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Apr 28 17 4:55 AM
Apr 28 17 5:08 AM
Placing flowers, lighting a candle and praying at the site where dozens of Coptic Orthodox Christians were killed by an Islamic State militant last year, Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II paid homage to those who were killed for their faith.Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros walked in a short procession to the Church of St. Peter, where 29 people died and 31 were wounded Dec. 11. The faithful chanted a song of martyrs, and some clashed cymbals under the darkened evening sky.Inside the small church, the leaders of several other Christian communities in Egypt as well as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople sat before the congregation, which included family members of the victims.A portion of one wall of the complex was splattered with blood, and pictures of those killed — many with bright smiles to the camera — were hung above. Some of the church’s stone columns were pock-marked from the debris or shrapnel sent flying from the explosion.Each of the eight Christian leaders seated before the congregation, beginning with Pope Francis, read a verse from the beatitudes in the Gospel of St. Matthew. Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros then each said a few words in prayer, and everyone shared a sign of peace.Led by Pope Francis, the eight leaders went to the back of the church, where each lit a small candle and placed white flowers beneath the photos of the martyrs. Pope Francis leaned low to touch the blood-stained wall and made the sign of the cross.Earlier, in a historic and significant move toward greater Christian unity, Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis signed an agreement to end a longtime disagreement between the two churches over the sacrament of baptism.The Coptic Orthodox Church had required new members joining from most non-Coptic churches — including those who had previously been baptized as Catholic — to be baptized again.The Catholic Church recognizes all Christian baptisms performed with water and in “the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Orthodox who enter the Catholic Church are received as full members, but not baptized again.In the joint declaration, the two leaders “mutually declare that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our churches for any person who wishes to join the other.”The document was signed during a courtesy visit with Pope Tawadros at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral April 28.In his speech to Pope Tawadros and other Coptic Orthodox leaders, Pope Francis said, “The innocent blood of defenseless Christians was cruelly shed.” He told them it was that innocent blood “that united us.”“Your sufferings are also our sufferings,” he said, the first day of a two-day visit to Egypt’s capital.“How many martyrs in this land, from the first centuries of Christianity, have lived their faith heroically to the end, shedding their blood rather than denying the Lord and yielding to the enticements of evil or merely to the temptation of repaying evil with evil?”“How many martyrs in this land, from the first centuries of Christianity, have lived their faith heroically to the end, shedding their blood rather than denying the Lord and yielding to the enticements of evil or merely to the temptation of repaying evil with evil,” he said.He encouraged Catholic and Orthodox to work hard to “oppose violence by preaching and sowing goodness, fostering concord and preserving unity, praying that all these sacrifices may open the way to a future of full communion between us and peace for all.”Pope Tawadros, in his speech, said Pope Francis was following in the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who came to Egypt nearly 1,000 years ago to meet Sultan al-Kamel and engage in “one of the most important experiences of intercultural dialogue in history — a dialogue that is renewed today with your visit.”Calling Pope Francis one of the symbols of peace “in a world tormented by conflicts and wars,” the Orthodox leader underlined that the world was thirsting for sincere efforts of spreading peace and love, and stopping violence and extremism.Pope Tawadros said Pope Francis’ visit “is a message for the rest of the world,” showing Egypt as a model of mutual respect and understanding.Despite Christianity’s deep roots in Egypt, which was evangelized by St. Mark, Christians have lived through some difficult and turbulent periods, he said. But that only made people’s desire to love even greater, showing that “love and tolerance are stronger than hatred and revenge and that the light of hope is stronger than the darkness of desperation.”“The criminal minds” behind all the violence and threats hurting Egypt will never be able to break or weaken the hearts of its citizens who are united and showing an example for future generations.Later in the evening, Pope Francis was scheduled to go to the apostolic nunciature, where he was staying, and greet a group of children who attend a Comboni-run school in Cairo. After dinner, he was expected to greet some 300 young people who came from outside Cairo to see him.The majority of the 82.5 million Egyptians are Sunni Muslims. Most estimates say 10-15 percent of the Egyptian population are Christians, most of them Coptic Orthodox, but there are Catholics, Protestants and other various Christian communities in the country as well.
Apr 28 17 1:08 PM
Heading into his two-day trip to Egypt, it was unclear exactly how direct Pope Francis might be about the threats faced by the local Christian community. The pontiff came to Egypt, after all, to build bridges of friendship with the Muslim establishment, and he also doesn’t want to embarrass his hosts in the Egyptian government.However, it turns out that Pope Francis decided to be fairly blunt after all.On Friday afternoon, in an address to political and civil authorities in the world’s sixth most populous Muslim nation, Francis made an unmistakable reference to the gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to the fate of Egypt’s Christian minority, which represents somewhere between ten and twenty percent of the national population.“I think in a particular way of all those individuals who in recent years have given their lives to protect your country: young people, members of the armed forces and police, Coptic citizens and all those nameless victims of various forms of terrorist extremism,” the pope said.“I think also of the murders and the threats that have led to an exodus of Christians from northern Sinai. I express my gratitude to the civil and religious authorities and to all those who have offered welcome and assistance to these persons who have suffered so greatly,” Francis said to the crowd at the Hotel Almasah, which is owned and administered directly by Egypt’s Ministry of Defense.“I also think of the victims of the attacks on Coptic churches, both last December and more recently in Tanta and Alexandria,” Francis said. “To the members of their families, and to all of Egypt, I offer my heartfelt condolences and my prayers that the Lord will grant speedy healing to the injured.”He was referring to a bomb attack on Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that left at least 25 dead, as well as Palm Sunday bombings at two other Coptic churches just weeks ago that killed 47 people.In less spectacular fashion, Copts in Egypt routinely complain of low-level oppression and harassment, including difficulties in finding positions and opportunities for advancement in employment and in political life. While Christianity has had a foothold in Egypt from the very beginning, and although the Egyptian constitution ostensibly guarantees religious freedom, Christians generally say the reality on the ground is mixed and becoming tenser.In that context, Pope Francis on Friday sought to deliver the Christian community a shot in the arm, recognizing the Coptic, Greek, Byzantine, Armenian and Protestant Christian churches of Egypt.“Your presence in this, your country, is not new or accidental, but ancient and an inseparable part of the history of Egypt. You are an integral part of this country, and over the course of the centuries you have developed a sort of unique rapport, a particular symbiosis, which can serve as an example to other nations,” he said, drawing strong applause.Francis also suggested the country’s Christians have an ecumenical vocation.“You have shown, and continue to show, that it is possible to live together in mutual respect and fairness, finding in difference a source of richness and never a motive of conflict,” he said.Later on Friday, Francis is scheduled to visit the Coptic Orthodox cathedral of Cairo to greet Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox church, in another expression of solidarity and concern.
Apr 28 17 4:51 PM
Apr 29 17 2:17 AM
Homily of His Holiness Pope FrancisHoly Mass, Cairo29 April 2017As-salamu alaykum! Peace be with you!Today’s Gospel of the third Sunday of Easter speaks to us of the journey to Emmaus of the two disciples who set out from Jerusalem. It can be summed up in three words: death, resurrection and life.Death. The two disciples are returning, full of despair and disappointment, to life as usual. The Master is dead and thus it is pointless to hope. They feel disappointment and despair. Theirs is a journey of return, as they leave behind the painful experience of Jesus’ crucifixion. The crisis of the cross, indeed the “scandal” and “foolishness” of the cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:18, 2:2), seems to have buried any hope they had. The one on whom they had built their lives is dead; in his defeat, he brought all their aspirations with him to the tomb.They could not believe that their Master and Saviour, who had raised others from the dead and healed the sick, would end up hanging on the cross of shame. They could not understand why Almighty God had not saved him from such a disgraceful death. The cross of Christ was the cross of their own ideas about God; the death of Christ was the death of what they thought God to be. But in fact, it was they who were dead, buried in the tomb of their limited understanding. How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas of God, a god created in the image and likeness of man! How often do we despair by refusing to believe that God’s omnipotence is not one of power and authority, but rather of love, forgiveness and life!The disciples recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread”, in the Eucharist. Unless we tear apart the veil clouding our vision and shatter the hardness of our hearts and our prejudices, we will never be able to recognize the face of God.Alessandro Bianchi - ReutersResurrection. In the gloom of their darkest night, at the moment of their greatest despair, Jesus approaches the two disciples and walks at their side, to make them see that he is “the Way, and the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus turns their despair into life, for when human hope vanishes, divine hope begins to shine in its place. “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Lk 18:27; cf. 1:37). When we reach the depths of failure and helplessness, when we rid ourselves of the illusion that we are the best, sufficient unto ourselves and the centre of our world, then God reaches out to us to turn our night into dawn, our affliction into joy, our death into resurrection. He turns our steps back to Jerusalem, back to life and to the victory of the Cross (cf. Heb 11:34).After meeting the Risen Lord, the two disciples returned filled with joy, confidence and enthusiasm, ready to bear witness. The Risen One made them rise from the tomb of their unbelief and their sorrow. Encountering the Lord, crucified and risen, they discovered the meaning and fulfilment of the whole of Scripture, the Law and the Prophets. They discovered the meaning of the apparent defeat of the cross.Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power. Life. The encounter with the Risen Jesus transformed the lives of those two disciples because meeting the Risen One transforms every life, and makes fruitful what is barren (cf. BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, 11 April 2007). Faith in the resurrection is not a product of the Church, but the Church herself is born of faith in the resurrection. As Saint Paul says: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).The Risen Lord vanished from the sight of the disciples in order to teach us that we cannot hold on to Jesus as he appeared in history: “Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen” (Jn 21:29; cf. 20:17). The Church needs to know and believe that Jesus lives within her and gives her life in the Eucharist, the scriptures and the sacraments. The disciples on the way to Emmaus realized this, and returned to Jerusalem in order to share their experience with the others: “We have seen the Risen One… Yes, he is truly risen!” (cf. Lk 24:32).The experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus teaches us that it is of no use to fill our places of worship if our hearts are empty of the fear of God and of his presence. It is of no use to pray if our prayer to God does not turn into love for our brothers and sisters. All our religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity. It is of no use to be concerned about our image, since God looks at the soul and the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7) and he detests hypocrisy (cf. Lk 11:37-54; Acts 5:3, 4). For God, it is better not to believe than to be a false believer, a hypocrite!True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost, without distinction and without preference. It makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome, but a brother or sister to be loved, served and helped. It spurs us on to spread, defend and live out the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity. It gives us the courage to forgive those who have wronged us, to extend a hand to the fallen, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to visit the imprisoned, to help orphans, to give drink to those who thirst, and to come to the aid of the elderly and those in need (cf. Mt 25). True faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own. Indeed, the more we grow in faith and knowledge, the more we grow in humility and in the awareness of our littleness.Gregorio Borgia - APDear brothers and sisters,God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!So now, like the disciples of Emmaus, filled with joy, courage and faith, return to your own Jerusalem, that is, to your daily lives, your families, your work and your beloved country. Do not be afraid to open your hearts to the light of the Risen Lord, and let him transform your uncertainty into a positive force for yourselves and for others. Do not be afraid to love everyone, friends and enemies alike, because the strength and treasure of the believer lies in a life of love!May Our Lady and the Holy Family, who dwelt in this venerable land of yours, enlighten our hearts and bless you and this beloved country of Egypt, which at the dawn of Christianity welcomed the preaching of Saint Mark, and throughout its history has brought forth so many martyrs and a great multitude of holy men and women.Al Masih qam! Bi-l-haqiqa qam!Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
Joyful stadium crowd greets Pope Francis on day two of his Egypt trip Elated crowds greeted Pope Francis at a Mass in Cairo's Air Defense Stadium on Saturday, unafraid despite recent suicide bombings at Christian churches."God will protect us," said Nada Youssef, 30, as she clutched the free ticket she received through church and waited to clear metal detectors and guards stationed at every entrance.Francis entered the stadium at 9:30 a.m. to applause as a fleet of yellow and white balloons was released -- the Vatican colors -- and a choir sang "Gloria."Some who came to pray Saturday recalled the last time they saw a pope celebrate Mass here 17 years ago, Pope John Paul II. Some said they brought children who had been born since so they too could see the pope.L'Osservatore RomanoSoldiers patroled outside and military helicopters circled overhead, but the mood remained festive, with inflated hot air balloons lining the road and music filling the air."Even without entering, by the sound of the music you can feel the joy," said Father Raymond Tumba, a Nigerian priest studying Arabic in Cairo as he entered to see the pope. "Wherever he goes, he spreads the message of peace."James Bolden, 32, wore a Pope Francis cap and scarf with the "Pope of peace in Egypt of peace" logos from the visit, hoping to get them blessed during mass. A refugee from South Sudan who teaches fellow refugees at a Catholic school in Cairo, he called Francis "the pope of refugees.""He supports peace so conflicts don't happen that create refugees," Bolden said.Fawzaya Alban, 42, and other women from South Sudan living in Cairo wore white clothes printed with the images of popes and priests, hoping for a blessing during Mass and grateful Francis was brave enough to visit."He visits all countries with suffering, countries with problems," she said.Maria Cormack said the pope set an example by standing up to extremists."It's showing us the courage we need to stand against people trying to make us afraid," she said.Cormack, 42, moved to Cairo 11 years ago and brought a sign to Mass for her troubled native land: "Pray for Venezuela.""I feel safer here than in Venezuela now," she said.Pope Francis waved to the crowds as he circled the stadium grounds in a golf cart. Some nuns held "Pope of Peace" signs, while other onlookers waved Vatican and Egyptian flags. A massive Egyptian flag was draped over one side of the stadium.Francis began his remarks at the Mass as he did when addressing another crowd Saturday, with a traditional Arabic greeting that again provoked instant applause: "Peace be with you."During the Mass, Francis urged the faithful to transcend their divisions. "Unless we tear apart the veil clouding our vision and shatter the hardness of our hearts and our prejudices, we will never be able to recognize the face of God," he said."God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity. Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him," Francis said.L'Osservatore RomanoFrancis has been warmly received since he arrived Friday for a two-day visit to Egypt. Many people said they admired his tenacity in visiting only weeks after twin suicide bombings targeted Christian churches in separate cities, killing 47 people.During his visit, Francis has managed the delicate balance of embracing Islam while condemning Islamic extremists in the Muslim majority country. Christians are Egypt’s largest religious minority, comprising 10% of the total 92 million population. They have been targeted by Islamic State extremists.Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi lauded the pope during their meeting Friday, expressing appreciation for “his noble humanitarian positions which unleash the power of hope in the hearts of people.”Hosting the pope, he told Francis, "is a declaration to the world of the strength of our national unity.""Eradicating terrorism requires a comprehensive strategy that takes into account not only military and security measures but also developmental, intellectual and political aspects," Sisi said.The threat was palpable on Cairo’s streets. Police in riot gear lined the pope’s route overnight, armored trucks parked every few blocks, which had been cleared of parked cars. Small groups of onlookers gathered to cheer as the pontiff passed, a fraction of the crowds he normally draws.Instead of the armored “popemobile,” Francis traveled in a small blue Fiat. He made it to the Vatican embassy safely, and the night passed without incident.The Mass Saturday at the military-run stadium was expected to attract more than 50,000 people.“I just pray for his safety,” said Sister Charlotte Greer, a Palmdale native and principal of St. Clare’s College in suburban Heliopolis who received a free ticket to board one of a fleet of buses headed to the mass.After the mass, Francis was expected to lunch with Catholic bishops, then meet with priests, nuns and other religious leaders at St. Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Patriarchal Seminary in suburban Maadi. He is scheduled to depart for Rome at 5 p.m.
Security tight as Pope celebrates open-air Mass in Cairo CAIRO (AP) -- Military helicopters flew overhead and police fanned out in force Saturday as Pope Francis celebrated an open-air Mass for Egypt's tiny Catholic community on the second and final day of a visit aimed at comforting Christians following a series of attacks by Islamic militants.Despite the security concerns, Francis zoomed around the Cairo sports stadium in an open-topped golf cart before the start of Mass, evidence of his desire to be close to his flock at all costs.The crowd cheered him wildly, waiving Egyptian and Holy See flags and swaying to hymns sung by church choirs. The defense ministry's stadium has a capacity of 25,000, but it was less than half-full, a reflection that Catholics represent less than 1 percent of Egypt's 92 million people.In his homily, Francis urged them to be good and merciful to their fellow Egyptians, saying "the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!""Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!" he said.It was a very pastoral message after Francis on his first day demanded that Muslim leaders renounce religious fanaticism that leads to violence. Francis made the appeal during a landmark visit to Cairo's Al-Azhar, the revered, 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islam learning that trains clerics and scholars from around the world.Security was exceptionally tight around the stadium and in the upscale neighborhood where Francis spent the night, with uniformed and plain-clothed police stationed every meter (yard) or so along his motorcade route. Police used metal detectors to check vehicles for explosives and armed guards stood watch, some on rooftops, their faces covered.But Francis decided to forego the bullet-proof "popemobile" that his predecessors used on foreign trips and drove through Cairo in a simple Fiat, his window rolled down.His gestures sent a defiant message to the extremist Islamic State group, whose local affiliate in Egypt has vowed to go after Egypt's Christians to punish them for their support of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.L'Osservatore RomanoEl-Sissi, as defense minister, led the military's ouster of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president whose one-year rule proved divisive.Already, attacks against Christians in northern Sinai, the epicenter of the insurgency, have forced hundreds of families to flee the region, seeking refuge elsewhere in Egypt. Recent attacks on churches - one in Cairo in December and twin Palm Sunday attacks in cities north of the Egyptian capital - have claimed at least 75 lives and injured scores.The attacks led to heightened security at churches nationwide and the declaration by el-Sissi of a state of emergency.Francis strongly backed the government's crackdown on the extremists Friday, saying Egypt was uniquely placed to bring peace to the region and "vanquish all violence and terrorism."He ended the day paying tribute to the victims of a December bombing at central Cairo's St. Peter's church, which is located in close proximity to the St. Mark's cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Blood on one of the church walls remains along with pictures of the victims in remembrance of the attack.His visit drew praise from Egyptian Catholics, who haven't seen a pope in their land since St. John Paul II visited in 2000."He is a messenger of peace, he is really a messenger of peace," said Amgad Eskandr before the Mass got under way at the stadium. "All his words talk about peace, call for peace, push for peace which is great."What is at stake in Egypt, home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities, is to prevent a repeat of what happened in Iraq in the years that followed the 2003 ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein, when militants of al-Qaida - the IS forerunner in Iraq - systematically targeted the country's ancient Christian minority and forced many to flee.Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians, is a close el-Sissi ally who has tirelessly advocated Muslim-Christian harmony. "Egyptians are united in pain and in joy," he told Francis on Friday.After Mass on Saturday, Francis will meet with Catholic priests and seminarians before returning to Rome.
