Vatican City, Feb 11, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The first, historic meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church does not come from nowhere. Both the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Holy See have been working on s…
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2016 / 10:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Francis said that Lent is the perfect time to let go of selfish and indifferent attitudes, returning to God with the help of prayer, penance and acts of charity.
“Lent is a beneficial time of pruning from falsity, from worldliness, from indifference: to not think that everything is ok if I am ok; to understand that what counts is not approval, the pursuit of success or consensus, but purity of heart and life,” the Pope said Feb. 10.
It’s a time to rediscover one’s Christian identity, “which is love that serves, not selfishness that uses,” he said.
Pope Francis celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica alongside the Missionaries of Mercy, who concelebrated with the Pope and received their official mandate from him during the ceremony.
A novelty of the Pope’s Jubilee of Mercy, the priests will be sent out to dioceses around the world as special ambassadors of mercy during the Holy Year. Although there are more than 1,000 missionaries from all five continents, only 700 made it to Rome for the official mandate.
In addition to their increased availability for hearing confessions, they have also been given faculties to forgive sins otherwise reserved to the Holy See.
Though there are several such sins, the Holy See has clarified that the faculties of the Missionaries of Mercy are “limited exclusively” to just four.
Namely, they are: profaning the Eucharistic species by taking them away or keeping them for a sacrilegious purpose; the use of physical force against the Roman Pontiff; the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (“thou shall not commit adultery”) and a direct violation against the sacramental seal by a confessor.
In his homily, Pope Francis focused on two “invitations” extended in the day’s scripture passages. The first, he said, comes from Saint Paul in the second reading.
When Paul tells his readers to “be reconciled to God” in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, he’s not just giving a piece of good, fatherly advice or making a suggestion, but is offering “a true and genuine petition in the name of Christ,” the Pope said.
The reason for such a “solemn and heartfelt appeal” is because Christ knows how fragile we are as sinners, Francis observed.
“(Christ) knows the weakness of our heart; he sees the wound of evil we have committed and suffered; he knows how much we need forgiveness, he knows that we need to feel loved in order to do good.”
Francis stressed that we are not capable of doing good on our own, which is why St. Paul doesn’t tell us to do just anything, “but to be reconciled by God, (because) he overcomes sin and raises us from our miseries, if we entrust them to him.”
However, he warned that certain obstacles frequently get in the way, such as the temptation to lock the doors of our heart, to give into feelings of shame, and to distance ourselves from the door by wallowing in our own misery.
Francis then addressed the Missionaries of Mercy directly, telling them that their mandate is to be a sign and instrument of God’s forgiveness.
He prayed that they would help people to open the doors of their hearts, to overcome shame and encourage them not to run from the light offered by God.
“May your hands bless and lift brothers and sisters with paternity; that through you the gaze and the hands of the Father will rest on his children and heal their wounds!” he prayed.
A second “invitation” the Pope highlighted was the Prophet Joel’s instruction to “Return to me with all your heart” in the day’s first reading.
The reason we need to return, he said, is “because we have distanced ourselves. It’s the mystery of sin: we have distanced ourselves from God, from others, from ourselves.”
It’s easy to see this if we stop to think about how we struggle to really trust in God without fear, how hard is for us to love others without thinking badly about them, and how easily we are “seduced” by material things that leave us poor in the end, Pope Francis said.
However, he noted that alongside this story of sin, “Jesus opened a history of salvation.”
Turning to the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, the Pope said it invites us to become “protagonists” in our own conversion by embracing the “three remedies, three medicines,” of prayer, charity and fasting and penance, “which heal from sin.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by emphasizing that returning to God with one’s entire heart is not something external, but instead comes “from the depth of ourselves.”
“Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with coherence and authenticity, overcoming hypocrisy,” he said, and prayed that the entire Church would walk together on the Lenten path, receiving the ashes and keeping their gazed “fixed on the Crucified.”
“He, loving us, invites us to be reconciled with God and to return to him, in order to return to ourselves,” Francis said.
