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Aug 26 14 6:30 AM
In his trip to Sri Lanka, that will take place between the 13th and the 15th of January 2015, before proceeding to the Philippines, Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu and will thus be the first Pope in history to set foot in a territory where most inhabitants are Tamil. Francis chooses to touch on the sore point of the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people that devastated the island for 26 years (1983-2009) and has left deep wounds. While we await the publication of the official programme of the trip, the confirmation of Francis’ pilgrimage to Madhu – that appears to be the culmination of the whole visit to ex-Ceylon due to its symbolic value – came from Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo and the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the island. The cardinal, who is a leader for Sinhalese Catholics, decided to visit Madhu, the oldest Shrine on the island, to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption last 15th of August. On that occasion, he stood next to Rayppu Joseph, the bishop of the dioceses of Mannar who had asked the Holy See that the Pope visit Tamil territories, on behalf of numerous priests and lay representatives of the Tamil Catholic community. From the pulpit of the Shrine, Ranjith made the Papal visit, that was greatly awaited by the pilgrims gathered there, official. Francis, said the cardinal, will celebrate Mass in the Shrine on the 14th of January, where he will meet and bless the many Tamil families who were victims of the war. Pope Francis’ visit to Madhu presented some logistical problems: Madhu is 260km north of Colombo, and the briefness of his visit rendered the journey there rather difficult. On the other hand, Tamil people make up 12% of the Sri-Lankan population and, since they are gathered almost exclusively in four of the 11 dioceses of the country, they could not be ignored by a trip that intends to have the theme of reconciliation as its cornerstone. The Shrine of Madhu, founded by the Dutch, goes back more than 400 years and has become the symbol for national reconciliation. The Shrine was preserved from armed conflicts as a “free zone” and has become a place where the Tamils and the Sinhalese, Christians as well as believers of other religions, met side by side without hostilities. It is the destination of incessant pilgrimages and thus it is the place that is best suited to send a message of social, political and religious harmony. “The presence of the Pope in Madhu will contribute to raising awareness of the current conditions of war victims in Sri Lanka”, reports S. J. Emmanuel to Vatican Insider. Emmanuel is a Tamil priest who emigrated to Germany and is now leader of the “Global Tamil Forum”. Tamil people still live in a regime of “military occupation”, and are subject to intimidations, repressions and glaring human rights abuses. This is without mentioning the problematic recognition of war crimes perpetrated by the army during the last phase of the civil war, that the government in Colombo persists in denying. Emmanuel explains that “the Church in Sri Lanka embraces the two components of the population, the Sinhalese and the Tamil. But despite its unity in one Bishops’ Conference, it remains divided by the experiences of war. We wish for Pope Francis’ visit to represent a turning point for the Church, moving towards a more courageous and prophetic approach. Tension, even within the Church, remains covert, but sometimes it emerges with clarity: in the past days the bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, rejected summons of the Presidential Commission on missing people. The panel should investigate on the events that, during the conflict, undercut Tamil leadership, as well as hundreds of Tamil families. According to the bishop, this is only a façade operation that “failed to address the question of impunity”, while the UN inquest on the conflict is obstructed by the executive government of President Rajapaksa, who invokes the principle of “non-intervention”. Meanwhile, the Sri-Lankan Church published the logo for the Papal visit. It shows a “Cross of Sri Lanka”, set against the background of a white and yellow mitre. On the sides, there are four flags, symbolising the multi-ethnic and multi-religious character of this Asian country. On the right side, we can see the Indian missionary Joseph Vaz, the founder of the Sri-Lankan Church, who was beatified by John Paul II exactly 20 years ago, during his trip to the island in 1995. Even though there is very little time left, the local Church still hopes that Vaz, who is the object of profound popular devotion, might become the first (adoptive) Sri-Lankan saint on the occasion of the Pope’s visit.
Aug 30 14 1:44 AM
Albania: let the martyrs’ blood be a warning for the future
Monsignor Angelo Massafra, the metropolitan archbishop of Shkodër-Pult, traces the history of a country that starts from its Christian martyrs and religious coexistence, after state atheism
“I wish that time, as well as His Holiness’ next visit to Albania, favours the work we have undertaken for years; but also that ours can become an example of brotherhood and unlimited openness even for the other populations that today, unfortunately, suffer under religious persecution; remembering that those who kill in the name of faith are actually driven by a criminal or terrorist spirit but never by the Spirit of God”. A few days before Pope Francis’ visit, this is the wish of the Franciscan Monsignor Angelo Massafra, metropolitan archbishop of Shkodër-Pult and president of the Episcopal Conference of Albania.
You are an eminent member of the Interreligious Council in a country where Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics live together under the same national government. What’s the secret?
There is no secret to the coexistence of faiths in Albania: one single population, common sufferings under many years of regime and the willingness not to fall back into ancient forms of repression and dehumanization, that have caused the Albanese population to be “divided” in religion since 1500. What communism has left behind is the memory of religious belonging, which we are recovering in time. The path of religious formation is long, but there are beautiful examples of recovered faith and education in it, both from Christians and Muslims. There have been times when we feared that some factions might exploit moments of social crisis to turn them into a religious war. The unity among the representatives of different faiths has forestalled this. Today, we have cordial relationships through mutual respect and the valorisation of what unites us rather than divides us. The Feast Days of each religion are an occasion to strengthen relationships among us. Undoubtedly the Interreligious Council could and should do much more, not from a religious perspective but socially.
