VATICAN INSIDER: THE JOB OF AN INTERN AT THE U.S. EMBASSY – POPE ASKS PARDON OF ROHINGYA AT ECUMENICAL MEETING

Here we are, the first weekend of December and the start of Advent – seems like just a few months ago we were putting away Christmas gifts, taking the tree down, etc.

This weekend the American Catholic community of St. Patrick’s celebrates its annual gala dinner for charity, the Saint Nicholas Serata. As I write, a big crew of dedicated and loving parishioners is at Marymount International School, hard at work to transform the student dining room into a ritzy, glittering holiday scene where lucky ticket holders will experience a gourmet meal, enjoy the strains of Christmas music and dance to a live band and then partake in a live auction, a silent auction and the drawing of raffle tickets.

The proceeds from the evening go to benefit six Roman charities – something we at St. Patrick’s (formerly the Santa Susanna Catholic American community) have done for decades. Here’s the website, by the way: https://www.stnicholasserata.org/

Friends and colleagues bought some raffle tickets and, late Saturday evening, we will know who won the iPhone 8Plus, a weekend for two in Venice and a weekend for two in Matera!

VATICAN INSIDER: THE JOB OF AN INTERN AT THE U.S. EMBASSY

I have two truly remarkable guests in the interview segment of Vatican Insider this weekend – Bridget Rickard and Bryant King! This summer they were interns in the political and economic section of the US embassy to the Holy See. One of their many tasks was preparing the Briefing Book for the incoming U.S. ambassador. Ambassador Gingrich is now in Rome and Bridget and Bryant were able to meet her in November when they returned to Rome to attend a Vatican sponsored conference on a world without nuclear weapons.

Bridget is a senior at Notre Dame and Bryant a senior at Georgetown. Listen to these two extraordinary young people – intelligent, articulate and passionate -, as they talk about their time in Rome and their dreams. This is a do-not-miss conversation. I am sure you will feel that, if their college peers were anywhere near as intelligent and well spoken as Bridget and Bryant, our nation’s future would be in very good hands!

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 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=

POPE ASKS PARDON OF ROHINGYA AT ECUMENICAL MEETING

Pope Francis on Friday in Bangladesh did something he could not do in Myanmar – say the word Rohingya.

Here’s why….

Sunday night Pope Francis left Rome for Myanmar and Bangladesh on his 21st apostolic journey abroad, arriving Monday in Yangon, Myanmar. This is the first ever papal visit to the nation, formerly known as Burma, which suffered over half a century of oppressive military rule until elections in 2015, won by the National League for Democracy. Cardinal Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon, told Vatican Radio before the papal trip that in the past the country’s ruling party was made up exclusively of Burmese Buddhists, but now the party includes other ethnic groups, and “not only the Buddhists, but also the Christians and other religions. That’s big progress.”

There are 400,000 Catholics in Bangladesh out of a population of 163 million, while in Myanmar there are 700,000 Catholics in a population of 53 million.

Cardinal Bo told Pope Francis he should not to say Rohingya while in Myanmar: “It is a very contested term, and the military and government and the public would not like him to express it.”

The Rohingya are persecuted and stateless Muslims in western Myanmar who are — according to the United Nations, the United States and much of the global community – the victims of ethnic cleansing, mass murder and systematic rape at the hands of the Myanmar military and extremist monks. Pope Francis has in the past, denounced the “persecution of our Rohingya brothers, saying they were being “tortured and killed, simply because they uphold their Muslim faith.”

Looking back at the Holy Father’s three-day stay in Myanmar, a summary can be made of his speeches and homilies but the impact of his trip on political, military and religious leaders will only be told with the passage of time. Francis walked a fine and very delicate line as he addressed hot button issues in Myanmar, especially the plight of the Rohingya people, avoiding the word Rohingya but speaking to the bigger issue — the cycles of violence by ethnic militant groups and the Myanmar military.

