Be men and women of life, Pope Francis says Easter Monday

April 17, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 17, 2017 / 05:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Easter Monday, Pope Francis said how it is Christ’s resurrection that calls each of us to bring the message of Easter – a message of hope and life – to the world.

“There is life!” the Pope said April 17. Now, following the Resurrection, “we will be resurrection men and women, men and women of life.”

We are called to show solidarity, welcoming, and peace to people “in the midst of events that afflict the world – there are many today – in the midst of worldliness that is distant from God,” he said.

These are only human signs that we can give, he continued, but “inspired and sustained by faith in the Risen Lord,” we can gain effectiveness “well beyond our capacity.”

Pope Francis gave his message Easter Monday before leading pilgrims in the Regina Coeli prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter’s square.

It is customary for the Pope to lead this traditional Marian prayer on the Monday following Easter Sunday, also sometimes called the “Monday of the Angel” for the angel which announced Christ’s resurrection to the women at the tomb.

During the fifty days of Easter, the Regina Coeli will replace the usual recitation of the Angelus on Sundays.

In the message of the Angel to the women on Easter morning, “Go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead,’” we hear our directions as well, he said. The angel invites us as well to “act quickly” and to “go” to “proclaim to the men and women of our time this message of joy and hope.”

This message is hopeful because on the dawn of the third day, Jesus was risen from the dead, therefore “the last word is not death, but life! And this is our certainty. The last word is not the grave, is not death, it is life!”

And our Mother Mary can help us to live this out, Francis said.

“The Virgin Mary, silent witness of the death and resurrection of her son Jesus, helps us to be clear signs of the risen Christ among the events of the world.”

“Those who are in distress and difficulties,” he explained, can “find in us so many brothers and sisters who offer them support and consolation.”

“And this is so because Christ is alive and active in history through his Holy Spirit, redeems our miseries, reaches every human heart and gives hope to anyone who is oppressed and suffering,” he said.

“Our Mother, help us to believe strongly in the resurrection of Jesus: Jesus is risen, he is alive here, among us, and this is a wonderful mystery of salvation with the ability to transform hearts and lives,” he prayed.

“And intercede in a particular way for the Christian communities persecuted and oppressed as they are today, in many parts of the world, called to a difficult and courageous witness.”


As Benedict turns 90, a rare glimpse into his ‘joy’-filled life

April 16, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lengthy interview with EWTN’s German television branch, Benedict XVI’s closest aide describes how the retired pontiff is doing as he turns the milestone age of 90, giving a rare look into what life is like for the Pope Emeritus.

Archbishop Gänswein has been Benedict’s personal secretary since 2003, while the latter was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He has remained close at Benedict’s side throughout his papacy, resignation and his life of retirement.

In anticipation of Benedict XVI’s 90th birthday, which this year falls on Easter Sunday, April 16, Gänswein gave a lengthy interview to EWTN.TV in German, sharing insights into how the Pope Emeritus plans to celebrate his birthday and highlights and personal memories of his pontificate.

Among other things, the archbishop recalls how Benedict handled his election, the frequently negative media-firestorm that enveloped much of his pontificate, his hope for what people take from his papacy as well as how he spends his days in retirement.  

Please read below for the full interview with Archbishop Gänswein, conducted by the head of EWTN.TV Martin Rothweiler, and translated from the original German by EWTN’s Silvia Kritzenberger:

EWTN.TV: The question everyone’s interested in is, of course: How is Pope Benedict? The Psalm says: “Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years.” That happens to be psalm 90. And now on the 16th of April, Pope Benedict will celebrate his 90th birthday! How is he?

Gänswein: Yes, indeed, on Easter Sunday he will turn 90! Considering his age, he is remarkably well. He is also in good spirits, very clear in his head and still has a good sense of humor. What bothers him are his legs, so he uses a walker for help, and he gets along very well. And this walker guarantees him freedom of movement and autonomy. So, for a 90-year old, he is doing pretty well – even though, from time to time, he complains of this or that minor ailment.

EWTN.TV: How will he celebrate his birthday?

Gänswein: On Easter Sunday, priority will of course be given to liturgy. On Easter Monday, in the afternoon, we will hold a small celebration. He wanted something not too exhausting, appropriate to his strengths. He didn’t want to have a big celebration. That was never an option for him. A small delegation from Bavaria will come, the Mountain troops will come… The Bavarian Prime Minister will come to the monastery, and there we will hold a small birthday party in true Bavarian style!

EWTN.TV: Have you any idea if Pope Francis will come to see him?

Gänswein: That is quite likely. He will surely do so.

EWTN.TV: No one knows Pope Benedict better than you – apart from his brother Georg Ratzinger. How did you get to know Pope Benedict?

Gänswein: Actually, through literature. Back in the day, when I was just about to finish gymnasium, my parish priest gave me Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity, urging me: “You absolutely have to read this! That’s the future!” I said: “Okay, but have you read it?” “No,” he replied, “but you have to read it!” And I did. Later, when I started to study theology in Freiburg, and then in Rome, and then again back in Freiburg, I had practically read everything the then-professor and cardinal had written. But it was only 21, or maybe 22 years ago, that I finally met him in person here in Rome, when I was asked to become a collaborator of the Roman Curia … More concretely, I met him in the Teutonic College, that is, in the chapel, where Cardinal Ratzinger used to celebrate Mass for the German pilgrims every Thursday, joining us for breakfast. That was how the first personal contact with Cardinal Ratzinger came about, and since then we never lost that contact.

EWTN.TV: At some point, he decided to call you to his side. Why did his choice fall on you?

Gänswein: Well, you must know that I didn’t come directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; my first employment was at the Congregation for Divine Worship. But when, in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a German priest left after a certain period of time in order to go back to Germany, Ratzinger asked me to come. “I think you are suitable for the post, and I would like you to come,” he said to me. “If you agree, I would like to speak with the respective authorities.” And he did. That was how it came about that, in 1996, I entered the staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post I held until 2003. Afterwards, he made me his Personal Secretary – which I still am, to this very day.

EWTN.TV: What was your first impression of him? What did you think when he called you to work closely with him?

Gänswein: My first thought was: Have I done something wrong? Don’t I have a clean record? So I examined my conscience, but my conscience was clear. And then he said: “No, it is something that concerns your future. Something I think might be a good task for you. Consider it carefully!” Of course, I was very pleased that he thought I was capable of working in his entourage. It is indeed a very demanding task, one that requires all your strength.   

EWTN.TV: Which personality traits and characteristics did you discover in him?

Gänswein: The same I had already discovered in his writings: a sharp intellect, a clear diction. And then, in his personal relations, a great clemency, quite the contrary of what he has always been associated with and still is, of what has always been said about him, when he was described as a “Panzerkardinal” (army tank Cardinal), someone rough – which he is not. On the contrary, he is very confident when dealing with others, but also when he has to deal with problems, when he has to solve problems, and, above all, in the presentation of the faith, the defense of the faith. But what moved me most, was to see how this man managed to proclaim our faith with simple, but profound words, against all odds and despite all hostilities.

EWTN.TV: What were the main issues on his agenda when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

Gänswein: When I joined the Congregation, he was dealing with the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, and then with Dominus Jesus, documents which date back to years when I was already part of the Congregation. Later, of course, it was also about religious dialogue – a subject he revisited and deepened also after he’d become Pope. And then the big issue of faith and reason. A whole chain of subjects, so to say, I could witness in person. And it was all highly interesting, and a great challenge, too.

EWTN.TV: It was Pope John Paul II who nominated Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What kind of relationship did they have? What kind of relationship did Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, have with the Pope who was, as we now know, a holy man?

Gänswein: Cardinal Ratzinger, that is to say, Pope Benedict, had contributed with a relatively long essay to a small, but beautiful little book that was published on the occasion of the canonization of John Paul II. An essay, in which he describes his relationship with the holy Pope John Paul II –  after all, they had worked closely together for 23 years – and the great admiration he has for him. He spoke of him very often. It is of course a great gift, an immense grace, to work for so long, and so intensely, side by side with a man like John Paul II, facing also many a storm together! And the then Cardinal Ratzinger had to take many blows for John Paul II, since the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clearly cannot be everybody’s darling: He has to offer his back, so that he can take the blows that are actually meant for the Pope.

EWTN.TV: How strong was his influence on the pontificate of John Paul II?

Gänswein: I am convinced of the fact that the pontificate of John Paul II was strongly influenced and supported not only by the person of the then Prefect of the Congregation of Faith, but also by his thoughts and his actions.

EWTN.TV: Pope Benedict once said that he had learned and understood much of John Paul II when he watched him celebrate Mass; when he saw how he prayed, how very united he was with God, far beyond his philosophical and mental capacities. What do you think when you watch Pope Benedict celebrate Mass, when you might be present while he is praying?

Gänswein: In fact, that is something I see every day, but especially since the moment I became secretary to Pope Benedict. Before, I was already his secretary, but we didn’t live together. It did happen that we celebrated Mass together, of course. But from the very moment of his election, it was no longer a work communion, but also a communion of life. And the daily Mass has become part of this life, then and today. It is moving to watch Pope Benedict during Mass simply abandon himself to what is happening, even now, in his old days, with all the physical handicaps that come with it; to see how intensely he enters the depths of prayer, but also afterwards, during the thanksgiving in front of the tabernacle, in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament. As far as I am concerned, it makes me enter the depths of prayer. That is highly motivating, and I am very thankful that I was given the chance to have an experience like this.

EWTN.TV: 2005 is the year that marked the end of the long and public suffering and death of John Paul II. How does Pope Benedict XVI remember this moment today? After all, with his resignation, he has chosen to let his own pontificate end in a different way…How does he remember the suffering and the death of John Paul II?

Gänswein: I remember very clearly what he said to me when he made me his secretary. He said: “We two are interim arrangements. I will soon retire, and you will accompany me until that moment comes.” That was in 2003. Time passed by…and then came 2005. The interim arrangement lasts and lasts. And he was really looking forward to having some time off in order to be able to finish writing his book about Jesus. But then things turned out differently. And, well, I think that after the death of Pope John Paul II he had other plans, hoping that the new Pope would let him take his leave, entering his well-deserved retirement. But once again, things turned out differently: he became Pope himself, and the Lord took him up on his promise once again. He had plans, but there was another who had different plans for him.

EWTN.TV: Did he expect – or fear –  that in any way?

Gänswein: He certainly did not expect it – but, at a certain point, he might have feared it. In this context, I always remember his first press conference (as Pope), where he described the 19th of April, the day of his election when, in the late afternoon, the ballot was so clear that it became obvious that he would be elected. Well, the image he used, the one of the guillotine, was a very strong one, and full of tension. And later, in Munich, referring to the image of the bear of St. Corbinian, he said that the bear was actually supposed to accompany the then-bishop Corbinian to Rome, and then return to where he had come from, whereas he, unlike the bear in the legend, couldn’t go back, but has remained in Rome to this very day.

EWTN.TV: How was your first encounter, after he had become Pope? What did he say to you?

Gänswein: We had our first encounter in the Sistine Chapel, right under the Last Judgement. The cardinals had approached him and sworn obedience to him. And since I had been allowed to be present at the Conclave – Ratzinger, being the Deacon of the Cardinals, had the right to take a priest with him, and his choice had fallen on me – I was the last in the queue. There were others before me, I was the last. And in this very moment…I remember it so well…I can still see him, for the first time all dressed in white: white pileolus, white cassock, white hair – and all white in the face! Practically a whole small cloud of white…He sat there, and in this moment I granted the Holy Father my unconditional availability, promising him that I would always gladly do whatever he might ask of me; that he would always be able to count on me, that I would back him, and that I would gladly do so.

EWTN.TV: What were the joys of this pontificate? Usually, the burden of the Petrine ministry is what first comes to mind. But are there also moments, events, when you could feel the joy Pope Benedict experienced in carrying out his ministry?

