“TRUE DISCERNMENT BRINGS SPIRITUAL JOY AND FULFILLMENT” – POPE: TODAY WE ARE EXPERIENCING THIRD WORLD WAR

Pope Francis’ September Prayer intention: For Abolition of the Death Penalty Pope’s September prayer intention: For abolition of the death penalty – Vatican News

The Vatican paper today dedicated a portion of the front page to a large photo of former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbaciov who has died at the age of 91. Calling him “a humanistic visionary,” L’Osservatore Romano reflected on his role in the history of Russia that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and to the two meetings that Pope John Paul had with Gorbaciov in 1989 and 1990.

I had only been working at the Vatican for several months in November 1990 but I was invited to be part of a small group of people to be present when John Paul and Gorbaciov met. We were in a hall near the papal study and I can remember today what I felt when a door opened and, not 8 feet from where I was standing, stood Pope John Paul and Gorbaciov! I knew I was living an extraordinary moment of history and was thrilled to be in the presence of two men who had brought about that moment, the events that truly changed so much of the world.

I was not a photojournalist so did not always have a camera at my beck and call like we do today. No cell phones in those days, so no personal photos – just my mind’s eye image of that moment in time.

“TRUE DISCERNMENT BRINGS SPIRITUAL JOY AND FULFILLMENT”

Pope Francis began the weekly general audience by explaining that, “today we begin a new series of catecheses dealing with discernment, the process of making sound decisions about the meaning and direction of our lives.”

“In the Gospels,” he said, “Jesus uses everyday discernment practised by fishermen and merchants to teach the importance of wisely choosing to live a life in accordance with God’s will.” Jesus highlights how fishermen know how to choose – to discern – the better fish and how a merchant will know how to select – to discern – the better pearl.

“Authentic discernment,” stated the Holy Father, “calls for knowledge, insight and experience but also the wisdom of the heart, firm commitment and unremitting effort. … One chooses food, clothing, a course of study, a job, a relationship. In all of these, a life project is realized, and so is our relationship with God.”

“Discernment involves hard work. According to the Bible, we do not find set before us the life we are to live. God invites us to evaluate and choose. He created us free and wants us to exercise our freedom. Therefore, discerning is demanding.”

“As an exercise of our God-given freedom, spiritual discernment seeks to know our place in the Creator’s plan for ourselves and for our world. For our decisions, good or evil, can make the earth either, as God intends, a magnificent garden or a lifeless desert.”

The Pope noted how, “true discernment, born of our loving relationship with God and our human freedom, brings with it a deep spiritual joy and fulfilment. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us in our daily efforts to live lives of holiness, wisdom and fidelity to the saving truth of the Gospel.

He added that making the best choice between a set of options also involves our emotions, since a well-made choice can bring us great joy.

POPE: TODAY WE ARE EXPERIENCING THIRD WORLD WAR

In the various language greetings that always follow the weekly audience catechesis, Pope Francis spoke off the cuff to Polish pilgrims today, saying, “Tomorrow you will remember the anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, which so painfully marked the Polish nation. And today we are experiencing the Third. May the memory of past experiences push you to cultivate peace in yourselves, in families, in social and international life.” “May Mary support you,” he added, “in your daily choice of goodness, justice and solidarity with the needy, generating hope, joy and interior freedom in your hearts. I bless you with all my heart.” And he invited them to pray in a special way for Ukraine.

Many times in the past, speaking of wars and outbreaks of violence in different part of the world, Pope Francis has used the expression “World War III,” saying this is happening in “bits and pieces.”

Also Remembering Iraq

At the end of the general audience catechesis, the Holy Father said, “I am following with concern the violent events in Baghdad in recent days. Let us ask God in prayer to give peace to the Iraqi people. Last year I had the joy of visiting, and I felt at first hand the great desire for normality and peaceful coexistence among the different religious communities that make it up. Dialogue and fraternity are the way to face the current difficulties and reach this goal.”

 

CLOSE UP AND PERSONAL AT THE COURTESY VISITS – CONSISTORY WITH POPE, COLLEGE OF CARDINALS, ENDS TODAY WITH MASS – VATICAN: POPE DEFENDS LIFE, DOES NOT TAKE POLITICAL POSITIONS

CLOSE UP AND PERSONAL AT THE COURTESY VISITS

Yesterday, I wrote about the courtesy visits that take place after a consistory in which new cardinals are created, visits at which the new red hats, as they are often called, receive family and friends. It is a chance for all those who are visiting one cardinal in particular to walk around and meet other cardinals, if they so wish. This can be fun, especially if one speaks several languages!

Before I even entered the Paul VI Hall for these visits, I was drawn by the immense numbers of Nigerians in town for Cardinal Peter Ebere Okpaleke of Ekwulobia, in the courtyard and in the atrium. There must have been a square acre of the red fabric you see here because every man, woman and child from Nigeria wore the same clothing!

As I mentioned yesterday, I first met the new U.S. prelate, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall. Sunday he celebrated Mass at my Rome parish, St. Patrick’s. There was a sizeable delegation of Californians at that Mass – might have rivalled the Nigerians in number.

As I met each new cardinal, I introduced myself, mentioned how long I had lived in Rome, added I had worked many years at the Vatican and was now with the EWTN Rome bureau. I also gave them my card. In such visits there is very little time for a conversation because of the numbers of people wanting to visit each cardinal, but such moments are nonetheless memorable and potentially important.

In the atrium, I also met Cardinal Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastiao do Rosario Ferrao of Goa and Damao, India. I was told by an assistant that he had the longest name of all the new cardinals (probably of the entire College of Cardinals – I will check).

We spoke about the honor given to his native land in this consistory as India is home to a very small number of Catholics but received a second red hat in Cardinal Anthony Poola of Hyderabad. The 20 million Catholics in India are about 1.5 percent of the total population. The Catholic Church is the largest Christian church in India.

Cardinal Poola, 60, is the first Dalit to become a cardinal. Dalit is Sanskrit and is another name for those in India known as “untouchables,” a people said to belong to the lowest level of castes in India. By the time I got around the Paul VI Hall, he had left so we did not meet.

I next met Cardinal William Goh of Singapore, He asked if I had ever travelled there and I said I had not but a few years ago had welcomed 6 Singapore Patrons of the Vatican Museums to my home for dinner, part of the 28-member delegation in Rome. He said he knew of the Patrons group.

I then met Cardinal Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili, East Timor who, as soon as he heard I was with EWTN, smiled broadly and told me he is a huge fan! “I watch so many of your programs, and enjoy them all.” I said I had read that Catholics were the majority religion, and he said, “a big majority.” (in fact, 97% of the 1.3 million population is Catholic). The cardinal said I should come and visit the “wonderful” Church in East Timor. Who knows!

Across the room was Italian-born Consolata missionary, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo who, at 48, is the youngest member of the College of Cardinals. He is the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, a missionary jurisdiction that includes the entire country. He brought a number of his staff with him to Rome, as you see in these photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I told Cardinal Marengo I had been in Rome for 42 years, we both had a laugh as I pointed out that he would have been 6 years old when I came to Italy.

The last cardinal I met Saturday was Cardinal Jorge Carvajal, emeritus of Cartagena, Colombia. I congratulated him, we chatted briefly in English and Spanish, and when he saw my card, he told me, with a broad smile, that he once met Mother Angelica in Birmingham!

CONSISTORY WITH POPE, COLLEGE OF CARDINALS, ENDS TODAY WITH MASS

A brief note from the Holy See Press Office this afternoon stated that the two-day meeting of the College of Cardinals with the Pope to discuss the new Apostolic Constitution on the Roman curia, Praedicate Evangelium,, has ended.  The meeting was described as “having taken place in a fraternal atmosphere, (and) attended by just under 200 cardinals, Eastern patriarchs and superiors of the Secretariat of State. The work in linguistic groups and the discussions in the Hall gave way to freely discuss many aspects relating to the document and the life of the Church. The final afternoon session was dedicated to the 2025 Jubilee on Hope.”  The note said that Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with Pope Francis and all the cardinals officially concludes the private consistory, after which each participant will return to their own diocese.

VATICAN: POPE DEFENDS LIFE, DOES NOT TAKE POLITICAL POSITIONS

The following statement was released today by the Holy See Press Office:

In the context of the war in Ukraine, there have been numerous interventions by the Holy Father Francis and his collaborators in this regard. They have the main purpose of inviting Pastors and faithful to prayer, and all people of good will to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace. On more than one occasion, as well as in recent days, public discussions have arisen on the political significance to be attributed to such interventions. In this regard, it is reiterated that the words of the Holy Father on this dramatic question must be read as a voice raised in defense of human life and the values ​​connected to it, and not as political positions. As for the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, the interventions of the Holy Father Francis are clear and unambiguous in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious.

In the event you have not been following the news stories of reaction to Pope Francis’ words last week on Ukraine at the August 24 general audience, he referred to a bomb that went off near Moscow killing a young woman: “I think of that poor girl blown up by a bomb under her car seat in Moscow. The innocent pay for war, the innocent! Let us think about this reality and say to each other: war is madness,”

In reality, the women was the daughter of a politician close to Putin, both of whom approved of the Ukraine invasion. Her father was to have been in the car that was bombed but they had switched cars. To understand why the Vatican felt it necessary to issue this statement: here is more background: Vatican: Pope Francis’ Ukraine War comments not a ‘political stance’ | Catholic News Agency

VATICAN INSIDER: FERRAGOSTO IN ITALY – POPE FRANCIS AND UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ZELENSKY SPEAK ON PHONE

VATICAN INSIDER: FERRAGOSTO IN ITALY

In the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” this weekend, I offer a special I’ve prepared on The Lazy, Hazy Days of Ferragosto. On Monday in Italy we celebrate the biggest holiday of the summer season “Ferragosto,” the name Italians give to the August 15 solemnity of the Assumption. Ferragosto refers to the feriae augusti, meaning “holidays of August.” I look at the origin of the word ‘ferragosto’ and also at how the expression ‘the dog days of summer’ was born.

I’ll also tell you how the ancient Romans beat the midsummer heat! I think you’ll learn a lot and have a few laughs at the same time so tune it for that after news and the Q&A.

Italy in August: Closed for Vacation

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.

POPE FRANCIS AND UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ZELENSKY SPEAK ON PHONE

Italy’s news agency ANSA reported at 6:22 this evening Rome time that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday he had spoken on the phone with Pope Francis and told him about Russian war crimes. Zelesnky said on Twitter: “Talked to @Pontifex_it. Briefed him on RF aggression against Ukraine, its horrible crimes. Grateful to the pontiff for his prayers for Ukraine. Our people need support of world spiritual leaders who should convey to the world the truth about acts of horror committed by the aggressor in Ukraine.” (ANSA).

Zelensky’s words are interspersed with images of the Ukrainian flag as you can see on his tweet: Zelenskyy – Twitter Search / Twitter

As I go to press, there is no official confirmation from the Holy See Press Office.

HOLY SEE AND POPE FRANCIS JOIN U.N. CALL FOR CEASEFIRE IN UKRAINE – CARDINAL ARINZE: THANKING THE LORD MORNING AND EVENING

HOLY SEE AND POPE FRANCIS JOIN U.N. CALL FOR CEASEFIRE IN UKRAINE

The Vatican today released a statement that noted “how Pope Francis, on Palm Sunday had asked for an Easter truce, in order to achieve peace.”

It stated further that, “the Holy See and the Holy Father join in the appeal that António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, along with His Beatitude Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine, launched on April 19 for a truce in the occasion of the celebration of Easter according to the Julian calendar on April 24th.

“In the knowledge that nothing is impossible for God, they invoke the Lord King so that the population trapped in war zones is evacuated and peace will soon be restored, and they ask those who have the responsibility of the Nation to listen to the cry of peace of the people.” (Vatican photo)

At that time, Guterres said, “Easter is a season for renewal, resurrection and hope. It is a time for reflection on the meaning of suffering, sacrifice, death, and rebirth. It is meant to be a moment of unity.”

According to Vatican News, the U.N. chief said today, “I am calling for a four-day, Holy Week humanitarian pause, beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Easter Sunday, April 24, to allow for the opening of a series of humanitarian corridors. Humanitarian needs are dire. People do not have food, water supplies, to treat the sick, or simply to live day-to-day.

“For all these life-or-death reasons, I call on Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns and forge a path to safety for so many at immediate risk.” The four-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in Ukraine.

“Put the weapons down,” said Pope Francis on Palm Sunday. “Let an Easter truce start. But not to rearm and resume combat but a truce to reach peace through real negotiations open to some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

CARDINAL ARINZE: THANKING THE LORD MORNING AND EVENING

One of the books I re-discovered during Lent was a delight volume by Cardinal Francis Arinze, a gift of his when I invited him to dinner one night. The book is “Draw Near to Me, O Lord: Heartfelt Prayers for Everyday Life.”

This small volume has countless prayers for so many situations that arise in anyone’s life. But there are two occasions that occur for all of us, getting up in the morning and going to bed at night. How do we thank the Lord? Do we thank the Lord? Words should come fairly easily and I think you’ll find that in these two prayers from his book!

THANK GOD FOR A NEW DAY

Lord God, a new day dawns. It is a gift of Your creating hand. You are giving me this gift of another 24 hours to be at Your service and to be in solidarity with my neighbor.

I thank You for this providential design of Yours. May every thought, word, or deed of mine in this day be pleasing to You, be according to Your will and be my own yes to the unfolding of Your plan for me, for my dear ones, for the people for whom or with whom I work and indeed for all humanity.

Help me, Lord, to overcome my basic defects and weaknesses. May I show the hand of togetherness to every brother or sister with whom I am in contact today. At the end of this day, may I be able to look back with gratitude and joy and without regret. This I beg You, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

THANK GOD AT THE END OF THE DAY

Lord, the day You gave me has ended. The darkness of night descends as part of Your providential design.

I thank You for the opportunities you have given me today to live in your service and that of my neighbor. What I may have done well, I beg You to purify, elevate and accept through Christ, with Christ and in Christ. What I have not done well, I beg You to correct so that everything may finally turn out to Your greater glory, the good of my neighbor, and my own spiritual growth.

Night rest and sleep are Your gift. May I have the blessing of being refreshed by rest and sleep so that I may be better able to serve You. I am joyfully confident of Your love and protection.

I pray also for all the people who find rest and sleep difficult for those who are obliged to work long hours with a little time for rest, and for those who have turned the night into a time of restless activities that are not always according to Your will. Lord, curb the devil and all forces of evil that operate more at night so that we may be better disposed to serve You when a new day dawns. To You be honor and glory through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

EASTER, THE RESURRECTION AND RECONCILIATION AMONG TWO PEOPLES – PASQUETTA IN ITALY: POPE FRANCIS WELCOMES 50,000 TEENS

EASTER, THE RESURRECTION AND RECONCILIATION AMONG TWO PEOPLES

It has been a truly wonderful, very special Easter this year in Rome! Huge numbers of tourists fill the city’s squares and restaurants and monuments and churches! After two years of Covid restrictions, for the first time since Easter 2019, there was the Good Friday Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) at the Colosseum, and Easter Sunday Mass was once again celebrated in St. Peter’s Square!

