Log in
    

Pope's fourth anniversary

By Carol Glatz
 
Four years ago today, 115 cardinal-electors chose a new pope. Inspired through prayer and the Holy Spirit, the men sought to elect the best pastor for this particular moment in the Church and the world.

Pope Francis now marks the fourth anniversary of his pontificate.
 
We here at the CNS Rome bureau spent days tracking what cardinals, Church leaders and lay faithful were saying about the kind of person they believed was needed for today’s new challenges. How did they do?
 
Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka, said in his pre-conclave homily March 11, 2013, said: “There is not just a God of justice, but there is a God of forgiveness and mercy, who goes toward the one who has sinned.” He said the new pope would have to “give the world the great message of God’s love and infinite mercy.”
 
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna told reporters that despite the need for reforms, the Church needed a spiritual leader and “man of the Gospel” rather than a manager or company CEO. Any administrative finesse would be useless without a strong spiritual foundation because reform demands “a kind of pastoral conversion.”
 
Here’s a list of attributes or characteristics many lay faithful and men and women religious mentioned when I spoke with them during the “smoke-watch” in St. Peter’s Square:
 
“Young people need an example, the elderly should be a priority. We need tranquility and peace.”
 
“A bit of humility and knows how to speak. He must give hope, optimism because in the end, what is left? One must hope.”
 
“Someone who will preach the Gospel, to speak to us about Jesus Christ — he is the one who gives us hope and life meaning.”
 
“An ability to speak the Christian message in terms people can understand, to at least plant a seed.”
 
“More focus on Third World-countries so a cardinal from there .… There’s been a lot of scandal so to restore reputation of the Catholic Church.”
 
“Someone who knows how to be with the people, down-to-earth with everyone.”
 
“It’s time we have a pope from Latin America … or Canada,” said a Catholic couple from Toronto.
 
“Needs to be open, modern, charismatic, like John Paul II.”
 
“I would want a pope the whole world sees as their own.”
 
 
 
  • Published in World

Pope: Lent breathes life into world

Lent is a time to receive God's breath of life, a breath that saves humanity from suffocating under the weight of selfishness, indifference and piety devoid of sincerity, Pope Francis said. 

"Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters," the pope said March 1 during an Ash Wednesday Mass.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass after making the traditional Ash Wednesday procession from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill.

After receiving ashes on top of his head from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, the pope distributed ashes to the cardinals, his closest aides, some Benedictines and Dominicans. 

He also distributed ashes to a family and to two members of the Pontifical Academy for Martyrs, which promotes the traditional Lenten "station church" pilgrimage in Rome.  

Lent, he said, is a time to say "no" to "all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion."

The church's Lenten journey toward the celebration of Christ's passion, death and resurrection is made on a road "leading from slavery to freedom" and "from suffering to joy," he said. "Lent is a path: It leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God's children."

The ashes, while a symbol of humanity's origin from the earth, the pope said, is also a reminder that God breathes new life into people in order to save them from the suffocation of "petty ambition" and "silent indifference."

"The breath of God's life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt," the pope said. 

The Lenten season, he continued, is a "time for saying no" to the asphyxia caused by superficial and simplistic analyses that "fail to grasp the complexity of problems" of those who suffer most.

"Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good," the pope said.

Instead, Pope Francis said, Lent is a time for Christians to remember God's mercy and "not the time to rend our garments before evil but rather make room in our life for the good we are able to do."

"Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity," the pope said.
 
  • Published in Vatican

Ecumenism is a common journey

The path toward Christian unity can't be found isolated in a laboratory hashing out theological differences, but rather by walking together on a common journey, Pope Francis said.

While theological dialogue is necessary, Catholics and Anglicans can continue to "help each other in our needs, in our lives and help each other spiritually," the pope said Feb. 26 while answering questions from parishioners of All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome. 

"This cannot be done in a laboratory; it must be done walking together along the way. We are on a journey and while we walk, we can have these (theological) discussions," he said. 

The pope made history as the first pontiff to visit the Anglican parish, which was celebrating the 200th anniversary of its establishment in Rome. 

Invited by the Anglican community, Pope Francis took part in an evening liturgy and blessed an icon of Christ the Savior to commemorate the occasion. 

The prayer service included a "twinning" pledge between All Saints' Anglican Church and the Catholic parish that shares its name in Rome. As Pope Francis looked on, the pastors of both parishes signed a pledge to collaborate in joint retreats, works of charity and sharing meals with each other. 

Rev. Jonathan Boardman, chaplain of the Anglican church in Rome, presented the pope with several gifts that highlight his concern for the poor and the marginalized, including a promise to serve meals to the homeless once a week in his name.

