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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Time for forgiveness has begun, pope says, as holy doors open worldwide

With the opening the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis declared that the time for tenderness, joy and forgiveness had begun.

As holy doors around the world were opened at city cathedrals, major churches and sanctuaries Dec. 13, the pope said this simple gesture of opening God's house to the world serves as "an invitation to joy. The time of great pardon begins. It is the Jubilee of Mercy."

Dressed in rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, marking the joyful expectation of Christmas, the pope began the ceremony outside the basilica in front of the bronze holy door. The door depicts a bas relief of the crucified Christ looking down on Mary tenderly holding the baby Jesus, whose small foot shone like bright gold from the countless kisses and touches of visiting pilgrims.

"This is the door of the Lord. Open for me the gates of justice. I will enter your house, Lord, because of your great mercy," the pope read solemnly before climbing two marble steps and pushing open the large door. He crossed the threshold decorated with a garland of flowers and greenery and bowed his head in silent prayer inside the darkened interior of the basilica.

The Church and the people of God are called to be joyful, the pope said in his brief homily.

"We cannot allow ourselves to become tired, no form of sadness is allowed even if we have reason for it with the many worries and multiple forms of violence that wound our humanity," he said.

Amid the bullying, injustice and violence wrought, "above all, by men of power, God makes it known that he himself will rule his people, that he will never leave them at the mercy of the arrogance of their leaders and that he will free them of all anguish," the pope said.

People today are called to listen to the words of the prophet Zephaniah in the day's first reading, as he told God's people not to be afraid or discouraged "because of doubt, impatience or suffering."

God always protects his people, he is always near, the pope said, and that is why "we must always be joyful and with our kindness offer everyone witness of the closeness and care God has for everyone."

The Holy Year of Mercy is meant to be a time for people to rediscover God's real presence in the world and his tenderness, he said.

"God does not love rigidity. He is father. He is gentle. He does everything with fatherly tenderness."

As Christians are called to cross the threshold of "the door of mercy," they are asked to welcome and experience God's love, which "re-creates, transforms and reforms life."

From there, people of faith must then go out and be "instruments of mercy, aware that we will be judged by this," the pope said. Being a Christian calls for a lifelong journey and a "more radical commitment" to be merciful like God the father, he added.

Christians are asked to be joyful as they open their arms to others and give witness to "a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no limits. This is the love we are responsible for despite our contradictions," and weaknesses, he said. (CNS)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Each month there will be a diocesan event celebrating the Holy Year of Mercy. A vesper service will be held at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington. For a complete listing of events log on at: www.vermontcatholic.org/yearofmercy.

 
  • Published in Vatican

Pope's Peace Day message urges individuals, world leaders to take action, show mercy

Pope Francis called for abolishing the death penalty worldwide, lifting the burden of debt on poor nations, global aid policies that respect life and revamped laws that welcome and integrate migrants.

He urged individuals, communities and nations to not let indifference, information overload or pessimism discourage them from concrete efforts to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors and places of employment.

Building peace, he said, is not accomplished by words alone, but through the grace of God, a conversion of heart, an attitude of compassion and the courage to act against despair.

The pope's multifaceted plea came in his message for World Peace Day, Jan. 1. The message, which was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican Dec. 15.

The message, titled Overcome Indifference and Win Peace, contained a three-fold appeal to the world's leaders.

He asked that countries: refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts of wars, which not only destroy a nation's infrastructure and cultural heritage, but also their moral and spiritual integrity; forgive or make less burdensome international debt of poorer nations; and adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of the local populations and not harm the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.

The pope called on national governments to review their current laws on immigration and find ways they could reflect a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration as well as respect the rights and responsibilities of all parties concerned.

All nations' leaders should also take concrete measures in alleviating the problem of a lack of housing, land and employment, the pope wrote, as well as stop discrimination against women in the workplace, which included unfair wages and precarious or dangerous working conditions. He said he hoped those who are ill could be guaranteed access to medical treatment, necessary medications and home care.

With the present Jubilee of Mercy, I want to invite the Church to pray and work so that every Christian will have a humble and compassionate heart and that all people will learn to forgive and to give, he said in his message.

God is never indifferent to the world, he said. He not only sees, hears and knows, he comes down and delivers real healing and eternal teachings.

The credibility of the Church and its members rests on their willingness to live and act with the same tireless mercy God has for the world, the pope said.

We, too, then are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another, he said.

Since these attitudes of compassion and solidarity are often handed down from person to person, the pope emphasized the importance of families and teachers in showing what love, respect, dialogue, generosity, charity and faith mean.

He also reminded the media and communicators of their responsibility to serve the truth and not particular interests. They don't just inform people, he said, but also form and influence their audience.

Communicators should also be mindful that the way in which information is obtained and made public should always be legally and morally admissible, he said.

In his message, the pope praised those journalists and religious who raise awareness about troubling and difficult situations, and defend the human rights of minorities, indigenous peoples, women, children and the most vulnerable people in society. (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican

Salvation cannot be bought, pope says

Pilgrims must beware of people who seek to use the Jubilee Year to profit off of them since salvation is a gift that cannot be bought, Pope Francis said.

The pope's warning comes after Rome's financial police seized fake parchments – worth an estimated 70,000 euros – that were sold at a souvenir shop near the Vatican, according to a report by The Associated Press Dec. 14. AP said police seized 3,500 parchments being passed off as apostolic blessings that commemorate marriages, baptisms and Holy Year pilgrimages.

Prior to the start of the Jubilee Year, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, said pilgrims must be vigilant not only of terrorist threats but also of scam artists who see the Holy Year as "a source of income."

During his address, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the Holy Year celebrations in dioceses across the globe would serve as "a visible sign of universal communion" and of God's love and mercy to the world.

"Although spread throughout the world and divided into many particular churches, it has always been the one and only Church that Jesus Christ wanted and for whom he offered himself," he said.

The Holy Door is a symbol of Jesus Christ, he said, and pilgrims who pass through it in Rome and in churches around the world make a visible sign of trust in him "who did not come to judge but to save."

"It is a sign of a true conversion of the heart," the pope said. "When we pass through that door, it is good to remember that we should also open wide the doors of our heart."

Confession, he continued, is another important aspect of the Holy Year that gives the faithful the opportunity to have "a direct experience" of mercy. However, one must first recognize their sins and also forgive others in order to fully experience God's love and forgiveness.

"When we recognize our sins and ask forgiveness, there is a celebration in heaven; Jesus celebrates," Pope Francis said. "This is his mercy; do not be discouraged, go forward." (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican

Pope wants year of Mercy to tenderly transform the world

When Pope Francis planned the Year of Mercy and the opening of the Holy Door, he did not mean to give the starting signal for a frenzied wave of pilgrims to Rome.

More than call to sign up for an Eternal City package tour, the pope is inviting people to strike out on a yearlong spiritual journey to recognize a loving God who's already knocking on their door.

He says he wants the Year of Mercy to usher in a "revolution of tenderness."

Once people realize "I'm wretched, but God loves me the way I am," then "I, too, have to love others the same way," the pope said in an interview published just a few days before the Dec. 8 start of the jubilee year.

Discovering God's generous love kick-starts a virtuous circle, which "leads us to acting in a way that's more tolerant, patient, tender" and just, he said.

Speaking with "Credere," an Italian weekly magazine run by the Pauline Fathers, the pope gave an in-depth look at why he sees such an urgent need to highlight God's mercy.

"The world needs to discover that God is father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the path, that condemnation is not the path," he said. "Because the Church herself sometimes follows a hard line, she falls into the temptation of following a hard line, into the temptation of underlining only moral norms, but so many people remain on the outside," he said.

The pope said the thought of all those people – sinners, the doubtful, the wounded and disenfranchised – conjured up that iconic image of seeing the Church "as a field hospital after the battle."

"The wounded are to be treated, helped to heal, not subjected to cholesterol tests," he said, meaning a too narrow scrutiny of minutiae delays staving off the broader disease of conflict and indifference. He once illustrated the same concept by painting a visual image of pastors who prefer to coif and comb the wool of the tiny flock in the pews rather than seek the sheep that are outside in danger or lost.

"I believe this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, we all carry burdens within us. I felt Jesus wants to open the door of his heart," he said in the magazine interview.

The opening of the holy doors in Rome and around the world are a symbol of how Jesus is opening the door of his heart.

In fact, dioceses have been asked to designate and open their own "Door of Mercy" in a cathedral, an important church or sanctuary. The pope also will send out from Rome "missionaries of mercy" – priests mandated to the world's peripheries to show patience and compassion in their ministry.

Such gestures suggest the pope still wants people to avoid the expense of travel – like his post-election suggestion to fans back home in Argentina to give to the poor the money they would have spent for a trip.

To help people at home feel "just like being there" in Rome, the Vatican television center will start broad-casting major papal events during the Holy Year in latest generation "Ultra HD 4K" resolution as well as HD, 3D and standard definition.

From the very start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been showing what the way of mercy means.

The pope's very first Angelus address and homily in 2013 centered on mercy, as he explained God always waits for that day of awakening and conversion, then forgives everything. The real problem is people – not God – who give up on forgiveness, he said.

But mercy changes everything, he said; it "makes the world a little less cold and more just."

The pope's own religious vocation is rooted in that concrete experience of mercy, when he – as a 17-yearold student – walked out of a confessional "different, changed." It was the feast of St. Matthew, and like St. Matthew, he was overcome, feeling "God looked at me with mercy" and said, "Follow me."

Realizing God knows he's a sinner, but embraces him anyway lies at the heart of Pope Francis' ministry and his motto: "By showing mercy, by choosing," based on "The Call of St. Matthew."

He said in the magazine interview that one Friday of every month during the Year of Mercy "I will make a different gesture" that shows God's mercy. He had asked the world's young people to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, like feeding the hungry and counsel the doubtful, and choose one to practice each month as they prepare for World Youth Day in July. (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican
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