On October 22 this year, the United Nations reported that an estimated 603,000 refugees from Rakhine, Myanmar had crossed the border into Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. There are about 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Friday, the Holy Father put the Rohingya on the front page of the news. Here are the words (in my translation) that he spoke to a group of Rohingya refugees at the end of this afternoon’s inter-religious and ecumenical meeting at the home of the archbishop:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, all of us are close to you. And there is so little we can do because your tragedy is so great. But we can make room in our hearts. In the name of everyone, of those who persecute you, of those who have done harm, above all for the world’s indifference, I ask your pardon. Pardon! All of you have told me of the great heart of Bangladesh that has received you. Now I appeal to your great heart – may it be capable of giving pardon to those of us who ask.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Hebrew-Christian account of creation tells us that the Lord God created man in his image and likeness. All of us have this image. Even these brothers and sisters. They too are the image of the living God. A tradition in your religion says that God, in the beginning, took some salt and threw it in water and this was the soul of all men; and each of us carries within us a little of the divine salt. These brothers and sister carry within them the salt of God.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, only let us show the world what the world’s egoism does with the image of God. Let us continue to do good to (these people), to help them; let us continue to move so that their rights are recognized. Let’s not close our hearts, let’s not look the other way. The presence of God today is also called Rohingya, May each of us give our own answer.

Two more photos from today in Bangladesh –

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HOPE SHOULD COME FROM TRUST IN GOD’S WORD, NOT FALSE IDOLS – MEDIA CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY VATICAN MIGRATION, REFUGEE OFFICE – TWO PRIESTS ATTACKED IN ST. MARY MAJOR – 800 DEAD, 16 CHURCHES DESTROYED IN NIGERIA BY TERRORIST GROUP

HOPE SHOULD COME FROM TRUST IN GOD’S WORD, NOT FALSE IDOLS

Pope Francis continued his series of catecheses on Christian hope at his Wednesday audience in the Paul VI Hall and stressed that true hope is born of trust in God’s word, not in false idols such as wealth, power, beauty or even fortune tellers.

At one point, he departed from his prepared catechesis about false idols to tell a story about fortune tellers in a park in his native Buenos Aires. He said he used to walk through the park and see countless very small tables where these seers or fortune tellers were seated, talking to individuals.

Francis said: “It was always the same story: there’s a woman in your life, a man will come, everything will be just fine.” The Pope lamented that people paid these seers to get a sense of security, “ a false sense of security, one of – and pardon me! – stupidity.” He said it was so sad that people could feel better, more hopeful, with such false idols rather than having hope in Jesus Christ: “How very sad we do not trust Him as much!”

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Our hope, said the Holy Father, “must be rooted in what can actually help in living and giving meaning to our existence,” not in illusions that are both useless and meaningless.

He noted that, “hope in God demands strength and perseverance, whereas these false gods promise an easy security, a future we can control. The Psalmist denounces this kind of idolatry, stating that those who put their trust in images that are the work of human hands, will come to be like them: spiritually blind, deaf and insensible.”

The false idols that the Pope mentioned, “with their illusion of eternity and omnipotence,” include values such as physical beauty, he said. This is not bad itself, but “when it becomes an idol to which we sacrifice everything, they are all realities that confuse the mind and the heart.”

The Pope interrupted himself once again to tell a story. When we have false idols and don’t trust in the Lord, “It’s terrible, it hurts the soul what I heard one time years ago in the diocese of Buenos Aires: a woman, a good woman, beautiful, very, very beautiful and who bragged about her beauty, said with great naturalness, ‘Yes, I had to have an abortion because my figure is so important’.He said this surely puts one on the wrong path and does not lead to lasting happiness.

“God is always greater than we are,” said Francis, “and we, created in his image and likeness, cannot reduce him to our size or fabricate other gods, made in our own image and tailored to our desires. By trusting in God’s word and hoping in his promises, we become more and more like him, sharing in his life and rejoicing in his provident care, revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus his Son.”

At the end of the catechesis, the Pope said, “Now I must tell you something that I don’t want to tell you.” He held up a red audience ticket, saying tickets to papal events, whether in St. Peter’s Square or the audience hall are always entirely free, noting that the tickets say this in six languages. Anyone who wants you to pay for a ticvket, said Francis, is a fraud, devious and a delinquent.

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He called weekly audiences a chance “to talk to the Pope, to visit the Pope. If someone says you must pay, they are ripping you off. Beware – tickets are free!”