Pope celebrates Mass in Cairo, urges unity against fanaticismPope Francis celebrated a Mass in Cairo on Saturday, the last day of a brief visit during which he urged Muslim leaders to unite against religious violence as Islamic militants threaten to rid the Middle East of its ancient Christian communities.Francis' trip, aimed at rebuilding ties with Muslim religious leaders, comes three weeks after Islamic State killed at least 45 people in attacks on two Egyptian churches. He has used the visit to launch a strong appeal for religious freedom and accuse extremists of distorting the merciful nature of God.After a dense first day of meetings with political and religious leaders, the highlight on Saturday was the Mass in the Air Defence Stadium, where Vatican officials said 15,000 people gathered, among them Coptic and Anglican bishops.Crowds began to arrive early, waving Egyptian and Vatican flags to welcome Francis, who toured the stadium in a golf buggy to the sound of hymns performed by a choir and orchestra.At the end of his Mass for the Catholic community, Francis blessed Egypt as one of the earliest nations to embrace Christianity and repeated his call for tolerance."True faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own," he told the crowd."God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!"His words echoed his message on the opening day of his visit, when he told an international peace conference at Al-Azhar, Cairo's 1,000-year-old Sunni Muslim seat of learning: "Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith belief and hatred."He also lamented the rise of "demagogic forms of populism" -- a possible reference to right-wing nationalist parties in Europe pushing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agendas.Strict SecurityThe unusual choice of venue for Saturday's religious service highlights the security concerns surrounding the trip.Helicopter gunships circled the perimeter of the stadium and military jeeps patrolled the streets of the Egyptian capital on Saturday. The pope himself declined the use of an armored limousine, preferring instead to travel in an ordinary Fiat car to be closer to people.Francis will have lunch with Egyptian bishops and lead prayers at a Catholic seminary in the south of Cairo before heading back to Italy in the late afternoon.The visit was the first by Francis to Cairo but the second by a Vatican pope. Pope John Paul II came to Egypt in 2000, a year before the September 11 attacks on the United States that convulsed Western relations with the Muslim world.Egypt's Christians comprise roughly 10 percent of the 92 million population -- making them by far the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Most of Egypt's Christians are Coptic Orthodox with barely 200,000 members of Churches within the Roman Catholic fold.While Egypt has escaped the sort of sectarian violence that has decimated ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq, it is under threat from Islamic State militants who launched a campaign in December to wipe out Egypt's Christians, carrying out three church attacks that have killed more than 70 people.The campaign presents a challenge for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has vowed to crush Islamist extremist and is fighting a long-running insurgency in North Sinai, where Islamic State murders have forced hundreds of Copts to flee.Sisi, who declared a three-month state of emergency after the Palm Sunday church attacks, appealed for more international cooperation to combat terrorism when he met Francis on Friday.
Francis tells Egyptian Catholics to reject fanaticism and respect other faithsCAIRO Pope Francis told the small minority Catholic population in Muslim-majority Egypt on Saturday to treat those of different faiths not as enemies but brothers and sisters, saying "true faith ... moves our hearts to love everyone."In a homily during an outdoor Mass marked by enthusiastic participation and the backdrop of the Pyramids, the pontiff also told the Catholics they must reject any sort of extremism or intolerance towards other religions."True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane," said the pope, speaking to several thousand Egyptians of seven different Catholic rites. "It makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome, but a brother or sister to be loved, served and helped.""True faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own," he continued. "Indeed, the more we grow in faith and knowledge, the more we grow in humility and in the awareness of our littleness.""The only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!" Francis exhorted. "Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!"Francis' homily Saturday came on the second and last day of his visit to Egypt, where 90 percent of the population of about 92 million identifies as Muslim. The biggest part of the Christian minority is Eastern or Oriental Orthodox. According to Vatican figures, Catholics number only about 272,000, including 494 priests.The Mass was arranged to highlight the diversity of the Catholic community, with prayers in Arabic, Latin, Spanish, English, French and Italian.Francis rode around the stadium before the Mass in a specially outfitted golf cart. As the pope moved, people waved Egyptian flags and white and yellow balloons. Devotional images of Mary were also let fly in the air, lifted up by balloons as they floated in front of the Pyramids.People in the crowd wore white hats printed with the logo for Francis' visit: "Pope of peace in Egypt of peace."The pope's message Saturday echoed earlier his earlier speeches in Egypt. At a peace conference hosted at the world's oldest center of Muslim learning Friday, the pontiff called on global religious leaders to condemn violent extremism and "unmask violence that masquerades as purported sanctity."Security has been extraordinarily tight in Cairo for Francis' visit. Two Coptic Orthodox churches here were bombed just three weeks ago, killing 45 people preparing for Palm Sunday celebrations April 9.The Mass was held at a soccer stadium controlled by the Egyptian military. Security officials lined the route the pope's entourage took to the stadium, with armored vehicles and small tanks at periodic intervals.Francis reflected in his homily on Luke's telling of the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.Three days after Jesus' death, two of the disciples were walking when Jesus joined and conversed with them. The disciples did not recognize Jesus until they ate with him, breaking bread together. At the moment of their recognition, Jesus vanished."The risen Lord vanished from the sight of the disciples in order to teach us that we cannot hold on to Jesus as he appeared in history," the pontiff told the crowds at the Mass."The Church needs to know and believe that Jesus lives within her and gives her life in the Eucharist, the scriptures and the sacraments," said the pope. "The disciples on the way to Emmaus realized this, and returned to Jerusalem in order to share their experience with the others."The pope said the disciples' experience that "it is of no use to fill our places of worship if our hearts are empty of the fear of God and of his presence.""It is of no use to pray if our prayer to God does not turn into love for our brothers and sisters," said Francis. "All our religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity.""It is of no use to be concerned about our image, since God looks at the soul and the heart and he detests hypocrisy," the pontiff continued. "For God, it is better not to believe than to be a false believer, a hypocrite!"Francis concelebrated Saturday's Mass with Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria and leaders of the other Catholic rites.The stadium where they celebrated the Mass, which has a capacity of 30,000, was built to commemorate the role of the Egyptian Air Force in the country's 1967-70 war with Israel. The site was also the location of a violent 2015 clash between police officers and football fans that killed 22 people.Following Saturday's Mass, Francis is to have lunch with the Egyptian bishops. He then heads to a Coptic Catholic seminary to meet and speak with seminarians, priests, and religious.The pope is due to leave Cairo Saturday afternoon, arriving in Rome in the evening.
Apr 29 17 6:26 AM
Your Beatitudes,Dear Brothers and Sisters,As-salamu alaykum! Peace be with you!“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice in Him! Christ is forever victorious over death, let us rejoice in Him!”I am happy to be with you in this house of formation for priests, which represents the heart of the Catholic Church in Egypt. I am pleased to greet you, the priests and consecrated men and women of the small Catholic flock in Egypt, as the “leaven” which God is preparing for this blessed land, so that, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, His Kingdom may increase in this place (cf. Mt 13:13).I wish first of all to thank you for your witness and for the good that you do every day amid many challenges and often few consolations. I want to encourage you! Do not be afraid of the burdens of your daily service and the difficult circumstances some of you must endure. We venerate the Holy Cross, the instrument and sign of our salvation. When we flee the Cross, we flee the resurrection!“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). This, then, demands believing, witnessing to the truth, sowing and cultivating without waiting for the harvest. In fact, we reap the fruits of so many others, whether consecrated or not, who have generously worked in the Lord’s vineyard. Your history is filled with such people!Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, amid many prophets of destruction and condemnation, and so many negative and despairing voices, may you be a positive force, salt and light for this society. Like the engine of a train, may you be the driving force leading all towards their destination. May you be sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony.This will be possible if consecrated men and women do not give in to the temptations they daily encounter along their way. I would like to highlight some of the greatest of these temptations. You know them, because these temptations were described well by the first monks of Egypt.1. The temptation to let ourselves be led, rather than to lead. The Good Shepherd has the responsibility of guiding the sheep (cf. Jn 10:3-4), of bringing them to fresh pastures and springs of flowing water (cf. Ps 23). He cannot let Himself be dragged down by disappointment and pessimism: “What can I do?” He is always full of initiative and creativity, like a spring that flows even in the midst of drought. He always shares the caress of consolation even when he is broken-hearted. He is a father when His children show him gratitude, but especially when they prove ungrateful (cf. Lk 15:11-32). Our faithfulness to the Lord must never depend on human gratitude “Your Father Who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18).2. The temptation to complain constantly. It is easy to always complain about others, about the shortcomings of superiors, about the state of the Church and society, about the lack of possibilities… But consecrated persons, though the Holy Spirit’s anointing, are those who turn every obstacle into an opportunity, and not every difficulty into an excuse! The person who is always complaining is really someone who doesn’t want to work. It was for this reason that the Lord said to the pastors: “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Heb 12:12; cf. Is 35:3).3. The temptation to gossip and envy. This is ugly! It is a great danger when consecrated persons, instead of helping the little ones to grow and to rejoice in the successes of their brothers and sisters, allow themselves to be dominated by envy and to hurt others through gossip. When, instead of striving to grow, they start to destroy those who are growing; instead of following their good example, they judge them and belittle their value. Envy is a cancer that destroys the body in no time: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mk 3:24-25). In fact, do not forget, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wis 2:24). Gossip is its means and its weapon.4. The temptation to compare ourselves to others. Enrichment is found in the diversity and uniqueness of each one of us. Comparing ourselves with those better off often leads to grudges; comparing ourselves with those worse off often leads to pride and laziness. Those who are always comparing themselves with others end up paralyzed. May we learn from Saints Peter and Paul to experience the diversity of qualities, charisms and opinions through willingness to listen and docility to the Holy Spirit.5. The temptation to become like Pharaoh - we are in Egypt! - that is, to harden our hearts and close them off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters. Here the temptation is to think that we are better than others, and to lord it over them out of pride; to presume to be served rather than to serve. It is a temptation that, from the very beginning, was present among the disciples, who – as the Gospel tells us – “on the way argued with one another who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). The antidote to this poison is: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).6. The temptation to individualism. As a well-known Egyptian saying goes: “Me, and after me, the flood!” This is the temptation of selfish people: along the way, they lose sight of the goal and, rather than think of others, they are unashamed to think only of themselves, or even worse, to justify themselves. The Church is the community of the faithful, the Body of Christ, where the salvation of one member is linked to the holiness of all (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-27; Lumen Gentium, 7.) An individualist is a cause of scandal and of conflict.7. The temptation to keep walking without direction or destination. Consecrated men and women can lose their identity and begin to be “neither fish nor fowl”. They can live with a heart between God and worldliness. They can forget their first love (cf. Rev 2:4). Indeed, when they lose clear and solid identity, consecrated men and women end up walking aimlessly; instead of leading others, they scatter them. Your identity as sons and daughters of the Church is to be Copts – rooted in your noble and ancient origins – and to be Catholics – part of the one and universal Church: like a tree that, the more deeply rooted it is in the earth, the higher it reaches to the heavens!Dear consecrated friends, resisting these temptations is not easy, but it is possible if we are grafted on to Jesus: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (Jn 15:4). The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful! Only in this way can we preserve the wonder and the passion of our first encounter with God, and experience renewed excitement and gratitude in our life with God and in our mission. The quality of our consecration depends on the quality of our spiritual life.Egypt has enriched the Church through the inestimable value of monastic life. I urge you, therefore, to draw upon to the example of Saint Paul the Hermit, Saint Anthony, the holy Desert Fathers, and the countless monks and nuns who by their lives and example opened the gates of heaven to so many of our brothers and sisters. You too can be salt and light, and thus an occasion of salvation for yourselves and for all others, believers and non-believers alike, and especially for those who are poor, those in need, the abandoned and discarded.May the Holy Family protect and bless all of you, your country and its entire people. With all my heart, I invoke God’s blessings on you, and through you I greet the faithful whom the Lord has entrusted to your care. May he grant you the fruits of his Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).You are always in my heart and in my prayers. Take heart and keep moving forward with the help of the Holy Spirit! “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice in Him!” And please, don’t forget to pray for me!
