MUSEUMS AT WORK: WATCHING VATICAN ART RESTORERS – THE VIA LUCIS, STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION

After a wonderful 9 days in Washington and New York, I am safely back in Rome. Those were days spent with good friends and making new friends, celebrating Easter in the U.S. for the first time in years and dining out in favorite restaurants but also time dedicated to work, posting blogs and FB stories, doing an inteview for “Vatican Insider,” talking with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly slot on “Catholic Connection and preparing last weekend’s VI special on the Via Lucis.

You will find the print version that story – one I enjoyed researching and then recounting on VI – below. Enjoy again!

I went to Mass yesterday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Newt and Callista Gingrich. Cardinal Dolan presides at the 10:15 Sunday Mass, and he spotted us and asked us to come to his residence afterward where we had coffee and sweets and shared some time with a couple from Birmingham (!) and another from the island nation of Malta.

The cardinal’s secretary, Fr. James, took this photo with a cell phone and for the life of me I cannot seem to enlarge it. For the nth time I’ve searched online and on the WordPress site for how to resize photos once they are uploaded and I have not been succssful in resizing.

Today’s Vatican news: The nineteenth meeting of the Holy Father Francis with the Council of Cardinals began this morning. The work of the “Council 9” will continue until Wednesday, April 26.

MUSEUMS AT WORK: WATCHING VATICAN ART RESTORERS

(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican Museums have launched a new scientific-cultural initiative entitled “Museums at Work” to show visitors the process of restoring a work of art.

Taking place over the coming months in Room XVII of the Vatican Pinacoteca, the “Museums at Work” program seeks to show the public “the everyday activities of the Pope’s Museums”.

The initiative presents the restoration of the triptych of “The Virgin bestows her belt to Saint Thomas, The Mass of Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome Penitent” (1497) by Viterbo Antonio del Massaro. (photos news.va)

The Vatican Museums’ website says the triptych is “a painting possibly destined for an important Roman monastic community with strong doctrinal interests and particular devotion to the Virgin and to the Fathers of the Church.”

Restoration efforts for the triptych were financed by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts.

THE VIA LUCIS, STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION

Because we are still in the Easter season, I thought it would be timely, fun and informative to introduce you to something that relatively few people know about – the Via Lucis – the Way of Light – also known as the Stations of the Resurrection. (Sources: Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada; www.itmonline.com, CNA, Vatican)

First, let’s look at the 50 Days of Easter as explained on the website of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada: “We spend 40 days preparing for and counting down to the great celebration of Easter, the day that Christians around the world remember the resurrection of Christ. What many do not realize is that Easter is not a single day but rather it is a season made up of 50 days. We continue to live Easter for six consecutive Sundays before commemorating Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. The Easter season culminates the following week with the feast of Pentecost, the day the apostles were sent out, accompanied by the Holy Spirit, on their great mission.  ”At Masses during the Easter season, the usual Old Testament reading is replaced by readings from the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles recount the story of the Church’s earliest days, and the beginnings of our faith. These stories of heroism, controversies, persecutions and miracles all testify to the continued presence of the Risen Christ in the world, through the lives of his disciples, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.”

How is this related to the Via Lucis? This post-Easter period, as told by the Apostles, IS the Via Lucis!

Now, we all know that the Via Crucis – the Way of the Cross – follows the course of Jesus’ passion, death, and burial. This is observed by the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, a collection of 14 images that are found in virtually all Catholic churches. What fewer people know about is the Via Lucis – the Way of Light, also called the Stations of the Resurrection – which celebrates the most joyful time in the Christian liturgical year, the 50 days from Easter (the Resurrection) to Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit).

The idea for depicting the Way of Light was inspired by an ancient inscription found on a wall of the San Callisto Catacombs on the Appian Way in Rome. This cemetery is named for St. Callistus, a slave who eventually became the 16th pope, reigning from 217 to 222. The inscription found at St. Callistus comes from the first letter St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (around 56 A.D.), in response to the report that some members were denying the Resurrection.

Paul wrote: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles. Last of all, he appeared to me, too, as though I was born when no one expected it.”

In the traditional scheme of the Stations of the Cross, the final Station is the burial of Jesus. Though this constitutes a logical conclusion to the Via Crucis, it has been increasingly regarded as unsatisfactory as an end-point to meditation upon the Péaschal mystery which, according to Christian doctrine, culminates in, and is incomplete without, the Resurrection. For this reason a fifteenth Station, representing the Resurrection, is sometimes added to the Stations of the Cross. Even this practice has, however, been subject to criticism as insufficiently representing the two-fold dynamic of the Paschal mystery: the suffering and death of Jesus on the one hand, and on the other his Resurrection and glorification.

In the summer of 1988, Father Sabino Palumbieri, Professor of Anthropology at the Salesian University in Rome, proposed the creation of a new set of stations, centered upon the Resurrection and the events following from it, so as to emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story which, though not absent from the Stations of the Cross, is obscured by their emphasis upon suffering.

The first major public celebration of this devotion was in 1990, after which it gained greater currency. Fr. Palumbieri helped develop the idea to combine the events mentioned in the St. Callistus inscription with other post-Resurrection events to create a new set of stations, the Stations of the Resurrection. These new stations emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story that is not absent from the Way of the Cross, but is not as evident because of its tortuous side.

This Way of Light, as it was called, thus serves as an optimistic complement to the Way of the Cross, and was fashioned of fourteen stations paralleling the fourteen Stations of the Cross. Father Sabino wrote of this idea in the 1999 document, “Give Me a Firm Footing,” that described the realizations he had “after a profound crisis of existential meaning…because of the prospect of death.” This was followed by a study of the Gospels and recognizing that, “With the Risen One, I know why I live.”

“Personally – thanks to this turning point of faith – I was able to continually proclaim the Risen One and in this way propose, as Paul VI said, Christianity as joy, as continual striving to supersede the stalemate of suffering without an outlet. The Lord Jesus is for me He who has made me meet along my journey hundreds of brothers and sisters, youth and adults, so that together we might better remember this central portent which is the resurrection from the dead in a community in journey. In this community a new form of popular piety, by his grace, was sketched out. It is the Via Lucis, which is the physiological second moment of the Via Crucis, that by now has spread itself throughout the five continents. Its celebration has been accompanied by moments of special grace at Jerusalem, at Moscow, on the soil of the martyrs in the catacombs of Saint Callistus. So many suffering people write to me saying that every day they do a station of the Via Lucis, drawing from it strength, joy and peace. Also the very poor communities of Madagascar, of Brazil, Peru. It does not mean abolishing the Via Crucis, which is the mirror of the suffering of Calvary without end in the world. It means only completing it with the Via Lucis, which is the mirror of the hopes of the world, especially of those to whom it most rightly belongs, the poor.”

All the Stations of the Resurrection are based on scripturally-recorded incidents contained in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

As with the Stations of the Cross, the devotion takes no fixed form, but typically includes for each Station a reading from Scripture, a short meditation and a prayer. Where a series of pictures is used to aid the devotion, it takes the form of a procession with movement from one Station to the next sometimes being accompanied by the singing of one or more verses of a hymn.

This devotion has received formal recognition by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.   In December 2001, it promulgated a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, which commended the Via Lucis as follows:

“A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus – from his Resurrection to his Ascension – in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Lk 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church. Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith – the resurrection of Christ – and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Col 1, 13; Eph 5, 8). For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fix its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Paschal event, namely the Lord’s Resurrection. The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since “per crucem ad lucem” [through the Cross (one comes) to the light]. Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God’s plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man’s true end: liberation, joy and peace which are essentially paschal values. The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a “culture of life” which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a “culture of death”, despair and nihilism.”

As of 2007 there is no universally-agreed list of Stations of the Resurrection, nor have any Church authorities sought to impose a definitive list, and as a result some churches have commissioned sets of sculptures for the Stations according to their own distinctive scheme which may not be followed elsewhere.

This is, in fact, similar to the history of the Stations of the Cross, which attained their normative form only after many centuries of widely varying local practice. There is agreeement on the number of stations – 14 – to emphasize the complementarity between the Stations of the Cross – Via Crucis – and the Stations of the Resurrection – Via Lucis.

In spite of continuing local variability, there appears to be an increasing convergence upon the following 14 as an accepted list of Stations of the Resurrection: These 14 stations, in fact, appeared in the April 2015 edition of MAGNIFICAT with Meditations and Prayers and an introduction by MAGNIFICAT Editor-in Chief, Dominican Father Peter Cameron.

  1. Jesus is raised from the dead
  2. The finding of the empty tomb
  3. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus
  4. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
  5. Jesus reveals Himself in the breaking of bread
  6. Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
  7. Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
  8. Jesus confirms the faith of Thomas
  9. Jesus appears to disciples on shore of Lake Galilee
  10. Jesus confers primacy on Peter
  11. Jesus entrusts the disciples with Universal Mission
  12. The Ascension of Jesus
  13. Mary and the disciples wait the coming of the Holy Spirit
  14. The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost

Other sources, however, including some recent ones, replace some of these Stations with others, such as: The earthquake – The Angel appears to the women – Jesus meets the women –  Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the disciples Jesus and the beloved disciple – Jesus appears to over five hundred at once – Jesus appears to Saul.

I hope you enjoyed this report that I aired as a special on “Vatican Insider.” I loved learning about the Via Lucis, the Stations of the Resurrection and think it would be wonderful to organize a pilgrimsage to the Holy Land based on these Stations!

 

VATICAN INSIDER PRESENTS JULIANA BIONDO AND “PATRUM” – POPE FRANCIS ATTENDS FIRST LENTEN SERMON – CATHOLICS AND ORTHODOX, YESTERDAY AND TODAY: PART TWO

I was just about to post this column when I got a news alert that Harper Lee, the author of the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has died at age 89, according to officials in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. I got the chills because a few years ago, through a mutual priest friend, I met a family from Alabama as they visited Rome, and invited them to my home. Their gift to me: an autographed copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Spread the word: Here again is the link to the entire press conference that Pope Francis held aboard the papal flight en route back to Rome after his 6-day trip to Mexico: www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-interview-from-mexico-to-rome-85821/

VATICAN INSIDER PRESENTS JULIANA BIONDO AND “PATRUM”

A technical problem in both my computer and my recorder caused the deletion of a number of programs (including backup), including the interview I had scheduled for this weekend with Cris Gangemi and her work with the Kairos Foundation and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

As a result, I am going to re-air an earlier conversation I had with Juliana Biondo, creator of the app “PATRUM” for the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican. A native of Baltimore, Juliana is a young, enthusiastic, dedicated member of the Patrons team with a great love for art and also for modern technology. A great conversation you don’t want to miss!

It is such fun to be around young people today! The ones I know – and now I add Juliana to that list! – are ultra-talented, intelligent, exuberant youths, far-sighted young people with a passion for life and all the newness it brings every day – and technology is certainly a part of that!  And you will see this when Juliana explains PATRUM and how the idea for this app came about and what she anticipates bringing to it on a daily basis.

As you know, 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 ATTENDS FIRST LENTEN SERMON

This morning in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, in the rpesence of Pope Francis, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, offered the first Sermon for Lent 2016. (photo news.va)

FR CANTALAMESSA

Father Cantalamessa’s sermon continued his reflections on the Second Vatican Council, speaking on the theme, “The Second Vatican Council, 50 years later: A revisitation from a spiritual point of view.” After focusing during Advent on the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium (on the Church), Fr Cantalamessa turned his thoughts to the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The next Lenten sermons will take place on Friday, February 26 and on these Fridays in March 4, 11 and 18.

CATHOLICS AND ORTHODOX, YESTERDAY AND TODAY: PART TWO

Last Friday, in this column, in anticipation of Pope Francis’ historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill that afternoon in Cuba, I posted Part One of what I called a two-part look at Catholic-Orthodox relations as both sides struggle for full Christian unity. I hoped to answer some questions: How did that disunity come about?  On what points is there agreement? Disagreement?