Gänswein: There were, without any doubt, moments in which he felt utter joy, and also manifested it. I think, for example, of various encounters, not only during his travels. Encounters with the Successor of Peter are always special encounters; even here, during the General Audiences or the Private Audiences – and, in another, very special way, when he acts as officiant, that is, during the celebration of the Holy Mass or other liturgical celebrations.  There were indeed moments full of joy, fulfilled with joy. And afterwards, he never failed to remark on it. It made him really happy.

EWTN.TV: Are there any events you remember particularly well, especially in connection with Pope Benedict’s visits to Germany, which we all remember vividly, for example the first World Youth Day?

Gänswein: Yes, well, the first encounter hadn’t been brought about by Pope Benedict himself, but by John Paul II. And so, in 2005, as we all know, it was Benedict’s turn to travel to Cologne. It was surely something great, something really moving. It was the first time in his life he met such an immense crowd of young people, who were all waiting for him! How will it go? Will the ice break, will the ice melt? Or will it take some time? And how will we get along with one another? But there was no ice at all! It simply worked, right from the start!  And I think, he himself was more surprised by it than the young people he met.

EWTN.TV: What are the key messages of his Pontificate? His first encyclical letter was Deus Caritas est, “God Is Love.” The second one was dedicated to hope; his third encyclical, the one on faith, was passed on to his successor who completed it. Don’t you think that especially Deus Caritas est, so full of tenderness and poetic language, was something many didn’t expect?

Gänswein: Yes, one has to say, he published three encyclical letters. And we must not omit Caritas in veritate, which is very important. In fact, the one about the third theological virtue, faith, fides, was then published under his successor: Lumen fidei. But these four encyclicals clearly contain a fundamental message that has moved him his whole life long; a message he wanted to bequeath to men, to the Church.

Another constant of Pope Benedict is a very important word, a very important element: joy, “la gioia,” in Italian. He always spoke of the joy of faith, not of the burden, the hardship, the weight of faith, but of the joy that comes with it. And he said that this joy is an important fruit of faith – and also the one thing that gives men wings; that this is how faith gives human life wings: wings which, otherwise without faith, man would never have.  

Another important thing for him is – obviously – liturgy, that is to say the direct encounter with God. Liturgy does not represent something theatrical – it means to be called into a relationship with the living God. And then, in theology, we have the person of Jesus Christ: not a historical “something,” a historical person long lost in the past. No, through the scriptures and liturgy, Jesus Christ comes into this world, here and now, and above all: he also comes into my own life. These are the pearls Pope Benedict has bestowed upon us. And we should treat these pearls very carefully, just as we do with precious jewelry.

EWTN.TV: This joy of faith is something Benedict never lost, despite often even heavy media criticism. He never really was the media’s darling, at least not as far as the German media are concerned. How did he account for that?

Gänswein: Well, I have to say, to me that is still a mystery. Whoever defends the truth of faith – to say it with Saint Paul – be it convenient or not, cannot always trigger joy. That is clear. Some essential things just aren’t for sale, and then there’s always a hail of criticism. But he has never answered to provocation, nor let himself be intimidated by criticism. Wherever the substance of the faith is at stake, he had no doubts, and always reacted explicitly, without any inner conflict whatsoever.

On other points, I have to say, there was a mixture of incomprehension, and also aggression, aggressiveness, that became like a clustered ball that consistently hit at the person of the Pope. The incomprehension of many, and especially the media, is still a mystery to me, something I have to take note of, but cannot sort out. I simply have no answer to it.

EWTN.TV: Pope Benedict was never shy about talking to journalists. In the introduction you wrote to the book Über den Wolken mit Papst Benedikt XVI. (Above the Clouds with Pope Benedict XVI), published to mark his 90th birthday – above the clouds, because it contains interviews often given during Papal flights – you state that these conversations reveal his particular cordiality, his often not understood or underestimated humanity…

Gänswein: Pope Benedict has never shunned away from personal contact with the media, with the journalists. And one great gift was that everything he says is well-worded, ready for printing. He was never shy about answering questions, even questions that were embarrassing – well, not embarrassing, but difficult. And that made it even more incomprehensible that it was exactly this corner from where the arrows came, where the fire was set – and for no clear reason at all. He, too, took notice of it. Of course, there were also things which offended, hurt him. Especially when it was clear to see that there was no reason at all, when you couldn’t help asking yourself: why this snappish remark, this acrimonious presentation? Things like that would hurt anyone, that’s only normal. But, on the other side, we also know that our measure is not the applause we get; our measure is inner righteousness, the example of the Gospel. That thought has always comforted him; it was the line of reasoning he has always pursued, until the end.

EWTN.TV: But was he also aware of the value of the media in the process of evangelization? After all, he has awarded the Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice to Mother Angelica, founder of our television network, which means he must really appreciate her! How did he judge the role of the media in the concrete work of evangelization?  

Gänswein: The media are an important means; a means that will become ever more important, especially in our time. He has never failed to recognize the value of the media, of the work done by the media and those who are behind it. Because media work is done by people, not by “something.” Behind every camera, every written word, every book, there is a person, there are people he appreciated, whose work he appreciated, regardless of what sometimes had been used or said against him.

EWTN.TV: One cannot think of Pope Benedict without rekindling the memory of his resignation. That is not about to change, and will continue to be a subject that stirs people’s interest. So I would like to ask you again: Did you see it coming? Was it clear to him that he would go down that road one day?

Gänswein: Well, as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t see it coming. If and since when he started to nurture this thought, is something I don’t know. The only thing I know is that he told me about it when the decision was already made. But I definitely didn’t see it coming – and that made the shock for me even greater.

EWTN.TV: In his latest memoirs – I refer to the interview-book Last conversations with Peter Seewald – Benedict XVI makes it very clear that external pressure or adversities would never have made him resign. So this cannot have been the case…

Gänswein: That’s right.

EWTN.TV: …So this is the final word that puts an end to the discussion on possible motives…

Gänswein: In another book – the penultimate project carried out with Peter Seewald in Castel Gandolfo – he had already answered the question whether or not a Pope could resign, in the affirmative. I don’t know in how far he had, already then, considered resignation, stepping back from his office, an option for himself. When you start to have thoughts like that, you do it for a reason. And he has named these reasons very openly…and very honestly, too, one has to say: the waning of his forces, spiritual and physical. The Church needs a strong navigator, and he didn’t have the feeling that he could be that strong navigator. That’s why he wanted to put the faculty bestowed upon him by Jesus back into His hands, so that the College of Cardinals could elect his successor. So obviously, the pontificate of Benedict XVI will also go down in history because of his resignation, that is clear, inevitable…

EWTN.TV: I found it really moving to watch him deliver his last speech to the priests of the diocese of Rome, the one on the Second Vatican Council. In that moment, I couldn’t help asking myself: Why does this man resign? There was clearly a spiritual force! It was an extemporaneous speech in which he exposed one more time his whole legacy, so to say, on the Second Vatican Council, expressing his wish it might one day be fulfilled…

Gänswein: In fact, that was in the Audience Hall. There was this traditional encounter, established many years ago, where the Pope, every Thursday after Ash Wednesday, met with the clergy of Rome, the clergy of his diocese. There were questions and answers, or even other forms of encounter. And in 2013, he was asked to talk about the Second Vatican Council, which he did. He delivered an extemporaneous speech in which he described, one more time and from his point of view, the whole situation and development of the Council, giving also his evaluation. It is something that will remain; something very important for the comprehension of the Second Vatican Council and Ratzinger’s interpretation of it. As far as I know, up to this day there is no other theologian who has defended the documents of the Second Vatican Council on so many levels, and so intensely and cogently as he did. And that is very important also for the inner life of the Church and the people of God!

EWTN.TV: And I think it is safe to say that he contributed to the shaping of the Council…

Gänswein: In fact, being the consultor, the advisor of Cardinal Frings, he did have a part in it. Many of the theological contributions of the Cardinal of Cologne had actually been written by Professor Ratzinger. There are lots of documents where you can clearly see that. And there are also dissertations on this subject which investigate into the possible influence of the then-Professor Ratzinger.

EWTN.TV: Let’s come back to the moment of his resignation, the very last hours. Whoever watched it on TV, was surely moved to see the helicopter departing for Castel Gandolfo. You, too, were visibly moved…And then, the final moment, when the doors in Castel Gandolfo  closed. That was the moment when I – and I guess, many others – thought that we might never see Pope Benedict again. But then things turned out quite differently…  

Gänswein: Yes, indeed, the farewell: the transfer to the heliport, the flight in the helicopter over the city of Rome to Castel Gandolfo, the arrival at the Papal Villa. And indeed, at 8 p.m. the closing of the doors. Before, Pope Benedict had delivered a short speech from the balcony, his farewell speech. And then? Well, the works in the monastery Mater Ecclesiae hadn’t been finished yet, so the question was: where could he stay? And the decision was quickly taken: the best option would be Castel Gandolfo. There he will have everything he needs, since no one knows how long the works will last; so he can stay there as long as necessary.

And so two months later, he returned to Rome, and has been living in the monastery Mater Ecclesiae ever since. He himself had said that he would withdraw, going up to the mountain in order to pray. He didn’t mean a withdrawal into private life, but into a life of prayer, meditation and contemplation, in order to serve the Church and his successor. His successor often told him that he shouldn’t hide. He invites him often to important public liturgies, consistories like – I remember it well – the inauguration ceremony of the Holy Year on the 8th of December 2015.

He is present, even when no one sees him. But often he has been seen. He simply wants to be present, as much as possible, while remaining all the same invisible.

EWTN.TV: Many people wish to meet him, and he allows them to. Does he enjoy these encounters? I myself had the chance of a brief encounter with him. There are still many people who ask to see him.

Gänswein: Yes, there are many people who ask to meet him; and many are sad when this is not possible. But those who come, are all very happy, very glad. And the same goes for him. Every encounter is also a sign of affection, a sign, so to say, of approval. And human encounters always do us good.

EWTN.TV: Do some of these people also ask him for advice?

Gänswein: Definitely. I’m convinced of that. I’m never there, though; these encounters are private. Of course, he sometimes talks about it, we talk about those visits. There are indeed people who seek his advice on personal matters. And I’m convinced that the advice they receive is indeed good…

EWTN.TV: Does he still receive many letters? Who writes to him?

Gänswein: People he has known in the past. And also people I don’t know, and he doesn’t know, but who have clearly re-discovered him through literature. They express their gratitude, their happiness, but also their worries: people from all around the world. The people who write to him are very different; they do not belong to the same category, no: it’s people of different ages, of different positions, from all walks of life, a complete mixture.   

EWTN.TV: We have talked about “seeking advice:” Pope Francis, who is of a certain age himself, has always said that we should ask our grandparents for advice. Has Pope Francis ever asked Benedict for advice? What kind of relationship do they have?

Gänswein: Yes, indeed, in one of his interviews, Pope Francis is said to be happy about having a grandfather like Benedict – a “wise” grandfather: an adjective not to be omitted! And I am convinced that, as far as this is concerned, one thing or another will come up, or come out, from their contacts and encounters.

EWTN.TV: Your relationship with Benedict is a very close, very personal one. I don’t know if it would be appropriate to talk about a relationship between father and son. Have you ever talked with him about your future?

Gänswein: No.

EWTN.TV: It is known that you would love to engage in pastoral care, that you already do engage in pastoral care.

Gänswein: It was always like that: we didn’t talk about it. Only the very moment he said that he would resign, he asked me to accept the office I still hold. It was his decision, and he hadn’t talked with me about it beforehand. I was very skeptical, and remarked: “Holy Father, that might not be my thing. But if you think it is right for me, I will gladly and obediently accept it.” And he replied: “I do think so, and I ask you to accept.” That was the only time we talked about me and my future career.

EWTN.TV: What are the subjects you talk about? What are the issues that concern him in our world full of crises; what worries him about the situation of the Church?