Apr 29 17 7:26 PM
Greg Burke (Vatican press director): Here among the journalists are those who are making a trip for the first time and those who have made almost 100.. No, more than 100, I think… And you, I don’t know if you know how many international trips you’ve made…Pope Francis: 18!Greg Burke: Ah, 18, alright great. I didn’t know. Nineteen is around the corner, so also you have a good number of Papal trips now. Thanks for this moment which is always a strong moment for us and let’s start with the Italian group, Paolo Rodari. I don’t know if you want to say something first.Pope Francis: Yes, good evening and thanks for your work because these were 27 hours, I think, of much work. Thanks so much for what you did, thank you. And I’m at your disposal.Greg Burke: Thank you, Holy Father.Catholic News ServicePaolo Rodari (Repubblica): Hello. Holy Father, thank you. I wanted to ask you about your meeting yesterday with al Sisi. What did you speak about? Topics of human rights were mentioned and, in particular, that you were able to speak about the case of Giulio Regeni, and do you think the truth will be reached in that regard?Pope Francis: On this I will give a general response, to then reach the particular. Generally when I am with a head of state in private dialogue, that remains private, unless, by agreement, we say ‘let’s say on this point, we’ll make it public.’ I had four private dialogues here with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, with al Sisi, with Patriarch Tawadros and with Patriarch Ibrahim and I believe that if it is private, for respect one must maintain privacy… it is confidential… but later there is the question on Regeni. I am concerned, from the Holy See I have moved on that topic because the parents also asked me to. The Holy See has moved. I will not say how or where, but we have moved.Greg Burke: Dario Menor Torres, from El Correo Espanol. Dario Menor (El Correo Espanol): Thank you, Holiness! You said yesterday that peace, prosperity and development deserve every sacrifice and later you underscored the importance of the inalienable rights of man. Does this mean a support for the Egyptian government, a recognition of its role in the Middle East, and how it tries to defend Christians despite insufficient democratic guarantees from this government?Pope Francis: Could you repeat… what does what mean? I didn’t hear…Dario Menor: If these words that you said on the importance of peace, of prosperity and development, saying that they deserve every sacrifice, if we should interpret them as a support of the Egyptian government and how it tries to defend Christians despite insufficient democratic guarantees.Pope Francis: No, No… one must interpret (it) literally as values in themselves… I said that defending peace, defending the harmony of peoples, defending the equality of citizens, whichever the religion they profess may be, are values. I spoke of values! If a person who governs defends one value or defends another, it is another issue. I have made 18 [international] visits. In many of those nations, I’ve heard, ‘But the Pope, going there, gives support to that government,’ because a government always has its weaknesses or it has its political adversaries, and some say one thing or another… I don’t get mixed up (in that)... I speak about values, and every person sees, is a judge if this government, this state, that from here, that from there, carries those values forward… Dario Menor: Were you left with the urge to visit the Pyramids?Pope Francis: But, do you know that today at 6:00 in the morning, two of my assistants went to visit the pyramids?Dario Menor: Would you have liked to go with them?Pope Francis: Truly, yes.Dario Menor: Thanks a million.Carol Glatz - CNSVirginie Riva (Europe 1): Holy Father, a question possibly starting from the trip and extending it to France, if you accept. You spoke at al-Azhar, at the university, about demagogic populism. French Catholics in this moment are tempted by the populist or extreme vote, they are divided and disoriented. What elements of discernment could you give these Catholic electors?Pope Francis: Great… there is a dimension of “populisms” - in quotes, because you know that this word for me, I’ve had to relearn it in Europe, because in Latin America it has another meaning - there is an issue in Europe and there is an issue of the European Union behind it… that which I said about Europe I will not repeat it here… I’ve spoken about it four times, I believe, twice in Strasbourg, once at the Charlemagne Prize and at the beginning of the commemoration of the 60th. There is everything I’ve said about Europe. Every nation is free to make choices that it believes convenient before this. I cannot judge if this choice is made for this reason, or for another, because I don’t know the internal politics. It is true that Europe is in danger of dissolving. This is true! I said it softly in Strasbourg. I said it more strongly at the Charlemagne [Prize ceremony] and lately without nuance. We must meditate on only that - the Europe that goes from the Atlantic to the Urals - there is an issue that scares Europe and perhaps feeds … the issue is emigration. This is true. But let’s not forget that Europe was made by migrants, centuries and centuries of migrants. We are them! But it is an issue that must be studied well, also respecting opinions, but the honest opinions of a political discussion - with the capital letter, big, with the big ‘Politics’ and not with the little ‘politics’ of the nation that in the end winds up falling. About France, I’ll tell the truth. I don’t understand the internal French politics. I don’t understand it. I’ve sought to have good relations, also with the current president, with which there was a conflict once, but after I was able to speak clearly about things, respecting his opinion. On the two political candidates, I don’t know the history. I don’t know where they come from, nor - yes, I know that one represents the strong right, but the other I truly don’t know where they come from - for this (reason) I cannot give a clear opinion on France. But, speaking with Catholics, here in one of the gatherings, while I was greeting people, one said to me, ‘But why don’t you think big about politics ?’ What does that mean? Well, he said it to me as if asking for help… eh, to make a party for Catholics. This is a good man but he’s living in the last century. For this, the populisms have relationships with migrants, but this is not from the trip. If I still have time later I can return to this. If I have time, I will return.Vera Shcherbakova (ITAR-TASS): Holy Father, thank you first of all for the blessings… you blessed me. I knelt down some minutes ago. I am Orthodox and I don’t see any contradiction with my baptism, anyway, I see it as a great pleasure. I wanted to ask: what are the prospects for the relations between the Orthodox, obviously Russian, but also yesterday in the common declaration with the Coptic Patriarch, the common date of Easter (came up) and that they speak of a recognition of baptism… where are we on this point? How do you evaluate the relations between the Vatican and Russia as a State, also in light of the defense of the values of Christians in the Middle East and especially in Syria? Thanks.Greg Burke: This is Vera Shcherbakova, of the TASS Agency.Pope Francis: Christos Anesti! I, with the Orthodox, have always had a great friendship, since Buenos Aires, no? For example, every January 6th I would go to vespers, to the complete readings, at your Cathedral of Patriarch Plato, who is in an archbishop in the area of Ukraine, no? And he… two hours and forty (minutes) of prayer in a language that I didn’t understand, but you could pray well, and then the dinner with the community. Three hundred people, a Christmas Eve dinner, not a Christmas dinner. They still couldn’t eat dairy or meat, but it was a beautiful dinner and then bingo, the lottery… friendship… also with the other Orthodox, also sometimes they needed legal help. They would come to the Catholic Curia because they are small communities and they would go to the lawyers. They’d come in and out. But, I’ve always had a filial, fraternal relationship. We are sister Churches! With Tawadros, there is a special friendship. For me, he’s a great man of God! And Tawadros is a patriarch, a pope that carries the Church forward, the name of Jesus before (him). He has a great apostolic zeal… He is one of the most - permit me the word, but in quotes - ‘fanatics’ of finding a fixed date for Easter. I am too. We are seeking the way. But he says, ‘Let’s fight!’ He is a man of God. He is a man who, when he was bishop, far from Egypt, went out to feed the disabled, a man who was sent to a diocese with five churches and he left behind 25, I don’t know how many Christian families with the apostolic zeal. The you know how they make the election among them. They look for three, then they put the names in a bag, they call a child, they close their eyes and the child chooses the name. The Lord is there. He is clearly a great patriarch. The unity of baptism is moving ahead. The guilt of baptism is an historical thing (Editor’s note: Pope Francis seems to be referring to the historical ‘breach’ between the recognition of baptism between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Neither currently recognizes baptism carried out in the other Church), because in the first Councils it was the same, then as the Coptic Christians baptized children in the shrines, when they wanted to get married, they came to us, they were married with a Catholic, they asked for the faith… but they didn’t have it and they asked for baptism under a condition. It started with us, not with them… but now the door has been opened and we are on a good path of overcoming this issue, the door…. In the common declaration, the penultimate paragraph speaks of this. The Russian Orthodox recognize our baptism and we recognize their baptism. I was a very close friend as the bishop of Buenos Aires with the Russians, also with the Georgians, for example… but the patriarch of the Georgians is a man of God, Ilia II. He is a mystic! We Catholics must learn also from this mystical tradition of the Orthodox Churches. During this trip, we had this ecumenical encounter. Patriarch Bartholomew was there too. The Greek Orthodox Archbishop was there and then there were other Christians - Anglicans, also the secretary of the Union of Churches of Geneva (Editor’s note: Pope Francis is referring to the Conference of European Churches) but all that makes ecumenism is on the path. Ecumenism is made on the path, with the works of charity, with the works of helping, doing things together when they can be done together. Static ecumenism doesn’t exist! It is true that theologians must study and come to an agreement, but it will not be possible for this to finish well if we’re not walking. What can we do together? Pray together, work together, do works of charity together… but, together, eh! And move ahead. The relations with Patriarch Kirill are good. They are good. Also, Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion has come many times to speak with me and we have a good relationship.Greg Burke: She’s asking about with the State…Pope Francis: Ah, with the State! I know that the State speaks of this, of the defense of Christians in the Middle East. This I know and believe that it is a good thing to fight against persecution… today there are more martyrs than in the first centuries, most of all in the Middle East.Greg Burke: Phil Pulella...this question will address the trip, but then let's see where it ends... Phil Pulella (Reuters): If I can I would like to speak about another topic, but I'll start with the trip. You spoke yesterday in your first speech about the danger of unilateral action, and that everyone must be builders of peace. Now you have spoken very clearly about the "third world war in pieces," but it seems that today this fear and anxiety is concentrated on what is happening in North Korea... Pope Francis: Yes, it's the focal point! Pulella: Exactly, it's the point of concentration. President Trump sent a team of military ships to the coast of North Korea, the leader of North Korea threatened to bomb South Korea, Japan and even the United States if they succeed in building long-range missiles. People are afraid and speak of the possibility of a nuclear war as if it were nothing. You, if you see President Trump, but also other people, what will you say to these leaders who are responsible for the future of humanity? Because we are in a very critical moment...Pope Francis: I would call them, I call them and I will call them like I called on leaders in different positions to work on resolving problems along the path of diplomacy, and there are facilitators, many of them, in the world. There are mediators who offer...there are countries like Norway, for example, no