Wed, 16 Jan 2019 08:08:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of three women and recognized the martyrdom of 14 religious sisters who were killed during the Spanish Civil War. The pope formally recognized a miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Marguerite Bays, a laywoman from Switzerland known for her spirituality in the face of great physical suffering and for bearing the stigmata of Christ. Born in 1815, she grew up helping the peasant farmers in her small village and became a professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order. She was particularly devoted to Our Lady and discovered she was cured of colon cancer on Dec. 8, 1854, when Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The same year, she started to show signs of the stigmata on her hands, feet and chest. She died in 1879 and St. John Paul II beatified her in 1995. In other decrees signed at the Vatican Jan. 15, the pope: -- Recognized the martyrdom of Sister Isabella Lacaba Andia, who was known as Mother Mary del Carmen -- the mother superior of a community of Franciscan Conceptionist nuns -- and 13 of her companions. They were murdered "in hatred of the faith" in Spain in 1936. The move clears the way for their beatification. -- Recognized the heroic virtues of Mother Soledad Sanjurjo Santos of the Servants of Mary. Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, in 1892, she was known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" as she served as provincial superior of the Antilles and extended the congregation's work in caring for the sick throughout Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. She died in 1973. -- Recognized the heroic virtues of Polish Sister Anna Kaworek, who lived 1872-1936, and co-founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Michael the Archangel.
Wed, 16 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0500
A high-level international meeting on clerical sexual abuse, summoned by Pope Francis to take place at the Vatican in February, is simultaneously generating high hopes and notably modest expectations concerning what it will — or won’t — accomplish. On the one hand, boosters hope the meeting will forge a global consensus on an action plan for local churches. The Feb. 21-24 sessions will involve some 100 presidents of national bishops’ conferences from around the world, along with other Church leaders. On the other hand, skeptics say the meeting’s brevity and the differences that exist from country to country in their legal situations and cultures make a one-size-fits-all formula for fighting abuse unrealistic or unneeded. No matter whether the skeptics or the boosters turn out to be right, pressure for meaningful results now is aimed squarely at the pope, whose critics accuse him of being slow to catch on to the problem or do much about it until recently. Meanwhile, during the last year alone, major abuse-related crises erupted in Chile, Honduras, Germany and the United States. Tense questions The furor in the U.S. was touched off last summer by the disclosure that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, had a long history of sexual misconduct that was apparently known to the Vatican for years. Archbishop McCarrick resigned as a cardinal and is now living in seclusion while a Church canonical process moves forward. The pressure on Pope Francis was further heightened in December by the reported conviction on abuse charges of Cardinal George Pell of Australia, previously the Vatican’s economic czar and a top papal adviser. Cardinal Pell has denied the charges. Among the many questions facing the February meeting, possibly the most sensitive is whether and how it will face the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood. Those who consider it to be of fundamental relevance in this context point to findings by researchers studying clerical sex abuse in the U.S. that boys and young men were the victims in eight out of 10 cases between 1950 and 2010. Pope Francis has repeatedly sounded the alarm about active homosexuals in clerical ranks. “It would be better if they left the ministry or consecrated life rather than live a double life,” he said in a book-length interview published last month. Those in attendance Besides presidents of bishops’ conferences — in the U.S., Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas — those attending the February meeting will include the heads of Eastern Catholic churches, representatives of superior generals of religious communities, officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and heads of several Vatican offices. Last November the pope named a planning committee that includes Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, along with Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s point man on abuse; and Father Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Center for the Protection of Minors at Rome’s Gregorian University. Also involved in preparations is the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors headed by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston. Cardinal O’Malley said the idea for the February meeting originated with his group, and in a written statement he provided a kind of outline of policies he hoped it would endorse. “We must continue to embrace and practice a commitment to zero tolerance [of abuse by clerics], work for greater transparency, including the release of names of clergy accused of abuse, encourage religious orders to adopt a similar policy, and cooperate with civil and legal authorities,” he said. “Above all else, we must place the support and pastoral care of survivors first.” In essence, that is the policy adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002. Since then, the number of reported new cases of clerical abuse of minors has continued to fall, with only 24 new allegations reported in the 12 months that ended June 30, ...
Tue, 15 Jan 2019 07:58:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis spent nearly three hours with bishops from Chile discussing the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the church in the country, a Chilean bishop said. Briefing journalists on the bishops' meeting with the pope Jan. 13, Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, apostolic administrator of Rancagua and secretary-general of the bishops' conference, said they met for one hour with the pope at Vatican's Apostolic Palace and were invited to have lunch for nearly two hours with him to discuss "the situation of the church in Chile." "It was, I would say, an interesting meeting, a great collaboration with the Holy Father. He made a series of suggestions and comments. We also reaffirmed our commitment of communion, participation and collaboration with the Holy Father's mission," Bishop Ramos said. Also present at the meeting were Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago; Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, president of the Chilean bishops' conference and head of the military ordinariate; Archbishop Rene Osvaldo Rebolledo Salinas of La Serena, vice president of the bishops' conference; and Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo. According to a statement released by the Chilean bishops' conference, the purpose of the meeting was to share with the pope "the evolution of the situation of the church in Chile from his visit to the present day, as well as the perspectives for the future." Although the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable people by members of the clergy has been a crisis that has engulfed the entire church, bishops in Chile continue to face an uphill battle back at home to regain the trust they have lost. The crisis made headlines during the pope's visit to Chile in 2018 after he pledged his support to retired Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was accused by survivors of witnessing their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. Pope Francis later apologized to the victims and admitted that his choice of words wounded many. In May, almost every bishop in Chile offered his resignation to Pope Francis after a three-day meeting at the Vatican to discuss the clerical sexual abuse scandal, detailed in a 2,300-page report compiled by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and his aide, Father Jordi Bertomeu. By late June, the pope had accepted five of the resignations. He also expelled from the priesthood Karadima, who was known for his influence in Santiago and who gained notoriety for sexually abusing young men in his parish, as well as two Chilean bishops. However, Bishop Ramos told journalists that the subject of the resignations of the country's bishops was not discussed during the meeting. "For the pope, all the bishops are active," Bishop Ramos said. "As you are well aware, resignations given to the church are in effect for three months. He considers us all active and fulfilling our tasks. And if there was any case that needed to be addressed, it would be addressed directly to the (bishop) involved." According to the canon 189 of the Code of Canon Law, "a resignation which requires acceptance lacks all force if it is not accepted within three months." Bishop Ramos also told journalists that the pope did not announce a successor to Cardinal Ezzati, who has been heavily criticized for his handling of sexual abuse cases in his diocese. "As you know, (Cardinal Ezzati) is 77 years old and, at 75 years of age, all bishops must hand in their resignation," Bishop Ramos said. "The pope will decide when he will name a successor." Cardinal Ezzati, who was subpoenaed Oct. 3 by Chilean prosecutors investigating possible cover-ups of abuse cases by senior members of the clergy, said he would cooperate with authorities in their investigation. The subpoena is believed to be related to the case of Father Oscar Munoz Toledo, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santiago, who was arrested July 12 following allegations that he abused seven minors in Santiago and Rancagua since 2002. However, ...
Mon, 14 Jan 2019 10:35:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faith isn't something learned just by studying the catechism but rather is a gift passed on to children by the example of their parents, Pope Francis said. Although children learn the tenets of the Catholic faith in catechism class, it is first transmitted in the home "because faith always must be transmitted in dialect: the dialect of the family, the dialect of the home, in the atmosphere of the home," he said before baptizing 27 babies. The pope celebrated the Mass and baptisms Jan. 13, the feast of the baptism of the Lord, in the Sistine Chapel. "The important thing is to transmit the faith with your life of faith: that they see the love between spouses, that they see peace at home, that they see that Jesus is there," Pope Francis said during his brief and unscripted homily. As the lively sounds of babies' squeals and cries filled the frescoed Sistine Chapel, the pope said babies often cry when they are "in an environment that is strange" or because they are hungry. Repeating his usual advice to mothers of infants, the pope urged them to make their children comfortable, and "if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them." Children "also have a polyphonic vocation: One begins to cry, then another makes a counterpoint, then another and in the end, it is a chorus of cries," he said. Offering a piece of advice to parents, the pope called on them to pass on the faith by letting their children see their love and refrain from arguing in front of them. "It is normal for couples to argue, it's normal," he said. "Do it, but don't let them hear, don't let them see. You don't know the anguish a child has when he or she sees parents fighting. This, I may add, is advice that will help you transmit the faith." Later, after praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis asked those gathered to pray for the newly baptized babies and their families. He also asked them to "keep the memory of your own baptism alive." "There you will find the roots of our life in God; the roots of our eternal life that Jesus has given us through his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection," he said. "Our roots are in baptism."
Fri, 11 Jan 2019 10:42:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will make a three-day apostolic visit to Romania in late May, the Vatican announced. Accepting invitations from President Klaus Iohannis and from Catholic leaders, the pope will visit the capital of Bucharest, the cities of Iasi and Blaj, and the Marian sanctuary in Sumuleu Ciuc in the Transylvanian region. A detailed schedule for the trip May 31-June 2 will be released later, the Vatican said in a statement Jan. 11. The theme of the visit is "Let's walk together," and the trip logo shows a group of faithful gathered together with an image of Mary behind them, representing her protection over "the people of God in Romania," the Vatican said. "Romania is often called the 'garden of the Mother of God,'" a term also used by St. John Paul II during his visit there in 1999, it said. It said Pope Francis' visit also will have this Marian aspect as an invitation to Christians to unite their efforts "under Our Lady's mantle of protection." "The Holy Father has always called for the uniting of various forces, refusing selfishness and giving central importance to the common good. The Successor of Peter is going to Romania to invite everyone to unity and to confirm them in the faith." The overwhelming majority -- almost 82 percent -- of Romania's 20 million inhabitants say they belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church. About 6 percent of the population identifies itself as Protestant and over 4 percent identify as Catholic, belonging either to the Romanian Catholic Church -- an Eastern rite -- or the Latin rite. The trip will be Pope Francis' fifth in the first six months of 2019. He is scheduled to be in Panama Jan. 23-27 for World Youth Day; and he will go to Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5, to Morocco March 30-31 and to Bulgaria and Macedonia May 5-7.
Wed, 09 Jan 2019 09:37:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God is a father who never ignores his children when they call to him in times of suffering, loneliness and despair, Pope Francis said. Although at times it seems that "so many of our prayers seem to have no result," Christians are called by Christ to "insist and not give up," the pope said Jan. 9 during his weekly general audience. "Prayer, prayer always changes reality, let us not forget that: It either changes things or changes our hearts, but it always changes," he said. Arriving at the Paul VI audience hall, the pope greeted thousands of cheerful pilgrims, shaking hands, embracing children and even taking a sip of mate tea offered to him by a pilgrim. Continuing his series of talks on the Lord's Prayer, the pope reflected on the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. In teaching them to pray the "Our Father," he said, Jesus "explains to his followers in what words and with what feelings they must turn to God." "Father -- that is such a beautiful word to say," the pope said. "We can pray just with that word, 'father,' and feel that we have a father; not a master but a father." At important moments in his own life, Pope Francis explained, Jesus is "in an atmosphere of prayer" and guided by the Holy Spirit in his actions. He also prays for others, including "for Peter who will soon deny him." "This consoles us, knowing that Jesus prays for us, he prays for me, he prays for each one of us so that our faith does not fail." the pope said. "We can also say to Jesus: 'You are praying for me; continue to pray because I need it.' (Pray) like that, with courage." Even in his final moments, the pope added, Jesus is immersed in prayer, for example when consoling the women along the way of the cross, when promising the joys of paradise to the good thief and before taking his last breath. "Jesus' prayer seems to dampen the most violent emotions, the desires for revenge and retaliation, he reconciles man with his most bitter enemy: death," he said. When life seems incomprehensible, Pope Francis said, prayer "is ultimately the victory over loneliness and despair" because God is always present. "What is at the end of our path, at the end of prayer, at the end of a time of prayer, at the end of life. What is there?" the pope asked. "There is a father, waiting for everything and everyone with open arms. Let us look at that father."