I noted that oceans of ink have been used over the centuries to write about Catholic-Orthodox relations since the East-West (Constantinople-Rome) schism of 1054, and explained that, while it was not my intention to give a full, historical review, it was my hope to help you understand some of the issues involved in this split.

In Part One, I offered Pope Francis’ words during his trip to Istanbul in late November 2014, Pope Benedict’s words during his 2006 visit to Istanbul, and some background research I did for Benedict’s visit.

I said that Part Two would be dedicated to excerpts from a lengthy interview I had in 2006 in Istanbul (Phanar) with Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, stating that that interview would be posted Saturday, February 13.

Turkey - Pope Benedict - Nov 2006 123

In the midst of some unexpected events in my life last Saturday, I forgot to post that and do so today, hoping to further your understanding of the historic East-West split and the differences that today separate Orthodox and Catholics.

To briefly recap some history: What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church excommunicated each other in that year. The excommunications were only lifted in 1965 when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following an historic encounter in Jerusalem a year earlier, presided over simultaneous ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees. Differences between the two Churches had been growing for years on issues such as papal primacy, liturgical matters and conflicting claims of jurisdiction. The split occurred along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political and geographic lines and the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.

Here is the interview:

EWTN: Let’s talk about relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Patriarchate: For you, the Orthodox, what is the bottom line to effect unity?

DEMETRIOS: The main thing is a very important, indelible one thousand years of history. That’s there. You can’t eradicate history, you can’t change history. It is the memory that is very strong – 1,000 years. The early church, the synods, the ecumenical synods accepted by both churches, a beautiful kind of common tradition developing parallel between East and West. So this is the basic thing that is there. Then you have 1,000 years of separation. Separation itself is something very traumatic, very dramatic and it causes results that might last. And during the centuries, changes happen, changes in dogmatic issues, items of faith, some more important, some less, and the question of primacy of the pope. And there are sometimes practical issues, for example, the existence of the Uniate Churches, something that stopped dialogue for several years. Dialogue resumed in September in Belgrade, though I must say we never stopped talking in America. But dialogue did stop in Europe. Basically there is this Uniate issue. Remember, you cannot talk just theological generalities when there is an historical matter that is a thorn in the flesh of the Church So we have the common experience (of 1,000 years) on the one hand, the very clear good will, the quality of the leaders of the Church, especially in the persons of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI, as his predecessor, John Paul II. You have people who are sensitive to human needs, they know how to handle different situations and they are well committed to advancing the cause of unity, in non-stop, constant reminders. So there is something there that we must do – and this is the strongest element helping us.

EWTN: What do the Orthodox perceive as the bottom line for Catholics to effect unity?

DEMETRIOS. If I have to be direct, there is an expectation of some steps that will show in practice, in action, the willingness. Let me give you an example. I was at a meeting in Rome in the Vatican, in 1982, I think, organized by the seven universities of Rome on the occasion of the 1,600 years, I think it was, of the second ecumenical council that established the dogma and articles on the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Ratzinger was there and Pope John Paul gave a lecture there. There were a number of prominent theologians and one of them, Father Yves Congar, said let’s be specific and really show how willing we are. In the liturgical books that will be printed from now on, next to the page that has the creed with the filioque, let’s have a page with the creed without the filioque and allow the priest to chose what he wants. Now that’s a step. There are other things but that is one specific thing

EWTN. Yesterday in his speech, Pope Benedict spoke of the petrine ministry. He noted that Our Lord chose Peter and Andrew as fishers of men and yet he gave each a specifically different task (See ADDENDUM below). Do you see a complementarity of ministries in those remarks?

DEMETRIOS: Absolutely. And if I may expand your phrase of complementarity and differentiation – which is an enriching, not a diminishing or dividing, factor. St. Paul was clear – we have a variety of charisms, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in order to have the full program of the church in helping the edification of the church as a whole body. It would be boring, allow me to say, if all was the same. With differentiation you have this beauty of variety – imagine a world where everything was white or black – we need shades. So the distinction between the petrine (Peter) and the Andrean (Andrew) kind of ministry is a very nice sign of the variety and richness of the gifts of God.

