LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE – ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS – COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Pope Francis tweeted today: Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.

A bit of trivia about Ash Wednesday from an Aleteia article by Gerith Gardner: This year, Ash Wednesday falls on the March 1 feast day of Saint David, and there couldn’t be a more fitting saint to share this day with. David founded a monastery in Wales, where both he and his monks drank no beer or wine, as he practiced extreme asceticism—abstaining from all forms of indulgence.

Today’s Station Church in Rome – Santa Sabina: https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-of-ash-wed/ash-wednesday-santa-sabina/

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LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE

Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday by presiding at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square and, later in the afternoon, by processing from the Benedictine church of Sant’Anselmo to the nearby Dominican basilica of Santa Sabina where he celebrated Mass and received ashes. (file photo: Ash Wednesday)

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His catechesis at the audience focused on Lent and he opened his weekly lesson by noting that “today, Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten journey towards Easter.  Lent is essentially a pilgrimage of hope, a season of penance and spiritual renewal that prepares us to share more fully in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.”

Francis said, “We relive the experience of the Exodus, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.”  The Scriptures tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.

“Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism.”

Francis explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross. “This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything… it doesn’t mean he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage. That is not how it works.”

He stated that “our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation.”

“By following Christ along the way of the Cross,” continud the Holy Father, “we share in his victory over sin and death; by living the new life bestowed by the Holy Spirit in the communion of the Church, we are united more fully to the Lord in the sacraments, prayer and adoration.

ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) issued the following statement after the resignatiuon of commission member and abuse survivor, Mrs. Marie Collins:

On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs. Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.

Mrs. Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church.  In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia.

Mrs. Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O’Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.

The Holy Father accepted Mrs. Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

At the bottom of the letter on Commission letterhead, they listed two contacts: info@tutelaminorum.va and www.protectionofminors.va

The Holy See Press Office released the following Statement from PCPM President, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap.

“On behalf of the Members of the Commission I have expressed to Marie Collins our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the Commission.  We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission.  As the Commission gathers for the plenary meeting next month we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters.  With the members of the Commission I am deeply grateful for Marie’s willingness to continue to work with us in the education of church leaders, including the upcoming programs for new bishops and for the dicasteries of the Holy See.  Our prayers will remain with Marie and with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”

COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Marie Collins, in a piece she wrote for ncronline, said she intended “to respect the confidentiality of my former colleagues on the Commission and the work they are doing,” although some has already been made public.

She outlined some of the stumbling blocks the commission has run into: “lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance. The most significant problem has been reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”

She said she could “no longer be sustained by hope. As a survivor I have watched events unfold with dismay.”

Collins wrote: “The Commission’s recommendation for a Tribunal to be put in place whereby negligent bishops could be held accountable was approved by Pope Francis and announced in June 2015. Yet it was found by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as Baroness Sheila Hollins stated to the Royal Commission, to have unspecified “legal” difficulties, and so was never implemented.”

Marie Collins, who was harsh in her criticism of various Vatican offices, wrote: “When I accepted my appointment to the Commission in 2014, I said publicly that if I found what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public I would not remain. This point has come. I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity.”

“In the past three years,” the former commission member wrote, “I have never had the opportunity to sit and talk to the pope but if I had I would ask him to do three things:

  1. Give the Commission the responsibility and the power to oversee implementation of the recommendations when they are approved. No matter how much work is put into the recommendations given to the Holy Father and no matter how much he supports them they must be properly implemented to have any effect.
  2. Give the Commission an adequate, independent budget to do its work without having each item of expenditure go through the internal Vatican approval process.
  3. Remove the restriction on the recruitment of professional staff from outside the Vatican.

She did write that, “Despite everything I have said, I do believe there is value in the Commission continuing its work. The members are sincerely putting every effort into very important projects with the intention of moving things forward.”

MASS IN VATICAN PARISH COMMEMORATES MOTHER ANGELICA

Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of St. John Paul, a day that no one who was in Rome at the time will ever forget. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to overhear a conversation between St. John Paul and Mother Angelica!

Mass last night at Sant’Anna was just lovely, as I hope you can glean from my photos. I was very blessed to be a lector at that Mass. I have not actually checked but I am sure that video is now or will be soon be posted on Youtube.

As you pray today, include members of the large pilgrimage organized by New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan whose flight to Rome yesterday was cancelled by Delta! I was to have joined them today for a walk together with Cardinal Dolan to St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by entering the Holy Door to receive a plenary indulgence. Afterwards, at 4 pm, he was scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter: Hopefully those events can be rescheduled!  Tonight was to feature dinner and a book-signing event with the pilgrims, many of whom I know!

MASS IN VATICAN PARISH COMMEMORATES MOTHER ANGELICA

At the same time that the funeral for Mother Angelica was being held at the Shrine of the Angels in Hanceville, Alabama, yesterday morning, the Rome EWTN family and friends attended a Mass in the Vatican parish of Sant’Anna that was celebrated by Cardinal George Pell.

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EWTN staff were lectors and readers of prayer intentions during Mass, including intentions read in various languages by the multi-lingual Rome members.

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Cardinal Pell was the principal celebrant and concelebrants for the Mass were: Msgr. Dario Eduardo Vigano, president of the Secretariat for Communications, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., spokesman for the Vatican and director of the Holy See Press Office, and Fr. Jeff Kirby, who is studying for his doctorate in moral theology in Rome

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Present at the Sant’Anna Mass were Ambassadors to the Holy See Ken Hackett of the U,S. Esteban Kriskovich of Paraguay, as well as representatives from Opus Dei, Cor Unum, the Foreign Press Office, FAO, L’Osservatore Romano, Order of the Holy Sepulcher, Catholic-Link, the Pontifical North American College (NAC), the Vatican Post Office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Christian Life Movement, the European Parliament, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and Greg Burke, vice director of the Holy See Press Office.

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Numerous media representatives were present as well.

Following is Cardinal Pell’s homily for Mother Angelica memorial Mass:

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April 1, 2016 –  St. Anne’s Church, Vatican City

Easter Sunday is a good day for dying, a good day for being born into eternal life. Mother Angelica died on last Easter Sunday, and we should be consoled by the time of her passing as we gather to pray for the repose of her soul as she awaits the Resurrection of the body.

Today’s Easter Gospel passage and the reading from Acts both speak of spectacular miracles. In the Gospel the apostles had been fishing all through the night without catching anything. And they did not recognize Jesus as he stood on the bank and invited them to try once more. I suspect the fisherman complied with the request out of politeness rather than conviction. But they took in a great catch of 153 fish, which strained their nets, and Jesus then gave them breakfast. In the passage from Acts we have Peter and John curing the crippled man through the power of Jesus Christ, and so disturbing the high priests and the leaders with their teachings and their miracles. It was after the first Pentecost, and Peter was no longer afraid as he defended his good deed done to a cripple. Mother Angelica would have been proud of him. ‘The man who stands before you was healed,’ he proclaimed, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. He is the stone rejected by you builders which has become the corner stone. And there is no salvation through anyone else.’ As the cross was proclaimed as a sign of contradiction with such faith and courage, it’s not surprising that by then the early Christian community numbered 5,000 men.

Some parallels quickly come to mind. The spread and effectiveness of Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, EWTN, founded in 1981 with an investment of $200 was as unexpected as the apostles’ huge catch of fish. So too we should draw strength from the fact that Peter’s salvation message was exactly the same as Mother Angelica’s, unbroken and substantially unchanged across 2,000 years. This kerygma, the basic Good News, doesn’t need improvement or pruning, and doesn’t need corrections or additions. And part of Mother Angelica’s effectiveness came from her acceptance of this truth.

Mother Angelica’s public personality was so boisterous that we can be tempted to forget that she was a contemplative Franciscan nun, a Poor Clare from the age of 21. I still feel her religious name is somewhat incongruous, as she was not angelic in any conventional sense. The Little Flower’s parents were both canonized, but Mother Angelica had no such blessing. Born into a poor family in the Rust Belt, Ohio, Rita Rizzo’s father abandoned her when she was five, and she was brought up by her mother, who suffered from depression. She did poorly at school – at the McKinley High School ­– although she was the drum majorette in the school band. Her life story brings a message of encouragement for all those who were or are children from broken homes. Some, perhaps many, from such backgrounds are tempted to be resentful, short of self-confidence, uncertain of their ability to contribute or build a good family. Mother Angelica is one more example of what can be achieved from difficult beginnings. She knew what it was to struggle. She wasn’t a ‘milk and water’ character, but a triumph of God’s grace through, and perhaps despite, her nature. She truly cast fire upon the earth.