Gänswein: Well, of course, Pope Benedict takes an interest in what happens in this world, in the Church. Every day, as the conclusion to the day, we watch the news on Italian TV. And he reads the newspapers, the Vatican press review. That is a large range of information. Often we also talk about actual issues that concern our world, about the latest developments here in the Vatican, and beyond the Vatican, or simply common memories regarding things happened in the past.

EWTN.TV: Is he very worried about the Church?

Gänswein: Of course, he has noted that the faith, the substance of the faith, is about to crumble, above all in his homeland, and that inevitably worries, troubles him. But he is not the kind of man – he never was and never will be – who will have the joy taken away from him! On the contrary: he brings his worries to his prayers, hoping that his prayers will help to put things right.

EWTN.TV: He brings them to his prayers and surely also to Holy Mass. On Sundays, he delivers homilies, and is also keeping notes. What happens to these notes?

Gänswein: Well, it is true that Pope Benedict comments on the Gospel. He does so every Sunday, and most of the time only in the presence of the (consecrated laywomen of) “Memores Domini” and myself. Sometimes there might also be a visitor, or – should I not be there – a fellow priest who will then concelebrate. His homilies are always extemporaneous. It is true, he has a sermon notebook, and he takes notes. And I have been asking myself the same question: what happens to these notes? Of course we will keep a record of them. I would like to ask him one day if he could take a look at the notes we have, in order to approve them. I don’t know, though, if that day will ever come.

EWTN.TV: Pope Benedict is undoubtedly one of the greatest theologians…as far as of our century is concerned, he surely is! He has been referred to as the “Mozart of theology.” In your introduction to the already mentioned book Über den Wolken mit Papst Benedikt XVI (Above the Clouds with Pope Benedict XVI) you wrote: “Pope Benedict XVI is a Doctor of the Church. And he has been my teacher up to this day.” What have you learned from him, maybe even in the last weeks?  

Gänswein: As I already said, my theological thinking started with the reading of Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity. The theological teacher who accompanied my theological studies, and the time that followed, has always been the theologian Ratzinger, and still is. Being given the chance to meet him in person, to learn from his personal example, is of course an additional gift, something unexpected, and I am very grateful for that. I know it is a grace – a grace for which I will thank the Lord every single day.  

EWTN.TV: So what could be, in your opinion, the lesson Pope Benedict would like us to learn from his pontificate?

Gänswein: His great concern was that the faith could evaporate. And it is surely his greatest wish that every man be in direct relationship with God, the Lord, with Christ, and that we might dedicate to this relationship our time, strength and affection. Whoever does that, will prove the same sentiment Benedict has in mind when he talks about “joy.” I think the greatest gift would be, if men allowed his proposal or what moved him, to become part of their lives.

EWTN.TV: Our wish to you: could you please assure Pope Benedict also in the name of our viewers, of our thankfulness, our sentiments of appreciation, and convey him our heartfelt best wishes for his 90th birthday! And thank you so much for this conversation!

Gänswein: Thank you. I will gladly convey your wishes, and thank you for having me!


Pope on Easter: The Resurrection is more than a party – it’s the source of eternal life

April 16, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2017 / 05:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis reminded Christians Easter Sunday that the Resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith – and that even in the face of unexplainable tragedy and suffering in the world, we can declare, “Christ is risen!”

“This is not a fantasy. The Resurrection of Christ is not a party with many flowers,” he said during Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “This is beautiful, but it is not this, it is more; It is the mystery of the rejected stone that ends up being the foundation of our existence.”

“This throwaway culture,” he said, where we use something and then throw it away, “where what is not needed is rejected, the stone – Jesus – is discarded” but then becomes the source of eternal life.

The world has many misfortunes, such as disease, human trafficking, wars, destruction, revenge and hatred. We may be tempted to ask, “But where is the Lord?” he said. “Today, the Church continues to say: ‘Stop, Jesus is risen.’”

The Pope said that before God, we can each say: “I do not know how this goes, but I’m sure that Christ is risen, and I’d bet on that.”

“Brothers and sisters, this is what I wanted to tell you. Go home now, repeating in your heart: ‘Christ is risen,’” he concluded.

Following Mass, Pope Francis gave the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

He said how through his death and Resurrection, Christ the Shepherd has come to save his people – those “lost sheep” who through sin have wandered onto the wrong path and away from him.

“All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross,” he said.

In his prayer, the Pope listed by name some of the current conflict zones around the world, especially the Middle East, Africa, South America and Ukraine, and called for peace in those regions of ongoing violence.

In particular, he named an attack which took place on the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria April 15. A bomb blast on a crowded Syrian bus convoy killed at least 112 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said April 16.
“In these times, especially support the efforts of those who work actively to bring relief and comfort to the civilian population in Syria, the victims of a war that continues to sow horror and death.”

“Just yesterday the last despicable attack on fleeing refugees which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries,” he prayed.

The Pope also prayed for all those caught in forms of slavery and for all those forced to leave their home because of conflict, terrorism, famine or oppressive regimes.

“In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life,” he said.

Please see below for the full text of the Pope’s “Urbi et Orbi” message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Happy Easter!

Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”

The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.

All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).

In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.

The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.

He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.

The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.

In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.

Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death. Just yesterday the last despicable attack on fleeing refugees which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.

May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.

May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence. May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.

May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.

The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe. May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.

Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together. With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!” May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days. Happy Easter!


Christ renews a weary humanity, Pope Francis says at Easter Vigil

April 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During Easter Vigil at the Vatican Pope Francis noted that many people today mirror the sadness and grief of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb thinking he was still dead.

However, the Resurrection, he said, offers new hope for those who have perhaps lost it.

“That is what this night calls us to proclaim: the heartbeat of the Risen Lord. Christ is alive!” the Pope said April 15.

It is the excitement of this message, he said, that made them hurry back to tell the others that Jesus had risen: “That is what made them return in haste to tell the news. That is what made them lay aside their mournful gait and sad looks. They returned to the city to meet up with the others.”

Like the women, each us has also visited the tomb during the vigil, he said, and urged Christians to “go back” with the women into their cities with news of Jesus’ rising.

“Let us all retrace our steps and change the look on our faces,” he said. “Let us go back with them to tell the news in all those places where the grave seems to have the final word, where death seems the only way out.”

The Pope told them go back and proclaim the truth that “the Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity.”

“If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, then we are not Christians,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke during his homily for the Easter Vigil, which he celebrated, as usual, in St. Peter’s Basilica as the culmination of his Holy Week events. Apart from the vigil, Pope Francis will also celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Square Easter morning and give his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

After delivering his homily, Pope Francis administered the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – to 11 people, one of whom, Ali Acacius Damavandy, is from the United States.

In his homily, Pope Francis said that as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb in the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, it’s easy to imagine their uncertain steps and their “pale and tearful” faces.

These women didn’t run away, but remained steadfast, and were people that had took life as it came and “knew the bitter taste of injustice.” However, they were still unable to accept Jesus’ death, he said.

By imagining the scene as it plays out, we can picture in the faces of these two women the faces of many others who “bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality,” he said.

“In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking,” Francis said, explaining that we can also see the reflection of those treated with “contempt” because they are immigrants.

“We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles,” he continued.

The faces of these women also mirror “the faces of women, mothers, who weep as they see the lives of their children crushed by massive corruption that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams. By daily acts of selfishness that crucify and then bury people’s hopes. By paralyzing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change.”

Francis pointed to the pain of all those “who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified,” saying this is also reflected in the grief experienced by the two women.

The women can also represent the faces of each of us personally, he said, explaining that like them, many of us can feel driven to continue walking forward and not to resign ourselves to the fact that “things have to end this way.”

While we carry God’s promise of faithfulness inside of us, our faces, the Pope said, often we bear the mark of various wounds, including infidelity on our part or the part of another, or of battles we have lost.

“In our hearts, we know that things can be different but, almost without noticing it, we can grow accustomed to living with the tomb, living with frustration,” he said, noting that even worse, we can also convince ourselves that “this is the law of life.”

By doing so, we “blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us,” and walk, like the women did, the line between the desire for God and “bleak resignation.”

However, with the Resurrection the women suddenly and unexpectedly feel “a powerful tremor,” and hear a voice telling them not to be afraid, because Jesus has risen from the dead.

The message: “Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters; he is risen as he said!” is one that has been passed on from generation to generation, Pope Francis said, explaining that “life, which death destroyed on the cross, now reawakens and pulsates anew.”

“The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon,” he said, explaining that this heart is given to us and in turn, we are also asked to give it to others as “the leaven of a new humanity.”

In his Resurrection, Christ not only rolled back the stone to the tomb, Francis said, but he also wants “to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others.”

Precisely when the religious leaders of the day, in collusion with the Romans, thought they they had the last word, God enters and “upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities,” the Pope said. “God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy.”

This, he said, is the promise that has been present from the beginning and which is “God’s surprise” for his people.

Pope Francis closed by saying that hidden in every life there is a seed of the Resurrection, “an offer of life ready to be awakened.”

He prayed that all would allow themselves to be surprised by this “this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give,” and asked that we not only allow Christ’s loving tenderness to guide our steps, but that we also “allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart.”


Syrian nun awarded by US will back any leader who brings peace

April 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2017 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the conflict in Syria rages on, a Salesian nun honored by the White House as a “Woman of Courage” said that no matter who is in charge, as long as they work for peace they have her vote.

“I like anyone that can help me achieve peace, whether it’s Assad or President Trump, or whoever can support us in peace,” Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh told reporters April 11.

The nun said that in her opinion, there is still hope for peace in Syria, but that whenever steps in that direction seem to be taken, something happens and “we go backwards.”

Yet despite the ongoing violence, “there is always hope for the future,” she said, “there are steps of peace, we continue to look to the future with a lot of hope, because everything has an end. There will be an end.”

Tahhan, a member of the Salesian Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Order, was one of 13 women who received the “International Woman of Courage Award” from First Lady Melania Trump in Washington March 29.

She was nominated for the award by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See for her work running a nursery school in Damascus that her order established as a safe and friendly space where more than 200 children traumatized by the war, both Christian and Muslim, can play and just be children.

In addition to the school, Tahhan also manages a tailor workshop in collaboration with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, providing much-needed community and support for women who are vulnerable and displaced.

The nomination for the White House award were accepted by the Obama administration, but were held until Rex Tillerson, the current Secretary of State, approved them, allowing them to be handed out. After receiving the award, she came to Rome and spoke to reporters about her work during a roundtable sponsored by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See.

In her comments to journalists, Tahhan said meeting the other 12 women who received the award alongside her is something that “enriched me.”

As part of her trip to the U.S. to receive the award, the nun was also taken to visit several projects that work with refugees and which also offer psychological services, which she said was “helpful for my work.”

Many of the children who come to the school suffer from the effects of war, she said, explaining that while some are less affected, others don’t speak.

She voiced fear for the future of the culture the children are growing up in, noting that “they are all damaged, they have this fear from the war, they have a bit of violence inside, and this is normal.”

Recalling a conversation she had with one of the children after a canon had gone off, the nun said she had heard a loud noise and asked what it was. Immediately one of the children near her said it was a canon.

When she asked the 4-year-old child how they knew, the child responded by saying “when it’s a missile it goes ‘sss-boom,’ and when it’s a canon it immediately goes ‘boom.’”

“I was bothered by this. This is the culture of our children,” she said, and recalled how in a video sent to her by family in Aleppo, one of her nephews showed her a box of “toys” he had collected, which ended up being different sized shells that had landed on their balcony.

“What do we do for the future to take this violence out of our children?” Tahhan asked, noting that the video from her nephew “hurt me a lot.”

However, she cautioned against falling for what she said are false media reports that say that everything is Syria is only destruction.

“It’s not true that everything is terrible in Syria, that everything is this civil war,” she said, explaining that “there is still solidarity, there is still coexistence between Muslims and Christians.”

