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Extraordinary month of prayer and reflection

Pope Francis called for an "extraordinary month of prayer and reflection" to reinvigorate and renew the missionary spirit and action of the Catholic Church.
 
Welcoming a proposal from the pontifical mission societies and the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the pope said the special concentration on mission during the month of October 2019 would help "renew the love and passion" of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone.
 
The announcement came in the text of a speech the pope wrote, but did not read, in early June when he met Cardinal Fernando Filoni, congregation prefect, and people taking part in the pontifical mission societies' annual meeting in Rome.
 
Coordinated under the jurisdiction of the congregation, the four agencies -- the Holy Childhood Association, Missionary Union of Priests and Religious, Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Society of St. Peter the Apostle -- promote missionary awareness and raise funds for the work of the church in mission territories around the globe.
 
"You know well my worry concerning the pontifical mission societies -- very often reduced to an organization that collects and distributes, in the pope's name, economic aid for the neediest churches," the pope wrote in the text.
 
"I know that you are seeking new means and more appropriate, more ecclesial ways to carry out your service to the universal mission of the Church" continuing a "process of urgent reform," he wrote.
 
Renewal requires conversion, he wrote, adding that he hoped "your spiritual and material assistance to the church" would root people more deeply in the Gospel, encourage all Catholics to be involved in the church's missionary duty and bring God's love to all people.
 
October 2019 was chosen for the month of prayer because it will be the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV's 1919 apostolic letter, "Maximum Illud" on the propagation of the faith throughout the world.
 
"In this very important document ... on mission, the pope recalls how necessary a life of holiness is for the effectiveness of the apostolate," Pope Francis wrote.
 
Now more than ever the Church and the world need men and women known for their "zeal and holiness" to proclaim the Gospel and show mercy to everyone, he added.
 
"The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ," the pope said in his message for World Mission Sunday 2017. The message was released June 4.
 
World Mission Sunday will be celebrated Oct. 22 in most dioceses.
 
 
  • Published in World

Delegates prepare for Convocation of Catholic Leaders

The 3,000 people attending the upcoming Convocation of Catholic Leaders are being seen as members of diocesan teams who will return home to act on what they see and learn while discussing the church's role in a changing social landscape.

A combination guidebook and journal has been developed to help the delegates prepare for the gathering in Orlando, Florida, set for July 1-4.

The 68-page book offers activities for the diocesan teams as they meet during the weeks leading to the gathering, allowing them to reflect and pray on Scripture and the teachings of Pope Francis, particularly his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel").

"To get something done, we want people to have prepared as teams before they come in to get more out of (the convocation)," said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and a convocation planner. "What you get out of this is what you put into it."

The booklet is being sent to each registered participant to the invitation-only event. It also is available online to anyone interested in learning more about the convocation at bit.ly/2rR6OTY.

Reyes told Catholic News Service that the guidebook encourages team members to plan which sessions to attend that fits with the goals of their diocese in building a church built on mercy and missionary discipleship.

"In the ideal world, it's forming a team that brings together people from the peripheries who are not normally together. This book is what's going to help them think as a team before they get there. It gives them some things to reflect on together," he explained.

"We're trying to make clear that this isn't the kind of thing you attend passively and that bishops and leaders are meant to be integrated in a conversation of the whole church together and experience the conference not as the bishops over there, the laypeople over here. It's actually meant to be everyone mixing together in conversation," Reyes added.

The guidebook offers numerous Scripture citations and references to passages from the pope's exhortation. Delegates are encouraged to read some of the passages and pray about what they mean for their particular role in the convocation and the church at home.

A separate section includes space for journal entries based on the discussion of each day of the convocation. The idea, Reyes said, is to allow participants the opportunity to reflect in the moment and then return to their writings when they return home.

"It's spiritual preparation as well," Reyes said of the book. "It's deeply scriptural and there's a lot of "Evangelii Gaudium" as well as some other key church documents from the bishops. It's a lot of Scripture and a lot of Pope Francis."

The convocation is meant to guide people to build the church that Pope Francis is calling people to shape, Reyes added.

"We didn't want to create a program. This (convocation) is for people to design or think through together what mission looks like. Pope Francis says again and again, 'Don't do the same old things.' You want to think creatively. So we're not going to put together a program, but people are going to experience, hopefully, in a way that gives them a way forward, a vision for their own," he said.

Meanwhile, more than $500,000 had been pledged to support scholarships for people attending the convocation. Reyes' department and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development have allocated $100,000 each in financial assistance. The Black and Indian Mission Office has pledged another $300,000.

The goal of such scholarships is to allow diverse voices to be on hand in Orlando, Reyes said.

"If there's a Francis inspiration in this, it's let's not just talk, (but) act," he told CNS. "So we are pushing action, action, action through proper preparation."
  • Published in Nation

Pope, Trump meet

Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 24, and as the president left, he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said."
 