God works in unexpected ways, as Mother Angelica promised him that she would found a monastery deep in the Protestant south, at Irondale in Alabama. With four companions she came there in 1962. An unlikely launching pad for an international television network, although probably not quite as unpromising a spot as Bethlehem and Nazareth. Mother began in a small way by recording video tapes of her homilies in the 1970s until she founded EWTN with Deacon Bill Steltemeier. Eventually EWTN pioneered the digital revolution in broadcasting, and many experts visited to examine just what they were doing. There was an enormous development and progression.

Mother Angelica was conservative, direct, and in fact somewhat divisive. She spoke truth to authority, as strong women have ever done to their families, their priests and bishops, and sometimes to the public; just think of Catherine of Siena. She didn’t found another church, and while she spoke bluntly to a number of the Church’s officials, she recognized the office of Pope and bishops and priests.

The Catholic world was very different back when she unleashed her withering attack on those who presented a female Christ figure at the 1993 Denver World Youth Day. There were not, then, as there are now, so many signs of hope; not so many young, orthodox and vital priests and religious. And this para-liturgical abuse provoked her to unleash the pent-up frustrations of many years. It was powerful and eloquent, something of a diatribe, certainly over-the-top in some ways. But thank God she spoke that way. When I read it, I remember thinking ‘yes, she’s right.’ And one Australian activist had written to me just recently, and told me that he changed his life’s direction after hearing it. It wasn’t discreet – in fact it was massively imprudent. But it was great copy for the journalists, and a great witness to the Christ that we follow.

She slowed down the drift toward destruction, turned away many from damaging themselves. We pray for her soul, despite the long years of penance through suffering which occurred after her strokes in 2001. May she be liberated from the effects of her weakness and sins.

Above all we thank God for her message, her courage and her faith. And we pray that the Church in the United States will throw up other giants equally unexpectedly to help strengthen our faith and lead us to Christ. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

George Card. Pell

Prefect

Secretariat for the Economy

POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT – POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

If you noticed that VIS, the Vatican Information Service was missing from news.va as of March 1, but you still want to follow Vatican and papal events in English, all you need to do is go here each day for English: http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html

I have heard from a lot of people how much they already miss VIS, and they are wondering what the Secretariat for Communications is up to! You have no idea how many readers, followers and fans of news.va – both inside but especially outside the Vatican – are concerned the Secretariat might dismantle news.va!! Not to mention the future of Vatican Radio!!

POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT

Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. The spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday but this year they were postponed because Pope Francis had travelled to Mexico. The retreat ends mid-morning on Friday.

A small van and larger busses brought the Pope and prelates to Ariccia Sunday afternoon. (photo: Reuters on news.va)

CURIA RETREAT

The Sunday schedule included Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner

Fr. Ermes Ronchi of the Servants of Mary is the retreat master and will preach on 10 questions from the Gospels.

  1. “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)
  2.  “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
  3.  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?”   (Matthew 5:13)
  4.  “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)
  5. “Then, turning to the woman, he told Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” (Luke 7:44)
  6. “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38, Matthew 15:34)
  7. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’” (John 8:10)
  8. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (John 20:15)
  9. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16)
  10. “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be?’” (Luke 1:34).

During the retreat the Holy Father will have no public meetings or audiences, including no Wednesday general audience.

Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, is home to the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers.

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG

POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there was generally little if any news during such a retreat, given that Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “‘Mens nostra,’ On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which he addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.”

1924, Vatican City, Rome, Italy --- In 1932, Pope Pius XI commissioned the building of a Vatican gallery which holds the Pinacoteca, a collection of Italian religious paintings as well as Byzantine and Russian works. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

 Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”

He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”

In 2014, the spiritual exercises for Pope Francis and members of the Curia marked the first time that they were held outside Vatican City, specifically in Ariccia, not far from Rome, in a religious house.

 

WHAT CAN GO WRONG ON NOVEMBER 13!?

Friday the 13th!  Who would ever have guessed!

It became apparent to me about a half hour into getting on my computer today. I happened to choose – as we all do with great frequency- to select, as per an arriving notice, to update some programs. I’ve done that a thousand times but today my screen went black, the computer did not totally reboot and I now have a message on my screen that tells me Access to Windows (and just about everything else) is Denied.

Nothing I have tried has worked. Any friends with expertise were not available. I chose, therefore, to use a Toshiba notebook I have not used in quite some time and am having a fair amount of problems with that as well, including the total inability to create a file and then attach it to email.

This meant, among other things, that I could not record “Vatican Insider” segments and get them to my radio colleagues at EWTN.  So this week will be a re-run, a “Best of” program.

As I write I am enlisting help from another colleague to access and then post on my blog. If I cannot post from here, I will ask her to post what I send via email and, if possible, to include the NEWS.VA story about the upcoming Catholic education congress.

UPDATE: You may view the news article here: http://www.news.va/en/news/educating-today-and-tomorrow-a-renewing-passion-fi

Thank for being understanding!  Have a great weekend!

PAPAL ADVICE ON PREPARING FOR HOLY WEEK – PROLIFE VIGIL MARKS 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF “EVANGELIUM VITAE” – PATRIARCH INVITES PRESIDENT ABBAS TO VATICAN FOR PALESTINIAN CANONIZATIONS

If you want to visit a fascinating website in English about the Holy Land, go to  http://en.abouna.org/en/

Stories about the finding of Jesus’ home in Nazareth, an address to Arab women in the media by Jordanian Princess Basma, and religious tourism in Jordan are just of the few that will hold your interest.  Here are a few of the photos that are on the website today:

Religious tourism is image of Jordanian hospitality – Pope Francis at baptism site in the Jordan, with King Abdullah of Jordan and his wife, Queen Rania:

POPE FRANCIS AT BAPTISMAL SITE

Jordanian women in the Media:

WOMEN IN MEDIA - ME

Jesus’ Home in Nazareth:

JESUS HOME IN NAZARETH

Our Lady of Peace Center, Caritas welcome displaced Christian Iraqis:

OUR LADY OF PEACE . JORDAN

I have a ton of photos from the Peace Center as this was the very first place that Pope Benedict visited on his weeklong trip to the Holy Land in 2009 – and the first place I visited as well!  It was on that trip that I met Fr. Rifat Bader, director in Amman, Jordan, of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media and responsible for the en.abouna.org website. You have seen his photo and heard his voice several times on “Vatican Insider” when our paths have crossed over the years during my trips to the Holy Land.  We also met up in 2010 in Cyprus when Pope Benedict went there on a pilgrimage.

Here is Fr. Bader (R) with Fr. Lombardi of the Holy See Press Office at a briefing for the media in Amman during the 2009 papal trip.

Jordan-Jerusalem May 2009 017

PAPAL ADVICE ON PREPARING FOR HOLY WEEK

(Vatican Radio) – In his homily Tuesday at Mass in the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis invited all Christians to accept God’s love without being critical and making objections.

Taking his cue from the Gospel reading of the day that speaks of how the children of Israel complained against God during their journey through the desert when they objected to the “wretched food” provided, the Pope pointed out that God offers us salvation in a thousand different ways but too often we are incapable of accepting his “divine ways.”

He said that in that Gospel passage the Lord sent in punishment saraph serpents which bit the people and many of them died. Thus, Moses prayed for the people and, obeying the Lord’s command, he mounted a bronze serpent on a pole giving salvation to anyone who looked at it after being bitten.

Only Moses’s intercession, and the symbol of the cross on which Christ will die, said the Pope, provides salvation from the poison of the snakes.

Describing the attitude of many Christians today as “spiritually whimsical,” Francis said that we often commit the same kind of error, “becoming sullen and grumbly.”

“How many of us Christians find ourselves ‘poisoned’ by the dissatisfactions of life. Yes: God is good but… We are Christians but… This kind of Christian ends up not opening his heart to God’s salvation, but always posing conditions. ‘Yes, I want to be saved but in this way…’ This attitude poisons the heart.”

