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Francis urges Serrans to ‘keep moving forward’ promoting vocations

June 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2017 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis offered encouragement Friday to members of Serra International, which promotes religious vocations, urging them to persevere in their “beautiful vocation of being laity who are friends to priests” and to “(k)eep moving forward!”

Pope Francis said June 23 that friendship “is central to the experience of faith.”

Serra International is a lay apostolate dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and does this by both prayer and assistance to discerners.

Serra’s conference is taking place from June 22-25 in Rome under the theme Siempre Adelante, “keep moving forward.” Friday’s papal audience was open to all attendees after a Mass in St. Peter’s.

Reflecting on friendship, Francis said that “the word ‘friend’ has become a bit overused.”

“But, when Jesus speaks of ‘friends,’ he points to a hard truth: true friendship involves an encounter that draws me so near to the other person that I give something of my very self. Jesus says to his disciples: ‘No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you’. He thus establishes a new relationship between man and God, one that transcends the law and is grounded in trust and love.”

Friends accompany us, he said. “They stand at our side, gently and tenderly, along our journey; they listen to us closely, and can see beyond mere words.”

He linked this Christian idea of friendship to Serra’s work in promoting vocations and helping priests. They are “(f)riends who share the wonder of a vocation, the courage of a definitive decision, the joy and fatigue of ministry. Friends who can offer priests support and regard their generous efforts and human failings with understanding and tender love.”

He compared their work to the home of Mary and Martha in the gospel, which Christ frequently visited and where he “was able to find rest and refreshment.”

He then offered his reflections for the convention’s theme of Siempre Adelante.

“Like you, I believe that this is a synonym for the Christian vocation,” he said. He compared the phrase to Christ’s call to his disciples to go forward in their ministerial journey, and he cautioned against giving into fear on this journey.

“Of course, we cannot make progress unless we take a risk,” he said. “We do not advance toward the goal if, as the Gospel says, we are afraid to lose our lives. No ship would ever set out into the deep if it feared leaving the safety of the harbour.”

“On the other hand,” he said,” when Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God’s surprises.”

He referenced the example of St. Junipero Serra, whom he canonized in Washington, D.C. in 2015, who, despite a limp, proceeded on his pilgrimage. He also warned against “museum Christians” who fear change.

“It is better to go forward limping, and even at times to fall, while always trusting in the mercy of God,” he said.

He concluded his speech by instructing them to not be afraid of changing the structures of their organization, humbly renouncing old roles and practices in favor of living their vocation.

“So you too, siempre Adelante! With courage, creativity, and boldness,” he said.

“The Church and priestly vocations need you. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Mother of priests, be with you every step of the way And I ask you, please, pray for me!”

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Pope Francis meets with the King and Queen of the Netherlands

June 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2017 / 07:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis met with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, discussing issues surrounding migration, poverty and the protection of the environment.

According to a June 22 Vatican communique, the three cordially discussed topics “of shared interest,” including protection of the environment, the fight against poverty and how the Holy See and Catholic Church are contributing in these areas.

Particular attention, it stated, was paid to “the phenomenon of migration, underlining the importance of peaceful co-existence between different cultures, and joint commitment to promoting peace and global security, with special reference to various areas of conflict.”

They also shared reflections on the prospects of the European project. The private portion of the audience, which included both the King and the Queen, lasted 35 minutes.

Queen Máxima, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, greeted Pope Francis in “porteño,” a dialect of Spanish spoken by people from the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina.

“How are you? Delighted to see you again,” she said.

During the visit Pope Francis gifted the royal couple a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, in the classic image of the saint dividing his cloak to give to a poor man.

He also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia,” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” as well as a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.

For their part, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima gave the Pope a gift of Dutch flowers, white and yellow tulips from their country.

Giving the gifts, they told Pope Francis that tulips aren’t only for Easter, but could be planted in the Vatican.

Afterward, the two met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

The Royal couple are in the midst of a state visit to the Italian Republic, taking place June 21-23.