Tue, 08 Jan 2019 08:58:00 -0500
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As U.S. bishops gathered in early January at a seminary in Illinois to pray and reflect about the American church's sex abuse crisis, reports trickled out about the possible fate of one their own being decided overseas. The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported Jan. 5 that a decision on whether to laicize former U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who's facing accusations that he sexually abused minors, could come as soon as mid-January because Vatican officials don't want the decision to overshadow a gathering the pope has called for, seeking to meet Feb. 21-24 with prelates from around the world about protecting minors. Pope Francis accepted the prelate's resignation from the College of Cardinals last July, and last September, the Archdiocese of Washington, to which he last belonged, announced that Archbishop McCarrick had been sent to live among a small community of Capuchin Franciscan friars in rural Kansas. The Vatican, meanwhile, has been investigating the accusations in order to make a decision about whether the 88-year-old archbishop will return to the lay state. On Jan. 5, the online Catholic news outlet Crux reported that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles clergy sex abuse claims among some of its responsibilities, is reviewing a third case involving Archbishop McCarrick and a minor, one more case than previously reported. After accusations came to light last summer that Archbishop McCarrick had abused a minor almost five decades ago, in his early years as a priest in New York, Pope Francis removed him from public ministry. Since then, other accusations involving abuse of adult seminarians have been reported, but now two subsequent ones involving minors have made news. Archbishop McCarrick has denied wrongdoing and while he cannot be criminally prosecuted because the cases are too old, the Vatican can take action regarding his ability to exercise the priesthood. But the case looms over the U.S. bishops because many are asking why he was allowed to ascend the hierarchical church ladder when some in church circles had reported questionable behavior to the Vatican. St. John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2001, while he was Archbishop of Washington, and he had previously served as auxiliary bishop in New York, bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, and archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.
Mon, 07 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People find Jesus only through humble love, and once they find him, they are called to offer him the gifts of their prayer, their adoration and their care of others, Pope Francis said. Celebrating the feast of Epiphany Jan. 6, the pope said Christians are called to imitate the Magi: "They do not debate; they set out. They do not stop to look, but enter the house of Jesus. They do not put themselves at the center, but bow down before the one who is the center. They do not remain glued to their plans, but are prepared to take other routes." And they each bring gifts, he said during his homily at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. "In this Christmas season now drawing to its close, let us not miss the opportunity to offer a precious gift to our king," especially by caring for those who cannot repay the gift. Reciting the Angelus after Mass, Pope Francis pleaded with European governments to demonstrate "concrete solidarity" with 32 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Dec. 22 and 17 others rescued Dec. 29. The 49 people, including several children, are still on the rescue boats of the Germany-based Sea-Watch humanitarian organization; no European government has given the boats permission to dock and bring the migrants ashore. In his Mass homily and in his main Angelus address, Pope Francis contrasted the attitude and actions of the Three Kings with the attitude of Herod, who was "greatly troubled" at news of the Messiah's birth. While the Wise Men set out to meet Jesus, Herod stayed in his palace, plotting ways to keep all his power. Herod and the scribes, he said at the Angelus, "had hard hearts, which stubbornly refused to visit that baby. That is a possibility: closing oneself to the light. They represent those who, even in our day, are afraid of the coming of Jesus and close their hearts to their brothers and sisters in need." The glory of God born in a stable is "is symbolized by the light, which penetrates and illumines all things," he said. But the surprising thing is that "God does not need the spotlights of the world to make himself known" or the assistance of the powerful, like Herod. "We might think that it would have been better had the star of Jesus appeared in Rome, on the Palatine Hill, where Augustus ruled over the world; then the whole empire would immediately have become Christian," he said. "But God's light does not shine on those who shine with their own light. God 'proposes' himself; he does not 'impose' himself," the pope said. "He illumines; he does not blind." Being flashy or powerful is always a temptation for people, he said. "How many times have we pursued the seductive lights of power and celebrity, convinced that we are rendering good service to the Gospel!" "How many times, too, have we as a church attempted to shine with our own light," he said. "Yet we are not the sun of humanity. We are the moon that, despite its shadows, reflects the true light, which is the Lord. He is the light of the world. Him, not us." Pope Francis also spoke about the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh offered by the Magi to the baby Jesus. "Gold, the most precious of metals, reminds us God has to be granted first place; he has to be worshiped," he said. Frankincense is a symbol of the prayer that each person is called to offer God. And myrrh, the same ointment that would later be used to anoint Jesus' dead body, is a sign of the gift of "care for bodies racked by suffering, the flesh of the vulnerable, of tho