one can accuse Norway of being a dictatorial country, and it's always ready to help, to name an example, but there are many. The path is the path of negotiation, the path of diplomatic solutions. This world war in pieces of which I've been talking about for two years more or less, it's in pieces, but the pieces have gotten bigger, they are concentrated, they are focused on points that are already hot. Things are already hot, as the issue of missiles in North Korea has been there for more than a year, now it seems that the thing has gotten too hot. I always say to resolve problems on the path of diplomacy, negotiation, because the future of humanity...today a widespread war destroys I don't say half of humanity, but a good part of humanity, and it's the culture, everything. It's terrible. I think that today humanity is not able to support it. Let's look to these countries that are suffering an internal war, inside, where there are the fires of war, in the Middle East for example, but also in Africa, in Yemen. Let's stop! Let's look for a diplomatic solution! And there I believe that the United Nations has the duty to resume their leadership, because it's been watered down a bit.Pulella: Do you want to meet President Trump when he comes to Europe? Has there been a request for a meeting? Pope Francis: I still have not been informed by the Secretariat of State if there has been a request, but I receive every head of state who asks for an audience. Catholic News ServiceGreg Burke: I think the questions on the trip have finished. We can take one more still, then we have to go to dinner at six-thirty. There is Antonio Pelayo from Antena 3, who you know…Antonio Pelayo (Antena 3): Thank you. Holy Father, the situation in Venezuela has deteriorated recently in a very serious way, and there have been many deaths. I want to ask you if the Holy See intends to carry out this action, this peacemaking intervention, and what forms could this action take?Pope Francis: There was an intervention from the Holy See at the strong request of the four presidents that were working as facilitators. And the thing didn’t turn out. And it remained there. It didn’t turn out because the proposals weren’t accepted or they were diluted. It was a ‘yes-yes,’ but ‘no-no.’ We all know the difficult situation of Venezuela. It is a nation that I really love. And I know that now they are insisting, I don’t know well from where, I believe that it’s from the four presidents, on relaunching this facilitation and they are looking for the place. I think that this has to be with conditions already, very clear conditions. Part of the opposition doesn’t want this. Because it’s curious, the very opposition is divided and on the other hand it appears that the conflicts are always worse. But, there is something in movement. I was informed of that, but it is very up in the air still. But all that can be done for Venezuela has to be done, with the necessary guarantees, if not we’re playing ‘tin tin pirulero’ (Editor’s note: this is a Spanish term for trying one thing, then another and another without knowing what one is doing). It’s not working...Greg Burke: Thank you Holy Father. And now we go to...Jörg Heinz Norbert Bremer (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): Some days ago you spoke about the theme of refugees in Greece, in Lesbos, and you used this word "concentration camp" because there were too many people. For us Germans this was obviously a very, very serious word, and very close to "extermination camp." There are people who say that this was a linguistic lapse. What did you intend to say?Pope Francis: First, you must read well everything that I said. I said that the most generous in Europe were Italy and Greece. It's true, they are closer to Libya, to Syria. From Germany, I have always admired the ability of integration. When I studied there, there were many integrated Turks in Frankfurt. They integrated and had a normal life. There was no linguistic lapse: there are concentration camps, sorry: refugee camps that are true camps of concentration. Perhaps there are some in Italy, or in another area...in Germany, I'm not sure, but you think of what people do who are closed in a camp and can't leave. Think about what happened in Northern Europe when they wanted to cross the sea and go to England. They are closed inside. But it made me laugh a bit, and this is a bit of Italian culture, but it made me laugh that in a refugee camp in Sicily, a delegate of Catholic Action told me, one of the delegates from the dioceses in Argentina - there is one or two in the area there, I don't know which diocese - the heads of that city where the camp was spoke to the people in the refugee camp, and they said: you, here inside, it will hurt you and your mental health too...you have to go out, but please don't do anything bad. We can't open the door, but we can make a little hole behind. Go out, have a nice walk, and this is how relationships were made with the people who lived in that city, good relationships, and these (refugees) aren't delinquents, they don't commit crimes. The sole fact of being closed without anything (to do), this is a lager! (Editor’s note: he is referring to the German name for concentration camp. For example, Auschwitz was a “lager”). But it doesn't have anything to do with Germany, no.Greg Burke: Thank you Holy Father. Pope Francis: Thanks to you for this work you do which helps a lot of people. You don't know the good that you can do with your news pieces, with your articles, with your thoughts. We must help people and also help communication, because communication...may the press lead us to good things, may it not lead us to disorientations that don't help us. Thank you very much! Have a good dinner, and pray for me!
Pope Francis scores on multiple fronts as visit to Egypt ends Pope Francis scored a triple win on his two-day visit to Egypt: a win for peace, a win for Christian-Muslim relations and a win for ecumenism.These wins can be symbolized by three images: his refusal to use a bulletproof car; his embrace of Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar; and his placing his hand on the blood-spattered wall of the martyrs at the church of St. Peter in Cairo, where 29 people were killed in a terrorist attack last December.The humble, open-windowed car he traveled in was a small victory for peace, offering hope on the political and economic front for Egyptians. Francis normally uses a small car, but given the major security concerns in Cairo, especially after the bombing of two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, everyone realized that he was taking a big risk by refusing a bulletproof vehicle that would have isolated him from the Egyptian people.The authorities took most extraordinary measures to protect him, as was especially evident when he celebrated Mass at the stadium of the Egyptian air-force, 12 miles outside the city in a desert zone this Saturday morning. Tanks and armored cars surrounded the stadium. Helicopters flew overhead. Soldiers armed to the teeth were everywhere; many were accompanied by dogs. The stadium was surrounded by barbed wire and the 15,000 people who attended the celebration were carefully selected and could not bring in mobile phones. Egyptian authorities were taking no chances.But Francis took the risk, trusting in God. His decision transmitted a message of hope on the political front to all Egyptians, Christians and Muslims alike, who are well aware that their country is today a target for ISIS terrorists and is engaged in a battle against terrorism.“Francis sent a strong message to Daesh,” Father Oliver Borg Olivier told America, using a slang term for ISIS intended to diminish the group’s Islamic authenticity, “by coming to the heart of places where their attacks are taking place.” Father Olivier is a Jesuit from Malta who has worked in the Middle East for the past 43 years—most of those years in Cairo.The pope’s visit, and his refusal to use a high-security vehicle, also offered hope on the economic front to Egyptians. The economy is in crisis. Last September $1 equaled 8 Egyptian pounds; today the rate is almost $1 to 20 pounds. One of the main reasons for the crisis is that the tourist industry on which Egypt thrived has been hit hard because of the fear created by terrorist attacks.“Francis sent a different message to the world by his visit. He shows our country is peaceful, it is secure to come here. We are very happy at this,” Ahmed Mussa, a Muslim and journalist from Al-Ahram told America at the Mass.While many would like a society where civil liberties are more fully respected, several people told me they prefer the army to rule because they believed the alternative to a quasi-military rule was a revival of the Muslim Brotherhood, funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which would make life far worse for the majority of Egyptians. For this reason they were happy with Francis’ visit with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, despite international concerns with the human rights situation in Egypt since he took office.Carol Glatz - CNSPope Francis scored a second win by embracing the grand imam of Al Azhar twice in public at the conference for peace on April 28. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture of their embrace was carried by all Egyptian media and by media in other countries in the region.When the two first met in the Vatican last November, it was the first time ever that a grand imam had visited a pope. At that time Francis had said, “The meeting is the message.”That was also true yesterday, but in a different sense when Francis agreed to participate in a meeting organized entirely by Muslims. There was something more too this time as they both made clear to the world that no one can justify killing or acts of terrorism in the name of God. Their presence together on the stage at Al Azhar University for a peace conference was an important step in removing moral legitimacy from ISIS and Islamic fundamentalists in the eyes of Muslims in the Middle East.Pope Francis is already greatly respected and popular in the eyes of ordinary people on the “Arab street” in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, several Egyptians told me. His frequent references to Muslims as “brothers,” his concern for the Syrian immigrants and his decision to take Syrian Muslim refugees back to the Vatican with him after visiting a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, in April 2016 have endeared him to everyday Muslims.His embrace of the grand imam, whom he called “my brother,” made a big impression too. Sources say the gesture has strengthened Christian-Muslim relations in the region. “His dialogue and good relationship with the imam is very important as it sends a message to the world that religions are not at war, that Muslim and Christians can live and work together in peace,” Father Paul Giaras, a Coptic priest from Sharm El Sheikh told America in the stadium on April 29.“The visit of the pope and his meeting with the imam is a great event for Egypt because it sends the world a message of peace and love,” Amira Hesham, a Muslim who is a reporter for Al-Ahram for Coptic affairs, said.Francis scored his third win in Egypt, this time in the ecumenical field, when at the end of his first day in Cairo he visited Pope Tawadros and afterward prayed with him at the Wall of the Martyrs of St. Peter’s church, near the Coptic pope’s residence and St. Mark’s cathedral. When Tawadros showed him the blood-splattered wall, the result of the killing of 29 Coptic faithful (whose photos are now on the wall) in a terrorist attack claimed by ISIS last December, Pope Francis was deeply moved. He stepped forward and touched the glass plate that now protects the blood stains, and then blessed himself and placed a lighted candle before it.That was a mighty gesture of solidarity with this suffering church, just as his visit to them was meant to offer consolation and hope. He left Coptic Christians in no doubt that they are not alone, that they have a loyal and faithful friend in the Bishop of Rome, who is ever close to them, not only through his regular contact with Tawadros, but also by his very presence among them. This is “ecumenism in action.”His visit with Tawadros also brought a significant step forward in terms of Christian unity when he and the Coptic pope signed a joint declaration recognizing the legitimacy of each church’s baptism, something that has not been the case before. In this context, Father Giaras said, “Francis meeting with Pope Tawadros was also very important for the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.”Pope Francis has always insisted that the Christian faith needs to be something “concrete.” These three wins are exactly the result of his effort to be “concrete” in relations with other Christians, Muslims and communities across the world.