Pope Francis said that to not accept God’s gift in the way it is offered is a sin. It poisons our soul, deprives it of joy. But Jesus, he said, solved this problem by climbing Mount Calvary.

“Jesus takes that poison upon himself. This ‘tepidness’ of ‘half-way’ Christians who show enthusiasm at the start of Jesus’ journey only to become dissatisfied on the way. The only way to heal is to look at the Cross, to look at God who takes upon himself our sins: my sin is there.”

How many Christians, concluded Pope Francis, today “die in the desert of their sorrow, grumbling and not accepting God’s way.”

“Let’s look at the serpent, at the poison, … the poison of all the sins in the world, and let us ask for the grace to accept difficult moments. To accept the divine way of salvation, to accept this ‘wretched food’ that the children of Israel lamented… Let’s accept the paths that the Lord leads us on. May this Holy Week that begins on Sunday help us to turn away from the temptation to become ‘Christians yes, but…’.”

PROLIFE VIGIL MARKS 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF “EVANGELIUM VITAE”

As I write, a great international celebration is underway in Saint Mary Major Basilica to mark the 20th anniversary of St. John Paul’s great Encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.

The Pontifical Council for the Family, organizer of this event, announced in a communique that Salus Populi Romani, the icon of Mary so dear to Pope Francis and one that he visits prior to and after his international pilgrimages, will be the centerpiece of tonight’s vigil dedicated to life.

This vigil is intended particularly to give thanks for the abundant fruit produced by St. John Paul II during his life, priestly ministry and almost 27-year papacy, in addition to raising awareness of the benefits of prayer for life.

The vigil will have three successive parts: It begins at 5:00 pm with greetings by the principal celebrant, followed by a moment of reflection on some artistic features of the basilica connected with life. At 6:00 pm, an original Rosary will be recited, with focus on the contemplation of Gospel passages related to the theme of life and interspersed with short testimonies and reflections from invited guests. At 7:00 pm, Mass will be presided by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Archbishop Paglia has said that, “the anniversary of the Encyclical and this vigil commemorating it on the eve of the Annunciation are particularly significant, because they highlight the intimate connection between the mystery of life and the experience of the family, composed of suffering and sociability. Defending life means, then, participating in the alliance between God, man and woman.”

The evening will be marked by an international character because this anniversary will also be celebrated in other parts of the world. The Rosary will be recited and dedicated to life in the shrines of Fatima (6:30 pm), Lourdes and Guadalupe. There will also be celebrations in Nazareth.

PATRIARCH INVITES PRESIDENT ABBAS TO VATICAN FOR PALESTINIAN CANONIZATIONS

Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, reports from Ramallah that the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, has invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to attend the May 17 Mass at the Vatican for the canonization of two Palestinians, Blessed Sister Marie Alphonsine Ghattas and Blessed Sister Mariam of Jesus Crucified Bawardi.

Jordanian Fr. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman and responsible for the abuna.org website, made the announcement on en.abouna.org. Patriarch Twal is Jordanian-born. “Abouna” means “father” in Arabic.

The invitation was addressed directly by the patriarch to President Abbas during the visit paid by a patriarchal delegation at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Sunday, March 22. During the talks, President Abbas thanked Patriarch Twal and praised the role carried out by the local Church at the service of society and the Palestinian people, especially in the field of education, welfare and health.

Blessed Mariam Bawardi was born in the village of Ibillin in Galilee, and founded the Carmel of Bethlehem. Blessed Marie Alphonsine Ghattas was born in Jerusalem and helped to start the Congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary. Patriarch Twal has just published a pastoral Letter dedicated to the two sisters who will soon be proclaimed saints by the Church.

