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Apr 13 17 4:23 PM
In a gesture of service toward marginalized people, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates, including three women and a man who is converting from Islam to Catholicism.Although in Jesus’ time, washing the feet of one’s guests was performed by slaves, Jesus “reverses” this role, the pope said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper April 13 at a prison 45 miles from Rome.“He came into this world to serve, to serve us. He came to make himself a slave for us, to give his life for us and to love us to the end,” he said.Pope Francis made his way by car to a penitentiary in Paliano, which houses 70 men and women who testified as a witness for the state against associates or accomplices.To protect the safety and security of the prisoners, only a live audio feed of the pope’s homily was provided by Vatican Radio as well as selected photographs released by the Vatican.The Vatican said April 13 that among the 12 inmates who participated in the foot washing ceremony, “two are sentenced to life imprisonment and all the others should finish their sentences between 2019 and 2073.”In his brief homily, which he delivered off-the-cuff, the pope said that upon his arrival, people greeted him saying, “‘Here comes the pope, the head of the church.'”“Jesus is the head of the church. The pope is merely the image of Jesus, and I want to do the same as he did. In this ceremony, the pastor washes the feet of the faithful. (The role) reverses: The one who seems to be the greatest must do the work of a slave,” he said.This gesture, he continued, is meant to “sow love among us” and that the faithful, even those in prison, can imitate Christ in the same manner.“I ask that if you can perform a help or a service for your companion here in prison, do it. This is love, this is like washing the feet. It means being the servant of the other,” the pope said.Recalling another Gospel reading, in which Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest among them must be at the service of others, Pope Francis said Christ put his words into action by washing his disciple’s feet and “it is what Jesus does with us.”“For this reason, during this ceremony, let us think about Jesus. This isn’t a folkloric ceremony. It is a gesture to remind us of what Jesus gave us. After this, he took bread and gave us his body; he took wine and gave us his blood. This is the love of God,” the pope said.Vatican Radio reported that several other inmates took an active role in the liturgy, including four who served as altar servers. Other inmates prepared homemade gifts for the pope, among them were two dessert cakes, a handcrafted wooden cross and fresh vegetables grown in the prison garden.The evening Mass was the second of two Holy Thursday liturgies for Pope Francis. The first was a morning chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Apr 16 17 6:09 AM
Pope Francis leads Chrism Mass for Rome diocese(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Chrism Mass of the Rome diocese on the morning of Holy Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica.The liturgy is held every year in every diocese, and is typically celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, with the clergy gathered around the bishop in a sign of unity.It is called the “Chrism Mass” because it is during the liturgy that the sacred oils to be used in the Sacraments are blessed: the Oil of the Infirm, the Oil of the Catechumens, and the Sacred Chrism – which is used to anoint the newly baptized and in conferring Confirmation, and to consecrate priests and bishops to their special and peculiar divine service.In his homily, Pope Francis spoke of the truth, mercy, and joy of the Gospel, which each priest is called to witness with his whole life: embodying and personifying each of the three characteristics.“The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books,” Pope Francis said.“The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change,” he continued.“This message,” the Holy Father went on to say, “can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal – it is ‘the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost’,” and “the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn.”
Homily of His Holiness Pope FrancisVatican BasilicaHoly Thursday, 13 April 2017“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18). Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, brings good news to the poor. Everything he proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news. News full of the joy of the Gospel – the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person. When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer. Like every other missionary disciple, the priest makes the message joyful by his whole being. For as we all know, it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…The phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel”. Yet those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy.The good news is the precious pearl of which we read in the Gospel. It is not a thing but a mission. This is evident to anyone who has experienced the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Evangelii Gaudium, 10).The good news is born of Anointing. Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth and the joy of the Spirit renews that Anointing in the little synagogue of that town: the Spirit descends and is poured out upon him, “anointing him with the oil of gladness” (cf. Ps 45:8 ).Good news. A single word – Gospel – that, even as it is spoken, becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy. We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone. Truth, mercy and joy: these three go together.The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books.The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.This message can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal. It is “the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost” (Evangelii Gaudium, 237). It is the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn (ibid., 5)The joys of the Gospel are special joys. I say “joys” in the plural, for they are many and varied, depending on how the Spirit chooses to communicate them, in every age, to every person and in every culture. They need to be poured into new wineskins, the ones the Lord speaks of in expressing the newness of his message. I would like to share with you, dear priests, dear brothers, three images or icons of those new wineskins in which the good news is kept fresh – for we have to keep it fresh – never turning sour but rather pouring forth in abundance.A first icon of the good news would be the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:6). In one way, they clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary. The Gospel tells us that the servants “filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7). I can imagine one of those servants looking to Mary to see if that was enough, and Mary signaling to add one more pailful. Mary is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy. Without her, dear priests, we cannot move forward in our priesthood! She is “the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286), Our Lady of Prompt Succour, who, after conceiving in her immaculate womb the Word of life, goes out to visit and assist her cousin Elizabeth. Her “contagious fullness” helps us overcome the temptation of fear, the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim and even overflowing, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy. This cannot be, for “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (ibid., 1)A second icon of the good news that I would like to share with you today is the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun (cf. Jn 4:5-30). It speaks to us of something crucial: the importance of concrete situations. The Lord, the Source of Living Water, had no means of drawing the water to quench his thirst. So the Samaritan woman drew the water with her jug, and with her ladle she sated the Lord’s thirst. She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins. By mercifully shaking the vessel of that Samaritan women’s soul, the Holy Spirit overflowed upon all the people of that small town, who asked the Lord to stay with them.The Lord gave us another new vessel or wineskin full of this “inclusive concreteness” in that Samaritan soul who was Mother Teresa. He called to her and told her: “I am thirsty”. He said: “My child, come, take me to the hovels of the poor. Come, be my light. I cannot do this alone. They do not know me, and that is why they do not love me. Bring me to them”. Mother Teresa, starting with one concrete person, thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all. The way we touch wounds with our hands, our priestly way of caressing the sick and those who have lost hope. The priest must be a man of tender love. Concreteness and tenderness!The third icon of the good news is the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself. From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way. Concrete, tender and humble: in this way our evangelization will be joyful. Evangelization cannot be presumptuous, nor can the integrity of the truth be rigid, because truth became flesh, it became tenderness, it became a child, it became a man and, on the cross, it became sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). The Spirit proclaims and teaches “the whole truth” (cf. Jn 16:3), and he is not afraid to do this one sip at a time. The Spirit tells us in every situation what we need to say to our enemies (cf. Mt 10:19), and at those times he illumines our every small step forward. This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.Dear priests, as we contemplate and drink from these three new wineskins, may the good news find in us that “contagious fullness” which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the “inclusive concreteness” of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the “utter meekness” whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.
