POPE SHAKEN BY “HOMICIDAL FOLLY AND SENSELESS HATRED” – ORLANDO BISHOP: “A SWORD HAS PIERCED THE HEART OF OUR CITY” – U.S. AMBASSADOR HACKETT ON ORLANDO MASSACRE

I leave tomorrow morning for Poland for a visit of several days. I intend to visit some of the Kralow 2016 WYD sites, catch up with Polish friends and to meet with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and a friend of many years, starting with his time in Rome as the secretary to Saint John Paul II. I’ll do my best to post something every day, even a small column or just a few photos, so stay tuned to “Joan’s Rome” and my FB page.

POPE SHAKEN BY “HOMICIDAL FOLLY AND SENSELESS HATRED”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is shaken and saddened by the ‘homicidal folly and senseless hatred’ that has left at least 50 people dead in an attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  Following is a statement released by Holy See Press Office Director, Father Federico Lombardi, on the Orlando massacre that has been described as the worst mass shooting in American history:

“The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred. Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort. We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.”

The attack, which took place early Sunday in a crowded nightclub, was perpetrated by a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun.   Authorities are reportedly investigating the attack as an act of terrorism. Officials said at least 53 other people were hospitalized, most in critical condition. A surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll was likely to climb.

ORLANDO BISHOP: “A SWORD HAS PIERCED THE HEART OF OUR CITY”

(Vatican Radio)  U.S. bishops have condemned early Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and are offering prayers for the victims and their families.

At least 50 people were killed, including the killer, and 53 others wounded when an Afghan American opened fire on club goers with an assault weapon. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Bishop John Noonan of Orlando issued a statement Sunday in which he said:

“A sword has pierced the heart of our city. Since learning of the tragedy this morning, I have urged all to pray for the victims, the families and first responders. I pray that the Lord’s mercy will be upon us during this time of sadness, shock and confusion. I urge people of faith to turn their hearts and souls to the great physician, our Lord Jesus Christ, who consoles and carries us through suffering with mercy and tenderness. The healing power of Jesus goes beyond our physical wounds but touches every level of our humanity: physical, emotional, social, spiritual. Jesus calls us to remain fervent in our protection of life and human dignity and to pray unceasingly for peace in our world.

“Priests, deacons and counselors from the Diocese of Orlando and Catholic Charities of Central Florida are serving at the Aid Center established by the City of Orlando. They are on site helping victims and families on the front lines of this tragedy. Throughout the day, they are offering God’s love and mercy to those who are facing unimaginable sorrow. They will remain vigilant and responsive to the needs of our hurting brothers and sisters.

“I have asked all of our parishes to include prayer intentions during the celebration of Sunday Mass today where close to 400,000 registered Catholics participate in nine counties of Central Florida. At our 91 parishes and missions, today’s prayers have been offered for victims of violence and acts of terror…for their families and friends…and all those affected by such acts against God’s love. We pray for the people of the city of Orlando that God’s mercy and love will be upon us as we seek healing and consolation.

PRAYER VIGIL FOR VICTIMS AND FAMILIES

“Recognizing the affliction brought to our city, our families and our friends,” said Bishop Noonan, “we invite the community to join us for a Vigil to Dry Tears’ for all who are affected by this massive assault on the dignity of human life. It will be held on Monday, June 13, at 7:00 p.m. in St. James Cathedral.

“I hope this opportunity to join each other in prayer will bring about an outpouring of the mercy of God within the heart of our community.”

In a statement, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said “waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is. Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act. The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago also issued a statement, saying, “Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.  We are grateful to the first responders and civilians who heroically put themselves in harm’s way, providing an enduring reminder of what compassion and bravery look like–even in the face of such horror and danger. In response to hatred, we are called to sow love. In response to violence, peace. And, in response to intolerance, tolerance.

“The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago stand with the victims and their loved ones, and reaffirm our commitment, with Pope Francis, to address the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons. We can no longer stand by and do nothing.”

U.S. AMBASSADOR HACKETT ON ORLANDO MASSACRE

(Vatican Radio)  The United States’ Ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett, has condemned the mass shooting Sunday 12 June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and says he personally, thinks “we have to do something about the access to weapons in our society.” (news.va photo)

ORLANDO

At least fifty people were killed and 53 wounded by a gunman toting an assault weapon.

Ambassador Hackett told Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure that “we are all united in grief with the families who have suffered from this horrific massacre.  This is not the first [such shooting]; it seems to be the largest.  We’re just taken [aback] with the violence, the acts of terror and hate that are perpetrated on people and you really have to send your prayers out and hopes that the families will be able to get through this terrible thing.  [I’m] just calling for peoples’ prayers for the families of those people who are suffering so much.”

Asked if the time has come to open up a national debate on the issue of gun control and clamp down on the sale of weapons, Ambassador Hackett says for him personally,

“It’s beyond time for an active national debate.  The debate has been suppressed for years.  Our President has called for greater attention to this issue.  After the shooting of the children [at Newtown, Connecticut] and then again, the shooting in the Church in South Carolina, and again in San Bernardino, California – and now, this horror.  It says to us: we have to do something about the access to weapons in our society.  It’s too easy and people who should not be allowed to have a weapon have some way of getting around the rules.”

POPE CALLS TERROR ATTACKS “CRUEL ABOMINATIONS,” LEADS PRAYERS FOR VICTIMS – “DO NOT FORGET TRAGEDY OF PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS”

POPE CALLS TERROR ATTACKS “CRUEL ABOMINATIONS,” LEADS PRAYERS FOR VICTIMS

As happens on the Wednesday of Holy Week, the Pope dedicated the general audience to the Paschal Triduum in this Holy Year of Mercy, noting how “we are invited in a special way to contemplate the revelation of God’s infinite mercy in the events of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.”

“Holy Thursday,” said Francis, “Jesus gives himself to us as food and, in the washing of feet, teaches us the need to serve others.  On Good Friday, in the mystery of Christ’s death on the cross, we contemplate that undying divine love which embraces all mankind and summons us in turn to love one another in the power of the Spirit.  Holy Saturday, the day of God’s silence, invites us not only to solidarity with all who are abandoned and alone, but also to trust in that faithful love which turns death into life.”

During the weekly audience, Pope Francis spoke of the Brussels terrorist attacks and appealed “to all people of good will to unite in unanimous condemnation of these cruel abominations that are causing only death, terror and horror. I ask everyone to persevere in prayer and in asking the Lord in this Holy Week to comfort the afflicted hearts and convert the hearts of these people who are blinded by cruel fundamentalism.”

The Holy Father said he followed “with an aching heart the sad news of yesterday’s attacks in Brussels, which caused many victims and injured.” The toll stands at 31 dead and 270 injured and may rise.

At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis led thousands of people in silent prayer for the victims of the attacks at Brussels’ airport and in its metro.

“DO NOT FORGET TRAGEDY OF PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called on people to “not forget the tragedy of persecution” in a letter sent Iraq Christians in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Erbil has been hosting thousands of Christian refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, which was overrun by the so-called Islamic State in 2014.

The letter – along with a gift of liturgical vestments and monetary support – was brought to the city by a delegation of the Italian branch of Aid to the Church in Need, led by the Bishop of Carpi, Francesco Cavina. “As soon as the Holy Father learned about  my journey with Aid to the Church in Need,  he called me and expressed a desire to send a gift to our Iraqi brothers in faith,” Bishop Cavina said.

The letter sent by the Holy Father expressed his “friendship, Ecclesial communion, and spiritual closeness” to Iraqi Christians, adding their suffering “grieves me deeply, and invites us to defend the inalienable right of every person to freely profess their faith.”

Pope Francis also asked people “not to forget the tragedy of persecution,” and noted “the witness of courageous faith and patience of so many disciples of Christ represents for the entire Church a call to rediscover the fertile source of the Pascal Mystery from which we draw energy, strength, and light for a new humanism.”

“Mercy calls us to bend down to our brothers and sisters so we may dry their tears; cure their wounds, physical and moral; and console their hearts, which have been broken, and perhaps lost” – Pope Francis writes  – “This is not only an appropriate act of charity, but a succour to your own body, because all Christians, by virtue of their  common baptism, are ‘one’ in Christ. ”

The delegation from Aid to the Church in Need was scheduled to visit refugee centres in Kurdistan, as well as a school donated by the organization which is allowing seven-thousand Iraqi children to continue their studies.

 

BRUSSELS IN MOURNING, THE POPE AND BISHOPS SPEAK

BRUSSELS IN MOURNING, THE POPE AND BISHOPS SPEAK

Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels following the attacks on Tuesday morning in the Belgian capital Brussels. In the telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis prays for the victims, the injured and their families and again condemns “blind violence which causes so much suffering.” (photo news.va, AP)

BRUSSELS

Following is a Vatican Radio translation of the papal telegram:

“Learning of the attacks in Brussels, which have affected many people, His Holiness Pope Francis entrusts to God’s mercy those who died and he prays for those who have lost relatives. He expresses his deepest sympathy to the injured and their families, and all those who contribute to relief efforts, asking the Lord to bring them comfort and consolation in this ordeal. The Holy Father again condemns the blind violence which causes so much suffering and imploring from God the gift of peace, he entrusts on the bereaved families and the Belgians the benefit of divine blessings.”

The Catholic Bishops of Belgium have issued a statement condemning the deadly terror attacks on the Brussels airport and underground stations on Monday, calling for prayerful solidarity with the victims and for national unity in response to the assault.

Following is Vatican Radio’s English translation of the Bishops’ statement:

“The bishops of Belgium are appalled to learn of the attack at Zaventem airport and in the center of Brussels. They share the anguish of thousands of travelers and their families, aviation professionals and the first responders who are once again called to service. They entrust the victims to the prayers of all in this new dramatic situation. Airport chaplains are every day at the service of all and provide the necessary spiritual support. May the whole country live these days with a great sense of civic responsibility.” (source: Vatican Radio)

IN DARK VALLEYS, PLACE YOURSELF IN THE LORD’S HANDS – PAPAL MESSAGES TO VICTIMS OF TERROR IN AFRICA, TURKEY

IN DARK VALLEYS, PLACE YOURSELF IN THE LORD’S HANDS

While I rarely offer the Holy Father’s homilies delivered at Mass each morning in the Santa Marta residence, they are always available at news.va where many people have formed a daily habit of reading them.

Today’s homily was so special (not to imply that others are not!) that I want to bring you Vatican Radio’s summary. As I’ve mentioned before, the homily is delivered by Pope Francis in Italian, and when the audio arrives at the radio, staff members transcribe and/or summarize what they hear. Those summaries are then posted on the news.va website. Today the Pope spoke of the “dark valleys” in our lives and he asked questions that we all ask about evil and sickness and suffering.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday spoke of a series of events and situations that shed shadows on our lives and lead us to ask difficult questions.

Speaking during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope remembered a homeless man who recently died of the cold here in Rome; he recalled the sisters of Charity who were killed in an attack in Yemen; and his thoughts flew to the many people who continue to fall ill in the so-called “triangle of death” in the southern Italian region of Campania where the illegal burning of toxic waste causes cancer and despair. As we are forced to face these “dark valleys” of our time, he said, the only answer is to trust in God. (photo: news.va)

MAss LENt

“Even when we do not understand – such as before the illness of a child – let us put ourselves in the hands of the Lord who never abandons His people,” he said.

Reflecting on the reading of the day that tells of Susanna, a just woman who is “soiled” by the “evil desire” of two judges, but chooses to trust in God rather than succumb to their wish, Pope Francis said that that even when we find ourselves walking in a“valley of darkness” we need not fear evil.

How many dark valleys; where are you Lord?

The Lord, the Pope said, always walks with us, loves us and does not abandon us. And he turned his attention to some of the many “dark valleys” of our time:

“When we look at the many dark valleys, at the many misfortunes, at the fact there are so many people dying of hunger, there is war, there are so many children with disabilities… and, asking their parents, we discover they suffer from something called a ‘rare disease’…  And the things we create ourselves: think of the cancers caused by the ‘triangle of death’… When you look at all this you ask: ‘where is the Lord’, ‘where are you?’ ‘Are you walking with me?’ This was Susanna’s sentiment. And it is ours too. Look at those four slain sisters of ours: they were serving with love; they ended up murdered in hatred! When you see that doors are being closed to refugees who are left out in the cold… you say: ‘Lord, where are You?’ “.

Why does a child suffer? I do not know why, but I trust in God

“How can I entrust myself to God,” asked the Pope, “when I see all these things? And when things happen to me, each of us may say: how can I entrust myself to You?” There is an answer to this question, but it cannot be explained.”

“Why does a child suffer? I do not know: it is a mystery to me,” said Pope Francis.

And recalling Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Pope pointed out that, although he is suffering, he trusts in the Father and knows that all will not end with death, with the cross.

Pope Francis, pointing out that Jesus’ last words before dying on the cross were ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit’,” said: “To trust in God who walks with me, walks with His people, walks with the Church: this is an act of faith. To entrust myself. I cannot explain it, but I place myself in Your hands. You know why”.

Suffering and evil are not final, the Lord is always with us

And this, he said, is the teaching of Jesus: “He who entrusts himself to the Lord our Shepherd, shall lack nothing.”

Even if he finds himself going through the darkest of valleys, Pope Francis said that, “he knows that the suffering is only of the moment and that the Lord is with him: ‘Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me’. This is a grace we must ask for: ‘Lord, teach me to place myself in your hands, to trust in Your guidance, even in bad times, in the darkest moments, in the moment of death’.”

Pope Francis said that, “We would do well today to think about our lives, about the problems we have, and ask for the grace to place ourselves into the hands of the Lord.”

And he invited the faithful to think of the many men and women who do not even receive a last caress before dying.

“Three days ago a homeless person died here, on the street: he died of cold. In the middle of Rome, a city that has all the possibilities of providing assistence.Why, Lord?  Not even a caress … But I entrust myself to You because You never let me down.”

“Lord,” concluded the Pope, “I do not understand you. This is a beautiful prayer. Without understanding, I place myself in Your hands”.

PAPAL MESSAGES TO VICTIMS OF TERROR IN AFRICA, TURKEY

Two of life’s “dark valleys” occurred over the weekend in the Ivory Coast and in Ankara, Turkey where dozens died at the hands of terrorists. Pope Fra cis sent messages to both countries, expressing his condolences  and his spiritual closeness to the victims, their loved ones and to first responders.

In the Ivory Coast, gunmen opened fire on people vacationing at a popular beach resort in Grand-Bassam which is east of the commercial capital of Abidjan. The telegram, sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Bishop Raymond Ahoua of Grand Bassam, said,Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said, “Upon hearing the news of the heinous attack in Grand-Bassam, His Holiness Pope Francis presents condolences to the bereaved and assures the injured his spiritual closeness. The Holy Father again condemns violence and hatred in all forms.”

Eighteen people were killed, including 15 civilians, 3 members of the country’s special forces, and 3 of the attackers. An additional 33 were wounded.

A suicide car bombing Sunday evening in Ankara, Turkey, killed at least 37 people and wounded more than 120 when a bomb was detonated near bus stops in Turkey’s capital.

In a telegram to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote that the Pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the bombing in Ankara. His Holiness Pope Francis assures the Turkish people of his spiritual closeness and solidarity.  He prays for the eternal rest of those who have died and for all who mourn their loss, as well as for the recovery of those affected by this heinous act of violence.  Mindful of the generous service being rendered by security and emergency personnel, His Holiness invokes the divine blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.”

POPE FRANCIS: THE LORD WEEPS FOR THE SINS OF A WORLD AT WAR

The big news in Italy today concerned the potential for terrorist attacks and how the city, the country, is handling security in view of the announcements ISIS has made about future attacks, including targets in Italy. The FBI sent an alert to Italy overnight (and I believe similar alerts are sent to countries where threats were received) and I received the following email this morning:

UNITED STATES EMBASSY ROME, ITALY

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Potential for Terrorist Attacks

November 18, 2015

“U.S. Embassy Rome informs U.S. citizens that the following locations have been identified as potential targets in Rome and Milan for terrorist attacks:

  • St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (Rome)
  • the Duomo and La Scala in Milan
  • General venues such as churches, synagogues, restaurants, theatres, and hotels in both cities are possible targets as well.

“Terrorist groups may possibly utilize similar methods used in the recent Paris attacks.  The Italian authorities are aware of these threats.