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2016 / 06:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Pope Francis, mercy isn’t just spiritual, but is something that ought to be expressed in concrete acts of service and in sharing one’s goods with the poor, which was a key tradition during jubilee years throughout scripture.
Referring to the current Holy Year of Mercy, the Pope explained that the Jubilee is time “for conversion, so that our heart can become bigger, more generous, more like a child of God, with more love.”
“But I tell you that if the Jubilee doesn’t arrive to the pockets, it’s not a true Jubilee,” he said, adding that “this is in the Bible, it’s not the Pope who invented this.”
Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Church’s Lenten season.
In his continued catechesis on mercy as seen in scripture, the Pope noted how the jubilee year is an “ancient institution.”
He took his cue from the biblical passage in the book of Leviticus in which the Jubilee was instituted among the Jews. According to the rules of the jubilee, the year served as a “kind of general amnesty” in which a person who had been forced to sell their goods or property could regain possession of them, he noted.
In that time, “requirements such as the Jubilee were used to combat poverty and inequality, guaranteeing a life of dignity for all and an equal distribution of the land on which to live and from which to draw sustenance,” the Pope observed.
Because the land originally belonged to God, who then entrusted it to man, no one can claim exclusive possession of it or use ownership to create situations of inequality, he said.
“With the Jubilee whoever had become poor returned to have what was necessary in order to live, and whoever had become rich restored to the poor what they had taken from them.”
The result “was a society based on equality and solidarity where freedom, land and money would become again a good for everyone,” Francis explained.
In off-the-cuff- remarks, he noted that roughly 80 percent of the world’s wealth rests in the hands of around 20 percent of the people, and encouraged faithful to be generous with what they have both during Lent, and the jubilee.
“Each person can think in their hearts: if I have too many things, why not leave 10 percent, 50 percent, to those who have nothing?” he asked, assuring those present that if they take the matter to prayer, the Holy Spirit would inspire them about what is reasonable for them to do.
Francis then turned to the biblical law that required the payment of tithes, which would be used to assist the poor, people without land, orphans and widows.
He said that tithes such as this arrive daily to the Office of the Papal Almoner, which oversees the Pope’s charity funds.
When the letters come in, they frequently contain “a little bit of money: something small or not so small, which is part of a person’s salary to help others,” the Pope said, explaining that “it’s beautiful” to help others, whether it be people, charitable institutions, hospitals, retirement homes or foreigners.
Pope Francis then issued a sharp condemnation of the practice of usury, and lamented how many families have been forced to live on the streets due to the corruption of those who want to line their own pockets.
“Usury is a grave sin before God,” he said, and noted that many times, people in desperation “end up committing suicide because they can’t do it and they don’t have hope.”
These people “don’t have an outstretched hand to help them, only the hand that makes them pay for personal interests,” he said, and prayed that the Lord would use the Jubilee of Mercy as a time to remove the desire of usury from all hearts, making them bigger and more generous instead.
Francis pointed to God’s promise to bring blessings to those who lend a hand and who give generously, adding that when we are generous, the Lord “will give you double…maybe not in money, but the Lord always gives double.”
He closed his address by encouraging those present to have the courage to share what they have with others. This, he said, “is called mercy, and if we want the mercy of God, let’s begin to do it ourselves.”
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2016 / 03:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with 650 of the 1,000 priests who’ve been chosen as Missionaries of Mercy, telling them to show the tenderness of God’s love to those who confess to them during the Jubliee.
“Let us not forget: before us there is not sin, but the repentant sinner. A person who feels the desire of being welcomed and forgiven,” and who no longer desires to be far from God, the Pope said Feb. 9.
He called to mind the biblical passage in which Noah, after the flood, got drunk from the wine he made in his vineyard, and was found lying naked inside his tent. While his son Ham laughed at him, Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him with a blanket.