On the priesthood, Pope Francis says the devil is in the detailsPope Francis often appears to see himself as the "world's parish priest," and during the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday he passed along some pastoral "best practices" to his fellow Catholic priests around the world -- including brief homilies, regular days and hours for meeting ordinary folks, and a strong devotion to the Madonna, all adding up to a priesthood expressed in "particulars."It’s been remarked that Pope Francis often appears to see himself as “the world’s parish priest,” meaning a simple pastor doing the same things Catholic priests do every day all over the world, only on a much bigger stage.While all such images are inexact, there’s no doubt that when Francis thinks about the priesthood, it’s not primarily the liturgical or theological dimension of the office that comes naturally to mind, but the pastoral - the fine art of direct contact with ordinary people, especially the poor and the hurting.Holy Thursday is a day that beckons reflection on the priesthood, since Catholic tradition regards it as the moment when Christ instituted the sacramental priesthood. The Chrism Mass brings together the bishop with his priests in the local cathedral, and is designed to represent the unity of the priests with their bishop.During the Mass, the bishop blesses three oils - the oil of catechumens (oleum catechumenorumor oleum sanctorum), the oil of the infirm (oleum infirmorum) and holy chrism (sacrum chrisma) - which priests will use in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year.Naturally, therefore, Thursday caught Francis in a reflective mood about the character of the priesthood.The heart of the pope’s case to priests was that the Christian Gospel “is not an object, but a mission,” and that a mission is always expressed in the small, concrete details of life that add up to a joyful commitment.“It’s precisely the smallest details,” the pope said, “and we’ve all experienced this, which best contain and communicate joy.”For instance, in the course of advising priests that their homilies should convey “joy that touches people’s hearts, through the Word with which the Lord has touched the priest’s heart in prayer,” the pontiff added that the homily should also be “brief, if possible.”Similarly, Francis insisted that one hallmark of a good priest is making himself available to people, and wasn’t content to leave it at that - he advised priests to set regular days and hours for meeting folks, saying a priest, with “meek availability,” should “let others use his time.”That emphasis on being concrete in reaching out to people also came through Thursday when Francis said priests must not be carriers of an “abstract truth.”It must not be the truth, he said, “of those who don’t incarnate themselves fully in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable with the printed words in books.”History’s first Latin American pontiff, well-known for his own ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, also advised priests that a priesthood without Mary is a non-starter.“Without the Madonna, we can’t go forward in our priesthood!” Francis said.In the course of urging priests to be “contagious” in spreading joy, Francis laid out what he described as the three “graces” of the Gospel:Truth, which, he said, is “non-negotiable.”Mercy, which, he said, is “unconditional for all sinners.”Joy, which he described as “intimate and inclusive.”Francis is renowned for his emphasis on mercy, including the decision last year to stage a special jubilee Holy Year devoted to the theme of mercy. However, the pope’s attitude toward mercy has sometimes been understood, and criticized, as playing down the reality of sin, or attenuating the Church’s capacity to pass judgment on objective evils.On that front, Francis’s language on mercy Thursday was instructive.“The mercy of the good news must never be a false accommodation,” Francis said, “which leaves the sinner in his misery because it won’t extend a hand to get him back on his feet and won’t accompany him in making a step forward in his commitment.”Francis also urged priests to avoid what he called the “pusillanimity” of not going out to “infect” others with joy.The integrity of a priest’s life, Francis said, must never be “rigid,” because in Christian life, “the truth was made flesh.”In the end, Pope Francis laid out three key words to capture an authentically priestly life: “Concrete,” “tender,” and “humble.”“This meek integrity,” he said, “gives joy to the poor, reanimates sinners, and allows those oppressed by demons to breathe anew.”In effect, then, what we saw at this chrism Mass was the leader of the universal church insisting that the priesthood is not primarily about universals but particulars, details that become “incarnate” in the lives of concrete people needing the priest’s care.That may not quite add up to a comprehensive theology of the priesthood, but it does carry the stamp of a man who’s been in the pastoral trenches himself and, in his famous phrase, “carries the smell of his sheep.”
Apr 16 17 6:29 AM
Pope urges faithful to help and serve each other(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Holy Thursday washed the feet of inmates at Paliano prison, south of Rome, during the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper.The Pope traveled to the penitentiary for a private visit and the celebration of Mass marking Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on the day before his Crucifixion. In his off-the-cuff homily Pope Francis invited those present – and all Christians - to serve the other."The disciples, the Pope said, used to argue about who was the most important amongst them".“He who feels or thinks he is important, he continued, must become small and be a servant to the others. That is what God – who loves us as we are – does every day”.The center hosts some 70 inmates, and amongst those whose feet the Pope washed, there are 10 Italians, 1 Argentinean and 1 Albanian. Amongst them 3 are women and 1 is a Muslim who will receive the Sacrament of Baptism in the coming month of June.The Paliano detention center is the only such institute in Italy reserved in particular for former members of criminal gangs who collaborate with police and the judiciary. Vocational training is part of the programmes in place for the inmates at Paliano and courses include pottery, bakery, carpentry, farming and bee-keeping. That’s why the inmates gifts for Pope Francis include baskets of fresh farm produce, eggs, honey and a wooden crucifix. Pope Francis began the tradition of travelling to a prison for the traditional Last Supper Mass in March 2013, just a few days after the inauguration of his pontificate. On that occasion he travelled to Rome’s Casal del Marmo youth detention centre where he included, for the first time, women and Muslims among the inmates whose feet he washed.The following year, he celebrated the Last Supper Mass at Rome’s Don Gnocchi centre for the disabled, again including women among those who had their feet washed in memory of Jesus’ gesture of humility and service.In 2015 Pope Francis travelled to Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday celebration, while last year he washed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Coptic Orthodox men and women at a centre for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, just north of Rome.
At mafia prison, Francis says Holy Thursday is not ‘folklore’In a maximum security prison for mafia informers on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates, telling them that it is a gesture meant to be a reminder of God's love for humanity: "Until the end, giving his life for each one of us." He insisted the ceremony is not "folklore," but a remembrance of what Jesus himself did.ROME - Celebrating the traditional Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual at a prison used to house Mafia turncoats, Pope Francis said the Maundy Thursday ceremony is not “folklore,” but a gesture intended to remember what Jesus himself did.“God loves like this: Until the end, giving his life for each one of us,” Francis said in his homily. “It’s not easy, because all of us are sinners, we have limits, flaws. Yes, we all know how to love, but not like God loves, without looking at the consequences, until the end.”The pontiff also said that when he was arriving at the maximum security Palino prison in Rome, there were those who kept screaming: “The pope is coming, the boss of the Church.” Yet, he said, “the boss is Jesus.”To make evident how great his love is, the pontiff said, “He who was the boss, who was God, washed the feet of his disciples.”“God is grand, good, and loves us as we are,” Francis said off-the-cuff during his homily. “This is not a folklore ceremony. We are remembering what Jesus did.”The inmates of Paliano prison are known as “collaborators of justice,” meaning members and associates of organized crime groups who are cooperating with Italy’s anti-mafia forces in exchange for reduced sentences.During the Mass, known as the Lord’s Last Supper, Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates. The Vatican released very little information on who they are, as the visit has been described as “strictly private.”The Vatican did say, however, three of them were women, one a Muslim who’s converting to Catholicism and will be baptized in June. One of them is Argentinian, another from Albania, and the rest Italian. Two have been sentenced to life in prison, and the rest will be released between 2019 and 2073.The Paliano prison is located some 45 miles from Rome, in the diocese of Palestrina.There are 70 inmates currently in the prison, and Francis greeted all of them, including those living in a special ward for tuberculosis-infected inmates.Prisoners prepared crosses made with wood from olive trees, traditional cakes as gifts and offered the pope zucchini, cucumbers and other goods from the prison’s organic garden.This is the third time the Argentine pontiff has celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass at a prison, picking up on a tradition he developed when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.During the first year of his pontificate, he headed this ceremony at the juvenile detention center “Casal del Marmo.” In 2014, Pope Francis held the Holy Thursday Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.In 2015 he once again went to a prison on the outskirts of Rome, Rebibbia, where he washed the feet of 12 inmates, men and women, from Nigeria, Congo, Ecuador, Brazil, and Italy - as well as one toddler.Last year, he visited a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a city just north of Rome, where he washed the feet of refugees, who included Muslims, Hindus, and Coptic Orthodox Christians.Beyond the Maundy Thursday tradition, Pope Francis has made several appeals intended to shine a light over the conditions prisoners live in, visiting jails in most of his foreign trips, including in the United Sates, where he visited a detention facility in Philadelphia.During the Holy Year of Mercy, one of the final major events was a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica with over 1,000 inmates from all over the world.In an interview published on Thursday, Pope Francis explained where his emphasis on reaching out to inmates comes from: “The Gospel passage on the universal judgment says: ‘I was a prisoner and you visited me,'” Francis told the Italian newspaper La Reppublica. “This is Jesus’ mandate for all of us, but especially the bishop who is father of everyone.”Talking about prisoners, the pope said “Some say: ‘They are guilty,'” the pope said. “I respond with Jesus’ words: ‘Whoever is not guilty, throw the first stone.’ Let’s look inside ourselves and we will come to see our own guilt. And then the heart will become more human.”The pontiff opened the most solemn period of the Church’s liturgical calendar by celebrating the Chrism Mass on Thursday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica.On Friday, he will participate in the liturgy marking the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica. This is one of the few occasions in which the pope does not deliver a homily. Later in the day he’ll lead the torch-lit Way of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum.On Saturday night he’ll lead the Easter vigil at the basilica, and on Sunday, out in St. Peter’s Square, he’ll lead the Easter Mass and deliver the Urbi et Orbi blessing, to the city of Rome and to the world.
Apr 16 17 7:05 AM
Pope Francis presides over the Passion of Christ on Good FridayPope Francis entered St. Peter's Basilica in a silent and solemn procession. At the cross of Jesus, he fell on the ground to pray. This prostrate body position symbolizes an attitude of recollection and penance specifically seen on Good Friday.In this gesture, all the people of God, represented by the priest, are joined in prayer before the sacrifice Christ made on the Cross.After a few minutes, the masters of ceremony helped the pope to his feet.The music and the dim lights of the basilica offered the perfect atmosphere for this ceremony remembering the Passion of the Lord.After proclaiming the Gospel in Latin, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical House, delivered the homily. He spoke on the meaning of the Cross.FR. RANIERO CANTALAMESSAPreacher, Pontifical House"It is the definitive and irreversible 'no' of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies—to all that we call 'evil,' and at the same it is equally the irreversible 'yes' to love, truth, and goodness. 'No' to sin, 'yes' to the sinner. It is what Jesus practiced all His life and that He now definitively consecrates with His death."He further explained that the Cross is not a simple symbol of the past, because Jesus was resurrected and can change the hearts of people.FR. RANIERO CANTALAMESSAPreacher, Pontifical House"Christ did not come to explain things but to change human beings. The heart of darkness is not only that of some evil person hidden deep in the jungle, nor is it only that of the western society that produced it. It is in each one of us in varying degrees."Then the cross was worshiped in procession from the entrance of the basilica to the altar.When it reached the pope, he removed the red veil covering it and kissed the cross that remained there for all to worship as he sang with the Sistine Chapel Choir.The Good Friday ceremony is sober and austere, symbolizing the sad waiting and longing that precedes the joy of the Resurrection.
FR. RANIERO CANTALAMESSAPreacher, Pontifical House"It is the definitive and irreversible 'no' of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies—to all that we call 'evil,' and at the same it is equally the irreversible 'yes' to love, truth, and goodness. 'No' to sin, 'yes' to the sinner. It is what Jesus practiced all His life and that He now definitively consecrates with His death."
FR. RANIERO CANTALAMESSAPreacher, Pontifical House"Christ did not come to explain things but to change human beings. The heart of darkness is not only that of some evil person hidden deep in the jungle, nor is it only that of the western society that produced it. It is in each one of us in varying degrees."
Apr 16 17 7:40 AM
On Good Friday, Pope speaks of shame for Church and humanityPope Francis, presiding at a Good Friday service, asked God for forgiveness for scandals in the Catholic Church and for the "shame" of humanity becoming inured to daily scenes of bombed cities and drowning migrants.Francis presided at a traditional candlelight Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) service at Rome's Colosseum attended by some 20,000 people and protected by heavy security following recent attacks in European cities.Francis sat while a large wooden cross was carried in procession, stopping 14 times to mark events in the last hours of Jesus' life from being sentenced to death to his burial.Similar services, known as the Stations of the Cross, were taking place in cities around the world as Christians gathered to commemorate Jesus' death by crucifixion.At the end of the two-hour service, Francis read a prayer he wrote that was woven around the theme of shame and hope.In what appeared to be a reference to the Church's sexual abuse scandal, he spoke of "shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, brothers and nuns scandalized and wounded your body, the Church."The Catholic Church has been struggling for nearly two decades to put the scandal of sexual abuse of children by clergy behind it. Critics say more must be done to punish bishops who covered up abuse or were negligent in preventing it.Francis also spoke of the shame he said should be felt over "the daily spilling of the innocent blood of women, of children, of immigrants" and for the fate of those who are persecuted because of their race, social status or religious beliefs.At the end of this month Francis travels to Egypt, which has seen a spate of attacks by Islamists on minority Coptic Christians. Dozens were killed in two attacks last Sunday.He spoke of "shame for all the scenes of devastation, destruction and drownings that have become ordinary in our lives."On the day he spoke, more than 2,000 migrants trying to reach Europe were plucked from the Mediterranean in a series of dramatic rescues and one person was found dead. More than 650 have died or are unaccounted for while trying to cross the sea in rubber dinghies this year.Security was stepped up in the area around the Colosseum following recent truck attacks against pedestrians in London and Stockholm. Some 3,000 police guarded the area and checked people as they approached. The Colosseum subway stop was closed.Francis on Saturday is due to say an Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, he reads his twice-annual "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and the World") message in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Francis: remarks at Good Friday Via Crucis(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over the Via crucis at the Colosseum in Rome on the evening of Good Friday. In keeping with tradition, he briefly addressed the faithful gathered to participate in the devotion. Below, please find our English translation of his remarks.