LENTEN STATION CHURCHES: WEDNESDAY OF WEEK 2, ST. MARY MAJOR – VATICAN CLARIFIES EXPRESSION USED BY POPE IN PRIVATE EMAIL

There was no general audience today as the Pope continues his week of spiritual exercises with members of the Roman Curia in Casa Divin Maestro, a religious house in Ariccia, south of Rome. Vatican Radio reports that Pope Francis and the Roman Curia are in the middle of their weeklong retreat. According to L’Osservatore Romano, the retreat master, Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin, has shared reflections with the Curia on the prophet Elias. In his reflection, Fr. Secondin compared the worship of the false idols in Elias’ time with a modern-day religiosity that is interested in the superficial and in measures of faith “according to statistics.” He called the participants to authentic and “audacious” worship. The Pope and the Curia will conclude their Spiritual Exercises on Friday.

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES: WEDNESDAY OF WEEK 2, ST. MARY MAJOR

One of Rome’s oldest, most famous and most visited churches, the basilica of St. Mary Major, is today’s Lenten station church. There is an embarassment of riches when it comes to websites and photos of this great Marian basilica. You can start with the virtual visit courtesy of the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/index_en.html

Then, I would visit Brian Lenz’s site, as we have been doing daily, thanks to his permission to give a link to his 2014 pilgrimage to and through the Lenten station churches: http://blenzinrome.blogspot.it/2014/03/wednesday-of-first-week-st-mary-major.html

And here is more on the basilica from the NAC website:

http://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-1/wednesday-santa-maria-maggiore/

I took these photos two years ago at the August 5 “snowfall” of thousands of white rose petals from the ceiling of St. Mary Major (see above links to understand what’s behind the snowfall!).

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VATICAN CLARIFIES EXPRESSION USED BY POPE IN  PRIVATE EMAIL

In a recent personal and private letter that Pope Francis wrote to an Argentinian lawmaker, a phrase of his made national and international headlines. In that letter, Francis lamented the fact of the growth of drug use in Argentina, and said he hoped it would not lead to the “mexicanization” of the country. Today, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, made a statement clarifying an expression used by Pope Francis in an informal and private email.

The Vatican Secretary of State, he said, has sent a note to the Mexican ambassador to the Holy See, explaining that Pope Francis had no intention of hurting the feelings of the Mexican people “whom he loves very much,” or of ignoring “the commitment of the Mexican in combatting drug trafficking.” Father Lombardi noted that the expression “to avoid mexicanization” had been used by the Holy Father in a “strictly private and informal email” in response to an Argentinian friend who is very committed to the struggle against drugs, and who had used the that expression.

“The note shows clearly that the Pope intended nothing else but to comment on the gravity of the phenomenon of drug trafficking afflicting Mexico and other Latin American countries,” Father Lombardi said. Precisely because of the seriousness of the situation, he continued, addressing the problem of drug trafficking “is a priority of the Government; to counter violence and to restore peace and serenity to Mexican families, by addressing the underlying causes of this plague.”

Father Lombardi said that drug trafficking is “a phenomenon, like others in Latin America” that the Holy Father has called attention to, even in meeting with Bishops, emphasizing the need for cooperation and consultation at all levels.

POPE RETURNS TO ROME, PRAYS AT ST. MARY MAJOR – POST PAPAL VISIT REACTION FROM SRI LANKA – PHILIPPINE BISHOPS MEET AFTER PAPAL VISIT

Heartfelt thanks to the many people – including a number of fans in the Phlippines – who wrote comments on my Facebook page (/joansrome) and to those who emailed me about my blog and my Facebook postings. Nothing could have beat actually being on the ground in Sri Lanka or the Philippines – or aboard the papal plane! – but good reporting from colleagues helps paint an accurate and colorful picture.

Here’ what people think:

ALLAN – He (Pope Francis) deals with reality in the society. Basic but crucial issues and concerns and he plunged into it unhesitatingly, trustingly. This is the faith that could testify all brave men like Pope Francis. His engagement, message, and missions is easy to understand because he put it on a real life situation. He live what he preach. I think this is what it is all about.

ANN MARIE – Been glued to my Filipino channel and EWTN the entire time. I read so many articles and browsed through so many videos and photos. Can’t get enough of Pope Francis and this heartwarming and inspiring experience. I just came from Rome and have seen the Pope there but I wanted to be in Manila experiencing first hand this historic event.

PATTI –  6 million people to share Holy Mass with the Shepherd of Christ.!! through their suffering faith has stood solid!! Bless our sisters and brothers in the Philipines!

DEXTER –  “I was there Miss Joan Lewis, it was super packed but i didnt hear anyone complained. I heard people say, “the smile of the Pope erases all the inconvenience” what a blessing it was…”

MARY – I agree, this trip by Pope Francis IS historic, but I also believe the Pope’s trip to the Holy Land, and other evangelization and ecumenical outreaches the Pope has made are historic. In my view, Pope Francis is the best Pope we have had in my lifetime when considering the living out of the full scope of the Catholic faith. Francis is truly a man for all seasons and for all people. I am praying for him, that his life and ministry will be long and blessed and glorify the Lord.

BRYAN – Let’s pray that God will bless this beautiful country with protection from the calamities of nature, especially now that “Peter” has visited His people there.

MARICELA – PAPA FRANCISCO, un regalo para el mundo, no lo pierdas de vista!

A NICE TOUCH!  In the middle of his press conference with the Vatican-accredited reporters during the flight back to the Vatican, the 78-year-old pontiff brought out a birthday cake for journalist Valentina Alazraki. “We can’t say how old you are but you’ve worked here since you were a child, as a child, as a child. Best wishes,” the Pope joked before concluding the press briefing. Pope Francis had asked Filipino pastry chef Tippi Tambunting last Friday to bake a birthday cake for his surprise. He also asked additional cakes for the rest of the media people on the plane.

POPE RETURNS TO ROME, PRAYS AT ST. MARY MAJOR 

Pope Francis returned last evening from his weeklong trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines and, as has been his wont on papal flights, gave an interview to journalists as they flew to Rome from Manila. The Pope was asked about his impressions of the events and people in the Philippines, future travel plans, responsible parenthood, corruption  and the need for the world to learn how to cry. He emphasized that he was most impressed with the many gestures of the Filipino people, gestures that show they know much about life, loving, caring and sharing and family, but they also “know suffering.” He mentioned their “true enthusiasm, joy, happiness, able to celebrate even in the rain.

The Holy Father spent an hour with journalists during the inflight interview. I am poting a separate column on that give-and-take called “An Hour With Pope Francis.”

After landing at Rome’s Ciampino Airport but before returning to the Vatican, Francis went to the basilica of St. Mary Major to pray to the Virgin “Salus populi romani” and to give thanks, as he has done since being elected Pope, for the positive outcome of his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

POST PAPAL VISIT REACTION FROM SRI LANKA

Asia News reports from Colombo:  “For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, we Tamil had the chance to see the Pope in our native places. It was truly a great blessing, not only for us but for all the people of this country”: This is the reaction of some Tamils from the north of the island describing to AsiaNews the significance of Francis’ visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Madhu in the diocese of Mannar, on January 14.

The moment of prayer together with the victims of the civil war was one of the pivotal moments of the journey made by the pontiff to the former Ceylon. “We believe,”said an elderly couple, “that Pope Francis’ visit is a good thing not just for us Tamils, but also for all civilians in the country, without distinction. In addition, we are pleased that he was welcomed by a leader with a good heart, kind and disciplined, not a corrupt president.”

A Tamil Hindu doctor says he is “happy that the Pope, spiritual leader of the Catholics, has come to visit his flock. And it was nice that he visited a Buddhist temple. His example teaches us to respect all religions and to allow everyone to practice their own. I appreciate Pope Francis: He came at a  good time, when the country has changed government and nourishes a new hope for a better future. ”

For a Catholic nun, the visit of Francis to the Marian shrine of Madhu “will remain engraved forever in our hearts. It is the first time for a Pope to come here to the north, meeting the most affected by the conflict. The credit also goes to Msgr. Rayappu Joseph [bishop of Mannar, ed], who strongly wanted his presence here.”

PHILIPPINE BISHOPS MEET AFTER PAPAL VISIT

(News.va) After the historic visit of Pope Francis, the bishops of the Philippines gathered in Manila for the plenary assembly of the Bishops’ Conference. The meeting will last until January 22 and will discuss the main issues such as the new evangelization and the “Year of the Poor,” proclaimed by the local Church for 2015.

Speaking to Fides (news agency) Fr. Melvin Castro, secretary of the Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference said, they would look at these urgent needs in a different light after the Pope’s visit. “Among the Bishops, among the clergy and the faithful, there is a great enthusiasm for what Pope Francis donated to our Church, he said. The Pope received spiritual energy from the crowd of faithful who welcomed him, and our Church in the Philippines received great consolation and strong enthusiasm to live and profess its faith, thanks to Pope Francis’ presence and words,” continues Fr.Castro.

“The Pope,” he said, “showed us a model of Church that is attentive towards the poor. This approach will have a strong impact in the long term in the Philippine Church. The poor teach that man is worth for what he is, and not for what he has.” Fr. Castro also notes the impetus given to the Filipino laity that, after the Pope’s trip, “will bear fruit of a greater involvement in pastoral care, especially for families and young people.” With regards to the family, Fr. Castro noted: “We are happy that the Pope spoke out in defense of the family and stigmatized the ideology that comes from Western culture, which exports divorce, abortion, homosexual marriage, inviting us to promote and defend family with the traditional values of Philippine culture,” concluded Fr. Castro.