When speaking with those who come to the confessional, as priests and as missionaries “we are not called to judge with a sense of superiority, as if we were immune to sin,” Francis said, but are instead asked to take on the attitude of Shem and Japheth, protected their father from shame.
“To be a confessor according to the heart of Christ means to cover the sinner with the blanket of mercy, so that they are no longer ashamed and can recover the joy of their filial dignity.”
Pope Francis met with the Missionaries of Mercy in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace to offer his reflections on their special role during the Jubilee. He will give them their official mandate during his Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s basilica Feb. 10.
Though more than 1,000 priests have been selected as Missionaries of Mercy, only 650 have made it to Rome for their official commission.
Selected from every continent, the missionaries, among other things, will be given the faculties to pardon sins in cases otherwise reserved to the Holy See.
Though there are several such sins, the Holy See has clarified that the faculties of the Missionaries of Mercy are “limited exclusively” to just four.
Namely, they are: Profaning the Eucharistic species by taking them away or keeping them for a sacrilegious purpose; the use of physical force against the Roman Pontiff; the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (“thou shall not kill”) and a direct violation against the sacramental seal by a confessor.
In his speech, the Pope said that to be a Missionary of Mercy is a responsibility that has been entrusted to them “because it asks you to be in first person witnesses of God’s closeness and of his way of loving.”
He clarified that this does not mean our way of loving, “which is always limited and at times contradictory,” but consists of God’s own style of loving and forgiving, “which is precisely mercy.”
Francis then brought up several points which for him are key themes for the missionaries to keep in mind while carrying out their role throughout the Holy Year.
The first thing he asked them to remember is that “you are called to express the maternity of the Church.”
“The Church is Mother” not only because she continuously generates new children in the faith, but also because she nurtures that faith and offers the forgiveness of God and new life, “(which is) the fruit of conversion,” he said.
If this perception of the Church as Mother fails “due to our rigidity, it would be a serious damage first of all for faith itself, because it would prevent the penitent from being inserted into the Body of Christ,” the Pope said, adding that it would also limit the penitent’s ability to feel like a part of the community.
What the missionaries are called to express instead, is a Church who, as a mother, “welcomes anyone who approaches her, knowing that through her they are inserted into Christ.”
No matter what the sin is that’s been confessed, “every missionary is called to remember their own sinful existence and humbly place themselves as a channel of God’s mercy,” he said.
Pope Francis then underlined the importance of the desire of forgiveness in the heart of those who come to confession.
This desire is the fruit of both grace and its action in peoples’ lives, he said, reminding the missionaries that “this desire is the beginning of conversion.” Conversion, he noted, begins when the heart recognizes the evil it has done, but turns to God with the hope of obtaining forgiveness.
A person’s desire for forgiveness is strengthened when they decide “in their own heart to change their life and they don’t want to sin anymore,” Francis explained, and told the missionaries to “give a lot of space for this desire for God and for his forgiveness.”
In his final point, the Pope pointed to “a component which is not spoken of much, but which is rather crucial: shame.”
It’s not easy to come before another man, a representative of God, and confess one’s sins, he noted, explaining that shame “is an intimate feeling that affects one’s personal life and requires an attitude of respect and encouragement on the part of the confessor.”
Pointing to the image of Noah naked in the tent, Pope Francis said the passage, to him, emphasizes the importance of the role of a confessor.
“Before us there is a nude person, with their weaknesses and their limits, with the shame of being a sinner,” he said, and urged the missionaries to always remember that it’s not sin that sits in front of them in the confessional, but a repentant sinner.
Francis then noted that it’s not “the club of judgment” that brings lost sheep back to the flock, but rather, personal holiness, which he said is the true the source of renewal and reform within the Church.
“Holiness is nurtured by love and knows how to bring upon itself the weight of those who are most weak,” he said, explaining that the role of a missionary of mercy is to carry the sinner “on their own back,” and console them with “the strength of compassion.”
The Pope told the missionaries, when burdened by the weight of the sins confessed to them as well as their own personal limitations and lack of words, to put their trust “in the strength of mercy, which goes out to everyone as a love which knows no bounds.”