EWTN: In Istanbul, the Pope said precisely that, “The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.” He quoted Pope John Paul’s “invitation to enter into a fraternal dialogue aimed at identifying ways in which the petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence,” and said, “It is my desire today to recall and renew this invitation.” If the Pope today were to exercise the petrine ministry as he did during the first millennium, could this bring the Church closer to unity?

DEMETRIOS: That’s a very good way you put it. In essence, when we deal with the petrine ministry we are dealing with primacy, with a universal kind of authority. If we go backwards we can see this kind of thing developing to what it is today. That was not the case in the first centuries. Nor was it when Constantine transferred the capital from Rome to the new Rome, Constantinople. At that time you had the five patriarchates – Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome – and Rome was clearly recognized as “presiding in love.” It was the Pope of Rome, the bishop of Rome who was primus inter pares, first among equals.

The more you go back, the more you find a level of common acceptance. There was no problem. The problems developed in the way there was an increase in the authority – or, to use a contemporary expression – at the expense of the others. Therefore, a study to have a proper understanding should go as far back as possible. The suggestion you mention will be very fruitful. I dare not interpret Pope Benedict XVI but knowing him as a scholar, because I am an academic person myself, I can see him as an academic saying, “let’s go back and check.” It is he who insists there is no real dialogue without real data. And the data regards not only this moment but going back in history.

EWTN: Having studied the history and relations between Orthodox and Catholics, it is my impression that the Orthodox want more collegiality.

DEMETRIOS: Absolutely. I don’t like simplified statements because they can often do injustice, but if we had to make a simplified statement you might say the central issue is collegiality versus the absolute authority of one person. This is reducing the whole thing in a very simple way.

EWTN: Before closing, may I ask your impression of the Muslim reaction to Pope Benedict, given the anger on their part and the fears for the Pope’s safety before he undertook this trip (because of his speech last September in Regensburg, Germany)?

DEMETRIOS: It is a complex issue here but the first impression is that the spiritual condition of the people vis-a-vis the Pope is not the same today as it was five days ago. The visit gave a different picture of someone who was not what the media projected. He is a gentle man who spoke clearly and with respect for Islam and Muslims. My first estimate: it was very positive in terms of changing things.

 

POPE ASKS PRAYERS FOR LIFE, FOR FAMILY, FOR SYNOD ON THE FAMILY – BROTHER OF MAN EXECUTED BY IS MEETS POPE FRANCIS – PAPAL CONDOLENCES, PRAYERS FOR FAMILIES OF PLANE CRASH VICTIMS – 150 HOMELESS TO VISIT VATICAN GARDENS AND MUSEUMS, DINE IN MUSEUMS – SECOND LOTTERY FOR PAPAL CHARITY

POPE ASKS PRAYERS FOR LIFE, FOR FAMILY, FOR SYNOD ON THE FAMILY

At a rain-soaked general audience on Wednesday, feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis explained to the faithful that, “in our journey of catechesis on the family, today is a somewhat special stage: It will be a break for prayer.”  Having spoken of mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters in previous weekly audiences, the Pope last week spoke of children, saying he would return to this topic this week, yet noting today he is “taking a break for prayer” for a special purpose.

ANNUNCIATIO AUDIENCE

Francis began his remarks with his customary, “Dear brothers and sisters, good day!” and then added, laughingly, “good day, yes, but not a beautiful day, eh?”

He also noted that, “today the audience takes place in two different places, as we do when it rains: you here in the square, and many sick people in the Paul VI Hall, who are following the audience on the big screens. Now, as a gesture of brotherly courtesy, let us greet them with a round of applause.” The faithful applauded and Francis, with his typical humor, remarked, “It’s not easy to applaud with an umbrella in hand, eh?”

“In the Church on March 25, “ stated the Holy Father, “we solemnly celebrate the Annunciation, the beginning of the mystery of the Incarnation. The Archangel Gabriel visits the humble girl of Nazareth, and announces that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. With this announcement, the Lord illumines and strengthens the faith of Mary, as He will later do for her husband, Joseph, so that Jesus could be born in a human family. This is very beautiful: it shows us how profoundly the mystery of the Incarnation, just as God wanted, comprises not only the conception in the womb of the mother, but also being welcomed into a true family.”