**************************************O Christ! Abandoned and betrayed even by your own and sold for next to nothing.O Christ! Judged by sinners, handed over by those in Authority.O Christ! Suffering in the flesh, crowned with thorns and clothed in purple.O Christ! Beaten and nailed in excruciating pain to the Cross.O Christ! Pierced by the lance that broke your heart.O Christ! Dead and buried, you who are the God of life and existence.O Christ! Our only Saviour, we return to you this year with eyes lowered in shame and hearts filled with hope:Shame for all the images of devastation, destruction and wreckage that have become a normal part of our lives;Shame for the innocent blood shed daily by women, children, migrants and people persecuted because of the colour of their skin or their ethnic and social diversity or because of their faith in You;Shame for the too many times that, like Judas and Peter, we have sold you and betrayed you and left you alone to die for our sins, fleeing like cowards from our responsibilities;Max Rossi - ReutersShame for our silence before injustices; for our hands that have been lazy in giving and greedy in grabbing and conquering; for the shrill voices we use to defend our own interests and the timid ones we use to speak out for other's; for our feet that are quick to follow the path of evil and paralyzed when it comes to following the path of good;Shame for all the times that we Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have caused scandal and pain to your body, the Church; for having forgotten our first love, our initial enthusiasm and total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust.So much shame Lord, but our hearts also feel nostalgia for the confident hope that you will not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the abundance of Your mercy; that our betrayals do not diminish the immensity of your love; your maternal and paternal heart does not forget us because of the hardness of our own;The certain hope that our names are etched in your heart and that we are reflected in the pupils of your eyes; the hope that your Cross may transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh that are able to dream, to forgive and to love; that it may transform this dark night of your cross into the brilliant dawn of your Resurrection;The hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own;The hope that the many men and women who are faithful to your Cross may continue to live in fidelity like yeast that gives flavour and like light that reveals new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity;The hope that your Church will try to be the voice that cries in the wilderness for humanity, preparing the way for your triumphant return, when you will come to judge the living and the dead;The hope that good will be victorious despite its apparent defeat!Max Rossi - ReutersO Lord Jesus! Son of God, innocent victim of our ransom, before your royal banner, before the mystery of your death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel in shame and with hope and we ask that you bathe us in the blood and water that flowed from your lacerated heart; to forgive our sins and our guilt;We ask you to remember our brethren destroyed by violence, indifference and war;We ask you to break the chains that keep us imprisoned in our selfishness, our wilful blindness and in the vanity of our worldly calculations.O Christ! We ask you to teach us never to be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it but to honour and worship it, because with it You have shown us the horror of our sins, the greatness of your love, the injustice of our decisions and the power of your mercy. Amen.
Apr 16 17 8:42 AM
Pope denounces corruption, injustices that 'crucify' dignityVATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis on Saturday denounced how migrants, the poor and marginalized see their "human dignity crucified" every day through injustice and corruption, and urged the faithful in an Easter Vigil message to keep hope alive for a better future.Francis presided over the solemn late-night ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica at a time of heightened security fears following a spate of Islamic-inspired attacks and tensions over Europe's migrant influx.Security was particularly tight, part of the heavier-than-usual safety measures that have been deployed around the world for Holy Week activities, particularly following the twin Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt that killed at least 45 people.Holding a single candle, Francis processed down the basilica's center aisle, symbolizing the darkness that fell after Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday. When Francis reached the altar, the basilica's floodlights turned on, symbolizing the light of Christ's resurrection.In his homily, Francis recalled the biblical scene of two women approaching Jesus' tomb and said their desolation over his death can be seen every day in the faces of women whose children have been victims of poverty, exploitation and injustice."We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family," he said.Others are victims of paralyzed bureaucracies and corruption "that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams," the pope said, echoing two themes he has emphasized in his four-year papacy: caring for migrants and denouncing corruption."In their grief, these two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified."But rather than remain resigned to such a fate, Francis urged the faithful to have hope, as symbolized by Christ's resurrection.He called for Catholics 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."Saturday's late-night service included the baptism of 11 people, including two children and one woman from China.It came just hours after Francis presided over the evocative torch-lit Good Friday procession at Rome's Colosseum, where he repeatedly denounced the "shame" of the blood spilled by innocent children, women and migrants in the world's conflicts, shipwrecks and other tragedies.On Sunday, Francis will celebrate the joyful Easter Mass in a flower-filled St. Peter's Square. Thousands of people are expected to brave street closures, metal detectors and other security measures to reach the square for the Mass.
Homily of His Holiness Pope FrancisVatican BasilicaHoly Saturday, 15 April 2017“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” (Mt 28:1). We can picture them as they went on their way… They walked like people going to a cemetery, with uncertain and weary steps, like those who find it hard to believe that this is how it all ended. We can picture their faces, pale and tearful. And their question: can Love have truly died?Unlike the disciples, the women are present – just as they had been present as the Master breathed his last on the cross, and then, with Joseph of Arimathea, as he was laid in the tomb. Two women who did not run away, who remained steadfast, who faced life as it is and who knew the bitter taste of injustice. We see them there, before the tomb, filled with grief but equally incapable of accepting that things must always end this way.If we try to imagine this scene, we can see in the faces of those women any number of other faces: the faces of mothers and grandmothers, of children and young people who bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality. 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. We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family. We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles. Their faces 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. In their grief, those two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified.The faces of those women mirror many other faces too, including perhaps yours and mine. Like them, we can feel driven to keep walking and not resign ourselves to the fact that things have to end this way. True, we carry within us a promise and the certainty of God’s faithfulness. But our faces also bear the mark of wounds, of so many acts of infidelity, our own and those of others, of efforts made and battles 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. Worse, we can even convince ourselves that this is the law of life, and blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us. So often we walk as those women did, poised between the desire of God and bleak resignation. Not only does the Master die, but our hope dies with him.“And suddenly there was a great earthquake” (Mt 28:2). Unexpectedly, those women felt a powerful tremor, as something or someone made the earth shake beneath their feet. Once again, someone came to tell them: “Do not be afraid”, but now adding: “He has been raised as he said!” This is the message that, generation after generation, this Holy Night passes on to us: “Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters; he is risen as he said!” Life, which death destroyed on the cross, now reawakens and pulsates anew (cf. Romano Guardini, The Lord, Chicago, 1954, p. 473). The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon. The beating heart of the Risen Lord is given to us, and we are asked to give it in turn as a transforming force, as the leaven of a new humanity. In the resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also 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.When the High Priest and the religious leaders, in collusion with the Romans, believed that they could calculate everything, that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it, God suddenly breaks in, upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities. God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy. This is the promise present from the beginning. This is God’s surprise for his faithful people. Rejoice! Hidden within your life is a seed of resurrection, an offer of life ready to be awakened.That is what this night calls us to proclaim: the heartbeat of the Risen Lord. Christ is alive! That is what quickened the pace of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. That is what made them return in haste to tell the news (Mt 28:. That is what made them lay aside their mournful gait and sad looks. They returned to the city to meet up with the others.Now that, like the two women, we have visited the tomb, I ask you to go back with them to the city. Let us all retrace our steps and change the look on our faces. 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. Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: 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.Let us go, then. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give. May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps. May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart.