MEDIA CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY VATICAN MIGRATION, REFUGEE OFFICE

The Migration and Refugee Section of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development has announced it is launching its first media campaign.

Although the Dicastery is run by Cardinal Peter Turkson – who had been serving as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – the Migration and Refugee Section is being led for the time being by Pope Francis himself, to show his particular concern during the ongoing refugee crisis.

The new media campaign is being launched to coincide with the 103rd World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which is observed 15 January 2017.

From 12 to 15 January 2017, the tweets of Pope Francis will focus on migrants and refugees, and will link directly to the Section’s Facebook page, which will present a brief story and reflection relevant to each day’s topic.

The media accounts of the new section are listed below
Twitter Accounts:
English – https://twitter.com/M_RSection
Italian – https://twitter.com/M_RSezione
Spanish – https://twitter.com/M_RSeccion
French – https://twitter.com/M_RSection_Fr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MandRSection/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/migrants-&-refugees-section

TWO PRIESTS ATTACKED IN ST. MARY MAJOR

A man entered the sacristy of a Roman basilica on January 7 and used a broken bottle to attack two priests.

Worshippers at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore heard shouts from the sacristy as a 42-year-old man cut the faces of Father Angelo Gaeta, the sacristan, and Father Adolfo Ralf. Police soon apprehended the perpetrator.

The victims, according to Italy’s state radio and television network, are priests of the Franciscan Friars of Immaculate who have been critical of the institute’s founder, Father Stefano Maria Manelli. The network reported that the attacker’s motive was unknown and that he may have been psychologically disturbed. He was heard to have said, “I am misunderstood.”

800 DEAD, 16 CHURCHES DESTROYED IN NIGERIA BY TERRORIST GROUP

A report from Nigeria from Fides News service, an agency of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples states that over 800 people have been killed and 16 churches destroyed by the terrorist group of Fulani herdsmen.

Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri of Kafanchan in the state of Kaduna told Fides, “In the last three months attacks have increased carried out by the Fulani Herdsmen Terrorist (FHT) in more than half of the territory of the southern State of Kaduna.” Bishop Bagobiri was speaking in Rome where he was visiting the Italian headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“In the West, this group is almost unheard of, he said, “but it has been responsible since September of fires in 53 villages, of the death of 808 persons, the wounding of 57 others, the destruction of 1,422 houses and 16 churches.

He also noted that from 2006 to 2014, more than 12,000 Christians were killed and 2,000 churches destroyed because of terrorism in Nigeria. These crimes were mainly committed by the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram, he said, but Boko Haram is not the only group that spreads terror in the African country, and he highlighted the role of Fulani herdsmen in recent years.

The Fulani are a nomadic ethnic group that has been protagonists of recurrent conflicts with farmers in the area. However in recent times the attacks are of a completely different kind compared to the old clashes between farmers and herders, as the latter use “sophisticated weapons that did not exist before, such as the AK-47, said Bishop Bagobiri, adding that it is not known where the weapons come from.

VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S STORY OF MOTHER TERESA – PAPAL CONDOLENCES FOR DEATH OF CARDINAL CAPOVILLA – CA’ MAITINO, MEMORIES OF A PONTIFICATE – REFUGEE BOAT IS ALTAR FOR CORPUS CHRISTI MASS – US BISHOPS CONCERN ABOUT ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR EXPULSION OF IMMIGRANTS

VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S STORY OF MOTHER TERESA

My special guest this week on Vatican Insider is Fr.. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, the official postulator of the cause of canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. We spoke when he was in Rome for the March 15 announcement by Pope Francis of the decrees of canonization for Blessed Mother Teresa and four others. The September 4 date for her canonization was also announced that day. Listen as Fr. Brian tells riveting stories about this future saint, and how he came to be the postulator for her cause.

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PAPAL CONDOLENCES FOR DEATH OF CARDINAL CAPOVILLA

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent his condolences to the Bishop of Bergamo, Italy for the death of Cardinal Loris Francesco Capovilla, the former private secretary of Pope John XXIII.