Thu, 03 Jan 2019 09:57:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization is morally unacceptable, but a hysterectomy could be morally acceptable if the uterus could not sustain a pregnancy, said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Affirming past indications as to when a hysterectomy would be morally acceptable, the doctrinal congregation, in a note published Jan. 3, said that "when the uterus is found to be irreversibly in such a state that it is no longer suitable for procreation and medical experts have reached the certainty that an eventual pregnancy will bring about a spontaneous abortion before the fetus is able to arrive at a viable state," it would be licit to remove the uterus with a hysterectomy. "Removing a reproductive organ incapable of bringing a pregnancy to term should not therefore be qualified as direct sterilization, which is and remains intrinsically illicit as an end and as a means," it said. The response and accompanying note by the congregation was dated Dec. 10 and signed by its prefect, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, and secretary, Archbishop Giacomo Morandi. Pope Francis approved the congregation's response and ordered its publication. The congregation reaffirmed the three responses it gave in 1993 to questions concerning "uterine isolation" or tubal ligation and "related matters." That document, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, said that because sterilization was not the primary objective it was morally licit to remove a "seriously injured'' uterus when it posed an immediate serious threat to the life or health of the woman even though permanent sterility would result. However, it rejected the idea of performing a hysterectomy or tubal ligation ("uterine isolation") when uterine damage did not pose a present risk to the life or health of the woman but would pose a danger only in case of a future pregnancy. In those cases, it said, such medical procedures would amount to being direct sterilization, which remains illicit. In the latest response to "a question on the liceity of a hysterectomy in certain cases," the congregation said, "in recent years some very specific cases have been submitted to the Holy See" concerning "a different issue from that which was examined in 1993, because they regard situations in which procreation is no longer possible." What made the new question different was "the certainty reached by medical experts that in the case of a pregnancy, it would be spontaneously interrupted before the fetus arrives at a state of viability. Here it is not a question of difficulty or of risks of greater or lesser importance, but of a couple for which it is not possible to procreate," the congregation said. "The precise object of sterilization is to impede the functioning of the reproductive organs and the malice of sterilization consists in the refusal of children," it said. But, in the cases referred to in the new document, "it is known that the reproductive organs are not capable of protecting a conceived child up to viability, namely, they are not capable of fulfilling their natural procreative function." "The objective of the procreative process is to bring a baby into the world, but here the birth of a living fetus is not biologically possible," it said. "Therefore, we are not dealing with a defective or risky functioning of the reproductive organs, but we are faced here with a situation in which the natural end of bringing a living child into the world is not attainable." "The medical procedure should not be judged as being against procreation, because we find ourselves within an objective context in which neither procreation nor, as a consequence, an anti-procreative action, are possible," it explained. Evaluating whether a pregnancy could or could not be viable "is a medical question," the congregation said, and "one must ask if the highest degree of certainty that medicine can reach has been reached" so as to recognize whether the medical response ...
Thu, 03 Jan 2019 09:03:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Even though today's modern tools and technologies are hardly human, the Pontifical Academy for Life is zeroing in on the world of robots and machines powered by artificial intelligence. While the academy's focus is on the protection of human life and dignity, the rapidly shifting and radical capabilities of robotics are having an ever-increasing impact on human lives, people's relationships, communities and creation, said Jesuit Father Carlo Casalone, an academy member and consultant. The need to reflect on the effects, opportunities and risks posed by artificial intelligence and robotics has led the pro-life academy to launch a special look at this complex field, adding robotics to its list of specialized projects, which already include palliative care, neuroscience, bioethics and human genome editing. A major workshop on "Robo-ethics: Humans, Machines and Health" will be held at the Vatican Feb. 25-26 as part of this increased study; the workshop will focus on the use of robots and artificial intelligence, specifically in medicine and health care. The use of industrial and personal-service robots is on the rise, according to industry reports. They are being used in manufacturing, housekeeping, assisting with surgery and even caring for the elderly. People with reduced mobility can be assisted with brain control technology, which converts brain waves into digital signals that can command or control external devices, such as artificial limbs or machines. Father Casalone, who studied medicine and worked as a cardiologist before joining the Society of Jesus in 1984, helped organize the workshop. He became a member of the pontifical academy in 2017 and works in its scientific section. He told Catholic News Service in December that the workshop will bring together ethicists, health care workers and researchers, including Hiroshi Ishiguro, a Japanese robotics engineer who creates humanoid robots and promotes discussion about the essence of being human. His lab has developed the interactive "Actroid," a lifelike humanoid robot that can operate autonomously or be teleoperated and created an uncanny replica of Ishiguro known as the "Geminoid." Father Casalone said the academy wanted the workshop to include experts like Ishiguro who could explain "what sort of vision" guides their work and so that members could "truly listen to what is going on in today's world and to engage with this historic moment in time." "We are seeking to be fully aware of what's happening so that we know what is possible" in the rapidly advancing world of "cognitive machines" and to highlight the ethical, social, cultural and economic impact these tools may have. For example, cheaper automated machine labor may threaten emerging economies, and mineral-rich African nations often see their resources extracted and exported without receiving the benefits in what has become a new "robot divide," Father Casalone said. Using robots for military applications can be "very dangerous and very deceptive" if nations use such machines to cover up their responsibility and destroy others "behind the scenes," he said. Automated systems also can lead to "a sort of gaming mentality" when soldiers can control weaponry remotely, far away from its effects. Home automation or "domotics" -- such as security systems or robot vacuum cleaners -- also presents certain risks, he said, if "houses begin to be built in a way that makes them more robot-friendly, more suitable for machines than for humans." And the use of robots in assisting the elderly or infirm, while it "could be of great help," could also "risk triggering an attitude of delegating" the care of the most fragile and vulnerable in society "as if it were a task to be entrusted to machines" and not to fellow human beings, he said. Similar problems may "also apply to the natural world," he said, for example, when using robots for farming and livestock "changes our relationship with animals" and nature. ...