 

“VATICAN INSIDER” GUESTS REPORT ON THE EBOLA VIRUS IN AFRICA – POPE FRANCIS’ MESSAGE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING TO SANTA MARTA GROUP – FR. LOMBARDI CLARIFIES STATEMENTS ON VATICAN FINANCE REFORM

Just for fun: Pope Francis’s twitter account in Latin has more than 300,000 followers, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said Thursday. In less than two years since the launch of the account @pontifex_ln “the figures have reached an important figure, overtaking the followers of the account in Arabic (165,000) and German (226,000),” said the newspaper.   http://popefrancisnewsapp.com/

The Pope this morning met with the International Theological Commission, several of whose new members are women, and he talked about the importance of women in theological research and development. A summary can be found on my Facebook page (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420)

I received an email this morning from a friend in Jerusalem that I absolutely must share with you. Sami El-Yousef is the regional director for Palestine and Israel of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine – you have heard my interviews with him on “Vatican Insider.” This is what Sami wrote to his friends:

“Greetings from the Pontifical Mission! During a recent trip to Gaza, we stopped by the Rosary Sisters School to inspect the works included in the grant we provided them to fix the war damages. As we were going through the school premises, we were invited by the 9th grade English teacher to stop by her class to see how good her students are in English. I dared ask the students to tell me in English about their war experience. What followed was a 30-minute exchange which my colleague captured on video. Our staff edited it to a mere 7 minutes.

“I am pleased to send you the link to the video so that you listen to these voices from Gaza. It is truly touching. Please watch it and circulate as widely as possible. These students deserve to be listened to.”

Click here to watch the video:

“VATICAN INSIDER” GUESTS REPORT ON THE EBOLA VIRUS IN AFRICA

My guests this weekend on “Vatican Insider” are Msgr. Robert Vitillo, health advisor for Caritas Internationalis, and Dr. Timothy Flanigan, MD, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Brown University Medical School, and a Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island. Both men had spent some time in Liberia and had come to Rome for a Caritas-sponsored conference on the Ebola crisis and that is when we spoke. Part I of two parts airs this weekend and our conversation is riveting – you will learn a lot about the Ebola virus and hear things you have not heard or read elsewhere about how Africans cope with this and what happens in some African towns to families when they have a member who becomes infected with this insidious virus.

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In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:

http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS’ MESSAGE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING TO SANTA MARTA GROUP

(VIS) – The Pope has sent a message to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster and president of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales on the occasion of the Second Conference of the Santa Marta Group, taking place in London, United Kingdom, on 5 and 6 December.

The Santa Marta Group – whose name derives from the Holy Father’s residence, where the members stayed during their first conference held in the Vatican last April – is composed of High Commissioners of international police forces and bishops from around the world who, along with members of civil society, are working together to prevent and eradicate human trafficking, and to help victims. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, London, and Cardinal Nichols are the co-presidents of the group.

Francis expressed his deep gratitude to all present for their resolve in combating this evil and for your commitment to carry on the work begun at the conference held in the Vatican in April of this year. “Your labours to promote ongoing dialogue on the legal remedies to human trafficking and on the essential care of those who suffer this enslavement are especially important because of the hidden nature of this crime. We must never forget, nor may we ignore, the suffering of so many men, women and children whose human dignity is violated through this exploitation”.

He went on to thank the Home Secretary of the British government, the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police, and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales for organising the event and the delegates “who demonstrate anew their commitment by their participation in this initiative. In assuring you that the Church remains steadfast in her pledge to combat human trafficking and to care for victims of this scourge, I offer the promise of my prayers that Almighty God may bless and guide your efforts”.

FR.LOMBARDI CLARIFIES STATEMENTS ON VATICAN FINANCE REFORM

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, on Friday offered a clarification in response to journalists’ questions regarding statements made by Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, in connection with the ongoing financial review and reform efforts in the Vatican. In an exclusive piece for the new Catholic Herald Magazine (a preview of which appeared on December 3 in the Herald’s online pages), Cardinal Pell wrote, “[S]ome hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet.”

Responding to journalists asking follow-up questions, Fr. Lombardi specified, “It should be noted that Cardinal Pell did not speak of illegal or mismanaged funds, but of funds that were not in the official accounts of the Holy See and Vatican City State, and of the existence of which the Secretariat for the Economy learned in the course of the ongoing process of study and review of the Vatican administrations, in order to achieve a more adequate [and] comprehensive understanding of [matters] with a view to the streamlining of operations.”

“This,” his statement continued, “is precisely the sign and fruit of constructive cooperation among the different institutions of the Vatican.”