He went on to say, “Today I want to contemplate with you the beauty of this bond, the beauty of this condescension of God; and we can do so by reciting together the Hail Mary, which in the first part resumes the very words that the Angel addressed to the Virgin. I invite you to pray together. (And the faithful prayed the Hail Mary in Italian with the Pope).

The Pope then pointed to a second aspect of today’s solemnity: “On March 25, the solemnity of the Annunciation, the Day of Life is celebrated in many countries. For this reason, twenty years ago, Saint John Paul II on this date signed the Encyclical ‘Evangelium vitae’. To celebrate this anniversary, many members of the Movement for Life are in the Square today. In ‘Evangelium vitae’ the family occupies a central place, insofar as it is the womb of human life. The words of my venerable Predecessor remind us that the human couple was blessed by God from the beginning to form a community of love and life, to which He entrusted the mission of procreation. Christian spouses, celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony, open themselves to honor this blessing, with the grace of God, for all of life.

“The Church, for her part, is solemnly committed to the care of the family that results from it, as a gift of God for her own life, in good fortune and in bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable. The Church, as a mother, never abandons the family, even when it is disheartened, wounded, and mortified in so many ways; it will always do everything to seek to cure and heal it, to invite it to conversion and to reconcile it with the Lord.

So then,” said Francis, “if this is the task, it appears clear how much prayer the Church needs in order to be up to fulfilling this mission at all times! A prayer full of love for the family and for life. A prayer that knows how to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to suffer with those who suffer.

Pope Francis than proposed “renewing the prayer for the Synod of the Bishops on the family. We are taking up this commitment again next October, when the ordinary Assembly of the Synod, dedicated to the family, will take place. I would like for this prayer, and the whole Synod journey, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for His flock, especially for persons and families that, for different reasons, are “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”

“All of us – the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious, lay faithful – we are all called to pray for the Synod. We need prayer, not gossip! I also invite those who feel far away, or who are not accustomed to do so, to pray. This prayer for the Synod on the Family is for the good of everyone. I know that this morning you were given a little prayer card, which you have in your hands. It might be a little wet. I invite you to hold on to it and keep it with you, so that in the coming months you can recite it often, with holy insistence, as Jesus has asked us.

Now, let us say it together:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, In you we contemplate the splendor of true love, We turn to you with confidence.

Holy Family of Nazareth,

Make our families, also, places of communion and cenacles of prayer, Authentic schools of the Gospel, and little domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth, May our families never more experience violence, isolation and division:

May anyone who was wounded or scandalized rapidly experience consolation and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth, May the upcoming Synod of Bishops re-awaken in all an awareness Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family, its beauty in the project of God.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.

BROTHER OF MAN EXECUTED BY IS MEETS POPE FRANCIS

Mike Haines, the brother of David Haines, who was murdered by ISIL in September 2014, spoke briefly with Pope Francis at the end of today’s general audience. Imam Shahnawaz Haque from East London accompanied Haines to the audience.

Speaking ahead of the weekly general audience, British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker said: “Mike Haines will be bringing to the Vatican his message of inter-religious understanding. Pope Francis has called for a common commitment to end fighting, hatred and violence. Mike Haines is living that commitment in an extraordinary way.”

Since his brother’s execution last September, Mike Haines has dedicated his time and effort to spreading a message of tolerance among all faiths, coming together to unite against extremism.  He shared that message with Pope Francis. In October 2014, Mike Haines signed a joint letter with Barbara Henning – the widow of Alan Henning who was also murdered by ISIL in 2014 – calling for “unity of people of all faiths in our society” and urging “churches, mosques, synagogues to open their doors and welcome people of all faiths.”  Barbara Henning also met the Pope this morning after the general audience.

Joining Haines, Henning and Ambassador Baker at the papal audience were the Muslim leaders who, since Tuesday, have been participating in an encounter organized by the Rome-based Sant Egidio Community and the Imam al-Khoei Foundation entitled, “Catholics and Shiites. The Responsibility of Believers in a Global and Plural World.” The Imam al-Khoei Foundation is an international foundation linked to the top Iraqi Shiite Islam authority, Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The contents of the Egidio meeting were presented to the Pope this morning by ten Shiite leaders from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia Saudita, Bahrain and Kuwait.