Wed, 02 Jan 2019 08:01:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A new year is a chance for a new start, a time to remember that all people are brothers and sisters and a time to nurture amazement that God became human to save all people, Pope Francis said. The Jan. 1 feast of Mary, Mother of God, also is a time to remember how strong maternal love and care are, and how they are the secret to making life more livable, the pope said during his homily at a feast day Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. The Catholic Church also marks Jan. 1 at World Peace Day, an observance the pope spoke about when, after Mass, he recited the Angelus with tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square. So many people were in the sunny square that Pope Francis remarked, "It seems like a canonization," which usually is when the square is full. Mary shows to the world her son, the prince of peace, he said. "He is the blessing for every person and the whole human family. He is the source of grace, mercy and peace." Pope Francis chose as the theme for this year's World Peace Day: "Good politics is at the service of peace." "We must not think politics is reserved to those who govern," the pope said. "We are all responsible for the life of the community, of the common good, and politics is good to the degree that everyone does his or her part in the service of peace." After greeting hundreds of people who participated in a march for peace, carrying signs with the names of countries suffering because of violence, Pope Francis prayed: "Through the intercession of the virgin Mary, may the Lord grant us to be artisans of peace -- and this begins at home, in the family -- every day of the new year." Earlier, in his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis paid homage not only to Mary, but also to all mothers and all those who show tender care for others, including in political and economic life. "A world that looks to the future without a mother's gaze is shortsighted," he said. "It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters." Pope Francis prayed that Mary would help all people learn to look at the world and each other as she does, providing for people's needs, loving them and leading them to Jesus. "In today's fragmented world, where we risk losing our bearings, a mother's embrace is essential," he said. "How much dispersion and solitude there is all around us! The world is completely connected, yet seems increasingly disjointed. We need to entrust ourselves to our Mother." Too many people, he said, forget they are beloved children and instead "live in anger and indifference to everything! How many, sad to say, react to everything and everyone with bitterness and malice!" In fact, he said, "showing oneself to be 'malicious' even seems at times to be a sign of strength. Yet it is nothing more than weakness. We need to learn from mothers that heroism is shown in self-giving, strength in compassion, wisdom in meekness." For Catholics, he said, Mary "is not an optional accessory: she has to be welcomed into our life" because Jesus entrusted her to his disciples and his disciples to her as their mother. "She is the queen of peace, who triumphs over evil and leads us along paths of goodness, who restores unity to her children, who teaches us compassion," Pope Francis said. He urged people to begin the new year holding on to the "amazement" they should have experienced at Christmas, amazement that God was born a baby, "held in the arms of a woman who feeds her creator." "God has become one with humanity forever. God and man, always together, that is the good news of this new year," he said. "God is no distant lord, dwelling in splendid isolation above the heavens, but love incarnate, born like us of a mother, in order to become a brother to each of us." Jesus himself "pours out upon humanity a new tenderness," the pope said, which helps people "understand more ...
Wed, 02 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0500
The following is the official English translation of Pope Francis’ ‘Urbi et Orbi’ (to the city and the world) message, given at the Vatican on Dec. 25. Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas! To you, the faithful of Rome, to you, the pilgrims, and to all who are linked to us from every part of the world, I renew the joyous proclamation of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom he favours” (Lk 2:14). Like the shepherds who first went with haste to the stable, let us halt in wonder before the sign that God has given us: “A baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). In silence, let us fall to our knees and worship. What does that Child, born for us of the Virgin Mary, have to tell us? What is the universal message of Christmas? It is that God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters. This truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity. Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty. For this reason, my wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity. Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another. Fraternity among persons of different religions. Jesus came to reveal the face of God to all those who seek him. The face of God has been revealed in a human face. It did not appear in an angel, but in one man, born in a specific time and place. By his incarnation, the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures. Yet all of us are brothers and sisters in humanity! Our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness. As when an artist is about to make a mosaic: it is better to have tiles of many colors available, rather than just a few! The experience of families teaches us this: as brothers and sisters, we are all different from each other. We do not always agree, but there is an unbreakable bond uniting us, and the love of our parents helps us to love one another. The same is true for the larger human family, but here, God is our “parent,” the foundation and strength of our fraternity. May this Christmas help us to rediscover the bonds of fraternity linking us together as individuals and joining all peoples. May it enable Israelis and Palestinians to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love. May the Child Jesus allow the beloved and beleaguered country of Syria once again to find fraternity after these long years of war. May the international community work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country. My thoughts turn to Yemen, in the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine. I think too of Africa, where millions of persons are refugees or displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance and food security. May the Holy Child, the King of Peace, silence the clash of arms and allow a new dawn of fraternity to rise over the entire continent, blessing the efforts of all those who work to promote paths of reconciliation in political and social life. Pope Francis’ Christmas message and blessing focused on fraternity among all peoples. CNS photo via Vatican Media May Christmas consolidate the bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean peninsula and help the path of rapprochement recently undertaken to continue and to reach ...
Mon, 31 Dec 2018 16:04:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The end of one year and beginning of next naturally leads people to think about the passing of time and about love, which gives time -- and everything else -- real meaning, Pope Francis said. To mark the end of 2018, Pope Francis led an evening prayer service Dec. 31 in St. Peter's Basilica. The service included the singing of the "Te Deum" ("We praise you, oh God") in thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year, as well as eucharistic adoration and benediction. In his brief homily during the service, the pope focused on two lines from Galatians 4: "When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption." The lines, he said, are a "synthesis of the New Testament" and give "meaning to a critical moment like the passing of a year." The time when one year ends and a new one begins makes many people "feel the need for something that fills the passing of time with meaning. Something, or better, someone," he said. For Christians, that someone is Christ, the chosen one sent by God, God's only son, he said. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus unleashed "an unheard-of power that still lasts and will last through all of history," the pope said. "This power is called love. It is love that gives fullness to everything, including time. And Jesus is all of God's love concentrated in a human being." The reading from Galatians, he said, also speaks of Jesus' mission, which is to "ransom" people, free them from "a condition of slavery and restore to them liberty, dignity and the freedom proper to sons and daughters" of God. "God the father sent his only begotten son into the world to uproot from human hearts the ancient slavery of sin and, by doing so, restore their dignity," he said. "In fact, as Jesus teaches in the Gospel, from the human heart come all evil intentions, the inequity that corrupts life and relationships." With that realization, he said, Christians should stop and reflect "with pain and repentance," acknowledging how even in 2018, "many men and women lived or are living in slave conditions unworthy of the human person." With Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi seated in the front row, Pope Francis noted how even in Rome there are people living in horrible conditions. "I am thinking in particular of the homeless -- more than 10,000 of them," the pope said. "They are all sons and daughters of God, but various forms of slavery, often very complex, have brought them to a life on the edges of human dignity." While Jesus, too, was born in a place not fit for human habitation, he said, the choice of a manger in Bethlehem was not an accident. "He wanted to be born that way to manifest God's love for the little ones and the poor." Jesus' humble birth "sowed in the world the seeds of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice, love and peace where no one is a slave, but all are brothers and sisters, children of the one Father." With Dec. 31 being the vigil of the feast of Mary, mother of God, Pope Francis noted how the church continues her maternal concern and care through the work of many institutions and volunteers who assist the homeless and people subjected to a variety of forms of slavery. Contemplating "the divine maternity of the virgin Mary," he said, Christians recognize that "God was born of a woman so that we could receive the fullness of our humanity, adoption as children. By his abasement, we were raised up. From his smallness came our greatness. From his fragility, our strength. From him making himself a slave came our liberation." "What would you call all of this if not love?" Pope Francis asked, adding that it is for that love that the church raises a hymn of thanks to God at the end of the year.