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Upon hearing of the Cardinal’s passing 26 May 2016 at the age of 100, Pope Francis wrote in a telegram to Bishop Francesco Beschi, in whose diocese Cardinal Capovilla lived the last years of his life:  “I think with affection of this dear brother who in his long and fruitful existence gave witness to the Gospel with joy and obediently served the Church, first in the diocese of Venice, then with attentive affection at the side of Pope John XXIII, of whose memory he was the zealous custodian and expert interpreter. In his episcopal ministry, especially in Chieti-Vasto and Loreto (Italy), he was always a pastor totally dedicated to the wellbeing of all priests and the faithful …with a solid fidelity to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.”

Pope Francis concluded his telegram with a prayer, “with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Mark the Evangelist,” so that the Lord will receive his soul “nel Gaudio” and “in eternal peace, ” and offered his apostolic blessing to all those who grieve his passing.

Cardinal Capovilla was born on 14 October 1915 in Pontelungo, northern Italy.

He was ordained a priest in Venice, Italy, in 1940; he was appointed and ordained Archbishop of Chieti, in 1967.  From 1971 to 1988, he served as prelate of Loreto, Italy.

On 22 February 2014, Pope Francis elevated him cardinal and, cardinal-priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome.

CA’ MAITINO, MEMORIES OF A PONTIFICATE

Ca’ Maitino is the residence in Sotto il Monte (the town where Pope St. John XXIII was born) where Cardinal Loris Capovilla, secretary to John XXIII lived in recent years, until his death yesterday, May 26, 2016, at the age of 100.

It was here that Angelo Roncalli, priest, bishop and Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, spent his annual vacation, together with his secretary, Msgr. Capovilla. In many ways, it was a second home to both men, and was thus a place that Msgr. Capovilla felt drawn to upon retirement. Today, it houses many mementoes and belongings of the late pontiff, and offers the visitors time to pray in the lovely, intimate chapel where Angelo Roncalli celebrated daily Mass when he was in residence.

The following slideshow photos depict both the grounds and the interior of Ca’ Maitino:

REFUGEE BOAT IS ALTAR FOR CORPUS CHRISTI MASS

“Someone who lets people drown in the Mediterranean also drowns God — every day, thousands of times.”

The archbishop of Cologne, Germany, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, spoke these striking words on Thursday to condemn Europe’s increasingly tough attitude toward refugees. He spoke during a Mass in one of the German city’s main squares.

Woelki also used a seven-meter-long former refugee boat as his altar for the service to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. The boat had previously been recovered by the Maltese military during a search-and-rescue operation.REFUGEE ALTAR

The cardinal emphasized the significance of choosing the boat, saying that altars had always symbolized Jesus Christ. “To see those in need and help them is the task the Lord has given to us as Christians,” said Woelki.

“Their cry for justice, for dignity and peace are also God’s cry,” the archbishop commented, according to a translation by Austria’s Catholic Press Agency.

Click here for entire story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/05/26/the-stunning-way-a-catholic-priest-marked-the-deaths-of-refugees-in-the-mediterranean/

US BISHOPS CONCERN ABOUT ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR EXPULSION OF IMMIGRANTS

From Washington (FIDES, a news agency of the Congregation for Evangelization) –   Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration expressed deep concern over reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon begin a month-long series of immigrant deportation raids. Incoming committee chairman, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, also voiced such concern.

The letter sent to Fides by the USCCB, reports that the upcoming operations will cover in particular Central American undocumented mothers and children. “These operations spark panic among our parishes,” said Bishop Elizondo. “No person, migrant or otherwise, should have to fear leaving their home to attend church or school. No person should have to fear being torn away from their family and returned to danger.”

Bishop Elizondo and Archbishop Gomez remind the administration and ICE that enforcement actions that cause families to live in constant fear run contrary to long-standing American values and challenge the God-given dignity of every person. (CE)

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.

“I SAW SO MUCH SORROW,” SAYS FRANCIS OF VISIT TO LESBOS – POPE FRANCIS’ IN-FLIGHT PRESS CONFERENCE

I rarely write a “Joan’s Rome” column over the weekend and this weekend was no exception. However, the news from Lesbos about the papal visit to a refugee camp on that Greek island, including the papal in-flight interview with media, was so important that I did take some time to post stories on Facebook (facebook.com(joan.lewis.10420).