Apr 16 17 3:28 PM
In vintage Pope Francis style, the pontiff broke with tradition and delivered an off-the-cuff homily for Easter Sunday, one of the very few improvised speeches in such a solemn setting from a pope who’s used to putting his prepared remarks aside to speak from the heart on more informal occasions.“Jesus has risen from the dead,” Francis said. “And this is not a fantasy. It’s not a celebration with many flowers [pointing at the arrangements surrounding him]. This is beautiful, but [the resurrection] is more.”“It is the mystery of the thrown-away stone, that ends up being the cornerstone of our existence. Christ has risen from the dead. In this throwaway culture, where that which is not useful takes the path of the use-and-throw, where that which is not useful is discarded, that stone that was discarded is the fountain of life,” he said.And even “us, little pebbles,” who’ve been thrown in an earth full of “suffering, tragedy,” with faith in the risen Christ, “have a reason for being, amidst so much calamity. A sense to look beyond: There is not a wall, but a horizon. There’s life, joy, in there is the cross with this ambivalence.”The pope began his remarks saying that the Church, facing “our distrust, [and] closed and fearful hearts,” continues to say, “calm down, the Lord has risen.”But, he continued, if he has come back from the dead, “how do these things happen, so many tragedies: illnesses, human trafficking, human exploitation, wars, destruction, mutilations, vengeance, hatred?”“Where is the Lord?” he asked aloud.Francis then shared that on Saturday he’d phoned a young man, an engineer with a “serious illness,” and the pope told him “there are no explanations for what’s happening to you. Look at Jesus crucified, God has done this with his son. There’s no other explanation.”To this, the pontiff said, the man answered: “Yes, but he [God] asked his Son and the Son said yes. He didn’t ask me if I wanted this.“And this moves us. Not one of us is asked, ‘Are you happy with what’s happening in the World? Are you willing to carry this cross?’” he said.“Today the Church continues to say, stop, Jesus is risen.”Francis has improvised homilies before. He does so every morning in Santa Marta, behind closed doors. Every Holy Thursday, when he visits prisons or refugee centers to celebrate the Mass for the Lord’s Last Supper, and he even did so once in the middle of a tropical storm, in the Philippines, back in 2015.Yet he’s never strayed far from the text in such a solemn context before. On this occasion, however, there was no homily, he improvised all the way.“You, little pebble, have a reason in life. Because you’re a pebble holding on to the cornerstone, that stone that evilness of sin has discarded,” Francis said in his homily. “What does the Church say amidst so much tragedy: the stone that was discarded wasn’t … From within the heart [the Church says] Jesus is risen!”Closing his homily, Francis called upon those present to think about the every-day problems of life, illnesses, wars, human tragedies and say, “with a humble voice, without flowers, alone, to God who’s in front of us: ‘I don’t know how this is going, but I’m sure that Christ has risen.’”Urbi et OrbiAfter the Mass, and this time staying true to the text, Pope Francis went up to the “loggia centrale,” or the central balcony in St. Peter’s Basilica overlooking the square, to deliver what is known as the Urbi et Orbi blessing.This window is used regularly twice a year, for this blessing imparted on Easter Sunday and Christmas day. It’s also the window from where a new pope is presented to the world.Popes typically use their Easter Day Urbi et Orbi blessing, addressed “to the city and to the world,” to present a summary of the global situation, singling out what are bound to be the Vatican’s key political and social concerns for the foreseeable future.#Pope Francis held to form on Sunday, and judging by what seemed to be foremost on his mind, as proved by his improvised homily, it’s a good bet that the instruction to reach out to what he’s described as “the outskirts of society” amidst a throwaway culture will continue to loom front and center of his papacy, as has been the case for the past four years.He spoke of the “Risen Shepherd,” meaning Christ who rose from the dead on the third day. Francis used this figure to say that he “tirelessly seek us,” with the “marks of the passion- the wounds of his merciful love- he draws on us to follow him on his way.”Today too, Francis said, “he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms,” before listing many of them.He began with all those “lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization.”For a pope who’s often railed against the modern economic system, saying that this “economy kills,” having placed the “god money” at the center instead of the human person, he was at it again on Sunday, but going after the two most profitable “illegal industries:” Human slavery and drug trafficking.The Risen Shepherd, the pope said, takes upon himself the victims of every form of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and decriminalization, and grave form of addictions, and those abused in their own homes.Seeing that Francis is currently hosting both Christian and Muslim refugee families in the Vatican, the world has come to expect the Argentine pontiff to shine a light over the thousands who still venture towards Europe in overloaded rubber boats every day, with countless lives lost in the “mare mortum,” the Mediterranean Sea, which as he’s said before, has become a cemetery.“The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes,” he said, placing attention also on those who look after people forced to migrate.Expressing a hope more than stating a fact, Francis then urged the Risen Lord to “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.”As is usually the case, the pope then “ticked off” specific conflict zones, praying in particular for the civil population in Syria, “pray to end a war that continues to sow horror and death,” the entire Middle East, particularly the Holy Land, Iraq and Yemen.In a last-minute addition to his text, Pope Francis commented on a suicide bombing in Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday that killed roughly 100 people, most of whom were refugees waiting to be evacuated from four government-held vans. The attacker drove the powerful bomb up to buses waiting to carry people to safety, using a van meant to hold aid supplies.“Just yesterday, there was the latest ignoble attack on refugees attempting to flee, which provoked numerous deaths and injuries,” the pope said.Francis then turned his attention to Africa.“May the Good Shepherd,” Francis said, remain close to South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo, all waging their own civil and ethnic wars, aggravated by a famine affecting certain parts of Africa and which has put millions of lives at risk.Avoiding naming any country in particular, or perhaps knowing that it applies to most, he prayed for Latin America, hoping that the Risen Jesus may sustain those committed to ensuring the common good despite political and social tensions that “in some cases have resulted in violence.”Last but not least, he prayed for Ukraine, “still beset by conflict and bloodshed,” and Europe. It’s worth remembering that the Ukraine was invaded by Russia in 2014.Francis closed his blessing noting that all Christians this year celebrate Easter on the same date- a rare occurrence since different churches use different calendars.“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.”
Apr 17 17 1:41 AM
FOR anybody in the information business, Pope Francis would be a dream, and a nightmare, to work for. He is a natural communicator, whose openness and vulnerability somehow come across the airwaves. But the most memorable moments of his papacy, such as his long public embrace of a man terribly disfigured by a skin disease, are completely unscripted. Perhaps they have to be. And every so often, he will say something edgy that clearly defies any PR advice he is getting: for example, when he responded to the massacre of journalists at Charlie Hebdo magazine by insisting that people should avoid insulting what others hold sacred. Whatever you may think of that particular comment, a charismatic religious leader will always reserve the right to spring surprises.But the pope, like anybody else whose words are followed by hundreds of millions of people, does need professional assistance with disseminating his words, in real time and with swift translation into lots of languages. Today, for example, Catholics in many countries were waiting to hear the Pope’s annual Easter message urbi et orbi (to the city and the world) which as is customary combined the spiritual with the topical: he denounced a suicide bombing which killed more than 100 people, mostly refugees, in Syria, as well as the spectre of hunger looming in parts of Africa.Somebody has to handle the Vatican’s Twitter account, @Pontifex, which has 12.8m followers in Spanish and 10.6m in English. In June 2015, Francis launched an effort to streamline the Holy See’s output of messages by creating an all-embracing Secretariat for Communications, responsible for radio, television and social media as well as written documents. Its first director, Monsignor Dario Vigano, was a self-proclaimed fan of digital communication with a soft spot for Walt Disney.And just in the last few days, the Pope intrigued American Catholics, in particular, by naming two new advisers to the Secretariat who represent very different flavours of religion in the United States. One is Father James Martin, a brainy and liberal-minded Jesuit who is a prolific author, a business-school graduate and an adept user of Twitter with 100,000 personal followers. The other is Michael Warsaw, a more conservative figure who has been chief executive of Eternal Way Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic broadcasting operation which claims to reach over 200m households in 100 countries. EWTN was started by Mother Angelica, a traditionally clad nun, in a converted garage in Birmingham, Alabama.Conservative Catholic commentators are already grumbling over the elevation of Father Martin, whose writings include a book on how the church could build better relations with gay people. In response to the forcible removal of a passenger from a United Airlines aircraft, Father Martin blogged that such things reflect the pathologies of capitalism. He is a contributing editor to America magazine, a heavy-weight liberal journal. On a lighter note, he has written a book entitled “Between Heaven and Mirth” about the importance of humour in religion.Whatever the differences, Father Martin and Mr Warsaw have something in common: both personify the sub-contracting of the information business to new, flexible and interactive structures. In a way, the whole idea of single, all-powerful communications secretariat looks rather old-fashioned, unless that secretariat can be persuaded to share its mission with lots of independent players. Now the Pope will be receiving advice from two Americans who can tactfully explain that point.