He closed his address by assuring the missionaries of his prayers and asking that Mary would assist and intercede for them in their service during the Jubilee.
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2016 / 02:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Pope Francis’ ongoing process of reform continues to move forward, his council of advisers have finished their proposals for two new Vatican departments, which would merge several others together.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists Feb. 9 that in their most recent meeting, the Pope’s Council of Cardinals gave a “final reading” of the proposals for two new Vatican departments, which are also referred to as “dicasteries.”
While proposals for the new dicasteries, which would be dedicated to “Laity, family and life,” and “Justice, peace and migration,” has been on the table for some time, in this round of meetings “the proposals were finalized and given to the Pope for his decision,” Fr. Lombardi said.
The cardinals met in Rome for just a day and half Feb. 8-9 – a shorter period than their usual, three-day round of meetings. All of the nine members were present except for Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, who is currently recovering from a planned procedural operation in December.
Originally pitched in late 2014, the idea for the new dicasteries has been under development for some time.
As of September 2015, the idea was that the department for Laity, Family, and Life would absorb the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and Family, and the Pontifical Academy of Life, while the department for Justice, Peace and Migration would take on the tasks of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants, Cor Unum and Health Care.
However, with the final proposals turned into the Pope, it’s up to Francis to decide how to move forward in implementing the council’s recommendations.
Another point addressed during the brief session was a deepening of the Pope’s speech for the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, which he gave to the bishops and cardinals participating in the Synod on the Family Oct. 17, 2015.
The speech, in which the Pope spoke extensively about the theme of “synodality” and emphasized the need for a “healthy de-centralization,” will be “important for the work of the reform of the Curia,” Fr. Lombardi said.
In addition to the Pope’s speech and the reading of the proposals for the new dicasteries, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also spoke about the activities of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he heads.
Specifically mentioned were the legal and disciplinary matters that involve the competence of the dicasteries of the Curia. These, the spokesman explained, “must be further explored.”
Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, also gave an update to the council on the state of reform in economic field, including new initiatives and introductions on procedures being carried out by the secretariat.
The cardinals also received a document prepared by the Tribunal of the Rota on the implementation of the new canonical process on the validity of marriage. Fr. Lombardi explained that the document is intended for dioceses, and is “on its way from the Rota to the dioceses.”
The eventual reform of Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline was also touched on briefly, though the Vatican spokesman stressed that as of now there is nothing concrete, but that the reform is “a work in progress.”
In addition to the meeting of the council, Pope Francis also appointed new heads to two of the three departments forming the new Secretariat for Communications.
The three departments of the Secretariat of Communication will include the Theological-Pastoral, the Technical Management and the department for editorial staff, which is expected to lead to a “radio-television” Vatican, uniting both Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center.
Heading the Theological-Pastoral department, which will likely take on the functions of the former Pontifical Council for Social communications, is Natasa Govekar, who teaches the theology workshop “Cardinal T. Spidlik” at the Aletti Center in Rome.
Additionally, the department for Technical Management, which will be charged with centralizing in a single technological platform, will be overseen by Francesco Masci, who until now has served in the Technical Area of the Vatican Internet Service.
The announcement of Govekar and Masci’s appointments came in a Feb. 9 communique from the Vatican, and constitutes part of Francis’ ongoing reform of Vatican communications.
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2016 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Priests who are good confessors must recognize their own sins in order to forgive and comfort penitents, Pope Francis said one day before the start of the Lenten season.
“I speak to you as a brother, and through you I would like to speak to all confessors, especially in this Year of Mercy: the confessional is for forgiveness,” the Pope said in his homily Feb. 9 in St. Peter’s Basilica. He celebrated the Mass with Capuchin Franciscan friars from around the world.
Even if priests cannot give absolution in some cases, the Pope told them, “please, do not beat up on the penitent.”
Someone who comes to the confessional is seeking “comfort, pardon, peace in his soul.”