Fr. Lombardi went on to stress that, as the Prefecture for Economic Affairs had already amply explained and made known to the public, the yearly consolidated financial statements of the Holy See and Vatican City State, which are presented to the Council of 15 Cardinals for review, have never been exhaustive, but have included only the principal institutions of the Curia and the Vatican City State.

Click here to read Catholic Herald article: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/12/03/weve-discovered-hundreds-of-millions-of-euros-off-the-vaticans-balance-sheet-says-cardinal/#.VIDaJrZwyqc.facebook

POPE FRANCIS: 70 YEARS AGO TODAY I RECEIVED MY FIRST COMMUNION – “MARRIAGE, A LIFE JOURNEY OF AUTHENTIC LOVE”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

 
As I write, the Sixth General Congregation of the synod, the Wednesday afternoon session, is underway and participants are treating the theme, “Difficult Pastoral Situations: Family Situations/unions between persons of the same sex.”

 
Below you will find a report on today’s weekly general audience as well as the wonderful speech given yesterday afternoon by an American couple present as auditors at the synod. I will be interviewing Jeff and Alice Heinzen tomorrow and we will talk about their synod presentation, among other things. They are from the diocese of La Crosse in Wisconsin. Alice is director of the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life, and Jeff is president of McDonell Catholic Schools in Chippewa Falls.

I would love to know how many of you see yourselves – either as parents now or in your growing up years – in the paragraph that starts, “In our reflection we realized that the witness of our parents, revealed in their daily actions God’s plan for marriage and family life…” I thought for a monent they were talking about my childhood!

I met Jeff and Alice this afternoon at the North American College, and will be returning to NAC very shortly for another event.

To help you follow, understand and enjoy the synod, remember that:
– Written texts – summaries as well as full texts – of speeches at the synod can be found here in different languages: http://www.news.va
– You can follow synod events, the Pope’s general audience and press conferences and briefings with video here: http://www.radiovaticana.va/player/index_fb.asp?language=en&visualizzazione=VaticanTic&Tic=VA_D15HC74C
– You can find some extras, including photos, on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/joansrome

 
POPE FRANCIS: 70 YEARS AGO TODAY I RECEIVED MY FIRST COMMUNION

 
Another sunny day in Rome and another large and very happy crowd in St. Peter’s Square to participate in Pope Francis’ general audience. The audience began with the Holy Father’s usual ride around the square in the open jeep and then his unexpected invitation to two young boys to join him in the ride!

 
The Pope told the faithful that his catechesis would be on the “many brothers and sisters who share with us our faith in Christ, but who belong to other confessions or to traditions different from ours.” Noting the lack of full unity among Christians, he asked: “What is our current attitude to this situation? Are we indifferent or do we firmly believe that we can and must walk towards reconciliation and full communion?”

 
He appealed for Christian unity and pointed out that divisions between Christians of different denominations are hurtful for the Church and for Christ. He was also quick to point out that “many of us, even within our Catholic Church, have resigned ourselves to this division that has often been cause of conflict, suffering and even wars – yes, wars! – throughout the course of history.”

 
“Now,” asked the Pope, “faced with this, is there anything that we as members of Holy Mother Church, can and should do? Without doubt there must be no lack of prayer, in continuity and in communion with Jesus. And together with prayer, the Lord asks of us a renewed openness: He asks us not to close ourselves against dialogue and encounter, but rather to accept all that is valid and positive that is offered to us even from those who think differently to us or who adopt different positions. Let us not focus on what divides us, but rather on that which unites us, seeking to know and love Christ better and to share the richness of His love. … We are divided against ourselves. However, we all have something in common: we believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord … in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We walk together, we are on the same path … let us help each other! Let us receive communion on the way. This is spiritual ecumenism: walking the path of life together in our faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.”

 
Above all, stressed Francis, “we know that it was Christ‘s deep desire that His disciples remain united in His love, that they be one.”

 
The Holy Father then said, “I cannot resist the temptation to share personal memories and sentiments. We have been talking about communion… communion among us. And today I am so grateful to the Lord because today it is 70 years since my own First Communion. And to take First Communion means to enter into communion with others,” with all those who belong to different communities but believe in Jesus Christ.