“U.S. citizens are advised to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings.  We encourage U.S. citizens to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.”

What horrific times we live in!  How extraordinarily sad that emails like this must be sent out!

We may weep these days but, as we read Pope Francis’ homily at Mass, we see that God also weeps!

POPE FRANCIS: THE LORD WEEPS FOR THE SINS OF A WORLD AT WAR

(Vatican Radio) “The whole world is at war,” and the rejection of the “path of peace” means that God Himself, that Jesus Himself, weeps. This was the message of Pope Francis to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Thursday morning in the Casa Santa Marta.

“Jesus wept.” This is how the Holy Father began his remarks following the readings of the day in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, echoing the words of St. Luke the Evangelist, from whose Gospel the Gospel reading was taken.

GOD WEEPS

A world festively bedecked

Jesus approaches Jerusalem and, seeing the city on a hill from a distance, weeps, and says, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Pope Francis repeated the words of Our Lord to the Holy City, and then added:

“Today Jesus weeps as well: because we have chosen the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of enmities. We are close to Christmas: there will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. The world has not understood the way of peace.”

War lines the pockets of the traffickers

Pope Francis went on to recall the recent commemorations of the Second World War, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, his visit to Redipuglia last year on the anniversary of the Great War: “Useless slaughters,” he called them, repeating the words of Pope Benedict XV. “Everywhere there is war today, there is hatred,” he said. Then he asked, “What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?”

“What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims: and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers. Jesus once said: ‘You can not serve two masters: either God or riches.’ War is the right choice for the one who would serve wealth: ‘Let us build weapons, so that the economy will right itself somewhat, and let us go forward in pursuit of our interests. There is an ugly word the Lord spoke: ‘Cursed!’ Because He said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!.’ The men who make war, are cursed, they are criminals. A war can be justified – so to speak – with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war – piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there, and everywhere – there is no justification – and God weeps. Jesus weeps.”

The world weeps over its crimes

The Holy Father went on to say that, while the arms dealers go about their business, there are the poor peacemakers who, perforce to help another person, and another and another, spend themselves utterly, and even give their lives – as did Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, against whom the powerful, worldy cynic might say, “But what did she ever accomplish? She wasted her life helping others on their way to death?” He repeated, “We do not understand the way of peace.”

“It will do us well to ask the grace of tears for ourselves, for this world that does not recognize the path of peace, this world that lives for war, and cynically says not to make it. Let us pray for conversion of heart. Here before the door of this Jubilee of Mercy, let us ask that our joy, our jubilation, be this grace: that the world discover the ability to weep for its crimes, for what the world does with war.”

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.

A ROMAN TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN IN FRANCE

A ROMAN TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN IN FRANCE

Just a brief note to accompany these photos taken yesterday afternoon by Ryan Muldoon, a friend from New York who is a first year seminarian at the North American College.  We met at a bus stop as I was on my way to an early evening Mass and he was returning to NAC from an afternoon of visiting churches in Rome. Ryan also stopped by Pza. Farnese, site of the French embassy, and this is what he saw – the tribute of Romans to their brothers and sisters in France after the horrendous, barbaric attacks in Paris on Friday.

French Embassy 1  French embassy 3

French Embassy 2

HAPPY FEAST DAY, ST. JOSEPH! BUON ONOMASTICO, POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, POPE FRANCIS! – A PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH – POPE FRANCIS PRAYS FOR VICTIMS OF TUNIS ATTACK, CONDEMNS “ACT AGAINST PEACE”

HAPPY FEAST DAY, ST. JOSEPH! BUON ONOMASTICO, POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, POPE FRANCIS!

Today, Thursday March 19 is a big day at the Vatican with many reasons for celebrating, and it is also a holiday, a day off for staff!

March 19 is the feast of St. Joseph, declared patron of the Universal Church in 1870 by Pope Pius IX, it is the onomastico or “name day” of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, né Joseph Ratzinger, it is Father’s Day in Italy and today in particular marks the second anniversary of the official start, the inaugural Mass, of the pontificate of Pope Francis.

At that inaugural Mass, Pope Francis focused his homily on St. Joseph on his feast day: “How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? Pope Francis asked. “By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. nJoseph is a ‘protector’ because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by His will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions.”