PAPAL CONDOLENCES, PRAYERS FOR FAMILIES OF PLANE CRASH VICTIMS

Pope Francis Tuesday expressed his closeness to the families of the victims of a plane crash in the French Alps in a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro. Parolin wrotes that the Holy Father “joins in the grief of the families” of the victims, including many children, and is also praying for those who died, “entrusting them to the mercy of God.”

“Having learned of the tragic plane crash in the region of Digne, which caused many casualties, including many children, His Holiness Pope Francis joins in the grief of the families, expressing his closeness to them in sorrow. He prays for peace for the deceased, entrusting them to the mercy of God that He might welcome them into His dwelling place of peace and light. He expresses his deep sympathy for all those touched by this tragedy, as well as for the rescue workers working in difficult conditions. The Holy Father asks the Lord to give strength and consolation to all, and, as a comfort, he invokes upon them the abundance of divine Blessings.”

The German A320 Airbus carrying 150 people came down in a remote, snow-covered mountainous region in the French Alps. There were no survivors. The cause of the crash is not yet known, however, the first black box flight recorder has been located. Weather at the time of the crash was calm, but it later deteriorated and there are forecasts of snow Wednesday further hampering search efforts.

The Germanwings flight was travelling non-stop from Barcelona in Spain to Duesseldorf in Germany. Germanwings spokesman Thomas Winklemann said the descent lasted for eight minutes.

Sixteen of those aboard the plane were pupils from Joseph-Koenig school in the German town of Haltern, returning from an exchange trip. A memorial Mass was held Tuesday for the victims and the local church remained opened all night for those wishing to mourn.

Wednesday, the leaders of Germany, France and Spain visited the crash site. (source: Vatican radio)

150 HOMELESS TO VISIT VATICAN GARDENS AND MUSEUMS, DINE IN MUSEUMS

The Elemosineria Apostolica, the office of papal charities where people procure papal blessings, has organized a special visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel for a group of 150 homeless people. Thursday, March 26, thanks to an initiative of the papal almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the artistic treasures of the Vatican Museums will be opened up to poor, who usually only see the steps of the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

The visit is set for the early afternoon and the Museums will be closed earlier than usual to allow for the special guests. After arriving at the Petrine entrance to Vatican City (the entrance traditionally used by faithful to enter the Paul VI Hall, the guests will be divided into three groups for guided tours. Before arriving at the Museums, the groups will enjoy a privileged visit to grounds of Vatican City, passing by the Casa Santa Marta and behind the apse of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Their first stop in the Museums will be at the newly re-arranged Pavilion of the Carriages, where historical papal carriages and automobiles are on display. Afterwards, the groups will visit the Gallery of the Candelabra and the Gallery of the Maps on their way to the Sistine Chapel. The viewing of Michelangelo’s masterpiece will be a private showing, reserved solely for the guests of the papal almoner; the Chapel will be closed to the public during the visit.

In conclusion, after the guided visit and a common prayer, the group will be treated to a dinner hosted by the Office of Papal Charities.

SECOND LOTTERY FOR PAPAL CHARITY 

(VIS) – The Holy Father has expressed his gratitude for the proceeds raised by the lottery that took place in January.in support of his works of charity. The entire sum has been consigned to Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, almoner of His Holiness. In view of the widespread participation and generosity of many people, Pope Francis has made more prizes available to enable the initiative to be repeated.

The second lottery draw will take place on the June 29th solemnity of the Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of Rome, and the lucky numbers draw (each ticket costs 10 euros) is scheduled for 30 July, in the presence of a commission to guarantee correct procedures. Prizes can be claimed during the following 30 days in the Department of Events Coordination of the Governorate of Vatican City State. Also on this occasion, like the first lottery, the proceeds will go directly to the Pope.

Tickets will be available from the Vatican Pharmacy, Post Office, the Vatican supermarket, the sales outlets of the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, and the Vatican Museums bookshop.