“We live together, there is co-existence,” she said, explaining that there are many Muslim women who participate in the tailoring workshop, and when she needs materials, it is they who go to purchase them.

“Since 2010 to now, more than 500 women have entered our houses, have gone to sewing classes, and the majority are Muslims,” she said, explaining that if she were to accept only Christians, “then I also become like them, I become a fanatic.”

Many times when bombs go off near the convent, shortly after there will be a knock on their door from Muslim men who come to check on them, saying “Sisters, do you need something? Are you okay?”

Even in the school children don’t distinguish between Christians and Muslims, she said, noting that they are damaged above all by war, rather than religious differences. “I’m not saying there’s not fanaticism,” she added, but stressed that there is still coexistence between them.

Going against a growing distaste for President Assad in the global public eye, Tahhan voiced her support for Assad, saying “I like our president.” She said that he and his wife are “very close to us” and have protected and offered material and financial support to the Christians in Syria, including for the school her order runs. She added that Assad’s wife called and asked for her personally and met with her and several other sisters to ask if anything was preventing them from carrying out their work and to ask what support they needed.

The international community, however, is beginning to unite in opposition against Assad. On Tuesday G7 leaders – which include the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and Canada – met with allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to discuss the possible need for new leadership in Syria and to agree on sanctions for his biggest ally, Russia.

Referring to Trump’s decision to bomb Syria’s Shayrat Air Base after the sarin gas attack, Tahhan said the move was “a step back from peace.”

When it comes to the peace process in Syria, the nun said that while there is always hope for the future, it frequently happens that whenever a step forward is taken, “then something happens and we go backward.”

She recalled receiving the news after walking out of a reception for the award winners in Washington, saying that when she heard about the bombing, “I was very hurt,” and that in her opinion, “right now, for me, we are going backward.”

The war, in her opinion, erupted not because Assad was causing problems, but because “there are different interests” involved, including the country’s natural resources.

Pope Francis “is doing a lot” with all the appeals he is making, particularly to the international community, she said, calling him “a true prophet.”

His words “awaken the conscience…he doesn’t stay quiet. He is awakening, his voice is strong. He is also entering into the conscience of everyone.”

Regarding the fear that if Islamic terrorism isn’t curbed, there will no longer be Christians living in the Middle East, the nun said the Church is working to ensure this won’t happen.

“The Church is working to keep the Christians,” she said, adding that “if the Church exists, then Christians will continue to be there.”


Study finds religious persecution spread to more countries in 2015

April 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Global religious persecution spiked from 2014 to 2015, the Pew Research Center noted in a new report released this week.

“Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years,” the latest annual Pew Research Center report on “Global Restrictions on Religion” began.

In 2015, there were “very high” or “high” levels of animosity shown towards religious groups in 40 percent of countries, the report noted, either through restrictive government laws targeting religious groups or violence or harassment toward adherents of specific religions by other members of society.

The 2015 percentage was up six points from 2014, when 34 percent of countries reported such levels of hostility to religious groups.

Pew’s report drew from various sources on global religious freedom, both from the U.S. government (annual international religious freedom reports of the State Department and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom), the European Union and United Nations, and other non-governmental organizations.

The report was part of the “Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project,” funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation.

Certain countries and regions of the world showed especially high hostility towards religious groups. Russia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria all showed both government harassment of and social animus toward certain religious groups.

Some of the most common instances of hostility included “mob violence” waged against people for their religious beliefs or violence conducted in the name of religion, and also “government harassment and use of force against religious groups” Pew explained.

Certain regions fared worse than others on religious tolerance. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa featured the highest median levels by far of both “government restrictions on religion” and “social hostilities involving religion,” Pew reported.

However countries in sub-Saharan Africa showed the “largest increase” in the median levels of government restrictions in 2015, Pew noted, and both Europe and sub-Saharan Africa showed marked increases in “social hostilities involving religion.”

In Europe, there were many reports of harassment or violence against Muslims and Jews, continuing a pattern of both anti-Semitism on the continent and verbal or legal harassment of Muslims as the European Union deals with an influx of refugees from Muslim-majority counties like Syria and Iraq.

For instance, Switzerland showed an increase in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents, including the desecration of a Muslim cemetery and an assault of an Orthodox Jew where one perpetrator shouted “Heil Hitler!”

Mosques and Muslims were targeted for vandalism or violence in the wake of the January, 2015 terror attacks on the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher market in Paris.

“France’s Interior Ministry reported that anti-Muslim incidents more than tripled in 2015, including cases of hate speech, vandalism and violence against individuals,” the report noted.

Thirty-two countries in the continent showed “social hostilities toward Muslims” in 2015, more than the 26 countries reported in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of European countries where there were social hostilities shown towards Jews remained high.

“The widespread harassment of Jews is notable because about eight-in-ten of the world’s Jews live in just two countries – the United States and Israel – but Jews continue to be harassed in a relatively large number of nations (74 in 2015),” Pew stated.

However, government officials also showed hostility to religious groups either through restrictive laws or rhetoric.

France and Russia in particular showed a spike, with over 200 “cases of government force against religious groups,” the report noted. These were mostly due to laws aimed at specific religious groups targeting the public exercise of religion, from France’s burqa ban to Russia’s treatment of some Muslims and groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremists, jailing them without due process.

Some governments have been particularly restrictive of religious freedom for years, like those of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, the report noted. Others have more recently shown greater hostility, like Iraq, Eritrea, Vietnam, and Singapore in 2015.

Some of the government restrictions on religion were supposedly in reaction to terrorism. For instance, Muslim women in Cameroon and Niger were barred from wearing full-face veils after militants wore those veils to conceal bombs.

Both Christians and Muslims saw a sizable increase in the number of countries where they experienced harassment in 2015. Christians “were targeted by the highest number of governments in the Asia-Pacific region, where 33 countries harassed Christians in 2015,” the report said.


Pope Francis reflects on sin, Christ’s mercy at Stations of the Cross

April 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Apr 14, 2017 / 04:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis presided over the Stations of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum on Good Friday, asking Christ’s forgiveness for the ways we may have fallen short, and imploring the grace to do better in the future.

“O Christ our only Savior, we come back to you again this year with eyes downcast with shame and with a heart full of hope,” the Pope prayed April 14.

“We ask you to break the chains that hold us prisoners in our selfishness, in our voluntary blindness and in the futility of our worldly calculations.”

Offering his prayer at the conclusion of the annual Good Friday tradition, Francis recalled the different reasons we may have for bringing our shame before Christ on the cross, such as the bloodshed of women, children, and immigrants, or the persecution of people based on race, ethnicity, or religion.

He also called out the shame that comes with running away from our responsibilities, being silent in the face of injustice, perpetuating laziness and greed, and being self-interested and selfish.

The Pope in a particular way called out clergy and religious, saying: “shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have scandalized and hurt your body, the Church.

“We have forgotten our first love,” he continued, “our first enthusiasm and our total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust.”

But even in this shame, we also have hope, he said, praying that the Lord would “not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the multitude” of his mercy.

We have hope “that your cross turns our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh able to dream, to forgive and to love,” he prayed.

The Church has hope that she can be the voice that cries in the “desert of humanity” to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming, Francis continued, knowing that God’s truth is not based on our own understanding.

The Pope also said that we have hope that those faithful to Christ’s cross will “continue to remain faithful like yeast that gives flavor” and “that good will win in spite of Christ’s apparent defeat!”

“O Christ, we ask you to teach us to never be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it, but to honor and worship it, because with it you have shown us the monstrosity of our sins, the greatness of your love, injustice of our judgements and the power of your love,” he concluded.

At each of the 14 stations, the cross was carried by different people – both religious and lay – from countries around the world, including Poland, Italy, India, Africa, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, France, China, and Israel.

At several stations, the cross was held by a family with young children.

For the third station, the cross was carried by members of the Italian organization UNITALSI, which organizes pilgrimages for people with illnesses and disabilities to visit Marian shrines, such as Lourdes.   

This year’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross were written by French biblical scholar Anne-Marie Pelletier.

Using more than just the accounts of Christ’s Passion in the Gospels, Pelletier’s reflection weaved in Scripture and biblical references from both the Old and New Testaments as she reflected on how the entire life of Christ has been leading him, and us, to his ultimate sacrifice.

Pelletier’s meditations also reflected significantly on the perspective of the women along Christ’s path, especially his mother, Mary.


Nebraska prays for pro-lifers injured in vehicle accident

April 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 14, 2017 / 03:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Lincoln is praying for several pro-life witnesses who were struck, unintentionally, by a vehicle as they were praying outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city on Friday afternoon.

“Please join the Diocese of Lincoln, Bishop Conley, and those involved in praying for those who were injured, and for the driver of the vehicle,” the Lincoln diocese said in an April 14 statement. “And please join us in praying for a culture of life, an end to abortion, in union with those who were injured today.”

The driver of a white pickup “veered to the right when he tried to stop for a vehicle slowing in front of him,” the Lincoln Journal Star reports.


LPD says hit was unintentional. A car was slowing down in front of him, so he veered and didn’t see the group of people outside #LNK

— Nichole Manna (@LJSNicholeManna) April 14, 2017


Three or four persons were struck by the pickup.

According to the diocese “the roads were quite slick in that area, and traffic was heavy. There is nothing to suggest the accident was intentional. Those who were hit are receiving medical attention now. The injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.”

“Bishop Conley, along with other priests who were present, were able to pray with those who were injured.” As many as 200 were present at the prayer vigil.


Good Friday papal preacher: In a changing world, the cross remains the same

April 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 14, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Even as sinful people in a society filled with violence and increasing secularism, we have hope because Christ’s cross perdures, the papal preacher said at the Vatican’s Good Friday Service.

“The cross, then, does not ‘stand’ against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history,” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., said April 14.

He gave the homily during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Fr. Cantalamessa also gave the homilies at Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Fridays throughout Lent.

Today, we are constantly hearing about death and violence, he said. “Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2,000 years ago?”

“The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning,” he said.

Fr. Cantalamessa preached: “The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

He explained how the Carthusian monks have adopted a coat of arms that hangs at the entrance to their monastery. It has a globe of the earth with a cross above it, and written across it: “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis,” or “The cross stands firm as the world turns.”

He described a painting by Salvador Dali, called “Christ of St. John of the Cross.” It depicts Christ on the cross as if you are looking from above. Beneath him are clouds, and below that, water.

In a way, the water beneath Christ in this image, instead of earth, is a symbol of the lack of firm foundation of values in our current society, he explained. But even though we live in this very “liquid society,” there is still hope, because “the cross of Christ stands.”

“This is what the liturgy for Good Friday has us repeat every year with the words of the poet Venanzio Fortunato: ‘O crux, ave spes unica,’ ‘Hail, O Cross, our only hope.’”

The point of Christ’s Passion, however, is not an analysis of society, he said. “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings.”

In each of us, to varying degrees, is a “heart of darkness,” he said. In the Bible, it is called “a heart of stone.”

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters, a heart of someone who accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by impure passion and is ready to kill for that passion or to lead a double life,” he said.

He explained that even as practicing Christians we have these hearts of stone when we live fundamentally for ourselves and not for the Lord.

Quoting God’s words through the prophet Ezekiel, Fr. Cantalamessa said: “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

He went on to explain how in Scripture we are told that at the moment of Christ’s death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”

This description, using apocalyptic language and signs, indicates “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.”

“The heart of flesh, promised by God through the prophets, is now present in the world: it is the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, the heart we venerate as the “Sacred Heart,’” he said.

We believe that though he was slain, because Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, his heart has also “been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body.”

And when we receive the Eucharist, we “firmly believe” that the very heart of Christ has come to “beat inside of us” as well, he explained.

“As we are about to gaze upon the cross, let us say from the bottom of our hearts, like the tax collector in the temple, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ and then we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified’.”