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Pope Francis recognizes miracle needed to canonize Mother Teresa of Kolkata

Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, thus paving the way for her canonization.

Pope Francis signed the decree for Blessed Teresa's cause and advanced three other sainthood causes on Dec. 17, the Vatican announced.

Although the date for the canonization ceremony will be officially announced during the next consistory of cardinals in February, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Vatican office organizing the Holy Year of Mercy events, had said it would be Sept. 4. That date celebrates the Jubilee of workers and volunteers of mercy and comes the day before the 19th anniversary of her death, Sept. 5, 1997.

The postulator for her sainthood cause, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk of the Missionaries of Charity, said the second miracle that was approved involved the healing of a now 42-yearold mechanical engineer in Santos, Brazil.

Doctors diagnosed the man with a viral brain infection that resulted in multiple brain abscesses, the priest said in a statement published Dec. 18 by AsiaNews, the Rome-based missionary news agency. Treatments given were ineffective and the man went into a coma, the postulator wrote.

The then-newly married man's wife had spent months praying to Blessed Teresa and her prayers were joined by those of her relatives and friends when her dying husband was taken to the operating room Dec. 9, 2008.

When the surgeon entered the operating room, he reported that he found the patient awake, free of pain and asking, "What am I doing here?" Doctors reported the man showed no more symptoms and a Vatican medical commission voted unanimously in September 2015 that the healing was inexplicable.

St. John Paul II had made an exception to the usual canonization process in Mother Teresa's case by allowing her sainthood cause to be opened without waiting the usual five years after a candidate's death. He beatified her in 2003.

The order she started – the Missionaries of Charity – continues its outreach to the "poorest of the poor."

Among the other decrees approved Dec. 17, the pope recognized the heroic virtues of Comboni Father Giuseppe Ambrosoli, an Italian surgeon, priest and missionary who dedicated his life to caring for people in Uganda, where he also founded a hospital and midwifery school before his death in 1987. His father ran the highly successful Ambrosoli honey company.

The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of De La Salle Brother Leonardo Lanzuela Martinez of Spain (1894-1976) and Heinrich Hahn, a German surgeon.

Born in 1800, the lay Catholic doctor was the father of 10 children and dedicated much of his activity to providing medical care to the poor. He was also involved in public service, even serving in the German parliament. He founded the St. Francis Xavier Mission Society in Germany and the "Giuseppino" Institute for those suffering from incurable illnesses. He died in 1882. (CNS)

 
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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.

 
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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)

 
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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)

 
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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)

 
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No one is excluded from the mercy of God, pope says at audience


Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians are called to work together in order to be a visible sign that God's mercy excludes no one, Pope Francis said during his general audience Jan. 20.

The pope reflected on the theme of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which was taken from the first letter of St. Peter and was selected by an ecumenical group from Latvia. The Lutheran cathedral of Riga, Latvia, he noted, contains a 12th-century baptismal font that serves as a sign of the common baptism that unites Catholics, Protestant and Orthodox Christians.

"St. Peter's first letter is addressed to the first generation of Christians to make them aware of the gift received through Baptism and the requirements it entails," the pope said. "We too, in this week of prayer, are invited to rediscover this and do this together, going beyond our divisions."

The pope said that although divisions are often caused by selfishness, the common baptism shared by Christians is an experience of being "called from the merciless and alienating darkness" to an encounter with God who is "full of mercy."

"To start once again from baptism means to rediscover the source of mercy, the source of hope for all, so that no one is excluded from God's mercy," he said. "No one is excluded from the mercy of God."

The grace of God's mercy, he added, is stronger than what divides Christians and in the measure one receives that grace, one becomes "capable of preaching to all his merciful deeds," especially through a witness of Christian unity.

"We Christians can announce to all the power of the Gospel by committing ourselves to share the corporal and spiritual works of mercy," he said. "This is a concrete witness of unity among us Christians: Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics."

Pope Francis emphasized that the week of prayer serves as a reminder that Christians share a common mission in passing on to others the mercy they have received, especially with "the poor and the abandoned."

"During this week of prayer, let us pray so that all of us, disciples of Christ, may find a way to work together to bring the mercy of the father to every part of the earth," the pope said. (CNS)

 
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Pope tells women religious Vatican will study women deacons

Pope Francis told the heads of women's religious orders from around the world that he would set up a commission to study the New Testament deaconesses and he also insisted more can and should be done to involve lay and consecrated women in Church decision-making at every level.

Asked if he would establish "an official commission to study the question" of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate, Pope Francis responded: "I accept. It would be useful for the Church to clarify this question. I agree."

The pope spent more than an hour May 12 responding to questions posed by members of the International Union of Superiors General, repeatedly asking if they wanted further clarification.

"I like hearing your questions because they make me think," the pope told close to 900 superiors general, representing almost 500,000 sisters around the world. "I feel like a goalie, who is standing there waiting for the ball and not knowing where it's going to come from."

Asked about deaconesses in the New Testament and the possibility of the modern Church admitting women to the permanent diaconate, Pope Francis had said his understanding was that the women described as deaconesses in the Bible were not ordained like permanent deacons are. Mainly, he said, it appeared that they assisted with the baptism by immersion of other women and with the anointing of women.

However, he said, "I will ask the (Congregation for the) Doctrine of the Faith to tell me if there are studies on this."

Pope Francis also promised to have the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments send the UISG a full explanation of why women cannot give a homily at Mass. While women can preach at a Liturgy of the Word when there is not a celebration of the Eucharist, he said, at Mass the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are parts of a whole and only one who is ordained can preside and preach.

The main part of the question was about the lack of influence women religious are given in Church decision-making processes. Pope Francis said the obligation to listen to women in the parish, diocese and at the Vatican "is not a matter of feminism, but of right."

All the baptized–women and men, lay or consecrated–have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit for the good of the entire Church, he insisted. The entire Church suffers when some voices are excluded from the conversation, he said. (CNS)

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