The police estimated that 100,000 were present in and near St. Peter’s Square Sunday, including the thousands who filled Via della Conciliazione, almost down to Castel Sant’Angelo! Gorgeous weather has framed all events of this splendid Holy Week and Easter season!

Holy Saturday night, I had dinner at a restaurant, Pummarola, owned by a friend. Towards the end of my dinner, Salih sat down and we began talking and he asked a couple seated one table over where they were from. They said they were both students and very close friends and visiting from Israel: she was Ukrainian and he was Russian!

I was especially touched by their close friendship, given, of course, the current situation in Ukraine, invaded in February by Russia. We began a fascinating discussion and I only wished we’d met earlier in the evening, not just as we were paying our bills!

I could not help but think back to the previous night, to the Via Crucis at the Colosseum where the meditations and reflections were written by families – families with adopted children, a widow with two children, families who had lost a child, families hit by many hardships, families who wanted children and had none, families with special needs sons and daughters. Each family carried the cross at the specific station assigned to them.

The Vatican published all the reflections several days before Good Friday.

At the 13th Station – Jesus Dies on the Cross – two women, very good friends and colleagues at a Rome medical center – Albina from Russia and Irina from Ukraine – carried the cross. However, the reflections they wrote caused great concern among Ukrainians, and the first to express his disapproval of the written text, which focused on the women’s angst, their sorrow, their pain at the current war, was Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. He said “such an idea (is) untimely, ambiguous and such that it does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.” He was not alone on his criticism of the Via Crucis text.

While the printed booklet, published online and carried by the faithful Friday at the Colosseum did carry the original text, as the event unfolded at the Colosseum, we learned that the prepared text, in a last minute change by the Vatican, was not read. Instead, a reader said: “In the face of death, silence is more eloquent than words. Let us therefore pause in prayerful silence and each one in his heart pray for peace in the world.”

The two women did carry the cross and exchanged knowing glances between them. It was quite an extraordinary moment for anyone following this story related to the 13th Station.

This was definitely a coin with two sides.

On the one side are those who agree that the Vatican did the right thing by not having the original text read, thus showing it shared the deep feelings of the Ukrainian people who daily watch their family members and friends die, see their homes and businesses destroyed and lose great numbers as people flee to neighboring countries, becoming refugees. They asked: how could the Vatican seem to equate aggressor and victim?

On the other hand are those who, like Pope Francis, sincerely believe that reconciliation is possible, healing is possible.

As Andrea Gagliarducci wrote in his Monday Vatican column: “Pope Francis wished the cross to be carried at the 13th station by two women, one Russian and one Ukrainian, who were already friends, to testify to the possibility of reconciliation between peoples. Pope Francis wanted to exemplify his ideal of social friendship outlined in Fratelli Tutti with this gesture. For him, it was a sign that peace is possible and that this peace comes from friendship among peoples.”

He wrote much more but this captured one side of that coin.

As I sat and spoke briefly with the couple seated at the table next to me, saw their friendship, but also saw how they also shared pain at the thought that the homeland of one of them had invaded the homeland of the other, I almost could see both sides of the coin.

Their friendship, as that of Irina and Albina, was not a question of “reconciliation between peoples.” They already had a deep friendship, irrespective of the war, and knew they’d have to work hard to maintain that, and to perhaps even become instruments of reconciliation among the peoples of their homeland.

All of this really makes one pause in prayer. Lord, what is the right ‘feeling,’ the right emotion, the right judgment at this time?

PASQUETTA IN ITALY: POPE FRANCIS WELCOMES 50,000 TEENS

As I write, it is Pasquetta – Little Easter – a big holiday in Italy and the Vatican. It’s also known as Monday of the Angel – the Angel, of course, who told Mary Magdalene and the disciples on that first Easter that the tomb was empty because “He is Risen!”

This is a day for families and friends to be together as the Easter break holidays end. Vatican employees are also enjoying the last of their six days off at Easter, starting Holy Thursday and ending tomorrow. However, I’m sure the people happiest to have a day to breathe after so many arduous Holy Week liturgies, are priests!

After preparing a segment for “At Home with Joy and Joy” today, I decided to go to Homebaked for lunch. Jesse and I saw big numbers of young people walking by on both sides of Via di Porta Cavalleggeri. There were many large groups of youth walking together who identified themselves by wearing identical T-shirts, scarves, hats or carrying signs that indicated who they were and from what diocese or parish.

After lunch I went to a nearby bus stop to catch a bus for an errand I wanted to run (some but not all stores are open on such a holiday). After 35 minutes and no bus, I decided no errand was worth the wait, but I had to say I was totally amused during the wait simply by watching the happy, smiling, singing Italian teens make their way to St. Peter’s Square for their meeting at 6 pm today with Pope Francis. And I heard several languages other than Italian!

I know that between 50 and 100 youth walked by each minute of the 35 that I waited. About 50,000 are expected at the encounter with the Holy Father, according to the Vatican.