Apr 30 17 6:09 AM
It’s often difficult to know in real time when something historic is unfolding, but the last two days in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, in the company of Pope Francis, seemed to have at least the possibility of going down as one of those “big deal” moments.Friday cast a special spotlight on the relationship between the Vatican and Al-Azhar, the mosque and university complex here that’s sometimes dubbed the “Vatican” of the Sunni Muslim world, and it unfolded under the shadow of a major recent terrorist attack directed at Egypt’s Christian minority.In many ways, we’ve seen this show before.Just six years ago, on January 1, 2011, bombs went off at a Coptic church in Alexandria, leaving 23 people dead. In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI denounced the atrocity in his Angelus address.The pontiff said he had “learned with sorrow the news of the serious attack against the Coptic Christian community in Alexandria, Egypt. This cowardly act of death, such as planting bombs close to the homes of Christians in Iraq to force them to leave, offends God and all of humanity, who only yesterday prayed for peace and began a new year with hope.“In the face of this strategy of violence that has targeted Christians, and has consequences for the whole population, I pray for the victims and family members, and encourage church communities to persevere in faith and in being witness to the non-violence that comes from the Gospel,” Benedict said.The situation is eerily similar to the run-up to Pope Francis’s April 28-29 visit to Egypt, which featured bombings at two Coptic churches in the Egyptian Delta and in Alexandria that killed 45. Once again, the pope, this time Francis, addressed the carnage.“I also think of the victims of the attacks on Coptic churches, both last December and more recently in Tanta and Alexandria,” Francis said on Friday, during remarks to political and civil leaders.“To the members of their families, and to all of Egypt, I offer my heartfelt condolences and my prayers that the Lord will grant speedy healing to the injured.”What’s markedly different, however, is the reaction from Egypt’s political and clerical leadership.Back in 2011, the government denounced Benedict XVI’s comments as “unacceptable interference” and withdrew its ambassador from the Vatican for consultations. Al-Azhar joined the protest, announcing that it was suspending an annual dialogue with the Vatican and reconsidering other forms of collaboration because Benedict had “repeatedly addressed Islam negatively.”Now, Ahmad al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and effectively the country’s most important Islamic cleric, joined the applause for Pope Francis when he invoked the Coptic martyrs, and has been almost as forceful as the pontiff himself in denouncing religious violence.The two men hugged enthusiastically on Friday, and, at one stage, Tayeb seemed visibly moved when Francis referred to him as “my brother.” Tayeb even opened his own address by calling for everyone in the hall to stand for a moment of silence for victims of terrorism and consolation for their families.What’s changed in six years?For one thing, the political context in Egypt is different. In 2011, the government of then-President Hosni Mubarak was facing widespread protest, and eventually would be swept from power less than a month later. Some of Mubarak’s critics at the time even suggested he was actually behind the attack on the Alexandria church, in a desperate attempt to justify a widespread military crackdown that might blunt the protest movement.In that context, the government wasn’t in the mood to brook any external criticism, including from the pope. This time, the administration of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appears to be on more solid footing, enjoying fairly widespread support, and Sisi himself has flagged the struggle against terrorism and religious extremism as a defining national priority.(The only person who took more pleasure in the trip than the pope may actually have been Sisi, who comes away with a strong papal endorsement of his anti-terrorism agenda and little that could be interpreted as criticism of his record on human rights and political dissent.)Further, Francis is not Pope Benedict, who, fairly or not, never quite escaped the legacy of a controversial 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, which inflamed Muslim sentiment by appearing to link the Prophet Muhammad with violence.Francis enjoys a vastly different profile in the Islamic world. His repeated insistence that Islam is a religion of peace, and that there’s no such thing as “Islamic terrorism” because such violence is incompatible with the tenets of the real faith, have helped him amass enormous social and political capital.Plus, Francis also has a gift for the small touches that often speak volumes - for instance, he’s opened every speech in Egypt, including his homily for a Catholic Mass on Saturday, with the phrase As-Salaam-Alaikum, the standard Arabic greeting meaning “peace be with you,” which Muslims hear as a sign of respect. (Several times, Francis drew applause simply for using the phrase.)When Francis arrived in Egypt, therefore, and called religious leaders to “unmask” pretexts for violence, and also pointed to the suffering of the Coptic church, his words came off as expressions of common cause.Perhaps even more basically, however, one has the impression ordinary Egyptians are simply in a different place than they were six years ago.Over and over, that’s what I heard from people in Cairo, and not just Christians but the Muslim majority: They’re sick of terrorism, they say. They’re sick of fanatics and “crazies” hijacking the faith they cherish, they’re sick of sectarian battles and upheaval, and they don’t want in Egypt what they’ve watched play out in Syria, Iraq, and other ISIS strongholds.That mentality, by the way, helps explain the general support for Sisi, despite a worsening human rights record and a general reputation for authoritarianism. Seven years ago, the average Egyptian may have wanted freedom above all - today, they want both freedom and also the security to enjoy it, and may be more inclined to give up a little of the former for more of the latter.Thus, when I asked people - teachers, street sweepers, waiters, cab drivers, the guy selling cigarettes down the street from the hotel where the media was lodged, and so on - what they thought about what the pope had to say, the near-universal reaction was something along the lines of, “It’s about time!”In a dash of realism, that line was usually followed by, “I hope the right people are listening.”To put the point differently, many ordinary Egyptians, like people in other developing societies, have been inclined to see the enemy as the West, and to view leaders perceived as representatives of Western culture, such as a pope, with suspicion. Today, they seem more inclined to believe the real enemy is within, and more willing to embrace leadership wherever it comes from.In the end, perhaps what Pope Francis’s brief outing to Egypt captured was the collision of one of the most important Muslim nations in the world ready to draw a line against fanaticism, and the single Christian leader in the world most capable of helping them pull it off.From such collisions, earthquakes sometimes result - and many Egyptians here seem to be hoping it’s the kind of quake that changes their world.
May 8 17 5:20 AM
May 10 17 5:12 AM
Francis' trip to Fatima to be taken as pilgrimage for peaceVATICAN CITY Pope Francis is undertaking a very different kind of papal trip at the end of this week. Unlike many of the other visits of his pontificate, he is not expected to focus on interreligious dialogue or to bring some grand geopolitical message.Instead, the pope will be making a little Marian devotion. He will be visiting Fatima, the site in Portugal where three shepherd children reported seeing Mary in a field in 1917, sparking a century of reverence tinged with controversy.Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told journalists in a briefing May 5 that more than a usual apostolic visit, the pope's May 12-13 trip would resemble "an apostolic pilgrimage."Although the Portugal visit may not carry the drama of some of the pope's earlier sojourns — think of the security concerns surrounding his recent April trip to Muslim-majority Egypt, for example — several theologians told NCR it fits well into the arc of his papacy, particularly his focus on nonviolence and peace.That's because when 9-year-old Lúcia Dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto first reported seeing Mary on May 13, 1917 — three years into the gruesome World War I then destroying Europe — they said she had told them to pray the rosary every day for an end to the fighting.Mary was "breaking into a time of great social upheaval," said Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theologian who has focused her research on the interplay of Mariology and ecclesiology. "There's a lot that's parallel to our current situation.""A lot of people who are suffering; a lot of migration; a lot of death and famine," Imperatori-Lee, an associate professor at Manhattan College, ticked off the list of similarities."It's pretty timely that he's doing this now," she said.Aurelie Hagstrom, an associate professor at Providence College who specializes in Mariology, asked rhetorically: "What might attract [Francis] to the Fatima message?""Because he speaks about war a lot," she answered. "And the message of Fatima includes the admonition to pray for peace."In the past two years, Francis has said many times that the powers around the globe appear to be fighting what he calls a "piecemeal world war." He also focused his message for 2017's World Day of Peace on nonviolence as a political strategy.Emphasizing the pope's desire to act as if on pilgrimage in Portugal, the Vatican has given the visit the slogan: "With Mary, pilgrim of hope and peace."In an additional sign of pilgrimage, Francis will also not even stop on his way to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima to visit Lisbon, the Portuguese capital and only about 75 miles southwest of the shrine.Upon landing at an air base near the devotional site May 12, the pope will head straight to the chapel built over the spot where the three children reportedly saw Mary.Francis will spend the first evening in prayer at the sanctuary, reciting the rosary along with crowds expected in the millions. On the next day, he will celebrate an outdoor Mass where he will also canonize the Marto siblings, who both died only a few years after seeing Mary.Dos Santos became a nun and died in 2005 at the age of 97. The controversy surrounding Our Lady of Fatima stems from Dos Santos' memoirs, in which she said she and the other children were told three secrets by Mary.The first two secrets were revealed by Dos Santos in the memoirs. They concerned a vision of hell, taken by many as a prediction of World War II, and a need for the world to pray.The third secret, originally not revealed by the nun, inspired decades of conspiracy theories about what it revealed. In 2000, the Vatican said the secret was a prediction of the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square.John Paul credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life that day, saying it was evident "a mother's hand" had deflected would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca's four bullets so they did not kill him.Imperatori-Lee, who has written about practices of Catholic popular devotion across Latin America, also said Francis' visit to Fatima may indicate his comfort with different local expressions of faith as a native Argentine."One thing that's great about popular devotion is that it differs from place to place," she said. "Latin America has a lot of tolerance for that sort of unity in diversity.""That seems to carry over for him," she said. "He doesn't really feel a need for uniformity of worship or uniformity of too much [that is] outside of the uniformity that the church should have in its concern for the poor and the outcast and the other."Local organizers in Fatima are preparing for large-scale crowds ahead of Francis' visit. Carmo Rodeia, communications director for the sanctuary, told journalists at the May 5 briefing that they are expecting 2,000 members of the press to come for the visit, alongside 2,000 priests, 71 bishops, and eight cardinals.Rodeia also said they are organizing 400 Communion stations for the Mass May 13.The Vatican said the visit will be Francis' first to Portugal, not counting layovers in the Lisbon airport.He will give four public addresses during the trip: a homily at the Mass, a prayer May 12, and two short greetings to people in the area. The Vatican said each of the public speeches will be made in Portuguese, another first for the pontificate.Francis will be the fourth pope to visit Fatima, following Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. John Paul visited the shrine three times: in 1982, 1991 and 2000.Francis' trip to Portugal will be the 19th international visit of his pontificate and will mark the 28th country he has visited so far. His next scheduled visit is to Colombia in September, although additional visits to South Sudan, India and Bangladesh are also said to be in consideration for late 2017.