Before their meeting with the Pope, the King and Queen visited the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, the national church of the Netherlands in Rome. Located next to the Vatican, it was built in 1140 in the place where pilgrims from the Netherlands met back in the 8th century.

According to church statistics, Catholics currently make up 23 percent of the population of 17 million in the Netherlands.

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Pope Francis sends aid to a troubled South Sudan

June 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 11:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Vatican stated last month the postponement of Pope Francis’ proposed trip to South Sudan, they announced Wednesday that the Pope will instead send aid to the people suffering from worsening conditions.

The Vatican announced June 21 that Pope Francis will be aiding projects in the areas of education, healthcare, and agriculture, called the “Pope for South Sudan” Initiative.

The program will be coordinated through the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, and by Caritas International.

Because he is unable to travel to South Sudan in person, Pope Francis “wanted to express the tangible presence and closeness of the Church with the afflicted people,” Cardinal Turkson told journalists.

“It is an initiative that is to foster, support and encourage the work of the various religious congregations and international aid organizations that are present on the territory and tirelessly work to help the population and to promote the process of development and peace,” he said.

The projects of the Pope’s aid includes support for two hospitals: Wau Hospital in the Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, and Nzara Hospital in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio.

Both hospitals have fewer than 130 beds between all of the departments, though the Wau Hospital treats around 300 patients a day on average, hospitalizing around 40,000 per year.

The aid will go toward support for medical and nursing staff, medicine and its transportation from Uganda to the hospital and management costs of the facilities.

Among the priorities of the Nzara hospital are the prevention and treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, and AIDS, as well as healthcare for children under the age of five.

Under education, the Pope’s initiative will help support an association of religious congregations called “Solidarity with South Sudan” which is working to train teachers, nurses, midwives, local farmers, and community leaders.

Since 2010 they have offered a two-year full-time program for obtaining a primary school teacher diploma at their center in Yambio, recognized by the Ministry of Education of South Sudan. Since opening, they have welcomed 3,500 students.

Francis also sends 200,000 euros ($223,000) to support agriculture in the country. The aid will be directed toward giving families the tools and seeds to grow their own crops where it is possible, thus feeding themselves and their families and providing a sustainable source of food.

In comments to CNA, Cardinal Turkson emphasized that this initiative should not be presented in any way as the only and first time the Holy Father is showing interest in the situation in South Sudan.

Cardinal Turkson himself has already made two visits there on behalf of the Pope, and this is just “the latest gesture,” he said.

“The Holy Father stays very close to the situation in South Sudan to try to a help, to be paternal to the situation over there and to try to afford the help that he can.”

Since December 2013 there has been ongoing civil war in South Sudan, interrupted by tenuous peace.

Parts of South Sudan were declared to be under conditions of famine in February. The classification was lifted Wednesday following an increase in aid, according to a UN-backed report. It warns, however, that the situation remains desperate as the number of people at risk for starvation continues to increase.

Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas International, told CNA that in February they said 100,000 people were going to die of hunger, but now they think that number might be 1 million.

“The situation is worsening day-by-day and we tend to forget what the situation is because it’s not new,” he said. “Now, the people of South Sudan are dying of hunger, of famine. Because there is no food and we cannot bring food to them because of security. So it’s the worst thing that can happen.”

The Pope’s aid is not just important for the concrete help it gives, he said, but because it also again raises the attention of the international community to the plight in South Sudan.

“To save lives needs money,” he continued. “The UN have launched an appeal which is only half funded, so the other half has to be found. It’s a lot of money, but we cannot just sit and look at people dying, so there’s a real need for increasing humanitarian aid.”

The Vatican’s aid to South Sudan was also welcomed by Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops’ international charity agency.

Sean Callahan, the president of CRS, stated that “what is most important, is Pope Francis telling world not to give up on South Sudan, that we all must step up our commitment to help.”

Callahan recently visited South Sudan, and said, “I can tell you from my visit that there is hope. I saw that when people had peace, they got to work, planting their crops, building homes and roads, building the new nation.”