The theme of this joyful Easter encounter, promoted by the National Service for Youth of the Italian Episcopal Conference, is “Follow Me.” The teens are being led by bishops, priests, men and women religious, by educators and by leaders of associations, movements, communities and groups such as scouts.

A CARDINAL LIVES THE WAY OF THE CROSS IN UKRAINE 

A CARDINAL LIVES THE WAY OF THE CROSS IN UKRAINE 

Yesterday, Good Friday 2022, the Holy See Press Office published an audio file which they transcribed (see below) from Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, who is in Ukraine on his third visit, this time having driven from Rome a second ambulance offered by Pope Francis to a Ukrainian hospital. They also released the photo below.

This afternoon, on his return from Borodianka, north of Kiev, where he stopped to pray in front of the graves and bodies found, as in a Way of the Cross, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski entrusted his pain to this message:

“Here with the nuncio, we are now returning to Kiev, from these difficult places for every person in the world, where we found so many dead and a (common) tomb of at least 80 people, buried with no name or surname. Luckily there is faith, and we are in Holy Week, Good Friday, when we can unite with the person of Jesus and go up to the Cross with Him, because after Good Friday … I know, I know: there will be Sunday of the Resurrection. And perhaps He will explain everything to us with His love and change everything within us too, this bitterness and this suffering that we have been carrying for a few days, but especially today.”

 

THE PEACE OF JESUS IS NOT FORCE, BUT THE WEAPONS OF THE GOSPEL: PRAYER, FORGIVENESS, COMPASSION – POPE THANKS POLES FOR OPENING THEIR HOMES TO UKRAINIANS

I found the general audience catechesis today to be especially eye-opening in one passage where Pope Francis quotes Dostoevsky and his novel, The Brothers Karamazov, in which “the Grand Inquisitor accuses Jesus of not using his power to establish peace, but rather respecting the freedom of individual men and women.”

How many times have people asked, wondered, questioned: “Why did God allow that to happen?” with “that” being a war, the death of innocents, some human atrocity. Could not God have simply willed the good to happen? Could He have simply willed the bad not to happen?

We must remember, as we search for an answer, that man has God-given free will. Mankind can, by free will, do wondrous good. By that same free will, mankind can cause great disaster and perform heinous acts.

As a prayer book of mine says: In the beginning, we make choices. In the end, those choices make us.

By the way, today is known as Spy Wednesday as it recalls the day that Judas received 30 pieces of silver from the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus (Luke 22:1-6). It is also the last official day of Lent, as tomorrow starts the Triduum (three days) of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

THE PEACE OF JESUS IS NOT FORCE, BUT THE WEAPONS OF THE GOSPEL: PRAYER, FORGIVENESS, COMPASSION

Pope Francis entered the Paul VI Hall this morning for the weekly general audience and greeted the estimated 7,000 faithful in attendance.

This will be the last audience in the Paul VI Hall for a while as these weekly meetings with the Pope and faithful are scheduled to be in St. Peter’s Square, starting next Wednesday

The Holy Father began his catechesis by explaining that, “during this Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mystery of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Last Sunday we recalled the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds acclaimed him as the Messiah who would bring about a glorious peace by freeing Jerusalem from Roman occupation. Yet the peace Jesus brought did not employ the strategies of the world. Rather than recourse to violence, it comes through the humility and meekness that led him to the Cross. By dying for our sins, Christ has set us free.” (Vatican photo)

“In this regard,” explained the Holy Father, “is a great story by Dostoevsky, In his novel The Brothers Karamazov, the so-called Legend of The Grand Inquisitor, is always relevant. It tells of Jesus who, after several centuries, returns to Earth. He is immediately welcomed by the rejoicing crowd, which recognizes and acclaims him. “Ah, you have returned! Come, come with us!” But then he is arrested by the Inquisitor, who represents worldly logic. The latter interrogates him and criticizes him fiercely. The final reason for the rebuke is that Christ, although he could, never wanted to become Caesar, the greatest king of this world, preferring to leave humanity free rather than subjugate it and solve its problems by force.”

That is to say, “the Grand Inquisitor accuses Jesus of not using his power to establish peace, but rather respecting the freedom of individual men and women. Indeed, the peace that Jesus brings does not employ force, but only the “weapons” of the Gospel: prayer, forgiveness and compassion for all our neighbours. This, not the blasphemous violence of war, is the peace of Easter; the peace that changes history and the hearts of all who accept it. This week, let us draw near to Christ, crucified and risen, and implore his gift of peace in our hearts and in the world.”

POPE THANKS POLES FOR OPENING THEIR HOMES TO UKRAINIANS

At language greetings at the end of the catechesis, Francis cordially greeted the Polish pilgrims present, telling them, “this year you celebrate Holy Week and Easter in a special way, along with many Ukrainian guests. Easter is a family celebration and you, opening up your homes to them, have become their family. Although most of them will celebrate these feast days a week later, according to the oriental tradition, already now all of you together contemplate the Crucifix, and await the resurrection of Christ and peace in Ukraine. I bless you from my heart!”