Pope Francis, as he has done in the past, called his predecessor to wish him a happy feast day. (Osservatore Romano)

Popes Francis and benedict

I have been blessed to have met both Francis and Benedict XVI on a number of occasions and even, on one special day 17 months ago, a day that perhaps only a handful of human beings have ever experienced, I met both of them within hours of each other – a story I shall tell some day!

This was in the early years of Benedict XVI’s papacy, in the library of the Apostolic Palace after the Pope received a head of State. I was in the pool of journalists covering the event. (Osservatore Romano photographger)

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And this was taken on September 5, 2014 when I joined 22 parishioners from Santa Susanna, our rector and vice rector at morning Mass with Pope Francis in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence. (Osservatore Romano photographer)

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A PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH

In the presence of Joseph, it is easy to engage in confident prayer. The following words, among the many that are possible, are those of a father about this righteous man, Mary’s spouse, who was able to hear the voice of angels and incline to God’s will.

FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH

Lord,

This time a father is speaking out in prayer to You, on the feast day of Joseph, the righteous father, the solid beam of the house in Nazareth, Mary’s husband, the virgin father of Jesus, Your Son. How difficult is the prayer of fathers! It is rare, poor and hardly visible. For fathers, just a glance up to heaven, a restrained sigh or an accentuated wrinkle are often enough. However, fathers also pray, asking and waiting; and my prayer is for others: for the children, first of all, for the loved ones at home, and for my own wife who is not only a mother.

Before saying what a father may ask, Lord, I place myself next to Joseph. Like him, I—as a father—would like to learn to recognize the faint traces of the angels; to believe the Word brought by the announcement; to keep it close, simply to obey. Like Joseph, marital love is enough to make me believe in the mystery of life entrusted to weak flesh and toilsome hands; it is enough to make me resist against Herod’s threats, to protect life, in active silence.

Lord, even the fathers experience desolation, like Joseph, when he thought of sending Mary away and yet supported her like a rock, because he trusted You and You came to comfort him as he slept. Lord, give me Joseph’s faith, and come to visit me too visit in my nights; give me the courage not to be afraid of life and to accept all that comes from You.

Saint Joseph, may you be blessed; stay close to me. And, with you, may the Virgin Mother and the Son of the Most High also be at my side. AMEN

This is from the website of the Pontifical Council for the Family: http://www.familiam.org/famiglia_eng/church/00010377_March_19th___Feast_of_St__Joseph__Mt_1_16_18–21_24a_.html

POPE FRANCIS PRAYS FOR VICTIMS OF TUNIS ATTACK, CONDEMNS “ACT AGAINST PEACE”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a telegram offering prayers for the victims of Wednesday’s terror attack in Tunis, in which at least 23 people were killed and more than 40 others wounded, many among them foreign tourists. In the telegram, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and addressed to Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, the Holy Father decries the attack as, “[An act] against peace and the sacredness of human life.” He goes on to assure the families of the victims, all those affected by the incident, and the whole Tunisian people, of his continued prayers.

The Pope’s condemnation and condolences came after remarks from Cardinal Parolin who told Vatican Radio, “[The attack was] something most cruel and inhuman, truly unthinkable: to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.” Cardinal Parolin went on to say, “We must hope that, in the name of God, no more violence is committed.”

Tunisia has suffered violence at the hands of Islamic militants in the past, and a disproportionately large number of Tunisians have joined the so-called “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq. Tunisian security forces are currently battling Islamic militants belonging to several groups, including Ansar al Sharia, which the U.S. lists as a terrorist group, and an al Qaeda affiliate with fighters operating along the Algerian border.

Speaking on national television in the wake of the attack, Tunisia’s President, Beji Caid Essebsi, said his country would not be intimidated. “These monstrous minorities do not frighten us,” he said.

Tour operators have already begun to react to the incident, with Italian cruise company Costa announcing it will be suspending calls to Tunisian ports. Tourism accounts for nearly 10% of the Tunisian economy, which is still struggling to steady itself along with the whole of Tunisian society, in the wake of a democratic reform movement that led to the ouster of the country’s long-time ruler at the start of what came to be known as the Arab Spring.