Wed, 26 Dec 2018 08:58:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Delivering his formal Christmas message and blessing, Pope Francis prayed for a world where all people would recognize that they are brothers and sisters and would work for justice and for peace. The birth of Jesus proclaims that "God is a good father and we are all brothers and sisters. This truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity," the pope said Dec. 25 before giving his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) and appealing for peace in Syria, Ukraine, the Holy Land, Yemen, Venezuela, Nicaragua and throughout Africa. Tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square under clear blue skies for the blessing and millions more watched on television or on computers, tablets and phones; the pope's blessing went to all of them. "May the little child whom we contemplate today in the manger, in the cold of the night, watch over all the children of the world, and every frail, vulnerable and discarded person," Pope Francis said. "May all of us receive peace and consolation from the birth of the Savior and, in the knowledge that we are loved by the one heavenly Father, realize anew that we are brothers and sisters and come to live as such!" he prayed. In his message, Pope Francis said that believing in Jesus means believing that all people are brothers and sisters. Without that recognition, he said, "our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty." The pope said his "wish for fraternity," included "fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture," among "people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another," and among people of different religions. "By his incarnation, the son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures," the pope said. Since all people are created by God, human differences shouldn't be a threat, but a blessing, he said. After all, "when an artist is about to make a mosaic, it is better to have tiles of many colors available, rather than just a few!" Being brothers and sisters does not mean humanity will not experience differences and even tensions, he said, but there should be "an unbreakable bond uniting us." The pope prayed that a rediscovery of fraternity would "enable Israelis and Palestinians to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love." He prayed that the people of Syria, where Christians and Muslims once lived in peace, would find that again after more than seven years of war. Speaking less than a week after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, Pope Francis urged the international community to "work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country." In Ukraine, where a Russia-supported war has been raging in the eastern regions since 2014, the pope prayed that Jesus would "bring relief," adding that "only with a peace respectful of the rights of every nation can the country recover from the sufferings it has endured and restore dignified living conditions for its citizens." And as tensions continue over the status of the Orthodox communities in Ukraine, with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople set to recognize the country's new independent Orthodox church over the objections of the Russian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis said, "I am close to the Christian communities of the region, and I pray that they may develop relationships of fraternity and friendship." For Africa he prayed that "the Holy Child, the King of Peace," would ...
Wed, 26 Dec 2018 00:00:00 -0500
A couple of years ago, Pope Francis joked that maybe he wouldn’t be around in 2019, since octogenarians like himself “are about to pass away.” But as the calendar turns the page and the sixth anniversary of his pontificate approaches, the 82-year-old Argentine pontiff is showing no signs of slowing down. At an age when most people are comfortably into retirement, the 265th successor of St. Peter is planning on at least four international trips in 2019 that will take him to Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Perhaps aware of his advanced age, Pope Francis appears to be trying to make the most of the time he has left in the chair of St. Peter by addressing the pressing needs of the Church and the world in the 21st century, especially as they relate to the clergy sexual abuse crisis and holding bishops accountable for malfeasance. Seeking peace From his Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message about the need for ethical politics during his visits to Panama and the Middle East, Pope Francis will continue to emphasize familiar themes of his pontificate, such as interreligious dialogue, peace, environmental stewardship, concern for poor, indigenous and marginalized communities, and the right of human beings to safely migrate. “Today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’ who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family,” Pope Francis said is his World Day of Peace message. “So let this be my greeting at the beginning of the New Year: Peace be to this house!” In the statement, entitled “Good politics is at the service of peace,” the pope expresses deep concerns about the growing threat to world peace. The world, the pope has said on previous occasions, has been engaged for several years in a “third world war, piecemeal.” Pope Francis speaks in this image taken from a video message released for World Youth Day, which is Jan. 22-27, in Panama. The pope called upon young people to provoke an uprising of change by serving others. CNS photo via Holy See Press Office And in an era when a divisive brand of politics seems to be ascendant, from the United States to Latin America to Europe, the pope calls for a new form of political life that can become “an outstanding form of charity.” “We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction,” says Pope Francis. Panama to the Amazon Three weeks after his World Day of Peace Message, Pope Francis will travel to Panama for the 34th World Youth Day, which will be held in the Central American country Jan. 22-27. The theme of this year’s gathering will be: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Migration, indigenous people, the environment and the role of women are expected to be major themes during the international gathering, which is expected to draw more than 200,000 participants from 155 countries and five continents. “I am convinced that Pope Francis will be bringing the theme of hope,” Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama told journalists during a Dec. 11 press conference in Rome. Pope Francis is expected to highlight familiar themes when he returns to the subject of Latin America in October 2019 for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region, which will take place in Rome. The synod’s theme is entitled “The Amazon: New paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” “We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants,” Pope Francis said when meeting with indigenous people in Peru in January 2018. The synod on the Amazon is expected to seek out the voices of people living in that region ...