In fact, most of the Ukrainian Christians fleeing their country are Orthodox Christians who celebrate Easter one week after the Latin Church marks the Resurrection.

Since the March 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Poland has welcomed an estimate 2.5 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, as men, aged 18 and older, were asked to remain in Ukraine to fight to defend their country.

VATICAN INSIDER: TWO PRIESTS, TWO BROTHERS, TWO TALES OF PRIESTHOOD – CARDINAL PAROLIN: AVOID ESCALATION IN UKRAINE, BUCHA CIVILIAN MASSACRE “INEXPLICABLE” – FLORISTS, GARDENERS AND TECHNICAL WORKERS TO BEAUTIFY ST. PETER’S SQUARE FOR EASTER

VATICAN INSIDER: TWO PRIESTS, TWO BROTHERS, TWO TALES OF PRIESTHOOD

My guests this week in the interview segment of Vatican Insider are two of my dearest friends, two priests, two brothers, native Chicagoans, who are both in Rome at the same time: Msgr. Michael Boland, a consultant to Catholic Charities USA following 30 magnificent years as head of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese of Chicago, and his brother Fr. Jeremiah Boland, pastor of a parish I know and love, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview, Illinois. Fr. Jerry is in Rome on sabbatical at the North American College’s Institute of Continuing Theological Education.

They both recently celebrated anniversaries of their priesthood : Fr. Jerry 40 years, Msgr Michael, 35.

They are two of my most cherished friends and, as I note in our conversation, there are two things that bind us in friendship: celebration of the Eucharist, Mass, and meals! I know you will hear that friendship when we talk!

I forgot to take a photo while they were in my office but here we are, breaking bread, after I conducted the interview (Fr. Jerry on the left; Msgr. Michael on the right)

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.

CARDINAL PAROLIN: AVOID ESCALATION IN UKRAINE; BUCHA CIVILIAN MASSACRE “INEXPLICABLE” 

On the sidelines of an event at Vatican Radio, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin comments on the recent revelations of the massacre of civilians in Bucha, and confirms the possibility of a papal trip to Kyiv and a separate meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. Parolin: Avoid escalation in Ukraine, Bucha civilian massacre ‘inexplicable’ – Vatican News

FLORISTS, GARDENERS AND TECHNICAL WORKERS TO BEAUTIFY ST. PETER’S SQUARE FOR EASTER

You may recall that, in January, I published a piece about Dutch Florists who, for the first time in 35 years, would not be able to embellish St. Peter’s Square for Easter with thousands of flowers, plants, palm trees and shrubs: 35-YEAR TRADITION OF DUTCH FLOWERS IN THE VATICAN AT EASTER TO END  | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com)

Well, it seems from a press release today from the Governorate of Vatican City State that there will still be some Dutch participation:

Continuing the Holy Week tradition of decorating St. Peter’s Square with hundreds of floral compositions and decorations, workers from the Infrastructure and Services Service of the Governorate of Vatican City State will prepare the altar area of the square, working alongside those who have offered plants and flowers. In particular, on Palm Sunday, April 10, olive branches provided by the National Association of the City of Olio, by the mayors of the City of Olio and the Lazio Region, and by the Caputo family of Taranto in the Puglia Region will be distributed.

The supply of “Phoenix palms” ** will be handled by the Supreme Pontiff’s Office for Liturgical Celebrations. Parmureli from the city of Sanremo will also be present.

The Flora Olanda wholesale floriculture company in Rome will lend large olive trees to be placed near the statues of Saints Peter and Paul at the foot of the churchyard. The floral decorations in St. Peter’s Square on the occasion of Holy Easter will be made thanks to the generous contribution of the florists and the professors of floristry of biotechnology of Naklo in Slovenia, with the collaboration of the Vatican gardeners who will work throughout Good Friday to prepare and finish the decorations by the next day.

** Phoenix canariensis is a species of flowering plant in the palm family, native to the Canary Islands

POPE FRANCIS RELIVES HIS APOSTOLIC TRIP TO MALTA – HOLY FATHER WELCOMES UKRAINIAN CHILDREN AT AUDIENCE – POPE FRANCIS ON UKRAINE: WE ARE WITNESSING THE IMPOTENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

In his catechesis today at the general audience, Pope Francis summarized his weekend trip to Malta and, in talking about the geopolitical situations of today, he spoke of Ukraine and said, “we are witnessing the impotence of the International Organizations.” In fact, the headline on the front page of today’s Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was “The impotence of the United Nations Organization in the current war in Ukraine.”

On a lighter note, today is World Carbonara Day. So here’s a link to everything Italian chefs want you to know about making the perfect carbonara: Ask an Italian: What are the unbreakable rules for making real pasta carbonara? (thelocal.it)

POPE FRANCIS RELIVES HIS APOSTOLIC TRIP TO MALTA

As many of you may already know, having attended or watched on television or online, a weekly general papal audience opens with monsignori from the Secretariat of State introducing a Bible verse with the theme of the day, and then later reciting a summary of the papal catechesis, always delivered in Italian, in seven different languages.

In recent weeks there have been a number of laymen and women in these roles, and today five women opened the general audience presentations.

The papal catechesis was, as it usually is after an apostolic voyage, a summary of his weekend trip to Malta.

Pope Francis began his talk by noting that, “in the Acts of the Apostles, we read that Paul, after his shipwreck off the island of Malta, was received there with ‘unusual kindness’ (28:2). This spirit of welcome and charitable concern shown by the Maltese to the Apostle and his companions should inspire our own response to the complex issue of migration today, which is not simply an emergency but a sign of our times.”

The Holy Father explained that “Malta is at the forefront of these efforts, as I saw at the “John XXIII Peace Lab” Centre. There we were reminded that migrants bring with them unique stories and have a wealth of gifts to offer. At the Grotto of Saint Paul, I prayed for a renewal of the missionary spirit that has always distinguished the Church in Malta.”

Francis emphasized how “Our prayer meeting at the National Marian Shrine of Ta’ Pinu in Gozo reflected the strong devotion of the Maltese people to Our Lady, who always brings us back to what is essential: to Christ crucified and risen and to the joy of the Gospel with its saving message of God’s merciful love for our human family. May God bless Malta and its people with prosperity and peace.

In his remarks, the Pope again expressed his “thanks to the president and civil authorities, to the Bishops and faithful, and to the many volunteers for their generous welcome.”

HOLY FATHER WELCOMES UKRAINIAN CHILDREN AT AUDIENCE

At the end of the catechesis, Pope Francis said, “The recent news of the war in Ukraine, rather than bringing relief and hope, attests instead of new atrocities, like the massacre in Bucha: ever more horrendous cruelty done even against defenseless civilians, women and children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries to Heaven and implores: put an end to this war! Silence the weapons! Stop sowing death and destruction! Let us pray together for this…

“And yesterday, precisely from Bucha, they brought me this flag. This flag comes from the war, precisely from that war-torn city, Bucha. There are also some Ukrainian children who are here with us. Let us greet them and pray together with them. (Vatican photo)

“These children had to escape and come to a foreign land: this is one of the fruits of war. Let us not forget them, and let us not forget the Ukrainian people. It is hard to be uprooted from your own land due to war.”

Pope Francis pointed to the small group of children, from a baby to one about 10 years old, and asked them to come up on the stage. They did so willingly and stood around the Pope, one young man holding a drawing he had made. Huge wrapped chocolate Easter eggs were given to each child. (Vatican photo)

POPE FRANCIS ON UKRAINE: WE ARE WITNESSING THE POWELESSNESS OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

In his Italian language catechesis about his just-concluded trip to Malta, the Pope highlighted its geographic “position in the center of the sea between Europe and Africa that also bathes Asia. Malta is a sort of ‘wind rose’,** where peoples and cultures meet. It is a perfect place to observe the Mediterranean area from a 360º degree perspective.”

“Today we often hear about ‘geopolitics’. But unfortunately, the dominant logic are the strategies of the most powerful countries to affirm their own interests, extending their area of economic, ideological and military influence. In this scheme, Malta represents the rights and power of the ‘small’ nations, small but rich in history and civilization that should lead toward another logic – that of respect and freedom, of the coexistence of differences, opposed to the colonization of the most powerful.”

The Holy Father exclaimed, “After World War II, the attempt was made to lay the foundations of a new era of peace. But, unfortunately, the old story of competition between the greater powers went on. And, in the current war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the impotence of the International Organizations.”

** Before the use of magnetic compasses, a ‘wind rose’ was a guide on mariners’ charts to show the directions of the eight principal winds.

A TRIP TO LEBANON FOR POPE FRANCIS?

Michel Aoun, the president of Lebanon said in a tweet yesterday that Pope Francis would be visiting his country in June, although he did not mention a specific date.

A statement from the president’s office also said that, “Apostolic Envoy Joseph Spiteri informed President Michel Aoun that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon next June.”

The Vatican has not confirmed that information but papal spokesman Matteo Bruni said yesterday, “it is one of the things we are studying.”

In March. Pope Francis received Lebanon’s President Aoun and last November he welcomed Muslim Prime Minister Najib Mikati. There is a Muslim majority in Lebanon but also a great number of Christians. The Lebanese constitution dictates that the president must be a Christian and prime minister a Sunni Muslim.

Ever since the explosion that rocked the port of Beirut in August 2020, that killed 200 people and brought down numerous buildings in the capital, the country has faced enormous financial problems. The Pope has spoken out many times since that explosion, asking the country’s leaders and international organizations to help Lebanon return to better times, and has received numerous religious and civil leaders from the country. He has mentioned many times wanting to visit the country.

POPE, WITH STUDENTS IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA, PRAYS FOR UKRAINE’S CHILDREN – THE VALUE OF OLD AGE, AS ELDERLY PASS ON LIFE’S TRUE AND SUSTAINING VALUES – POPE FRANCIS AND ORTHODOX PATRIARCH KIRILL SPEAK ON PHONE

Marc Murphy, a celebrated chef and son of some good friends of mine, is currently on the Polish-Ukraine border and helping to prepare meals for 2,500 plus refugees a day. He was interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. His Dad sent me this link:
https://app.frame.io/reviews/65658bcc-c995-4fa0-94e7-88bf40dd335f/08891c3c-5aab-44b4-a633-682d75e2c8d0

At 5 pm today, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin will celebrate a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for peace in Ukraine. Members of the diplomatic corps will be in attendance.