The in-flight conversation was important enough that I am including it in today’s column. There was other news yesterday, including the Regina Coeli (see below) and a beautiful papal Mass yesterday in St. Peter’s Basilica during which the Pope ordained 11 new priests, including twin brothers from Italy.

“I SAW SO MUCH SORROW,” SAYS FRANCIS OF VISIT TO LESBOS

Sunday, after reciting the Regina Coeli with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke movingly of his lightning quick trip the day before to the Greek island of Lesbos to visit a refugee center. He said, “I brought the solidarity of the Church to the refugees and to the Greek people,” He noted that, “Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Hieronymous of Athens and of All Greece were with me to signify the unity in charity of all the disciples of the Lord.”

The Holy Father thanked all who accompanied him and who had helped arrange this trip in a very quick fashion, and especially thanked everyone who had prayed for the visit. He explained that the three religious leaders visited with more than 300 refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, North Africa and other parts of the world. “So many of them were children!” the Pope exclaimed. He noted, with great emotion, how some of the children had witnessed the deaths of parents or companions. “I saw so much sorrow!” (photo news.va)

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After a slight pause, Francis said he had a special story to tell the faithful. He then recounted the case of a young Muslim man with two young children whose Christian fiancée was killed by terrorists because she would not deny Christ and renounce her faith. “She is a martyr!” the Pope stated.

(Saturday, after his five-hour visit, Pope Francis invited three Muslim refugee families to accompany him on the plane to Rome. He later told the media on the plane that no Christian families were selected as none had their documents in order, speaking of the papers needed to legally exit Greece and legally enter Italy.

(Sunday evening, ANSA news agency reported that the refugees who were at risk of deportation from the Greek island of Lesbos that Pope Francis brought back to Italy had their first Italian class on April 17. The first day of the three Syrian families hosted by Sant’Egidio Community was spent trying to adjust to the new environment. On Sunday evening a celebratory dinner was held in the Trastevere neighborhood for the six adults, four children and two adolescents. Sant’Egidio staff said all have warmly thanked Pope Francis who brought them back to Rome from Lesbos Saturday on the papal plane.)

POPE FRANCIS’ IN-FLIGHT PRESS CONFERENCE

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis gave a 30-minute press conference on the flight back from Lesbos to Rome on Saturday, sharing thoughts on a wide range of subjects including his opinion regarding the deal between the EU and Turkey, his meeting with Bernie Sanders, the closure of European borders and his recent apostolic exhortation.

The Pope began his traditional conversation with journalists aboard the papal plane reflecting on the fact that the visit to Lesbos had had a very strong emotional impact on him. Asked what he thinks about the recent deal between Brussels and Ankara, the Pope highlighted the fact that his visit to Lesbos was undertaken in a purely humanitarian spirit.

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Regarding the fact that he has brought three refugee families back to Rome with him, he said the decision was the fruit of a ‘last-minute’ inspiration one of his collaborators had a week ago.

“Everything was arranged according to the rules. They have their documents. The Holy See, the Greek government and the Italian government have checked everything. They have been welcomed by the Vatican and with the collaboration of the Saint Egidio community they will be searching for work” he said.

Asked about a reported meeting on Saturday morning in the Vatican with the American presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Pope Francis acknowledged it had taken place but specified that it had been a purely ‘polite’ encounter.

“This morning when I was leaving Senator Sanders was there. He had come to participate in the ‘Centesimus Annus’ Conference and greeted me politely together with his wife (…) It is called ‘manners’ and has nothing to do with politics” he said.

Another journalist asked why the three families of refugees chosen to be brought back to the Vatican are all Muslim. The Pope said the choice was not between Christians and Muslims and that those who were selected all had their papers in order.

One journalist asked the Pope whether he thinks that the closing of European borders marks the end of a European dream. Francis said that while he understands there are some governments and peoples who are afraid, he said he believes we have the responsibility of welcome.

“I have always said that building walls is not a solution. We saw walls during the last century and they did not resolve anything. We must build bridges. Bridges are built with intelligence, with dialogue, with integration” he said.

The Pope expressed his belief that Europe must urgently implement policies that welcome people, integrate them with work, create policies that foresee growth and a push forward a reform of the economy.

“All these things – he said – are bridges”, and he highlighted the suffering and pain witnessed during his visit to the camp in Lesbos.

The children there, he said, had given him drawings (which he showed those present) in which they asked for peace and expressed their pain and fear after having seen terrible things like other children drowning.

Asked whether Europe can open its arms to all the misery in the world the Pope reflected on the many faces of human suffering. He mentioned war and hunger, both of these – he said – an effect of the exploitation of the planet. He spoke of deforestation and of trafficking and of how fighting factions in Syria have been armed by others.

“I would invite the producers of arms to spend a day in the camp (in Lesbos): I believe that would be good” he said.

Turning to the Pope’s recently released Apostolic Exhortation on the family, one journalist asked for clarification saying there are discussions going on between those who maintain that nothing has changed when it comes to the question of access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried while others argue that much has changed on this front.

In his reply, Pope Francis said a lot has changed but he urged the journalists to read the presentation made by Cardinal Schonborn, describing him as a great theologian who was also secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and whom, he said, has a thorough knowledge of the faith.

“The answer to your question, he declared, is contained in that presentation.”

Pope Francis confessed that he was somewhat annoyed and saddened by the media’s fixation during and after the Synod  on the single issue of whether the divorced and remarried would be allowed to take communion.

He said the media didn’t realize that this was not the important question and they fail to notice that the family unit, the cornerstone of our society throughout the world, is in a state of crisis.

“They don’t realize, he went on, that young people don’t want to marry, that the falling birthrate in Europe should make us weep, that there is a lack of jobs, there are fathers and mothers taking on two jobs and children are growing up on their own without having their parents around”.

VATICAN BRIEFING ON PAPAL VISIT TO LESBOS APRIL 16

PAPAL TWEET: April 14: Love is the only light which can constantly illuminate a world grown dim.

VATICAN BRIEFING ON PAPAL VISIT TO LESBOS APRIL 16

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will spend six hours on the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday, April 16, where – together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymus II – he will spend time with refugees. (photo news.va – Syrian refugees arrive Lesbos)

REFUGEES  LESBOS

“Lesbos … is very close to the Turkish coast, just a few kilometers,” explained Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, at a press briefing on Thursday. “This is the reason so many migrants go to the island of Lesbos.”

Father Lombardi said the visit will have a humanitarian and ecumenical perspective.

“It does not directly touch on political positions, or other such things, but their focus is fundamentally humanitarian, experienced in an ecumenical key,” Father Lombardi said.

After arriving by plane on the island, Pope Francis meet briefly with the Prime Minister of Greece, and then travel to the Mòria refugee camp, which is home to about 2,500 people.

The three religious leaders will have a special meeting with minors at the camp, as well as 250 selected asylum-seekers.

“The presence of minors, children, orphans – even those on their own – is very typical in these situations,” – Father Lombardi said – “Therefore, it is right to give them particular attention.”

While at the camp, a joint declaration will be signed, and Pope Francis and the other religious leaders will have lunch with some of the refugees.

Pope Francis will also have a meeting with the small local Catholic community. There are about 100 Catholics on Lesbos, and other Catholics in Greece will travel to the island to attend the encounter.

“Keep in mind that there is also a presence of the Catholic Church in Greece. Although very small in quantitative terms, it is still present,” Father Lombardi said.

At the end of the visit, the three religious leaders will hold a memorial for all the victims of the migration crisis, and observe a moment of silence for those who have died.

Returning to the airport, Pope Francis will meet privately with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymus and have a second private meeting with the prime minister before leaving for Rome. (Pope and Patriarch in Vatican)

Francis and Bartholomew

THE FULL SCHEDULE OF POPE FRANCIS’ VISIT TO THE ISLAND OF LESBOS IN GREECE (ALL TIMES LOCAL)

07:00  Departure from Rome-Fiumicino International airport for Mytilene (capital of Lesbos)

10:20 Arrival at the international airport of Mytilene

WELCOMING CEREMONY

The Holy Father is received by the Prime Minister; and is then welcomed by His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Beatitude Hieronymos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, and after this, by  Bishop Franghískos Papamanólis, O.F.M. Cap., Chairman of the Greek Episcopal Conference.