He also said 50 English Bibles will be given in the pope's name to Anglican nuns in Rome who minister to the city's prostitutes.

The Anglican community also presented Pope Francis with a basket of homemade jams and chutneys as well as a Simnel cake, a traditional fruitcake typically served on the fourth Sunday of Lent and adorned with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles, minus Judas. 

After welcoming the pope to the parish, Rev. Boardman noted that when divisions first began, the title "Bishop of Rome" was once used by Anglicans as an insult "or an attempt to belittle it."

"Today for us recognizing your unique role in witnessing to the Gospel and leading Christ's church, it is ironic that what we once used in a cruel attempt to 'put you in your place' has become the key to your pastoral kindness in being alongside us and so many other Christians around the world," Rev. Boardman said. 

The pope thanked the congregation and acknowledged that much has changed between Anglicans and Catholics, "who in the past viewed each other with suspicion and hostility."

"Today, with gratitude to God, we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism. As friends and pilgrims, we wish to walk the path together, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ together," he said. 

He also emphasized the need for Catholics and Anglicans to work together to help those in need in order to build "true, solid communion" through a "united witness to charity."

Following the prayer service, the pope took some moments to answer questions from several members of the Anglican church. 

Asked what was his take on current relations between Catholics and Anglicans, the pope said that while relations between the two communities have been at times "two steps forward, half step back," they are still good and "we care for each other like brothers and sisters."

Ernest, an Anglican seminarian, also asked the pope whether Anglicans and Catholics in Europe can learn from the example of churches in Asia, Africa and the Pacific whose "ecumenical relations are better and more creative."

Pope Francis said the younger churches "have a different vitality" and have a "stronger need" to collaborate. 

An example of this, he added, was a request made by Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian bishops of South Sudan for him to visit the country along with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury. 

"This creativity came from them, the young church. And we are thinking about whether it can be done, if the situation is too difficult down there. But we must do it because they -- the three (bishops) -- together want peace and they are working together for peace," the pope said.
  • Published in World

Other persons are a gift

A few days ago I met a very little girl who made a big impression on me. Grace and her older brother, Benedict, suffer from a rare genetic disorder that has resulted in serious hearing impairment and limited physical growth. The two come to our home for the elderly each week with their mother to pray the rosary with our residents. Watching Grace and Benedict interact with the elderly, I was amazed by their maturity and graciousness. I almost felt that I was in the presence of angels – such was the radiance of these two beautiful little ones in the midst of our frail seniors.
 
In all likelihood, Grace and Benedict will never make an impact on the world scene, and yet I believe that they, and so many other little, hidden souls, make a huge difference in our world spiritually. This is what our Holy Father is suggesting by his Lenten message this year.
 
The theme he has proposed for our 2017 journey through Lent is “The Word is a Gift. Other Persons are a Gift.”
 
Using the parable of Lazarus and the rich man from St. Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis turns our attention to those whom we might usually ignore. He compares the anonymity of the rich man, who is never named in Scripture, with Lazarus, who appears with a specific name and a unique story. Lazarus “becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.”
 
The pope continues, “Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value.” Lent, he says, is a favorable season for recognizing the face of Christ in God’s little ones. “Each of us meets people like this every day,” says the pope. “Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.”
 
This is what our foundress St. Jeanne Jugan did so beautifully. Mindful of Christ’s promise that whatever we do to the least of his brothers and sisters we do to Him, she opened her heart and her home definitively to the needy elderly of her day. She often counseled the young Little Sisters, “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord. … When you will be near the poor, give yourself wholeheartedly, for it is Jesus Himself whom you care for in them.”
 
Jeanne Jugan looked upon each elderly person with the loving gaze of Christ and so she saw each one as a treasure worthy of reverence and loving care. She knew that despite outward appearances, each person to whom she offered hospitality was someone for whom Christ died and rose again; each one was someone worthy of the gift of her own life.
 
Pope Francis’ prayer this Lent is that the Holy Spirit will lead us “on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.” Let us pray for one another, he concluded, “so that by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and the poor. Then we will be able to share to the full the joy of Easter.”
 
I thank God for my recent encounter with Grace and Benedict, for they opened my eyes anew to the beauty in each human person. My wish for you this Lent is that God lead might you to a similar life-changing encounter.
 
Sister Constance Veit is the director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
 

'Disrupt' oppression

Affirming that all human life is sacred and all people are "protagonists of their future," more than 600 grass-roots leaders echoed the call of a U.S. bishop to disrupt practices that cause oppression and violate human dignity.
 