CRS has led a US government-funded program in the country which focuses on supporting infrastructure development by providing food rations to villagers building roads, schools, dykes, and waterways. The aid agency is urging Congress to continue funding such aid programs, as the Trump administration has proposed cutting or eliminating such programs.

“We’ve seen those programs work and make a huge difference in the lives of people in South Sudan,” Callahan stated. “Now is not the time to turn our backs. There’s still hope and we can still get things done.”

Cardinal Turkson added that South Sudan needs the intervention of the international community to help end the conflict and bring about peace, the only thing which will truly end the humanitarian crisis.

“Pope Francis is a universal shepherd who crosses borders,” Cardinal Turkson said in the press conference. “He feels the pressing need to raise awareness of the international community about this silent drama, calling for greater and renewed efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

“The Holy Father does not forget the unheard and silent victims of this bloody and inhuman conflict, he does not forget all those people who are forced to flee their native country because of the abuse of power, injustice and war – he brings them all in his prayers and in his heart,” he said.

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Can relics unite Catholics and Orthodox? Pope Francis thinks so.

June 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Common veneration of relics is one of the tools Pope Francis is using to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In May, relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, respectively. They have been exposed for the veneration of the Orthodox faithful from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.
 
The transportation of the relics of St. Nicholas from the Italian city of Bari to Moscow is particularly noteworthy. It is the first time in 930 years that a part of the body of St. Nicholas has left Bari for veneration abroad.
 
The novel action comes after a specific request Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow made to Pope Francis when they met in Havana, Cuba in February 2016.
 
Pope Francis consented to Patriarch Kirill’s request and forwarded the request to Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci. The archbishop then started the procedures to move the relics.

In the end, it was possible to detach a small particle of St. Nicholas’ left rib, which the archbishop noted was “close to the saint’s heart.”
 
Archbishop Cacucci discussed the letter Pope Francis had sent him to about the Patriarch’s request. The archbishop explained that, for Pope Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”

“The common veneration of saints help us to look at the ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.

St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087.

Those sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where St. Nicholas had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century.

This year, St. Nicholas’ relics arrived in Moscow May 22. They were placed in a container specially crafted for the occasion. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of Moscow. Patriarch Kirill himself celebrated a divine liturgy to welcome them.

St. Nicholas’ relics will be in Moscow until July 12. They will then move to St. Petersburg for several weeks before returning to Bari July 28.

While the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate received St. Nicholas’ relics from the Church of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on May 8 welcomed relics of St. Philip in the Turkish city of Izmir, better known by its ancient Greek name: Smyrna.
 
St. Philip evangelized that land and was martyred there.  

His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century. Last year, the relics were taken out and submitted to an examination. Then, they were exposed for a while for the veneration of the faithful.
 
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople strongly advocated sharing the relics for veneration, as he is particularly devoted to St. Philip. The Catholic community joined the Patriarch in this request, and so one of St. Philip’s relic could return home. The Catholic Archbishop of Izmir Lorenzo Piretto personally forwarded the request to bring the relics to the Turkish city.
 
The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is performed today.
 
It echoes Pope Francis’ idea of “walking ecumenism,” which he described in an Oct. 12 meeting with members of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions.

In his remarks, the Pope said that “it is important that theologians study, that they find agreement and identify disagreements.”
 
But, he added, “ecumenism is done by walking and by walking with Jesus.” It is “a simple path, traveled with prayer and through helping one another.”
 
Another reflection came while the Pope presided at Vespers Jan. 25, 2016 at St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica, a time that by tradition closes the week of prayer for Christian unity. Pope Francis said that “while we journey together toward full communion, we can begin already to develop many forms of cooperation in order to favor the spread of the Gospel – and walking together, we become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”
 
This “walking ecumenism” is also emphasized through the veneration of the same saints. Patriarch Kirill seems to think the same.
 