“Let him find a father who embraces him and says, ‘God loves you,’ and makes the penitent feel that God really does,” the Pope said.
Reflecting on the Capuchin Franciscan tradition as one of giving forgiveness, he cited the many well-known Capuchin confessors like St. Leopold of Mandic and St. Pio of Pietrelcina, more commonly known as Padre Pio.
Relics of both saints, including the body of Padre Pio, have been brought to Rome as a special initiative for the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy. The Pope’s Tuesday morning Mass marked these special events.
He said these saints are good confessors “because they feel like sinners” – they are forgiven when they know how to ask for it in prayer.
When someone forgets the necessity of being forgiven, they slowly forget God, the Pope explained. They forget to ask for forgiveness and they don’t know how to forgive. The humble priest, the one who feels like a sinner, is a great forgiver in the sacrament of Confession. Others who wrongly feel themselves pure “only know how to condemn.”
“I ask you: don’t get tired of forgiving!” the Pope exhorted. “Be men of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace.”
Pope Francis suggested that a penitent’s coming to the confessional is a telling gesture.
“If a person comes to me in the confessional, it’s because they feel burdened by something heavy, and they want to remove it,” he said. “Maybe they don’t know how to say it, but the gesture is there.”
“If this person comes it’s because they want to change, not to do it again, to be another person,” he continued.
He noted that many times penitents cannot change because of their psychological conditions, their lives or their situation.
He encouraged confessors to be “great forgivers,” not condemners. He noted that the Bible depicts Satan as “the great accuser.”
“Forgiveness is a seed, a caress of God. Trust in the forgiveness of God,” the Pope told priests.
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2016 / 02:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday it was announced that Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Peter Bryan Wells, the highest ranking American in the Vatican Secretariat of State, as his new ambassador to South Africa and Bots…
Vatican City, Feb 8, 2016 / 02:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent his condolences to those affected by a deadly earthquake which struck the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on Saturday, causing a building collapse that has killed dozens of people.
“The Holy Father was saddened to learn of the suffering caused by the deadly earthquake which struck in Tainan, leaving many people dead or seriously injured,” reads Sunday’s telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Nearly 40 people are confirmed dead after the quake which toppled an apartment block in Taiwan, although officials say the death toll could reach more than 100, Reuters reports.
Victims continue to be pulled out of the wreckage of a 17 story building which collapsed from the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which struck 4 a.m. on Feb. 6, according to Reuters.
Pope Francis extended his “prayerful condolences to the families of the deceased and injured,” and the “rescue personnel and the civil authorities,” the telegram reads.
“His Holiness, commending the souls of the departed to the tender mercy of God, invokes abundant divine blessings of consolation and strength upon those who mourn and upon all who have been affected by this tragedy.”
Vatican City, Feb 7, 2016 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s recent financial reforms have the common good – not just efficiency – as their end, said an economist on the Holy See’s financial council.
Rome, Italy, Feb 7, 2016 / 10:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children has announced member Peter Saunders will take a leave of absence from his work with the commission.
“Today’s meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors discussed the direction and purpose of the Commission,” read a Feb. 6 press release from the Commission. “As the result of this discussion, it was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the Commission’s work.”
Saunders is founder of the U.K.’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood, which focuses on abuse prevention and support for abuse survivors.
A survivor of priestly sexual abuse, Saunders had been a member of the Commission for the Protection of Children since December 2014. He reportedly became increasingly critical of the Commission’s process of reforming the Church’s abuse protocol.
In a statement Saturday, Commission President Cardinal Sean O’Malley confirmed Saunders “has been asked to advise the Commission on the possible establishment of a victim survivor panel to work with the Commission.”
A Vatican official who requested anonymity told journalists the panel will likely be modeled after a similar panel established for Saunder’s U.K. organization.
Saunders was one of 17 members of the Commission, which Pope Francis founded to address the abuse crisis. The Commission is meeting in Rome this weekend.