The leaders attending the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements concluded the four-day meeting Feb. 19 saying in a final message that a "small elite is growing wealthy and powerful off the suffering of our families."
 
"Racism and white supremacy are America's original sins. They (the elites) continue to justify a system of unregulated capitalism that idolizes wealth accumulation over human needs," said the "Message from Modesto."
 
The message broadly echoed Pope Francis' regular critiques of the world economy in which he has said the accumulation of wealth by a few people has harmed the dignity of millions of people in the human family.
 
The representatives from dozens of faith-based and secular community organizations, labor unions and Catholic dioceses representing an estimated 1 million people called for eight actions to be undertaken. The actions included inviting faith communities, including every Catholic parish, to declare their sites a sanctuary for people facing deportation by the U.S. government; developing local leadership to hold elected officials accountable and, when possible to recruit grass-roots leaders to seek elected office; and a global week of action May 1-7 in which people "stand together against hatred and attacks on families."
 
"There's too many leaders in this room not to mobilize," Takia Yates-Binford of East St. Louis, Ill., who represented the Service Employees International Union, said as the meeting ended.
 
The delegates called for "bold prophetic leadership" from faith communities to speak and act in solidarity with citizens on the margins of society. Participants in plenary sessions and small-group discussions challenged clergy, including the Catholic hierarchy, to be in the forefront of movements to seek justice on social issues for people outside of mainstream society.
 
In their message, delegates said they wanted to see the seeds planted in Modesto blossom across the country in statewide and regional gatherings to bring the vision of the four meetings of popular movements held to date and the pope's message of hope and courage to every U.S. community.
 
The final message reflected the words of Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, whose stirring presentation a day earlier invited people to follow the example of President Donald Trump, who campaigned as the candidate of "disruption."
"Well now, we must all become disruptors," Bishop McElroy told the delegates Feb. 18 to sustained applause. "We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need.
 
"We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men and women as a source of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children."
 
At the same time, Bishop McElroy said, people of faith must rebuild society based on justice for everyone.
 
"We have to rebuild this nation so that we place at its heart the service of the dignity of the human person and assert what that flag behind us asserts is our heritage: Every man, woman and child is equal in this nation and called to be equal," he said.
Bishop McElroy's words in a plenary session on labor and housing followed a video greeting from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., in which he said the concentration of wealth and political power in the country "threatens to undermine the health of our democracy."
 
As families cope with economic stress and feel no elected official at any level of government cares about their plight, people tend to withdraw from civic participation and effectively disenfranchise themselves, leaving special interest groups, lobbyists and "even demagogues" to fill the void, Cardinal Tobin said.
Such a situation has given rise to populist and nationalist sentiments in the U.S. under which the blame for the economic struggles of some are placed on today's "scapegoats" including immigrants, Muslims and young people of color, he said, rather than toward the architects of what the pope has called the economy of exclusion. The rising fear and anxiety among people in the dominant culture has given rise to "the sins of racism and xenophobia," he said.
 
Cardinal Tobin used Pope Francis' calls for encounter and dialogue as necessary steps to overcome fear, alienation and indifference. "Encounter and dialogue create the capacity for solidarity and accompaniment," he said.
 
"It is our responsibility to respond to the pain and anxiety of our brothers and sisters. As popular movements, your role is to knit together strong communal networks that can gather up the experiences and suffering and aspiration of the people and push for structural changes that affirm the dignity and value of every child of God," Cardinal Tobin said.
 
Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told the gathering as the final message was adopted that the Church was "here to accompany you and support you all."
 
"The Catholic Church believes that the joys and the hope, the grief and the anguish of people of our time, especially those who are poor or who are isolated, these also are the joys and the hope and the grief and the anguish of the followers of Christ," Cardinal Turkson said.
 
Meeting organizers, which included the PICO National Network of congregation-based organizations and the U.S. bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development, planned to send the message and a comprehensive report on the proceedings to the pope and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development co-sponsored the gathering.
 
The U.S. gathering was the first regional meeting in a series encouraged by Pope Francis to bring people working to improve poor and struggling communities around the world through organizing initiatives, prayer and social action. Three previous meetings since 2014 -- two in Rome and one in Bolivia -- have focused on land, labor and housing. The U.S. meeting added immigration and racism to the topics being discussed.
 
Along with the grass-roots volunteer leaders and professional organizers, 25 prelates attended the California meeting and several addressed the plenary sessions including Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, on immigration, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., on racism, and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., on the environment.
- - -
The full Message from Modesto can be read online at popularmovements.org/news/message-from-modesto.
 