Conservative opposition to Pope Francis spurs talk of a schism in the Catholic Church Of all the recent attacks launched by conservatives against Pope Francis, one stood out more than most.It came from a German cardinal who is one of the most powerful men in the Vatican. (Oh, I don't know ... is this fellow really that powerful? Some people would say that he's effectively been sidelined. The illusion of his "influence" may be relevant only to those very conservative quarters who still believe that his declarations still hold water.) And it underlined a growing backlash in the church to some of Francis’ more progressive ideas — a backlash led largely by German and American bishops who fear the pope may be overturning centuries of doctrine on divorce, among other matters.The cardinal, Gerhard Mueller, the pope’s own doctrinal chief, made it clear in an interview in February that he firmly opposed Francis’ tinkering with the church’s ban on divorced and civilly remarried Catholics taking Communion.Francis has implied that the ban could be relaxed. But Mueller told Il Timone, an Italian Catholic publication: “No power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”As Francis enters his fourth year in office, his conservative opponents have chosen to stand and fight over his 2016 apostolic exhortation titled “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” in which he suggested bishops can use discretion in granting Communion to Catholics who divorce, then remarry in a civil ceremony.Francis’ guidance was seen by many as contradicting the ruling, which dates to the early days of the Roman Catholic Church, that couples are living in sin if they remarry, because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church.Francis’ opening was part of his mercy-before-doctrine drive, which welcomes outcasts to the church rather than use dogma to keep people out. But for conservative Catholics, it was another reason to feel aggrieved, after Francis appeared to suggest in 2015 that Lutherans could receive Catholic Communion, and, when asked about gay people in 2013, said, "Who am I to judge?"It was enough to start talk of a schism in the church. In February, anonymous conservatives in Rome responded by putting up posters attacking the pope, while rumors spread of prelates plotting to make him resign.Mueller’s senior role as the the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave his criticism extra weight. But his nationality also provides a key to understanding the roots of the row — one that has been raging for years and started not in the Vatican, but in Germany, long before Francis was pope.“With ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ Pope Francis simply took sides in a battle which German bishops have been fighting for years,” said Julius Mueller-Meiningen, a Vatican expert who covers the Holy See for Christ & Welt, the religious supplement of the German weekly Die Zeit.The battle got underway in 1993 when three German bishops — Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann and Oskar Saier — had a letter read out in all the churches of their dioceses stating it was time to talk about the rule on people who remarry after divorcing.Arguing that there should be wiggle room “in complex, individual cases,” they used the kind of language Francis would employ almost a quarter of a century later.Back then, there was another conservative German heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI. He shot back with a strongly worded letter to his fellow Germans, telling them to stick to the rules.“If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law,” he wrote.“Consequently," he added, "they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.”Kasper and Lehmann continued the debate in an informal group of prelates, nicknamed the St. Gallen group after the village in Switzerland where they met.Among their discussions: Who would be the next pope?Mueller-Meiningen said he was told that, before the 2005 conclave to elect the successor to Pope John Paul II, the cardinals talked about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as a possibility.But the group’s plans to elect a reformer like Bergoglio were thwarted when Ratzinger was picked instead.“After the election of Ratzinger, the group met for the last time in January 2006, then broke up,” said Mueller-Meiningen. But then Benedict unexpectedly resigned in 2013. He cited health reasons, though rumors swirled at the time that he was also worn down by bitter power struggles behind the scenes at the Vatican. In any event, with his departure, the German cardinals “had a second chance,” Mueller-Meiningen said.Again the group supported the candidacy of Bergoglio, and this time their man won. Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis.A year after his election, Francis invited Kasper to address a consistory of cardinals, where the German prelate re-pitched his ideas about granting Communion to people who divorce and remarry.Conservative cardinals were quick to react. Five of them published a book-length explanation in 2014 about why the Communion ban could not be lifted. Among them were American Cardinal Raymond Burke and two Germans, Mueller and Walter Brandmueller.Undeterred, Francis held two synods in 2014 and 2015 that discussed the issue. “The German-language discussion group at the second synod, including Mueller and Kasper, had the most eloquent debating,” said Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican expert at the website Vatican Insider.George Pell, a conservative Australian cardinal, told France’s Le Figaro newspaper that the synod debate was just the latest episode in a long-running theological battle between Kasper and Ratzinger/Benedict.After the synods, in April 2016, Francis produced “Amoris Laetitia,” in which he wrote, “It is possible that in an objective situation of sin,” a person can be helped to live in God’s grace, and in certain cases, “this can include the help of the sacraments.”Translation: In some cases, a sinner — say, someone who was divorced and remarried — can receive Communion, the central sacrament of Catholicism.This time, four cardinals, including Burke and two Germans, Brandmueller and Joachim Meisner, wrote to Francis in September asking whether “Amoris Laetitia” broke with existing doctrine.When they received no response, they went public with the letter in November.Conservatives chimed in to lend support. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said last month that he wanted Francis to answer the questions posed in the letter.“How can it be true that people can receive Communion when they’re living in an adulterous union today? How is that possible, when the church says it’s not possible?” he asked the independent Catholic website Crux. ("Independent"? Crux receives financial support from the Knights of Columbus - a conservative Catholic organization. If Crux's financial resources came from advertising and subscriptions, then I would say that it is "independent". Otherwise ...)Crux editor John Allen said American Catholics were divided, with some bishops — such as Chaput — insisting that the doctrine was unchanged, while others, including the archbishops of Chicago and Washington, saying Communion for divorced Catholics can be acceptable in some circumstances.“There is no great ferment among rank-and-file Catholics, but the inside-baseball crowd is borderline obsessed, (Seems to me that the line was crossed when Burke and his cohorts issued that "dubia".) strongly divided in the same way as Europe,” he said. “Liberals see it as a long-overdue gesture of pastoral generosity, while conservatives see it as symptomatic of Francis’ lack of clarity on doctrine — and they are going at it hammer and tongs.”In Africa, where the church is battling a long tradition of polygamy, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, the archbishop of Durban, South Africa, tweeted, “If Westerners in irregular situations can receive Communion, are we to tell our polygamists and other ‘misfits’ that they too are allowed?” (A couple in an "irregular" situation is, from where I sit, a very different kettle of fish from a man with several wives.)But in February, the German bishops’ conference backed the concept of case-by-case flexibility, stating, “Catholics who have been remarried under civil law after a divorce are invited to go to the church, participate in their lives and mature as living members of the church.”On the same day, Mueller’s interview appeared in Il Timone, showing yet again how the country where the debate started remains split on the question.“We are called to help people, little by little, have a full relationship with God,” Mueller said, before adding, “But we can’t give discounts.”