Bari’s Archbishop Cacucci, having returned from Russia where he accompanied St. Nicholas’ relic, reflected on the phenomenon.

“In fact, the translation of the relic is already an ecumenical dialogue, and this Patriarch Kirill said more and more times. When ecumenism does not involve only the top ranks of Churches or theologians, but rather involves the people of God, then it is possible to move forward.”

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Don’t think holiness is for you? The saints can help, Pope Francis says

June 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis said the saints show us that despite what we might think, holiness is possible for everyone, and we should call on them for help in living out our vocations.

Some of us may be tempted to question if it is really possible to be holy in everyday life, the Pope said, but “yes, you can,” he encouraged, and it doesn’t mean you have to pray all day long.

“No, no. It means you have to do your duty all day long,” he said June 21. “Pray, go to work, watch over the children. But everything must be done with a heart open to God, in a way that the work, even in illness, and in suffering, also in difficulty, is open to God. And so you can become saints.”

“You can!” he continued. “May the Lord give us the hope of being holy! But we can. We do not think it’s a difficult thing, that it’s easier to be scoundrels than saints! No. It is possible to be holy because the Lord helps us; it is He who helps us.”

In his catechesis at the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the hope brought by the Communion of Saints and how we call on them as a Church in the liturgy and in our lives to help us become saints ourselves.

For example, we call on them in the liturgy for the Sacrament of Matrimony, he said, especially for the grace to fulfill marital duties. “And this invocation is a source of trust for the two young people who start off on the ‘journey’ of marital life,” he pointed out.

“Those who really love have the desire and courage to say ‘forever,’ ‘forever,’ but they know that they need the grace of God and the help of the saints. To be able to live the marriage forever.”

“Not like some say ‘as long as love lasts.’ No: forever! Otherwise, it’s better not to marry you. Either forever or nothing.”

He explained how we also call on the saints in the Mass of Ordination. Candidates for the priesthood lie on the floor, their faces against the ground while the assembly, led by the bishop, invoke the intercession of the saints.

“A man would be crushed under the weight of the mission entrusted to him” in the priesthood, the Pope said, “but feeling that all heaven is behind him, that the grace of God will not fail because Jesus remains faithful, then he can go serene and refreshed. We are not alone.”

Because we have the example of the saints, we have hope that it is possible to live a holy life, he said. “Christianity cultivates an ingrained trust: it does not believe that negative and disgusting forces can prevail. The last word on man’s history is not hatred, it is not death, it is not war.”

The existence of the saints tells us “first of all that the Christian life is not an unreachable ideal,” he said.

Thus, we are comforted knowing that we are not alone, he said, and knowing that “the Church is made of innumerable brothers, often anonymous, who have preceded us and who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, are involved in the affairs of those who still live here.”

We call on the saints in the Mass, the Pope reminded, but we must also have the courage to call on them ourselves in difficult moments, thinking of all those who have gone through trials before us, yet have persevered in sanctity.

God never abandons us, often helping us through human hands and hearts, and through the saints, who are hidden but still “in our midst,” he said.

“This is difficult to understand and also to imagine, but the saints are always present in our life. When anyone invokes the saints, they are near to us,” he emphasized.

We must remember, though we are weak, the mystery of grace that is present in the lives of Christians is powerful. “We are dust that aspires to heaven.”

“We are faithful to this earth, which Jesus loved at every moment of his life, but we know and want to hope for the transfiguration of the world, in its final fulfillment where there will finally be no more tears, malice and suffering.

Though we are faithful to the earth which God has placed us upon and which Jesus loved during his life, we must keep hoping for its transfiguration in the second coming of Christ, when there will finally be “no more tears, malice and suffering.”

Our holiness is the great gift that each of us can make to the world, Francis went on. “Let the Lord give us the grace of believing so deeply in Him that we may become Christ’s image for this world.”

Our world needs saints, he concluded: “without these men and women the world would have no hope.”

“You can be holy because the Lord helps us; it is He who helps us.”

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