The atmosphere at the beginning was formal and a bit stiff. However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband "potica," a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland. There were smiles all around.
 
Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump is "a symbol of peace."
 
Speaking in Spanish, the pope told Trump, "I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace."
 
The president responded, "We can use peace."
 
Pope Francis also gave the president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017 and told him, "I signed it personally for you." In addition, he gave Trump copies of his documents on The Joy of the Gospel, on the family and Laudato Si' on the environment.
 
Knowing that Pope Francis frequently has quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump presented Pope Francis will a large gift box containing five of the slain civil rights leader's books, including a signed copy of "The Strength to Love."
 
"I think you will enjoy them," Trump told the pope. "I hope you do."
 
After meeting the pope, Trump went downstairs to meet Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister. He was accompanied by Rex Tillerson, U.S. secretary of state, and H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. The meeting lasted 50 minutes.
 
The Vatican described the president's meetings with both the pope and with top Vatican diplomats as consisting of "cordial discussions," with both sides appreciating "the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience."
 
"It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican said.
 
The discussions also included "an exchange of views" on international affairs and on "the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities."
 
Because of the pope's weekly general audience, Pope Francis and Trump met at 8:30 a.m., an unusually early hour for a formal papal meeting. The early hour meant Pope Francis still could greet the thousands of pilgrims and visitors waiting for him in St. Peter's Square.
 
Many of those pilgrims, though, had a more difficult than normal time getting into the square. Security measures were tight with hundreds of state police and military police patrolling the area and conducting more attentive searches of pilgrims' bags.
Reaching the St. Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where the U.S. flag flew for the morning, Trump was welcomed by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, and a formation of 15 Swiss Guards.
 
After leaving the Vatican, President Trump was driven across Rome for meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
 
 
 
  • Published in World

Pope announces new cardinals

Pope Francis announced he will create five new cardinals June 28; the new cardinals-designate come from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador.

Unusually, the group of prelates announced by the pope May 21 includes an auxiliary bishop whose archbishop is not a cardinal; he is Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, the current auxiliary bishop of San Salvador.

The other churchmen who will receive red hats are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73.

After briefly talking about the day's Gospel reading, leading the crowd in St. Peter's Square in reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer and greeting various groups present, instead of wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch -- the normal procedure at the noon prayer -- Pope Francis made his announcement.

The five new cardinals coming from "different parts of the world demonstrates the catholicity of the church spread across the globe," Pope Francis said. And the practice of assigning to each of them a church in Rome "expresses that the cardinals belong to the Diocese of Rome," which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch explained, "presides in charity over all the churches."

Pope Francis said that June 29, the day after the consistory and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the new cardinals would concelebrate a Mass with him, the entire College of Cardinals and new archbishops from around the world.

"We entrust the new cardinals to the protection of Sts. Peter and Paul," Pope Francis said, praying that with St. Peter they would be "authentic servants" of communion in the church and that with St. Paul they would be "joyful proclaimers of the Gospel."

The pope also prayed that "with their witness and their counsel," the new cardinals would "support me more intensely in my service as bishop of Rome, pastor of the universal church."

With five new cardinals, the College of Cardinals will have 227 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. The number of electors exceeds by one the limit of 120 set by Blessed Paul VI. The next cardinal to turn 80 will be Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, who will celebrate his birthday Feb. 3.

The Vatican released brief biographical notes about the five who will be inducted into the college in June:

Cardinal-designate Zerbo was born Dec. 27, 1943, in Segou and was ordained to the priesthood there in 1971. He earned a license in Scripture studies from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and then returned to Mali as a pastor and professor at the seminary in Bamako.

Ordained a bishop in 1988, he served first as auxiliary bishop of Bamako and then was named bishop of Mopti. He has led the Archdiocese of Bamako since 1998.

According to the Vatican, "he played an active role in the Mali peace negotiations" and has worked for solidarity and reconciliation among the nation's citizens.

Cardinal-designate Omella was born in the small town of Cretas April 21, 1946, and did his seminary studies in Zaragoza as well as Louvain, Belgium, and Jerusalem. He was ordained in 1970. In addition to parish work in Spain, he spent a year as a missionary in then-Zaire, now Congo.

Ordained a bishop in 1996, he served as auxiliary bishop of Zaragoza and later as bishop of Barbastro-Monzon, then bishop of Calahorra and La Calzada-Logrorio. Pope Francis named him archbishop of Barcelona in 2015.

He has long been a member of the Spanish bishops' commission for social questions and served two terms as commission president. He is a member of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal-designate Arborelius hosted Pope Francis' visit to Sweden in October as part of an ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Born in Sweden Sept. 24, 1949, he joined the Catholic Church at the age of 20. A few years later, he entered the Discalced Carmelites, took vows in 1977 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1979.

Ordained bishop of Stockholm in 1998, he became the first native Swedish bishop in Sweden since the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, according to the Vatican.

Cardinal-designate Mangkhanekhoun was born April 8, 1944, in Laos. The Vatican did not say in what city, but did say he was educated and did seminary studies in Laos and Canada.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1972 by the apostolic vicar of Vientiane, he was instrumental in training catechists and was known for his pastoral visits to remote mountain villages.

In October 2000, he was named apostolic vicar of Pakse and was ordained a bishop six months later. Since February, he also has served as apostolic administrator of Vientiane, which currently is without a bishop.

Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez was born Sept. 3, 1942, in Sociedad, El Salvador. He studied at San Jose de la Montana Seminary in San Salvador, earned a degree in social communications and studied at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1970 in San Miguel and served overlapping -- and sometimes simultaneous -- terms as the bishop's secretary, pastor of a parish and director of the diocesan radio station. From 1977 to 1982, he served as rector of San Jose de la Montafia Seminary in San Salvador, a position that brought him into regular contact and close collaboration with Blessed Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980.

He was named auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in 1982. Currently, in addition to his duties as auxiliary bishop, he serves as pastor of the Church of St. Francis in the capital, president of Caritas El Salvador and president of Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Published in Vatican

Fatima children canonized

Standing before the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Pope Francis canonized two shepherd children who saw Mary at Fatima, but more importantly, he said, they heeded the call to pray for sinners and trust in the Lord.
 
"We declare and define Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto as saints," the pope said May 13 as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims broke out in applause before he finished speaking.
 
The relics of the young shepherd children, encased in two thin golden crosses, were placed in front of the famed statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the "lady dressed in white" as the siblings and their cousin described her.
 
The Marian apparitions began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their 10-year-old cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.
 
After contracting influenza, Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9.
 
The children, beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000, are now the youngest non-martyrs to be declared saints by the Catholic Church.
 
Before his arrival at the shrine, the pope met privately with Portuguese Prime Minster Antonio Costa and then made his way into the sanctuary that houses the tombs of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta and their cousin Lucia, who died in 2005 at the age of 97. The diocesan phase of her sainthood cause concluded in February and now is under study at the Vatican.
 
Pope Francis stood for several minutes in front of the tombs with his eyes closed and head bowed.
 
In his homily at the canonization Mass, the pope reflected on the brief lives of the young sibling saints, who are often remembered more for the apparitions rather than for their holy lives.
 
But it is Mary's message and example, rather than an apparition, is important, he told the crowd, which Portuguese authorities estimated at about 500,000 people.
 
"The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven," the pope said.
Instead, he continued, Mary's messages to the young children were a warning to all people about leading "a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures."
 
"Such a life -- frequently proposed and imposed -- risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God's light dwells within us and protects us," the pope said.
The hopeful message of Fatima, he said, is that men and women have a mother and like children clinging to her, "we live in the hope that rests on Jesus."
 
Pope Francis called on the pilgrims to follow the example of heroic virtue lived by St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, particularly their insistent prayer for sinners and their adoration of "the hidden Jesus" in the tabernacle.
 
This continual presence of God taught to them by Mary, he said, "was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering."
 
By following their example, the pope said, Christians can become "a source of hope for others" and counter "the indifference that chills the heart" and "worsens our myopia."
 
"We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives," he said.
 
It is with the light of hope, the pope added, that the Church can radiate "the true face of Jesus" and reach out to those in need.
 
 
  • Published in World

Pope's video message about Fatima

In a video message to the people of Portugal, Pope Francis said he is visiting Fatima as a pilgrim of peace and to entrust the world to Mary's immaculate heart.
 
"I come to you in the joy of sharing with you the Gospel of hope and peace," the pope said in the message released by the Vatican May 10.
 
Pope Francis was to embark on a two-day visit to Fatima May 12-13 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began May 13, 1917, when three shepherd children reported seeing the Virgin Mary.
 
During the visit, the pope is to preside over the canonization ceremony of two of the young seers, Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta Marto.
 
In his message, the pope thanked the Portuguese people and authorities for understanding his "decision to limit the visit to the moments and acts proper to a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Fatima" at "the feet of the Virgin Mother."
 
"I know that you wanted me to come to your houses and communities, your villages and cities," he said. "Needless to say, I would have liked to accept, but it isn't possible for me."
 
At the site of the apparitions, the pope said he intends to present Mary with a "bouquet of the most beautiful 'flowers' that Jesus entrusted to my care: that is, my brothers and sisters from all over the world who were redeemed by His blood."
 