 
He concluded thanking the Lord for the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion and urged all Christians to go forward towards full Christian Unity. “And when our goal appears too distant and we are discouraged, we can find comfort in the fact that God will always listen to his Son’s prayer that all Christians be one.”

 
“MARRIAGE, A LIFE JOURNEY OF AUTHENTIC LOVE”

 
Synod President Delegate Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (of Manila) was on duty Tuesday, and, at the start of the afternoon session, noted that the focus would be on the Second Part of the Instrumentum laboris, namely, The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges. He explained that under this heading is Chapter One entitled, The Pastoral Program for the Family: Various Proposals Underway. “To refresh your mind,” the cardinal told participants, “this chapter treats the following topics: The Responsibility of Bishops and the Clergy and the Charismatic Gifts in the Pastoral Care of the Family (50); Marriage Preparation (51-56); Popular Piety and a Familial Spirituality (57); Support for a Familial Spirituality (58); and Testimony on Behalf of the Beauty of the Family (59-60).”

 
Cardinal Tagle then introduced the first speakers of the afternoon – Jeff and Alice Heinzen from the diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin U.S. They were asked to address the second part of the Synod’s working document, the Instrumentum laboris, namely, “The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges”. Here is their intervention (from Vatican Radio):

 
“My husband and I have asked ourselves this question: “How did our parents live their lives as a married couple that has led us to where we are today as faith-filled married Catholics?”

 
“In our reflection we realized that the witness of our parents, revealed in their daily actions God’s plan for marriage and family life. I have fond memories of participating in neighborhood Corpus Christi processions and my father leaving early for work to attend daily Mass. During the month of May, I remember our family praying the rosary. I remember the frequent tender kisses my parents readily gave each other. We knelt beside our beds each night in prayer to ask for protection and blessings on our family. Every Sunday, we attended Mass as a family, then went from Church to visit our relatives. To all this we can add our mothers who reminded us to always love our siblings, to use our best manners with others, and to save our pennies to help those less fortunate. Our homes were schools of love and virtue and our parents were the primary educators.

 
“Our parents bore faithful witness to the joy and beauty of God’s plan for love and life. Unfortunately, not only in our evaluation of current culture, but also due to our pastoral experience, we know that many young people do not see the witness of married love that we experienced. So many youth grow up in homes broken by divorce or with no experience of married parents due to out-of-wedlock pregnancies. We have entered, as some social scientists have described, the age of the diminished family structure. This is more than a crisis. To quote Saint John Paul II, “[T]he role of parents as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.” Sociological research testifies to this problem and information in the Instrumentum Laboris confirms it. Children raised without the blessing of married parents, who have created a home animated by love and faith, will likely struggle to trust in God and their neighbors. How can they create life-long marriages?

 
“Our diocese in the United States is not unlike those around the world. We have seen the number of marriages decline each year and the rate of cohabitation increase. We have seen a steady drop in the number of baptisms. We have watched our youth fall prey to the confusion of a hedonistic culture. We know countless divorced adults who have joined other faith communities because they do not feel welcomed in the Catholic Church. And, our hearts ache for single parents who struggle to care for their children. Like you, we strive to find simpler, more effective ways, to better share the blessings of God’s plan for marriage and family.

 
“The Instrumentum documents pastoral programs that attempt to address the negative issues impacting marriage and family life. Sadly, these efforts are not meeting the magnitude of the cultural challenges facing us today. We must develop more robust and creative methods to share the fundamental truth that marriage is a divine gift from God, rather than merely a man-made institution. This will require us to examine the methods by which we teach our children about the nature of human sexuality and the vocation of marriage. When speaking of the call by God to serve, marriage should be included in all programs designed to explore vocations. And, it should compel us to ask how we provide for the aftercare of marriage that can help couples deepen their relationship. We therefore see the issue before us not as a crisis of truth, but rather as a crisis of methodology. How do we as a Church, effectively share what we know to be true in practical, simple and convincing ways, so that all men and women are challenged and supported to live life-long marriages and build homes that reflect the domestic Church?

 
“In all of our pastoral planning, we must remember that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Solutions to the identified crisis can be found. This Synod has the ability to provide aid to husbands, wives and families. Let us open our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit so that God’s will may be accomplished.”