Yesterday, Pope Francis announced the March 25th Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in ceremonies in Rome and Fatima in both Russian and Ukrainian on his Twitter account @pontifex.

I was just about to post this column when I saw the news about the phone call between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. I have been following Patriarch Kirill in recent weeks as he has basically supported Russia in its war on Ukraine, creating no few difficulties within the Orthodox community (see below for story).

POPE, WITH STUDENTS IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA, PRAYS FOR UKRAINE’S CHILDREN

Today’s general audience took place in two different moments, the first in St. Peter’s Basilica when Pope Francis addressed students from La Zolla Vocational school in Milan, and then in the over-flowing Paul VI Hall where the Pope addressed about 7,500 faithful.

In addressing the students in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis prayed for the thousands of Ukrainian children who, he said, “are living under the bombs, have nothing to eat, are forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind. …Lord Jesus, look at these children, bless them and protect them. They are the victims of the arrogance of the adults.”

He then asked the students of the La Zolla Institute to turn their thoughts “to the many boys, girls, who are facing war and who are suffering. … You have a future ahead, the security of growing up in a peaceful society, and instead these little ones, these very little ones, have to flee from the bombs, with all that cold out there.”

THE VALUE OF OLD AGE, AS ELDERLY PASS ON LIFE’S TRUE AND SUSTAINING VALUES

Having arrived in the Paul VI Hall from St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father began his weekly meeting with the faithful by noting, “in our continuing catechesis on the meaning and value of old age, viewed in the light of God’s word, we now consider the vital role of the elderly in handing on to new generations life’s true and sustaining values.”

“In the very first pages of the Bible,” Francis explained, “God entrusts to the elderly Noah the task of restoring the goodness of his creation, which had become corrupted by the spread of violence and wickedness. Jesus himself speaks of the ‘days of Noah’ in warning us of the need for conversion in view of the imminent coming of God’s Kingdom, which brings mankind definitive salvation and spiritual renewal.”

The Pope underscored that, “In every age, as in the days of Noah, we can be tempted to accept sin and corruption as normal, to avert our eyes from the unjust suffering of the poor and the destruction of our natural environment. In our own day, these are the fruits of a materialistic, self-centred and spiritually empty culture of waste. The elderly, like Noah, can warn us of this danger and remind us of our God-given call to be guardians and stewards of his creation.

“May Noah’s example and prayers inspire our elderly to appreciate this, their special charism, and help to build a new ‘ark’ of welcome, care and hope, for the future of our world and the dawn of the new creation.”

The Holy Father then closed the general audience with a special prayer composed by Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples, making a few additions of his own:

Before reciting the prayer, he invited Christians to “ask God for forgiveness and to grant peace” amid the pain of the war in Ukraine. (Vatican photo)

Here is an unofficial translation of the Pope’s prayer:

Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!
Lord Jesus, born in the shadows of bombs falling on Kyiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who died in a mother’s arms in a bunker in Kharkiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, a 20-year-old sent to the frontlines, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who still beholds armed hands in the shadow of your Cross, have mercy on us!

Forgive us, O Lord.

Forgive us, if we are not satisfied with the nails with which we crucified Your hands, as we continue to slate our thirst with the blood of those mauled by weapons.
Forgive us, if these hands which You created to tend have been transformed into instruments of death.
Forgive us, O Lord, if we continue to kill our brother;

Forgive us, if we continue like Cain to pick up the stones of our fields to kill Abel.
Forgive us, if we continue to justify our cruelty with our labors, if we legitimize the brutality of our actions with our pain.
Forgive us for war, O Lord. Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we implore You! Hold fast the hand of Cain!
Illumine our consciences;
May our will not be done;
Abandon us not to our own actions!

Stop us, O Lord, stop us!
And when you have held back the hand of Cain, care also for him. He is our brother.
O Lord, put a halt to the violence!
Stop us, O Lord!
Amen.

POPE FRANCIS AND ORTHODOX PATRIARCH KIRILL SPEAK ON PHONE

Acistampa, an EWTN/CNA news agency, reported on the call. This is my translation of the Italian:

Today Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia Kirill had a conversation via video conference. The news was released by the Moscow Patriarchate through an official note.  Joining the Pope and Kirill, were Metropolitan Hilarion** and Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

According to the note from the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill “greeted the Pope cordially, expressing satisfaction about the possibility of organizing a conversation. A detailed discussion of the Ukrainian situation took place. Particular attention was paid to the humanitarian aspects of the current crisis and to the actions of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church to overcome its consequences. The parties underlined the exceptional importance of the ongoing negotiation process, expressing their hope for a just peace to be reached as soon as possible. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill also discussed some current issues of bilateral cooperation.”

The Pope and Kirill met in Cuba in February 2016, the first ever meeting between a Pope and Patriarch of Moscow.

(JFL: **Chairman of the Department of External Affairs)