"I will give you all to Our Lady, asking her to whisper to each one of you: 'My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God,'" the pope said.
 
Pope Francis said he was grateful to know that the people of Portugal are preparing to accompany him on the pilgrimage through prayer, which "makes our hearts grow and prepares us to receive God's gifts."
 
"Prayer illuminates one's eyes to know how to see others as God sees them, to love them as he loves them," the pope said.
 
  • Published in World

Pope, Trump to meet

President Donald Trump will visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis May 24 as part of his first foreign trip as president.
 
White House officials said the visit will be part of a trip that will include stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia before Trump attends a NATO meeting in Brussels May 25 and the G7 summit in Taormina on the island of Sicily May 26-27.
 
The trip is an attempt to unite three of the world's leading religious faiths in the common cause of fighting terrorism, reining in Iran and "unifying the world against intolerance," White House officials said May 4.
 
The information was confirmed by Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office.
 
The president’s meeting with Pope Francis is to take place in the Apostolic Palace and will include Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for relations with states.
 
Pope Francis, on his return flight from Egypt April 29, told reporters that he had not yet been informed by the Vatican secretary of state's office about a request for an audience from U.S. officials. But he added, "I receive every head of state who asks for an audience."
 
Trump said at an April 20 news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni that he was interested in meeting with the pope.
 
  • Published in World

Catholic Schools Care for Creation

In response to Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne's call for a Year of Creation focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home," Catholic schools in Vermont immediately sprang to action planning a statewide day of creation education, action and prayer. On April 12, each Catholic school participated in Catholic Schools Care for Creation Day. Initiatives included immediate tasks and long-term projects.
 
Responding to the call to care for creation is part of the Catholic schools’ mission “to instill faith values in students and to create a desire to make a positive difference in the world.” Some schools began the day of service with Mass or another form of prayer. Others read and reflected upon quotes from “Laudato Si’” throughout the day. It was important for students to understand that this day wasn’t just in service to the world, but to their neighbors and to God as well.
 
“Care for creation is a matter of social justice because the ones who are most affected by pollution and climate change are the poor of the world,” Bishop Coyne said. “I hope many Catholics will take advantage of the opportunities being offered throughout the diocese to celebrate this Year of Creation.”
 
Vermont Catholic schools emphatically embraced the opportunity to spend some extra time beholding God’s creation and ensuring that it remains bountiful for generations to come.
 
Read about each school’s Care for Creation Day projects below. For more about the Year of Creation: vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation.
 
Students at St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre learned about reusing and recycling materials with an eco-fashion show, where students designed and modeled clothing creations made from materials found in recycle bins. As part of an ongoing project, students planted seeds in recyclable containers that will later be transferred to the school garden. Once in the earth, the seedlings will grow into food that sustains bodies. Students and their families share in the cultivation, growth, harvest and consumption.
 
Students at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington used old newspapers to create biodegradable flower vases. The potted plants will be gifted to elderly individuals in the area and can be placed directly into the ground.
 
Everyone who attends St. Michael School in Brattleboro was encouraged to use sustainable transportation on April 12. Many walked, biked or carpooled to school. Members of the school community worked together on waste reduction strategies that could be implemented, with specific grades focusing on recycling and compost efficiency. Other grades focused on area beautification with litter pick-up and gardening. Others created an awareness and education bulletin board for visitors and as a reminder for everyone at the school.
 
Each classroom at The Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville has prominent recycle and compost bins with a smaller trash bin alongside them. The school no longer provides single-use plastic straws or water bottles. There are water-bottle filling stations for reusable water bottles. Lunch trays are biodegradable. All of this is part of the school’s ongoing sustainability efforts.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Rutland led a prayer service designed to help people understand how they can contribute to ecological justice. Throughout the year, students will work with Marble Valley Grows to plant a garden and participate in tastings to promote the Farm to School programs. They will also learn about and begin a composting program for the lunch room.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Burlington and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland spent their mornings cleaning up local parks and beautifying creation for area residents to enjoy.
 
Good Shepherd Catholic School in St. Johnsbury recently received a grant that allows them to begin construction on an outdoor nature classroom. After “greening up” the local area on April 12, students and staff gathered in the gym to plant seeds. Later in the spring, flower seedlings will be donated to the local eldercare home and vegetable seedlings to the community garden. Some of each will be reserved to plant in the outdoor nature classroom upon its completion.
 
Students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington helped to return the local ecosystem to balance by removing invasive species from a trail on school grounds and cultivating the land for new growth. Money collected from a dress-down day on the April 12 was donated to Pure Water for the World, a Rutland-based non-profit dedicated to sustainable, safe water solutions.
 
At St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, students learned about the impact of separating food waste and began implementing a compost program in their cafeteria and classrooms.
 
  • Published in Schools
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