  • Published in Nation

Respect earth and others, says pope

Development projects involving indigenous communities must be planned in consultation with them and must respect their traditional relationship to the land, Pope Francis said.

Having the "prior and informed consent" of the native communities who could be impacted by development projects is essential for "peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict," the pope said Feb. 15 during a meeting with about three dozen representative of indigenous communities.

The representatives from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean were in Rome for continuing discussions with the U.N.-related International Fund for Agricultural Development. Their talks aim at ensuring development projects impacting native communities are carried out in consultation with them and that they respect their land, cultures and traditions.

"I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories," the pope said. "This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth."

While none of the representatives were from North America, several news outlets immediately connected the pope's remarks to the ongoing protests over the construction of a leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would go through indigenous land in North Dakota. Several Sioux tribes have protested the pipeline project saying it endangers the Standing Rock reservation's water supply and infringes on sacred tribal grounds.

Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis praised the indigenous communities for approaching progress "with a special care for Mother Earth. In this moment in which humanity is committing a grave sin in not caring for the earth, I urge you to continue to bear witness to this. And do not allow new technologies -- which are legitimate and good -- but do not allow those that destroy the earth, that destroy the environment and ecological balance, and which end up destroying the wisdom of peoples."
  • Published in Vatican

Pope Francis to visit Fatima

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Portugal in 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions of Fatima.
 
The pope, who accepted the invitation made by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the bishops of Portugal, "will go on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima from May 12-13," the Vatican announced in December.
 
The pilgrimage will mark the anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which first began on May 13, 1917, when three shepherd children 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.
 
Following the announcement, Father Carlos Cabecinhas, rector of the Fatima shrine told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops' conference, that the visit was a "cause for joy" for the shrine.
"For the shrine of Fatima, it is a great joy to receive this confirmation of Pope Francis' visit," he said.
 
"We know that those days will be a pilgrimage marked by this festivity that, on the one hand is for the centennial of the apparitions and, on the other hand, marks the presence of the pope in our midst and a pope as beloved as Pope Francis," Father Cabecinhas said.
 
While the Vatican confirmed the dates of the visit, the pope had already said that he intended to go.
 
"Certainly, as things presently stand, I will go to Portugal, and only to Fatima," he told journalists during his return flight to Rome from Azerbaijan Oct. 2.
 
Pope Francis will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Marian shrine, following the footsteps of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who each paid homage different years to Mary on the anniversary of the first apparition May 13.
 
 
 
  • Published in World

Pope leads prayers for migrants, trafficking victims

Marking the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave, Pope Francis urged Christians to help victims of human trafficking and migrants, especially the Rohingya people being chased from Myanmar.

For the Catholic Church, St. Bakhita's feast day, Feb. 8, is a day of prayer for victims of trafficking.

Pope Francis asked government officials around the world to "decisively combat this plague" of human trafficking, paying particular attention to trafficking in children. "Every effort must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime."

Describing St. Bakhita as a "young woman who was enslaved in Africa, exploited, humiliated," Pope Francis said she never gave up hope and, finally, she was able to migrate to Europe.

Holding up a booklet with a photograph of the Sudanese saint, who died in Italy in 1947, the pope continued telling her story. In Europe, he said, "she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun," joining the Canossian Daughters of Charity.

"Let us pray to St. Josephine Bakhita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much," the pope said.

"And speaking of migrants who are exploited and chased away, I want to pray with you today in a special way for our Rohingya brothers and sisters," the pope continued. "These people, thrown out of Myanmar, move from one place to another because no one wants them."

Pope Francis told the estimated 7,000 people at his audience that the Rohingya, who are Muslim, "are good people. They are our brothers and sisters. They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, just because they want to keep their traditions and their Muslim faith."

He led the audience in praying the Lord's Prayer "for our Rohingya brothers and sisters."

In a report released Feb. 3, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said since October, there had been escalating violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The report cited eyewitness reports of mass gang-rape, killings -- including of babies and young children -- beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by the country's security forces.

An estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October, the report said.

The recent violence, the U.N. said, "follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine state."

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis continued to discuss the characteristics of Christian hope, which should be both tender and strong enough to support those who suffer and despair.

The Gospel does not call Christians to pity the suffering, but to have compassion, which means suffering with them, listening to them, encouraging them and offering a helping hand, the pope said.

The Gospel calls Christians "not to build walls, but bridges, not to repay evil with evil, but to defeat evil with goodness (and) offense with forgiveness, to live in peace with all," he said. "This is the church. And this is what Christian hope accomplishes when it takes on the strong and, at the same time, tender features of love."
 
  • Published in Vatican
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal