A JUBILEE WEEKEND – ITALIAN PASTORAL INITIATIVE NURTURES SENSE OF DIGNITY, SELF-WORTH IN YOUNG

A JUBILEE WEEKEND

We are now in the first full week of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis, of course, as we all witnessed, opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday, December 8, thus officially inaugurating the yearlong Jubilee. And this past weekend we saw some of the first events on the Holy Year agenda, including the Holy Father’s Eucharistic Celebration for Latin America in St. Peter’s on Saturday, December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and his opening of the Holy Door at St. John Lateran, his cathedral church as the Bishop of Rome.

Also on Sunday, Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls opened the Holy Doors of this papal basilica. The only basilica yet to have its Holy Door opened is St. Mary Major, and that event will take place on January 1,  solemnity of the Mother of God.

At Saturday’s Mass for Latin America, Pope Francis said Mary “experienced the divine mercy, and hosted the very source of this mercy in her womb: Jesus Christ.” He said he hoped the Jubilee Year “will be a planting of merciful love in the hearts of individuals, families and nations.” Francis stressed that, “no sin can cancel [Jesus’] merciful closeness or prevent him from unleashing the grace of conversion, provided we invoke it.” He called on Christian communities be “oases and sources of mercy, witnesses to a charity that does not allow exclusions.”

Francis explained that the word “mercy” – “misericordia” – is composed of two words: misery and heart. The heart indicates the capacity to love; mercy is that love, which embraces the misery of the person. It is a love that “feels” our poverty as if it were its own, so as to free us of it.

At the end of his homily the Pope announced his February trip to Mexico, saying he will be at the Guadalupe shrine on February 13. After the homily and during the Prayer of the Faithful, Pope Francis moved everyone present when he prayed for his parents Mario and Regina, “who gave me life and transmitted faith to me,”and who were married eighty years ago.

Sunday, at St. John Lateran, as he opened the Holy Door, Francis remarked on the fact that this very same day bishops were opening Holy Doors in cathedrals throughout the world. He said that, “Doors of Mercy” will also be opened in places of poverty, need and marginalization.

The Holy Father said in his homily that this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday, draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now close. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by fatigue; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we have reason to be, with many concerns and the many forms of violence that hurt our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy.”

In a few off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis stressed the importance of God’s tenderness.

“God does not love rigidity. He is Father; He is tender; everything (is) done with the tenderness of the Father.”

Pope Francis called those who will cross the door to be “instruments of mercy, knowing that we will be judged on this.”

“The joy of crossing through the Door of Mercy is accompanied by a commitment to welcome and witness to a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no boundaries.”

To see where the Jubilee Doors of Mercy are in individual countries, click here: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/mondo/porte-della-misericordia.html

ITALIAN PASTORAL INITIATIVE NURTURES SENSE OF DIGNITY, SELF-WORTH IN YOUNG

Pope Francis Monday received the participants in a major pastoral initiative aimed at young people and sponsored by the Bishops Conference of Italy – the CEI. The Progetto Policoro began twenty years ago as a program to help unemployed young people of southern Italy to develop skills, find work, and most importantly, nurture a healthy sense of dignity and self-worth by creating and developing ties to the larger ecclesial and social community.

The Holy Father remarked that, in seeking to combine the Gospel with the reality of life, the Project represented an important initiative for the promotion of youth and a true opportunity for local development at national level. “Its key ideas have guided its success: the formation of the young, the establishment of cooperatives, the creation of mediation figures such as ‘community animators’ and a long series of concrete gestures, a visible sign of commitment throughout these twenty years of active presence.”

He told his guests, “You represent without doubt a sign of real hope for many people who have not resigned themselves but have instead decided to commit themselves courageously to creating or improving their opportunities for work”, and he invited them to “continue to promote initiatives for participation for young people in a community and participatory form.”

(sources: news.va, Vatican Radio, VIS)

 

POST-PARIS SITUATION IN ITALY AND ROME – POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT GREAT SYNAGOGUE OF ROME JANUARY 17 – DECEMBER 8: JUBILEE OPENS, VATICAN CHRISTMAS TREE UNVEILED – ST. JOHN LATERAN PREPARES HOLY DOOR FOR JUBILEE

POST-PARIS SITUATION IN ITALY AND ROME

As I came back from a late afternoon television taping in a Vatican office on Via della Conciliazione, I walked down this broad avenue to and then through St. Peter’s Square. I saw a massive police presence in the small square at the end of Conciliazione, Piazza Pio XII, and around the larger, more famous square, and this was at 5 pm.

In fact, as I could tell by the usual barricades being set up for traffic flow tomorrow, St. Peter’s Square was being readied for Pope Francis’ general audience in the morning. I am guessing that the pilgrims intent on being there have been advised to get to the square fairly early for security checks. I also saw a number of new airport-style security machines that were placed among the colonnades, looking like they had just come out of the box.  I imagine many more of those will be arriving in coming days.

A friend told me today that there are military people stationed in the cars of the Rome metropolitana or subway and around the stations, all bearing machine guns. Two other friends, young men in a store I know, told me they were stopped by police near St. Peter’s Square and asked for ID. That will surely increase as the days go by, as people come for a general audience or the Sunday Angelus and as we near the December 8 start of the Jubilee Year.

When unusual and potentially dangerous situations arise in Italy or Europe, the U.S. embassies send notices to citizens who are registered with them. Here is the notice I got after the Paris attacks (I post this also for people who might be traveling or live in Rome who are not registered at an embassy):

“In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, the U.S. Mission in Italy reminds U.S. citizens in Italy to review the Worldwide Caution, which provides information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world, including Europe.

“Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.

“For further information:

“See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and France Country Specific Information.

“Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.”

In other developments in Italy (various news sources):

– Airspace over Rome will be closed-off to drones during the upcoming Catholic Holy Year, or Jubilee, over fears that the remote-controlled aircraft could be used by ISIS in a terror attack. As well as closing-off airspace over Rome to drones, security checkpoints will be set up at St Peter’s square.

– Italy has tightened security in the wake of the Paris attacks on Friday night. Some 700 extra troops have been deployed onto Rome’s streets to combat the threat of militants while security has been tightened at Italy’s borders and airports across the country.

Squares across Italy now bear impromptu memorials and messages of support for the French people but amid the display of solidarity, Italians are divided over how to confront the threat of Isis. In Rome, people came to the central square of Piazza del Popolo on Saturday night and lit candles, lay flowers and wrote touching messages in support of the French people. In the square in front of Palazzo Farnese – currently the seat of the French Embassy in Rome – a sea of flowers, candles and cards lined the ground by Sunday evening (as you saw in the photos I posted).

– On Saturday the Italian government raised its terror alert and warned that Rome could be a target for ISIS.

POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT GREAT SYNAGOGUE OF ROME JANUARY 17

Following the invitation from the Chief Rabbi and Jewish Community of Rome, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the Great Synagogue in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016. It will be the third visit by a Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, following John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The visit will take the form of a personal encounter between the Pope and the representatives of Judaism and the members of the Community. A more detailed program of the visit will be published in due course

DECEMBER 8:  JUBILEE OPENS, VATICAN CHRISTMAS TREE UNVEILED

When the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on December 8th, all eyes will be looking towards Rome. So the Governorate of Vatican City has decided to take advantage of the attention and unveil the St. Peters Square Christmas tree on the same day.

This year’s tree, says a Vatican Radio report, has been donated by the German region of Bavaria, and is a 32-neter high two-pointed Spruce. The tree arrives Wednesday, November 18 and is set to be erected overnight by the staff of the Vatican Gardens.

The 2015 Nativity scene of 24 life-sized figures will be donated by the archdiocese of Trento, in collaboration with the Friends of the Crib of Tesero group. Except for the Holy Family and Three Magi, the scene will depict rural buildings and typical Trentino clothing from the mid-twentieth century.

The Christmas tree will be especially unique this year. It was announced that the Vatican has joined forces with the Countess Lene Thun Foundation and recreated designs made by children suffering from cancer. This Foundation offers recreational therapy to children in oncology wards across Italy. The children were asked to come up with designs that represent their dreams and desires. Some of the children who designed the decorations will meet Pope Francis on December 8. They will present him with some of the decorations they made and accompany him to the unveiling of the tree.

The Christmas tree will be illuminated on December 18.

JOHN LATERAN PREPARES HOLY DOOR FOR JUBILEE

On Monday, the Holy Door of the papal basilica of St. John Lateran was freed from the brick wall that had hidden it since the year 2000. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, said a prayer and then workers – seen in the photo – carefully tore down the wall that protects the Holy Door in between Jubilees.

HOLY DOOR - St John LAteran

Workers recovered a zinc box that contained the documents certifying the closure of the door at the end of the Year 2000 Jubilee. The box also contained 41 medals with the emblem of Pope John Paul II: A gold one minted in 2000; 23 silver ones representing the years of the pontificate of John Paul II at the time of the last Jubilee; and 17 bronze ones , one for each year since 1983, the year of the previous Jubilee.

Also present were the Cathedral Chapter of the Lateran; Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of liturgical ceremonies, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the council in charge of preparing and executing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

St John Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, and the Holy Door will be officially opened by Pope Francis on December 13, the first Sunday of the Jubilee of Mercy. The Holy Year actually begins December 8 with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica.