

Pope Francis learned the story of Elisa Scala, a vivacious, popular book-loving student who died suddenly at the age of 11 of leukemia in October 2015. She spoke often to her family and friends of her love of books and libraries and, after her death, her parents proposed creating a library in her honor at the school. In December 2015, “Elisa’s Library” was born. Thousands of books have since been donated – more than 20,000 from all over Europe, in diverse languages and dedicated to Elisa. (photo: LaRepubblica)

Pope Francis donated several volumes to the library, each of which had a dedication to Elisa.

Just months ago, the city of Rome gave permission for the Institute to be named after Elisa Scala. Pope Francis spent some time with her parents at the Institute this afternoon.

POPE FRANCIS ON “STEPPING DOWN”: WHAT DID HE SAY? WHAT DID HE MEAN?

POPE FRANCIS ON “STEPPING DOWN”: WHAT DID HE SAY? WHAT DID HE MEAN?

A Vatican media report on Pope Francis’ homily at his Tuesday morning Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence ended with his words about “stepping down” from the ministry of Bishop of Rome, aka the Petrine ministry. (vaticanmedia photo)

As was noted, Pope Francis focused his reflections on the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Paul, “compelled by the Holy Spirit,” takes his leave from the Church Elders at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem. “It’s a decisive move,” said Francis, “a move that reaches the heart, it’s also a move that shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’ time to take his leave and step down.”

Pope Francis, summarized the report, noted how the Apostle made an examination of his conscience, telling the Elders what he had done for the community and leaving them to judge his work. Paul seemed “a bit proud,” said the Pope, but in actual fact “he is objective.” He only boasts about two things: “his own sins and the Cross of Jesus Christ which saved him.”

Describing how Paul feels “compelled by the Holy Spirit” to go to Jerusalem, Pope Francis said: “This experience by the bishop, the bishop who can discern the Spirit, who can discern when it is the Spirit of God speaking to him and who knows how to defend himself when spoken to by the spirit of the world.”

Turning to Paul’s farewell words, Pope Francis noted how Paul takes his leave amidst the pain of those present by giving them advice in a testament that is not a worldly testament “about leaving belongings to this person or that person.”

Paul’s great love, said the Pope, “is Jesus Christ. His second love is for his flock. Take care of each other and of the entire flock. Keep watch over the flock: you are bishops for your flock, to take care of it and not in order to advance your ecclesiastical career.”

The Holy Father, noting how Paul entrusted the Elders to God, knowing that He will take care of them, stressed that the Apostle spoke of having no desire to have any money or gold for himself. He described Paul’s testament as “a witness, as well as an announcement and a challenge.” Paul had nothing to leave to others, “only the grace of God, his apostolic courage, Jesus Christ’s revelation and the salvation that Our Lord had granted him.”

Then the words that have everyone asking: What did Pope Francis mean?

“When I read this, I think about myself, because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down. I ask the Lord for the grace to be able to take my leave like this. And in my examination of conscience I will not emerge victorious as Paul who … But the Lord is good, he is merciful, but … I think of the bishops, of all the bishops. May the Lord give grace to all of us to be able to take our leave this way, with this spirit, with this strength, with this love of Jesus Christ, with this trust in the Holy Spirit.”

End of homily, start of commentary:

Often in his five-year papacy, Francis has spoken about having “a brief pontificate” without ever explaining those words. Did he have a health problem none of us knew about? Did he wish to reform the Roman Curia – a hot topic during the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals in March 2013 – and then step down, hoping to do so in a couple of years? Was he starting to feel his 81 years? Did he simply choose a length of time he would be Pope – say 5 or 6 years – and not tell anyone?

The Pope was never clear about why he thought his papacy would be “brief.”

If you look at his words at Tuesday’s Mass, it seems like a pretty factual statement: “When I read this, I think about myself, because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”

To explain a legal point: Residential bishops and archbishops (be they cardinals or not) are required by Church law to step down from their ministry at age 75. Their letter of resignation to the Holy Father almost always bears the date of their 75th birthday. Such resignations are not always accepted immediately. If the prelate in question is active, vibrant, in good health, is still an effective, passionate leader, he may be asked to stay on – or he stays on until the Pope officially accepts his resignation. The Pope – who is the bishop of Rome – has always been the exception to that rule.

Back to the papal statement: Note that he did not say “I am a bishop and I must eventually take my leave and step down.” He said, “…..I must take my leave and step down.”

Once again, a papal statement leaves us mystified, yearning for clarity, wanting an answer.

Personally, I cannot believe Pope Francis would step down at the same time there is another Pope emeritus.

I am fairly sure that everyone in the media, and those of you reading this column and other reports, will be watching every word that Francis utters from now on about a “brief papacy” or “stepping down” or his future plans. He does have a fair amount of future plans, by the way: his June 21 trip to Geneva for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, the August World meeting of Families in Dublin, the October synod on youth and vocations, the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama, to name but a few.

And guess what question visiting bishops and cardinals will be asking the Pope!

PS: Were any of his words a sign to some of Chile’s bishops – whom he met Tuesday afternoon –  that they should think of “stepping down”?