May 10 17 7:53 AM
Pope Francis is headed to Fatima, Portugal, for what will be the shortest two-day trip of his pontificate. He’ll be there for just 25 hours to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the famed apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three young shepherds, which became the center of one of the most storied Catholic devotions in the world.Speaking of shepherds, he’ll declare two of them saints, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, during a Mass expected to draw 400,000 people on Saturday. They will become the two youngest, non-martyred saints in Church history.Considered by many observers as the easiest of Francis’s trips, with security concerns not being as high as they were when he visited an active war zone by going to the Central African Republic, nor as politically charged as his two-day trip to Egypt last month. Nonetheless, it’s far from irrelevant.Papal spokesman Greg Burke told journalists earlier this week that Francis’s May 12-13 trip is less of an apostolic visit and more of a “pilgrimage.”There will be few of the pope’s signature stops when abroad: Just a 20 minute meet-and-greet with the Portuguese president and other civil authorities, an open-air Mass, and a lunch with the local bishops.Yet there will be no stop at a prison or pediatric hospital, no off-the-cuff meeting with religious and the youth, and no specific inter-religious or ecumenical gesture.At first sight, the story of the Fatima apparition is a simple one. In 1917, three young children, Lucia de Santos, who was 10, and her two cousins, the Martos, aged seven and nine, saw Mary, who identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”The three were tending sheep in a field called Cova de Iria, which is the reason why they’re often called the “little shepherds of Fatima.” The Martos died soon after the apparitions ended, while Lucia lived on to become a Carmelite nun and died in 2005, at the age of 97.During the six times the Virgin showed herself to the little shepherds, she urged them to pray the rosary, and to urge penance for the conversion of sinners and the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.The three topics are bound to be in Francis’s heart during his visit. As a strong Marian devotee, he’s urged Catholics to pray the rosary countless times and to put in practice what the Church calls works of mercy.Regarding Russia, he’s not expected to consecrate it to Mary’s heart on this trip, and for various political and ecumenical reasons, he’s not even expected to mention Russia. However, seeing that he’s on record saying he wants to visit the country, Francis is bound to at least think about the nation while in Fatima.A fourth recurring issue of the Fatima messages, that of world peace through Mary, will probably be front and center.Our Lady of the Rosary also gave the shepherds three “secrets,” one of which to this day remains contested, with pockets of Catholics here and there doubting the Vatican’s insistence that it was released in full during the Great Jubilee in the year 2000. Despite that, both Rome and Sister Lucia herself have stated time and time again that there’s nothing left to say.According to the official Catholic interpretation - and put in very simplified terms - the three secrets involve Hell, the two world wars, and the Pope John Paul II’s assassination attempt in 1981, which took place on the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima.The trip closes the 100th anniversary celebrations of the apparitions, and as the bishop of Leira-Fatima said in a recent interview, the centenary “wouldn’t be complete without the presence of the pope,” since he’s a “part of the message of Fatima.”The figure of the pope is present in the message both because the Virgin asked for prayers for the pontiff, and as the figure described as the “bishop in white” who leads a pilgrim Church that is persecuted.“The centenary is a memorable, unforgettable date to give thanks to God for all the gifts that the message of Fatima has scattered throughout Portugal, but also in the whole world,” Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima said in a recent interview.During his short stay in Portugal, Francis will deliver four public addresses: Soon after arriving, he’ll say a prayer and deliver a short speech in what is known as the chapel of the apparitions, considered the “heart” of the shrine of Fatima. It’s in this place where the Lady of the Rosary appeared to the little shepherds on five of the six occasions.On Saturday, he will deliver a homily during the canonization Mass, and soon after, greet a group of ill people.Many have wondered about the “grumpy” face of the two little shepherd’s in their official portraits. Miracle-researcher Michael O’Neill acknowledged that it’s unfortunate, seeing that their canonization can help energize young adults and children in their faith. The reason behind their faces, he said, is simple: There’s no picture of the two smiling.“But, they did see hell … I imagine that anybody who’s seen hell wouldn’t be too excited,” he told Crux. The Marian expert also noted how Francis and his two immediate predecessors showed their “love for these child visionaries, almost more than any other modern-day saints.”John Paul II beatified them in 2000, Benedict XVI went to Fatima in 2010, to mark the tenth anniversary of their beatification, and Francis speedily approved their canonization, making it coincide with the celebrations already being held.All of his remarks during this trip will be in Portuguese, a language Pope Francis used during his first foreign trip, to Brazil, for World Youth Day Rio 2013.The Argentine pontiff will be the fourth to visit Fatima, following the steps of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. The Polish pope, who held a special devotion for Our Lady of Fatima, convinced she saved him from death when he was shot on May 13, 1981, visited the fabled site three times: In 1982, 1991, and in 2000.He was so convinced of the Marian intervention when Ali Agca tried to kill him, that he gave the would-be assassin’s bullet to the bishop of Leira-Fatima. Ever since, it poignantly sits under the peak of the Virgin’s bejeweled crown.He was not the only one who saw his escape from death as a direct Marian intervention.“We cannot forget that [St. John Paul II] was saved by Our Lady of Fatima from the assassination attempt here in St. Peter’s. This is fundamental and central. It is never forgotten,” said Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes in a March 29 interview.Under the label of “random” things that will occur while Francis is in Portugal, the soccer field Fatima Municipal Stadium will be renamed Estádio Papa Francisco. A plaque renaming the stadium will be unveiled on the day of his arrival, though the pope is not scheduled to participate in the renaming ceremony.Despite the shortness of Francis’s trip, Paul VI’s - back in 1967 - was actually shorter: He was in Fatima for less than six hours.This, however, did not deter the crowds: According to the records, some three million people took part in the Mass the pope celebrated there, on the fiftieth anniversary of the apparition - a million in front of the basilica, and two more in the surrounding areaThis will be Francis’s 19th trip outside of Italy, and Portugal is the 28th nation he will have visited. So far, there’s only one other trip on the agenda, which is Colombia in September. However, there are others being considered for later in the year, including South Sudan, India, and Bangladesh.Given that last year’s trip to Greece was announced less than 10 days before it happened, with little to no buzz in the rumor mill, it is not too far-fetched to imagine something similar may happen this year as well.
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"I gaze at your robe of light and, as a bishop robed in white, I call to mind all those who, robed in the splendour of their baptism, desire to live in God and tell the mysteries of Christ in order to obtain peace." Francis is absorbed in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, in front of the Chapel of the apparitions of the Fatima sanctuary. And while reciting the supplication addressed to the Virgin he uses the expression contained in the text of the Third Secret of Fatima to define himself: "bishop dressed in white". As known, twenty-five years after the vision received on July 13, 2017, Lucia spoke of a "bishop dressed in white" who suffered martyrdom along with many other Christians, claiming to have had the presentiment of it being "the Holy Father". In the prayer, intertwined by the song of Marian invocations, Francis presented himself as a "pilgrim of peace" and added, “I implore for the world concord among all peoples." The Pope has asked the Madonna to look at "the sorrows of the human family, as they mourn and weep in this valley of tears " "Let us follow," Bergoglio continued, "the example of the blessed Francis and blessed Jacinta, and of those who devote themselves to proclaiming the Gospel. Thus we will follow all paths and everywhere make our pilgrim way; we will tear down all walls and cross every frontier, as we go out to every periphery, to make known God’s justice and peace." "We will be in the joy of the Gospel," he concluded, "we will be the Church dressed in white, the whiteness washed in the blood of the Lamb, blood that today too is shed in the wars tearing our world apart." The invocation of peace and the memory of the blood shed by the victims of the wars is therefore present since the first public act in the sanctuary, where tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered. Francis arrived by helicopter to the sanctuary from the Monte Real military air base, and was welcomed by tens of thousands of faithful who waited for the papa-mobile passage to greet him and in some cases to cast flower petals. Although the weather forecasts were not the best, when the Pope arrived to the shrine, the sky was clear. He laid white flowers at the foot of the statue and stood for a long time to pray standing in front of the Marian effigy, followed with emotion by all the faithful. Nestled in the statue’s crown is the bullet extracted from the body of John Paul II after the assassination attempt of May 13, 1981. A deep silence fell on the esplanade home of the Cova da Iria, the natural basin where the three seer shepherds took the flocks to pasture.
If we want to be Christian, we must be Marian,” Pope Francis told thousands of clergy, religious and lay pilgrims on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to three children in Fatima.Addressing pilgrims at the Chapel of the Apparitions, the pope said being Marian, in a word, means “we have to acknowledge the essential, vital and providential relationship uniting Our Lady to Jesus, a relationship that opens before us the way leading to him.”Silence and prayer pervaded the Marian shrine, as thousands of clergy, religious and lay faithful gathered for a blessing of candles and the pope’s address, followed by the recitation of the Holy Rosary in various languages, including Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish and Ukranian.The Chapel of the Apparitions is a small chapel located in Cova da Iria that was constructed in the 1920s to mark the exact location where the the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children.It was built in response to the request of Our Lady to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco: “I want you to make a chapel here in my honor.”On Saturday, May 13, Pope Francis will canonize two of the Fatima visionaries, brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta Marto, on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition in 1917.