If there’s a Catholic analog for Nixon going to China, maybe it’s Pope Francis going to Ecône, the headquarters of the Society of St. Pius X. The entire pontificate of Francis, who has been called “the unlikeliest of bridge-builders,” has been marked by increasingly welcoming gestures to the traditionalist group founded by French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970, and which was in formal schism from the Church from 1976 to 1988. Even as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio showed a pastoral and pragmatic approach to the SSPX. As pope, he has built on something initiated by Benedict XVI, but in a different way and, most importantly, in a very different theological context: In 2015, he allowed the priests of the SSPX to licitly hear confessions for the Jubilee of Mercy.The latest step, announced on April 4, is Francis’s decision to adopt a proposal from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” both of which are headed by Cardinal Ludwig Müller, to authorize local bishops to grant faculties for the celebration of marriages of faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the SSPX. While the decision may have little impact on the global Catholic Church—the SSPX has three bishops and six hundred priests, mostly in the United States, Argentina, Switzerland, Germany, France, the UK, Australia, and the Philippines–it is nevertheless another step toward the SSPX’s return to the body of the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the pope. Yet it might also bring new problems for Francis, including the SSPX’s approach to cases of sexual abuse by clergy. Still, the move could be quite consequential, for two reasons.First, the SSPX would become a “personal prelature” within the Church (with a legal status similar to the one granted by John Paul II to Opus Dei in 1982), which would most certainly split in a definitive way a schismatic traditionalist movement that already has shown signs of fracture. There is a visible rift between those who accept the reconciliation with Rome (like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter that reconciled with Rome in 1988) because they accept the legitimacy of Pope Francis, and those radical traditionalists and “sedevacantists” who see in the SSPX and in its leadership by Monsignor Bernard Fellay a liberal sellout of the true anti-modernist and anti-Vatican II Catholicism.The second reason is what it says about Francis’s concrete perception of Catholicism today. He’s dealing with the SSPX in this way because he knows the degree to which traditionalism perhaps even more pronounced than that of the SSPX exists. Less than fifteen years separate the publication of two important books on Catholic traditionalism—Michael Cuneo’s The Smoke of Satan (1997) and Giovanni Miccoli’s La Chiesa dell’anticoncilio (published in Italian in 2011, in French in 2014), yet they each paint a different picture. Cuneo saw traditionalism in a limited number of well-identified streams: conservatism-traditionalism, anti-abortion culture, marianism, and apocalypticism. Miccoli portrays a widespread support of traditionalist causes in the hierarchy of Catholicism.It’s clear that the traditionalism that’s developed since the 1990s has arisen outside any organized, mass movement of conversion of schismatics. Francis knows that dealing with traditionalism now is less a matter of outreach to the SSPX than it is an issue to be handled internally. Ironically, the new, “home-grown” traditionalism has made the schism with the SSPX a less urgent issue. Today the SSPX of Bishop Bernard Fellay is not much more traditionalist than, for example, some Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, some diocesan seminaries or even Cardinal Burke—all of whom are in communion with the pope even if their view of Vatican II theology is not so different from Lefebvre’s in 1970. What are the differences between the old 1970s traditionalism of the SSPX and the new traditionalism?So what’s happened during these last two decades, and what are the differences between the old 1970s traditionalism of the SSPX and the new traditionalism? One of the big changes is that traditionalism is no longer confined to a small and well-identified ecclesial group that put itself outside the Catholic Church of Rome, but rather is spread through the Church and its structures (clergy, religious orders, media outlets, universities). Nor is the new traditionalism an expression of a 19th-century, anti-Enlightenment, French Catholic culture, but rather of a piece with (what remains of) the “culture wars” in the English-speaking world. In some cases it is now also associated with high-profile conversions to Catholicism in the West.Another difference is how this new traditionalism was able to find a home in the Catholic Church of Benedict XVI. John Paul II opened the door by creating some practical conditions for its return in the early 1980s (the 1984 indult to celebrate the pre-conciliar Mass, for example), though without conceding much in terms of theological reassessment of Vatican II in a traditionalist sense. But Benedict XVI went further. Just a few examples:His December 2005 programmatic speech for a hermeneutic of Vatican II as “continuity and reform vs. discontinuity and rupture.” Originally, the speech had an anti-traditionalist intent (since the SSPX sees Vatican II as rupture), but it became a tool in the hands of Benedict-appointed bishops and curia officials pushing the traditionalist agenda.His liberalization of the pre-Vatican II liturgy in July 2007, which invigorated—if not created—a neo-traditionalist liturgical movement that did not exist before with the strength it has today.His decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops of the SSPX in January 2009, which signaled the unilateral willingness of the papacy to readmit the schismatic group that hosted the disturbing anti-Semitic views of one Bishop Richard Williamson (who was expelled from SSPX in 2012).These were not just accommodations made for the SSPX. They were also changes in the Church’s stance on the latest fifty years of Church history, changes that in the eyes of the traditionalists vindicated what they had been saying all along since the beginning of the post-Vatican II period.There were clearly also other factors. The rise of Catholic conservatism and traditionalism was also a reaction against globalization, and most of all a reaction to 9/11 and to the rise of radical and political Islam. Finally, there was the rise of digital communications: if you consider the impact of the printing press in cementing the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation in early modern Europe, you cannot overlook the impact of the blogosphere and internet for cementing and mainstreaming old and new Catholic traditionalism.Now, nobody knows what is going to happen next between Francis and the SSPX. One of the peculiar elements of this pontificate is that in dealing with the SSPX, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Müller—who was appointed to the position by Benedict XVI—has become the defender of Vatican II, while Francis seems to be willing to ignore or discount the ongoing refusal of the SSPX to accept the binding value of the teaching of Vatican II. On the other hand, some in the SSPX say that it is time to re-enter in communion with Rome because Pope Francis does not really care about Vatican II.But I think it’s even more complicated than that. Francis’s reaching out to the SSPX is his own way of implementing Vatican II. Like Benedict, he is offering the SSPX a deal. But unlike Benedict, he has inaugurated a new phase in the reception of Vatican II, and not only for the sudden and complete disappearance of the traditionalist, anti-Vatican II issues from his agenda. Francis has often warned against liturgical, dogmatic, disciplinary traditionalism already within the Roman Catholic Church. He has also acted to curb traditionalist tendencies in the Church; for example, he has disciplined religious orders like the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate for their use of the Latin Mass, among other things. The SSPX has a track record of pulling out of agreements at the last minute. But even if this agreement will not be signed, what is happening says a lot. Of course, the consequences of the possible return of the SSPX to the Church are tied to the success or failure of Francis’s reforms in the long run. It might curb traditionalism, or it might instead give it a boost. Part of the thinking is that in the future global Church, both old-school French-speaking traditionalism and new, English-speaking traditionalism will be more marginal.The regularization of the SSPX might also erode or limit the validity of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which might no longer be justified if a new “personal prelature” for the traditionalists delimits the application space of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. It would be another step for Francis dealing with the Ratzinger legacy in liturgical matters, after the decision to create a commission to review the 2001 Vatican instruction Liturgiam Authenticam.What the traditionalists do not seem to perceive is that the possible recognition of the SSPX would not come at the expense of Vatican II, but thanks to it: the dialogue towards all in the Church (for example: the divorced and remarried, LGBT people) enables and justifies a bold opening toward the SSPX as well. As Italian ecumenist Lorenzo Prezzi observed, a deal between the Vatican and the SSPX in 2009 or in 2012 would have legitimized and solidified a restrictive reading of Vatican II, while also influencing the conclave of 2013. Now the opposite seems likely. The return of the SSPX will give some more power to the conservatives, but in a process of reform. Of course, this scenario makes more sense for Catholic churches in which Vatican II was implemented more fully than in the United States, where during these last few decades an institutional “Vatican II revisionism,” pushed especially by the bishops, has been a subset of the culture wars.