10:35  PRIVATE MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER (at the airport)

10:55  Transfer by minibus with His Holiness Bartholomew and his Beatitude Hieronymos to Mòria refugee camp (16 Km).

11:15 Arrival at Mòria refugee camp(home to around 2.500 asylum-seekers)

VISIT WITH REFUGEES

Along the barricades will be gathered about 150 minors who are guests of the center. The religious leaders will go across the courtyard dedicated to the registration of refugees and will arrive at the big tent to individually greet about 250 asylum seekers.

12.25:  Speech by Archbishop Hieronymos; by Patriarch Bartholemew;  and by Pope Francis at the podium of the courtyard for refugee registration.

12.40:  Signing of the joint declaration.

12.45:  Lunch with the three religious leaders with the some of the refugees in the space behind the podium.

13.30  transfer by minibus to the port (8 Km)

13.45  arrival at the headquarters of the Coast Guard.

MEETING WITH CITIZENS AND THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY.

MEMORIAL FOR THE VICTIMS OF MIGRATION.

SPEECH BY THE HOLY FATHER

At the end, the three religious leaders will each recite a brief prayer for the victims of migration.

After a minute of silence is called for, the three leaders will receive from three children laurel wreaths, which will be thrown into the sea.

14:15  transfer by minibus to the airport (3 Km).

14:30 In the airport:

PRIVATE MEETING WITH THE ARCHBISHOP OF ATHENS AND ALL GREECE

PRIVATE MEETING WITH THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH

PRIVATE MEETING WITH THE PRIME MINISTER

15:00  DEPARTURE CEREMONY

15:15  Departure by plane from the international airport of Mytilene for Rome.

16:30 Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.

(Flight time is 2 hour, 20 minutes – Greece is one hour ahead of Rome)

THE SHORT TAKE….

Even though the weather was the coldest we’ve had all winter – with bone-chilling winds yesterday – there were a lot of big events at the Vatican that brought out fairly large numbers of faithful.

How cold was it? I did an unscientific, informal survey of several area restaurants and pizzerias whose owners told me their phones were ringing off the hook: Everyone wanted pizzas delivered, no one wanted to go out in the frigid temperatures!

My comment on the weather is just that – a comment. How can I complain about cold when I think of the tens of thousands of migrants, refugees, our countless brothers and sisters who, as they leave their country of birth, whether by choice or force, and have not found better times (in fact, have found worse ones!) leave everything behind – homes, possessions, security, etc. They probably do not know where their next meal is coming from, where they will rest their head for the night and even if they will hygiene facilities!

But the cold is the Number One story on Italian news tonight!

Sunday, in fact, marked the World Day for Migrants and Refugees and thousands of migrants and refugees of different nationalities entered St. Peter’s Basilica by the Holy Door to attend a special Mass for this world day. Afterwards they filled St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus and heard Pope Francis say: “Each of you carries a story, a culture, precious values; and unfortunately often experiences of poverty, oppression and fear. Your presence in this square is a sign of hope in God.” He urged them not to allow difficulties deprive them of hope and of the joy of life.

Francis also prayed for the victims of attacks by extremists in Burkina Faso and Indonesia. And, interestingly enough, he thanked the inmates of a detention center in Milan who made the hosts for the Mass dedicated to migrants and refugees.

Before the Marian prayer, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel about Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana. “In that miracle,” said Francis, “Jesus imparts an act of kindness toward the groom, a divine blessing upon marriage. Love between man and woman is a good way in which to live the Gospel and with which to undertake with joy the path towards holiness.” However, said Francis, “the miracle of Cana is not just about the bride and groom. Each human person is called to meet the Lord in his or her life.”