Thu, 20 Dec 2018 08:23:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As World Youth Day in Panama draws near, organizers said they are prepared to make young people from around the globe feel right at home. While warm temperatures will greet thousands of young people in Panama, Father Romero Aguilar, WYD general coordinator, told Catholic News Service he hopes that the warmth of hospitality also will make them feel welcome. "People are opening their homes to house young people. We were surprised by how the people responded to the appeal for housing. We want all the kids to have a place, a space, a home," Father Aguilar said. Father Aguilar, along with Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa of Panama, Danubia Allard, the Panamanian foreign ministry's liaison for WYD, and Miroslava Rosas, Panama's ambassador to the Holy See, were among the dignitaries and church officials briefing journalists Dec. 11 on the upcoming event and their preparations to welcome Pope Francis and the myriad of young men and women expected to attend. The pope's visit to Panama Jan. 23-27 will be his 26th trip outside of Italy and his third World Youth Day. The theme for World Youth Day 2019 is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke: "I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." During his visit, the pope will celebrate a penitential liturgy Jan. 25 with young inmates at Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Center in Pacora. He will also visit Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano (Good Samaritan Home), a center dedicated to helping people with HIV-AIDS. The pope's meetings with young people who are unable to take part in the public WYD activities is a response to the Gospel's call to clothe the naked, visit the sick and comfort the imprisoned, the WYD organizing committee said in a Nov. 20 statement. Although fewer young people will attend the Panama event compared to past World Youth Days, local church and government officials were optimistic and said they expected some 200,000 young people to attend. From the United States, by Dec. 19 over 10,000 young pilgrims had registered to attend the events in Panama and the number continues to climb, said Paul Jarzembowski, World Youth Day USA coordinator and assistant director of youth and young adult ministries for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While holding the event in January is challenging for young people in the United States, "this is not the lowest number of pilgrims who have attended a World Youth Day from our country over the past 30 years," Jarzembowski told CNS. "Regardless of the final number, I am overjoyed that more than 10,000 young people from the U.S. did say yes to the invitation of the Holy Father to join him in Panama for this pilgrimage of faith," he said. Following the pope's lead in meeting with young people unable to attend the WYD festivities, events are being planned in major cities across the United States to coincide with the gathering in Panama. Jarzembowski told CNS that U.S. bishops have encouraged local leaders to engage with young people not going to Panama "for some kind of spiritual moment: a celebration, pilgrimage, retreat or simply an informal gathering." "No matter how one connects, it is important that this January, every single young person in America is journeying together in solidarity with those pilgrims who are making their way to Panama," he said. Archbishop Ulloa told journalists that by early December, 47,000 young pilgrims from 155 countries had registered for the event, while 168,000 others are completing the registration process. He also said that an estimated 37,000 volunteers have signed up to help assist young people attending the event. "As a church, as a country, we are prepared to welcome thousands of pilgrims," Archbishop Ulloa said. However, for organizers of WYD, preparations to receive young pilgrims to the country is more than just an exercise in hospitality, they said. It is a means of spreading the Christian message of welcoming those in need. The plight of Central ...
Wed, 19 Dec 2018 09:19:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of 69-year-old Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar of Los Angeles after the archdiocese's independent Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board recommended he not be allowed to minister because of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor in the 1990s. The Vatican announced Dec. 19 that Pope Francis had accepted his resignation, although the Vatican did not explain the reason for his stepping down. In a letter to the people of the archdiocese, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said, "I regret to inform you that in 2005, a year after he had been ordained a bishop, the archdiocese was made aware of an allegation against Bishop Salazar of misconduct with a minor." The allegation "was never directly reported to the archdiocese," he said, but "it was investigated by law enforcement in 2002 and the district attorney did not prosecute." Bishop Salazar has consistently denied the allegation. "Since he was a bishop at the time the allegation was received, the archdiocese referred the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Holy See, which conducted an investigation and imposed certain precautionary measures on the ministry of Bishop Salazar," Archbishop Gomez said. Without providing details, a separate statement from the archdiocese said the doctrinal congregation "investigated and permitted Bishop Salazar to remain in ministry subject to certain precautionary conditions, which he has respected." The statement added, "The archdiocese has not received any other allegations involving Bishop Salazar." As part of a process to update a list of accused priests issued in 2004, Archbishop Gomez had asked the Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board to review all allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors. The archdiocese specified that Archbishop Gomez requested and received permission from the Vatican Congregation for Bishops to have the oversight board include a review of the past allegation against Bishop Salazar. The board, it said, "found the allegation to be credible and recommended to Archbishop Gomez that Bishop Salazar should not have faculties to minister. Archbishop Gomez accepted the recommendation and submitted it to the Holy See." "I am grateful for the Holy Father's loving concern for the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," Archbishop Gomez said. "These decisions have been made out of deep concern for the healing and reconciliation of abuse victims and for the good of the church's mission. Let us continue to stay close to victim-survivors of abuse through our prayers and actions." Born in San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 28, 1949, Alexander Salazar came to the United States with his family in 1953 and settled in Los Angeles. He became a U.S. citizen at age 18. Educated in Catholic elementary and high schools in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, he studied at California State University, Los Angeles and at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, where he earned a bachelor's degree in bilingual studies in 1978. After college, he taught at St. Albert the Great School in Compton, California, from 1968 to 1979 and worked as a bookkeeper for St. Albert the Great Parish. In 1977, he began studies at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles June 16, 1984. As a priest, then-Father Salazar served at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Whittier; Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Pasadena; and St. Vibiana Cathedral in Los Angeles. He was named temporary administrator of St. Teresa of Avila in 1994 and became pastor in 1995. In 2003, he was appointed vice chancellor while continuing as pastor of St. Teresa of Avila. St. John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and he received his episcopal ordination Nov. 4, 2004.
Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:41:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Before traveling to Rome for a major Vatican summit on the clerical sex abuse crisis and child protection, each participating bishop should meet with survivors of abuse, said the committee organizing the meeting. "The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened. For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured," said the organizing committee's letter, released by the Vatican Dec. 18. The pope had announced in September that he was calling the presidents of the world's bishops conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men and women religious orders to the Vatican Feb. 21-25 to address the crisis. Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said having participants meet first with survivors "is a concrete way of putting victims first and acknowledging the horror of what happened." "The meeting on the protection of minors," he said, "will focus on three main themes: responsibility, accountability and transparency." In November, the Vatican announced the membership of the organizing committee: Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Writing to meeting participants, they quoted Pope Francis' letter to Catholics in August, which said, "If, in the past, the (church's) response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history." Without "a comprehensive and communal response" to the abuse crisis, the committee said, "not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world." The members included a questionnaire for participants, but it was not made public. The questionnaire, the committee said, was designed as "a tool for all the participants of the meeting in February to express their opinions constructively and critically as we move forward, to identify where help is needed to bring about reforms now and in the future, and to help us get a full picture of the situation in the church." Pope Francis, they said, "is convinced that through collegial cooperation, the challenges facing the church can be met. But each of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency and holding everyone in the church accountable."
Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:34:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With Christmas just over a week away, visitors came to St. Peter's Square with their Baby Jesus figurines for a traditional blessing by the pope. Many children came with small figurines for their family Nativity scene, others held delicate sculptures, and one group set a giant statue of the Baby Jesus on top of stacks of hay bales. "All the joy in a crib," said the banner in front of the display. Blessing the statues after reciting the Angelus prayer Dec. 16, Pope Francis told the little ones, "Dear children, may you feel wonder when you gather in your homes in prayer before the Nativity, gazing at Baby Jesus." To see God is to feel amazement, "wonder at the great mystery of God made man. And the Holy Spirit will put humility, tenderness and the goodness of Jesus in your hearts," he said. "Jesus is good, Jesus is tender, Jesus is humble. This is the real Christmas!" he said. Before praying the Angelus on what is known as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, the pope explained why the church is invited to rejoice. Jesus, the Emmanuel, is "God with us," and his presence is the source of joy, Pope Francis said. He came not to punish but to forgive and this leads people to feel joyful and full of praise. God wants to redeem and save those whom he loves, the pope said, underlining that God's love is "incessant" and tender like a father's love for his child. Just as Mary was called to welcome and bring the Christ child into the world, people today are also called to welcome the Gospel and so that it can "become flesh" and come into the world in people's actual lives. People of faith should know they need not be anxious or feel despair, but need to "present to God our requests, our needs, our concerns with prayers and supplications." "The awareness that when in difficulty we can always turn to the Lord, and that he never rejects our invocations, is a great reason for joy," he said. There are no worries or fears that can ever "take away from us the serenity that comes from knowing that God always lovingly guides our lives," the pope said. "Even in the midst of problems and suffering, this certainty nourishes hope and courage." After reciting the prayer, the pope also highlighted the adoption Dec. 10 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. He expressed his hope that the agreement would facilitate "responsibility, solidarity and compassion toward those who, for various reasons, have left their country."
Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:21:00 -0500
SYDNEY (CNS) -- As part of its ongoing efforts to reconcile China's Catholic communities, the Vatican recognized two previously excommunicated Chinese bishops as heads of dioceses. The move came after an unprecedented Beijing meeting that included a group of Vatican officials led by Pope Francis' chief China negotiator, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli; Chinese bishops jointly recognized by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, run by the ruling Chinese Communist Party; and a group of Vatican-appointed bishops from the so-called underground church, which only recognizes the authority of Rome and not the patriotic association. "The latest trip of the delegation of the Holy See to China is especially important because, for the first time, it was concentrated on the life of the church in China, and no longer on formal diplomatic-political issues," Francesco Sisci, a senior researcher at Beijing's Renmin University and former correspondent for Italian media, told Catholic News Service. "There was a cathartic climate in the meeting of the Vatican delegation and the bishops of the nine dioceses recognized by the Vatican. Official and underground bishops wept, prayed together and reconciled one another and with the delegation from the Holy See," Sisci said, adding he believed it was "a very important moment in the life of the Church in China." Chinese state media announced Dec. 14 and CNS confirmed that Bishop Zhan Silu becomes head of Mindong Diocese. Vatican-appointed Bishop Guo Xijin, who has headed the Mindong Diocese since 2006 and who has been detained by authorities a number of times in the past year, has finally agreed to step down to the position of auxiliary, a request first made by the Vatican in late 2017. Bishop Zhan is the vice chairman of the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China that is yet to be recognized by Rome and is one of seven state-appointed bishops recently recognized by the pope as part of the Sept. 22 provisional agreement between China and the Vatican. "I will become the auxiliary bishop, and Bishop Zhan Silu will be the diocesan bishop in Mindong," Bishop Guo told the state-run Global Times, adding, "here's nothing to worry about, as this is God's will." Bishop Huang Bingzhang becomes head of Shantou Diocese. There has been no report on the situation of Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, 88, who was the bishop of Shantou from 2006 and was asked by the Vatican in late 2017 to retire and take up a post of bishop emeritus. At the meeting, a range of issues were discussed, including the need to find more candidates for the priesthood to fill China's emptying seminaries. "Government officials organized the meeting but did not interfere in the proceeding," Sisci said. They also encouraged the increase of vocations, because "large seminaries have been built, and they have to be filled with new priests." The September agreement between the Vatican and China, which has been characterized as provisional and temporary, gives the Vatican complete control over the nomination of bishops, according to Pope Francis, who has noted that, with every "peace treaty" and every negotiation, "both sides lose something." Although the full content of the agreement remained secret, it did include recognition of seven bishops appointed by the patriotic association but previously not confirmed by the Vatican, lifting their excommunications. The fate of up to 30 other bishops who refused to join the patriotic association remains unknown. Sisci said that, during the December meeting, Archbishop Celli, the man in charge of the issue since the time of St. John Paul II, mediated between two bishops, one underground and one who approved by the government. He added that this was something China had tried to do on its own for many years but failed. "It means Beijing recognizes and values the Vatican contribution to the reconciliation," Sisci said. "This is very significant, because it means that Beijing recognizes the added ...