A conversation with Pope FrancisOn St. Patrick’s Day, several colleagues and I, all moral theologians, had a 50-minute private audience with Papa Francesco.In 2003, we founded a network of Catholic moral theologians called Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (www.catholicethics.com). Our mission is to connect moralists from around the world. In particular, we try to find those most isolated on the peripheries, making sure that moralists anywhere read moralists everywhere. Today our network has 1,100 participants.In 2006, we held the first international conference in Padua, Italy. Four hundred moral theologians came from 55 countries. Four years later, we held another conference in Trent, Italy. Six hundred came from 72 countries.Since then we have started a monthly newsletter; published a book series; and held regional conferences in Nairobi, Kenya; Bangalore, India; Krakow, Poland; and Bogotá, Columbia. Now we are gearing up for a third international conference, this time in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on July 26-30, 2018.We are known for bridge-building, and in preparation for next year, we began thinking, maybe we should establish more formal bridges with the Catholic hierarchy.“We should go to Rome and introduce ourselves to the Roman congregations,” said one of our planning committee members, Antonio Autiero of Berlin, Germany.Congregations are like papal cabinet offices, though each one is chaired by a significantly influential cardinal. So we wrote to three congregations and, surprisingly, they expressed interest in meeting with us. We wrote to another three, and they responded in kind.Then we wrote to Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Jesuits, and he expressed interest as well. After all that success, why not try the pope himself?Long story short, through a variety of connections, we were fortunate enough to have a private audience with Pope Francis.When we met with the cardinals who showed interest in our network, we introduced ourselves, a non-polarizing group that tries to pay attention to local churches as we address global issues. As moral theologians, we have our own perspectives making the non-polarization a particular charism: we have unity in our diversity.Knowing how extensive our network is, several cardinals asked us to recommend moralists for different projects they are working on. Each meeting lasted longer than we ever expected.We had no idea how long our meeting with Papa Francesco would go. We were hoping for maybe 15 minutes. When he welcomed us, we realized the room had been set up just for him and us. After we each introduced ourselves, I commented that four members of our committee could not attend. Then I added that another member, from Hong Kong, had died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 46. I presented him a memorial card of the late Jesuit Father Lúcás Chan, and though we all agreed that I should do this, we all spontaneously broke into tears when I did.Papa Francesco was very touched and repeatedly said that our gift was very gracious. He could see that we are more than a just network. We are a society of friends.We told him about our work of accompanying newcomers to the field of moral theology, especially eight women in Africa for whom we secured scholarships. Kristin Heyer from the United States presented him our work on sustainability, and Ireland’s Linda Hogan gave him the book she edited on feminism, with essays by 25 moralists around the world.He focused on a number of points, most especially finding unity in diversity. This is the type of unity we need, he said, one that’s not in uniformity but in diversity. He argued that we need a dialogue based on difference and even invoked speculation of how the Trinity communicates!When the Slovenian Roman Globokar talked about how we had a meeting in Krakow between Western and Eastern Europeans, he laughed and commented that people must be afraid of us, since we are so inclusive.When we talked about his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” and referred to what some were doing in the United States in response to that text, especially Cardinal Cupich, he pounded on the desk, good, good.As we left, he thanked us for our work and for our courage. He clearly enjoyed learning about our network. And we could not have been more pleased to share our work with him.We were with him for nearly an hour: the conversation was rich and incredibly supportive, and we knew and felt how blessed we were. We left stunned and speechless.
Pope Francis on Saturday comforted the sister of an elderly French priest who was slain by Islamic militants in a church in Normandy as the pontiff paid tribute with a special prayer service to the courage of 20th- and 21st- century Christian martyrs.Francis gripped the hands of Roselyne Hamel, whose brother, Rev. Jacques Hamel, 85, died when his throat was slit as he celebrated Mass on July 26, 2016.He quietly spoke with her during the evening service in St. Bartholomew Basilica on Tiberina Island in Rome. He had just heard her tell fellow faithful in the church that her brother was killed by "two youths radicalized by a discourse of hate."Francis said the legacy of modern-day martyrs "teaches us that with the strength of love, meekness, one can combat arrogance, violence, war, and with patience, achieve peace."Next week Francis makes a two-trip pilgrimage to Egypt, a predominantly Muslim Arab nation where on April 9, on the Christian holy day of Palm Sunday, twin suicide bombings of Coptic churches killed 44 people.In Saturday's service, Francis prayed that "persecuted Christians are protected and that peace soon comes to the world."Departing from his prepared homily, Francis recounted how he was touched when last year, during a visit to a migrant detention facility in Lesbos, Greece, a Muslim father of three told him that his Christian wife had her throat slit when 'terrorists came ... and asked what our religion was.'"Francis said the widower told him his wife was killed in front of him when she refused to toss away the cross she was wearing."She is looking down at us from heaven," the pope added.Francis took some of the Lesbos refugees with him aboard his plane back to Italy.In his homily Saturday, Francis also hailed the suffering of refugees, who are kept in detention facilities, lamenting that "international accords seem more important than human rights."He praised Italians and Greeks for welcoming tens of thousands of refugees and migrants rescued at sea. He said he hopes the same generous spirit will "infect" other countries in Europe who have been resistant to taking in the refugees.During the service, the names of some of those who died for their faith were read aloud. They included an Italian priest, the Rev. Giuseppe Puglisi, who spoke out against the Sicilian Mafia and was slain by hit men in Palermoy in 1993.Among those who received tributes was Paul Schneider, a Reformed Church pastor killed in the Nazis' Buchenwald concentration camp in July 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II.The pastor's son, Karl A. Schneider, spoke to Saturday's gathering, saying the church "has the task of being vigilant about the state." He said his father was killed because he wanted to ensure "the German people kept a Christian orientation in the state and society."
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