Also on Sunday: In the afternoon, Pope Francis visited Rome’s Jewish community 30 years after St. John Paul was the first ever pope to visit a synagogue. I put the EWTN/CNA account of that visit on my Facebook page – here is a link to the news story: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/lets-unite-against-war-and-violence-pope-francis-urges-at-roman-synagogue-15967/

This morning was nonstop for the pontiff. Following is an abbreviated version of his various audiences based on Vatican Radio and VIS stories on news.va. Photos also from news.va

Before I close: Don’t forget to watch ”At Home with Jim and Joy” today (Mondays and Thursdays, 2 pm ET) when I’ll bring some of the weekend news from Rome.

THE SHORT TAKE….

POPE WELCOMES PRINCE ALBERT II OF MONACO – The prince was accompanied by his wife Princess Charlene, a convert to Catholicism. A statement from the Holy See Press Office called the talks “cordial,” and said they highlighted the good bilateral relations between Monaco and the Holy See, and reference was made to the historical contribution of the Catholic Church in the life of Monaco. Other issues of common interest that were discussed included environmental protection, humanitarian aid, and the integral development of peoples. The parties considered some issues affecting the international community, including peace and security, the reception of migrants, and the general situation in the Mediterranean region, as well as the Middle East. Prince Albert gave Pope Francis a food basket containing fruit, vegetables, and cheeses from the royal farm/vacation home.

PriNCE ALBert

HOLY FATHER WELCOMES IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR. The Pope today welcomed Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, International Monetary Fund. The two previously met in the Vatican December 10, 2014. The IMF, composed of 188 countries, was established in 1944 to help manage countries’ balance of payments. According to its website, it  is “working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”

VATICAN SECURITY PERSONNEL RECEIVED BY POPE. During his annual address to Officers and Agents of the General Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican, the Pope expressed appreciation for the work they carry out every day, as well as during pastoral visits in Italy. “Our meeting today is even more significant because it is within the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, an event of spiritual significance, which has already seen the presence of many pilgrims in Rome from all over the world.” He noted that, in a special way, the members of public security are called to a greater commitment “to ensure that the celebrations and events connected with the special Jubilee” run smoothly and take place in an atmosphere of serenity and peace. He asked the Lord to protect them in the fulfillment of the task they carry out in collaboration with other security forces. Francis added that, although the Christmas season is over, the crib can still be viewed in St. Peter’s Square –  a reminder to safeguard within ourselves the mystery we have just celebrated.

VATICAN SECURITY

FRANCIS RECEIVES FINNISH ECUMENICAL DELEGATION OF LUTHERAN –  As is traditional, an ecumenical delegation from Finland, led by the Lutheran bishop of Helsinki, came to visit the bishop of Rome for the feast day of St. Henry of Uppsala, patron of the country. Pope Francis told his guests, “Your ecumenical pilgrimage is an eloquent sign of the fact that, as Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics, you have recognized what unites you and together you wish to bear witness to Jesus Christ, Who is the foundation of unity. Expressing his joy at their visit, the Pope said, “In a special way, we can thank the Lord for the fruits of the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics. Here I think in particular of the common document on ‘Justification in the Life of the Church’. Building on these foundations, our dialogue is making promising progress towards a shared understanding, on the sacramental level, of Church, Eucharist and Ministry. Finland has 5.5. million people, mostly Lutheran, but 1.1% is Orthodox Christian. The Catholic population numbers a little over 12,000 people.

LUTHERAN

IN OTHER PAPAL NEWS: Pope Francis is set to release a new children’s book in February, entitled “Love before the World”. Published by Loyola Press (original title, “L’amore prima del mondo”), the book contains the Holy Father’s responses to letters written by children from around the world. For example: What did God do before creating the world? “God loved.” Or: Why do my parents fight sometimes? “They are human.” These are some of the questions put to Pope Francis by children between the ages of 6-13 from 26 countries, including Albania, China, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, director of ‘La Civiltà Cattolica’, met with the Pope at the Casa Santa Marta several times in recent months, giving him a chance to respond to the children’s letters spontaneously. “These are hard questions,” Pope Francis said, smiling. The drawings and questions of 31 children were chosen for the book, which will be presented to the Holy Father by several of the children who wrote the letters on 22 February. The book debuts in Italy on February 25 and around the world on March 1.