May 12 17 3:22 PM
May 13 17 2:19 AM
During a Mass canonizing two of the shepherd children who saw Mary appear in a field here exactly 100 years ago, Pope Francis on Saturday called on Catholics to work to renew the church so that it might be "poor in means and rich in love."In a homily given to hundreds of thousands at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, where some had camped for days to reserve their spots, the pontiff also said Catholics should be "sentinels of dawn" who work for a church that is missionary, welcoming and free."Thank you brothers and sisters for being here with me!" Francis told the crowd, which kept a notably silent, prayerful atmosphere throughout the morning. "I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust all her sons and daughters to her."Francis' homily Saturday came on the second and last day of his visit to Fatima, where Jacinta and Francisco Marto, seven- and nine-years-old, and their cousin Lucia dos Santos, ten-years-old, first reported seeing Mary on May 13, 1917.Their vision, in which Mary appeared six times over as many months and told them to tell others to pray for peace during the gruesome First World War, sparked a century of devotion and pilgrimage. The Martos would die in the Flu pandemic just a few years after the visions, while dos Santos would live until 2005.In the culmination of his 25-hour visit to Portugal, Francis made the Martos siblings saints with a few short words in Latin at the beginning of Saturday's Mass, making them the youngest saints in the church not to have been martyred.Having "sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops," the pontiff intoned, "we declare and define Blessed Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church."Francis' trip to Fatima has differed greatly from the other voyages of his pontificate. Unlike previous trips, in which the pope has delivered complex geopolitical messages, the pontiff is undertaking what the Vatican has called an "apostolic pilgrimage."Saturday's celebration was marked by an atmosphere of high reverence. Before the pope arrived, other bishops and priests processed to the altar behind a statue of Mary that was being held aloft as people tossed flower petals before it.Local officials said some 2,000 priests, 71 bishops, and eight cardinals were taking part in the Mass, which was celebrated in Portuguese and Latin.Francis reflected in his homily Saturday on a reading from John's Gospel in which Jesus, dying on the Cross, presents his mother to one of the disciples and tells him, "Behold, your mother.""Dear pilgrims, we have a mother," the pope told the crowds. "Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus.""With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter," the pontiff asked. "Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love."On Friday, Francis had offered a prayer at the Fatima sanctuary's Chapel of the Apparitions that humanity might have the courage to choose a culture of encounter over a culture of conflict and would "tear down all walls."The pope also told pilgrims taking part in a candlelit rosary recitation Friday evening that God emphasizes mercy over judgment."Great injustice is done to God's grace whenever we say that sins are punished by his judgment, without first saying -- as the Gospel does -- that they are forgiven by his mercy!" he said."Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God's judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy," said the pontiff.Dos Santos, the third Fatima child, became a Carmelite nun and died at age 97. The devotion given to Our Lady of Fatima is tinged by controversy due to her memoirs, in which she said she and the other children were told three secrets by Mary.The first two secrets were revealed by dos Santos in the memoirs. They concerned a vision of Hell, taken by many as a prediction of the Second World War, and a need for the world to pray.The third secret, originally not revealed by the nun, inspired decades of conspiracy theories about what it revealed. In 2000, the Vatican said the secret was a prediction of the May 13, 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square.John Paul credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life that day, saying it was evident "a mother's hand" had deflected would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca's four bullets so they did not kill him.Pilgrims have been arriving in Fatima over recent days so they could be present for Francis' trip. Some have even walked from nearby cities to emphasize the sense of pilgrimage.While Francis' security in Fatima has not appeared as high a concern as on other papal visits, Portugal has taken a series of abnormal measures for the pope's trip.The country has reinstated border controls for a few days by suspending the Europe-wide free travel agreement. Officials have also put in place large cement blocks in the open spaces around Fatima to deter the possibility of drivers undertaking attacks such in recent months in Stockholm and Nice.Following Saturday's Mass, Francis is to have lunch with the Portuguese bishops. He is due to leave the country in the afternoon, arriving back in Rome in the evening.
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“I prefer Our Mother Lady to the one leading a telegraphic office that sends a message every day.” Pope Francis, returning from Fatima, smears the interpretation regarding the prayer on the “bishop dressed in white” (”I did not write it myself”) and answers a question about the apparitions of Medjugorje revealing the content of the Ruini report, positive on the first apparitions yet dubious about the current ones. What is left to the Church and the whole world from the apparitions of Fatima? And what can we hope from the meeting with Trump on May 24? “Fatima is a message of peace brought to humanity by three great communicators who were less than 13 years old. The canonization of the shepherd children was something that was not planned at first, because the process on the miracle proceeded slowly, then came the expertise and for me it was a great happiness. The world can hope for peace. And with everyone I will speak of peace. Before embarking on the flight from Rome, I received scientists from various religions attending a convention at the Vatican observatory. An atheist, without telling me which country he came from, greeted me like this: “I’m an atheist! I ask you a favor: tell Christians to love Muslims more “. This is a message of peace! “ Yesterday you asked to “tear down all walls”, but in a few days you will meet Head of State, President Trump, who wants to build walls and who doesn’t agree with you on, for example, climate and migrants issues. On the eve of this hearing, what do you think about the policies of the American President and what do you expect from the meeting with him? “I never judge a person without listening to them. Things will emerge from our conversation, he will say what he thinks and I will say what I think. On migrants, you already my opinion. There are always doors that are not completely closed, one must look for the doors that at least are a bit open, you have to go in and talk about what is common and go forward, step by step. Peace is handmade and is made each and every day. Friendship among people, mutual knowledge, mutual esteem is artisanal, and done daily. Respect the other, to say what you think in a very honest way.” Do you hope that after meeting President Trump he will soften his policies? “This is a political calculation I do not allow myself to do ... And you know that I do not proselytize on the religious level.” In Fatima you presented yourself as the “bishop dressed in white,” the same words used by Sister Lucia in the Third Secret. So far, they applied to John Paul II and the attack he had suffered, and to the martyrs of the twentieth century. What does it mean now? “I did not write the prayer to Our Lady that included that expression; it was done by Fatima’s sanctuary. There is a link between the bishop in white, Our Lady dressed in white, the white (garment) worn by innocent children for baptism. I believe that though white, they have tried to literally express the will of peace, of innocence, of not making war to the other. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger explained everything about the third secret clearly.” May 13 is a special day for you because in 1992 Nuncio Calabresi announced your appointment as a Buenos Aires auxiliary bishop. Have you ever linked this fact to Fatima? Have you thought about this these days? “I’ve not thought about the coincidence. Only yesterday, while I was praying in front of Our Lady I remembered that, 25 years ago, on May 13, I received the call of the nuncio announcing me the appointment as a bishop. I asked forgiveness to Our Lady for my mistakes and also for my bad taste in choosing people...” The Fraternity San Pius X has a great devotion to Fatima. There is talk about an imminent agreement; some had foreseen an announcement today. Will this agreement be made and what is the sense of this reconciliation for you? Will they come back with triumphalism? “I would avoid every form of triumphalism. A few days ago, Feria IV, congress of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, studied a document, which I have not received yet. The current relationships are fraternal, last year I gave the permit to confess as well as a form of jurisdiction for marriages to all their priests. Regarding their problems however, for a long time, cases that need to be solved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - for example, cases of abuse, - have been carried on with the Vatican dicasteries. With Bishop Fellay I have a good relationship; I’ve talked to him several times. I do not like to rush things, but walking and walking, we will then see. For me it is not a matter of winners or losers, but of brothers who are moving forward.” Can Evangelicals and Catholics walk a stretch of road together? Can they attend to the same Eucharistic? “Great steps have been taken forward. Let’s think about the statement on Justifications; the path has not stopped since then. The trip to Sweden was very significant. Also for the ecumenism of the journey, of walking together, with prayer, with martyrdom, with works of charity and mercy. And there Catholics and Lutheran Caritas have made an agreement to work together. God is the God of surprises, we must never stop, we must pray together, witness together, do the works of mercy together, affirm that Jesus is the only savior and that grace only comes from Him. Theologians will continue to study; we move on and walk forward.” In Fatima we have seen a great testimony of popular faith, the same one that is also found in Medjugorje. What do you think of those apparitions and religious fervour that have sparked, as you have decided to appoint a bishop delegated for pastoral aspects? “All apparitions or alleged apparitions belong to the private sphere; they are not part of the ordinary public magisterium. For Medjugorje, Benedict XVI set up a commission presided over by Cardinal Ruini. I received the results; it was composed of good theologians, bishops and cardinals. The committee report is very, very good. There were some doubts in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Doctrine thought appropriate to send each of the members of the Feria IV - the monthly meeting of the Congregation - all the documentation, including the opinions contrary to the Ruini report. I received the notification on a late Saturday night. It did not seem right to me; it was like putting the Ruini report, which is very well done, at auction. On Sunday morning, the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith received a letter in which I asked that instead of sending those opposing views to Feria IV, they should be sent to me personally. These opinions have all been studied - I would like to stress, on all. The Ruini report states that the first apparitions must be distinguished between the time when the visionaries were young and says that investigation should be done on those. The report presents its doubts on the current alleged presentations. I personally feel worse, I prefer the Lady Mother, to the boss of telegraphic office, who sends a message every day. And these supposed apparitions do not have much value: I say this as a personal opinion. There are those who think that Our Lady is saying: Come, on that day I will give a message to that seer. Thirdly, there is the spiritual and pastoral fact, the core of the relationship: people who convert, who meet God, who change life. And this is not thanks to a magic wand. This fact cannot be denied. Now to see this, I have appointed a good bishop (Monsignor Hoser, ndr) who has experience in dealing with the pastoral side. In the end, you will hear some words.” NGOs that rescue migrants at sea have been accused of colluding with the traffickers. What do you think? “I read on the newspaper that there was this problem, but I still do not know the details, reason why I cannot express opinions. I know there is a problem and the investigations are ongoing. I hope investigations continue and that the whole truth comes out. “
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