The Pope, as he highlighted on the return trip from Korea, comes to Albania to encourage a country that has suffered a lot because of atheism…
When the barriers imposed by communism fell, the sight that met whoever set foot in Albania was one of total disaster. The dignity of these people had been visibly trampled on, to the point where trust in human relationships had disappeared. We have found churches that had been destroyed or turned into recreation and cultural rooms or sports buildings, like the cathedral of Shkodër. We found around 30 priests between diocesans, Franciscans and Jesuits who survived communism, many of whom have been subject to imprisonment and tortures of various kinds, as well as some nuns who survived the regime.
What’s the situation like today?
Almost a quarter of a century afterwards, we can say that we have come a long way, firstly thanks to the desire for redemption of this proud population that has always been submitted, but also thanks to all the assistance. The way to go still seems very long; there are still various plagues to fight, first among all is the emigration and the escape of the best energies in this young country. And then the production and dealing of drugs, the corruption, not to mention the political problems concerning the social and economic development of the country.
As the president of the Episcopal Conference you are following the cause of the Albanese martyrs, is there some figure that you’d like to focus on?
Our “martyrs” are the best model we have today, in order to encourage the Albanese population not to deny their origins, by exchanging them for the dazzling dominant culture that tends to sink the prerogatives of different populations with indifference. They are the possibility to establish Albania again using the positive aspects of a history that, even though it is sad, cannot be cancelled, but can become a warning for the future. The figure I would like to talk about is the only woman who appears in the list of “martyrs”: the Servant of God Maria Tuci.
She wished to become a Stigmatine nun, but the communists had shut down the convent....
In the Shkodër prison she was subjected to the most horrible tortures for refusing to sleep with a colonel of the regime. She was admitted into hospital, where she died on the 24th October 1950, free and holding a Rosary in her hands. I remember her because, on top of her love for her people, she stands out as a new Agnes because of her forgiveness of the persecutors and her desire for reconciliation among victims and executioners in that sad and bleak period that communism was for Albania.
Sep 2 14 3:32 AM
Sep 2 14 9:19 PM
Pope Francis' one-day trip expected to give Albanians hope, healing
Pope Francis' choice of Albania as the destination of his first international trip in Europe reflects his trademark pastoral approach: Head to the peripheries, bring healing to the suffering.
But his Sept. 21 visit to the poor, Muslim-majority nation also will highlight, to a world increasingly torn apart by sectarian strife, a hopeful example of Muslims and Christians living in harmony.
"The presence of the pope will say to the people, 'See, you can work together,' " Pope Francis told reporters last month, praising the Albanian government's efforts to promote interreligious cooperation.
"The pope values this, wants to show Albania as an example and encourage it," said Fr. Gjergj Meta, media coordinator for the archdiocese of Tirana-Durres.
Catholics make up only about 16 percent of Albania's 3 million inhabitants; about 65 percent are Muslim and 20 percent Orthodox.
Yet Muslims, Orthodox Christians and even people of no faith "see the pope as a charismatic person who defends the weak and the voiceless," Meta said.
Luigj Mila, secretary-general of the Albanian bishops' peace and justice commission, said he expects a large number of Muslims to welcome the pope.
Mila said Albania's interreligious harmony is rooted in people's common ethnicity and shared history of persecution.
Starting with the Ottoman incursions in the 14th century, "we've been occupied for so many centuries, we stuck together to survive," he said. "We always worked together."
Driven underground, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Catholics tried to safeguard their traditions.
Starting in 1944, Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha sought to cleanse the country of all religion, even passing a 1967 constitutional law that banned any trace of the divine, which made Albania the first and so-far only atheist nation.
"He wanted to be god for Albanians," Mila said.
Catholics were disproportionally targeted, he said, because "they had been warning about the dangers of communism."
Almost all of Albania's fewer than 200 priests were jailed and scores killed. Countless laypeople and religious faced arrest, torture, firing squads, concentration camps and forced labor while thousands of places of worship were confiscated and demolished or turned into movie theaters, gyms and meeting halls.
Though Catholics passed down their beliefs in secret, they had no religious structures or institutions to help pick up the pieces once the communist dictatorship dissolved in the early 1990s.
That's what made St. John Paul II's visit in 1993 so important to the then-newly democratic nation.
Albanians saw the Polish pope as a vision of hope, "a prophet bringing good news to everyone," upholding the freedom of conscience and human dignity, said Albert P. Nikolla, coordinator in Albania of the papal trip and head of Caritas Albania.
Two decades later, Albania enjoys religious freedom but still grapples with corruption, a lack of infrastructure and an ancient vigilante code in the North that affects thousands of families, many of them Catholics. Called "blood feuds," the traditional Albanian code sanctions the killing and threats to kill others as revenge for murder.
The country is also one of the poorest in Europe, with 17 percent unemployment and 14 percent of its people living below the poverty line, a situation that has spurred large-scale emigration.
"People are free, but they're not happy," Meta said.
Caritas Albania tries to fill in the gaps and is "the largest charitable organization" in the country, helping some 80,000 people every year, Nikolla said. The pope's afternoon visit to Tirana's Bethany Center to meet children in its care will highlight the church's help to the needy across Albania.
The biggest challenge for the church in Albania today, Meta said, is meeting people's social, psychological and spiritual needs. One-on-one dialogue, trying to "understand the human person, listen to what they are going though and see their heart" needs to be the priority in these situations, he said.
Before the church can be an effective teacher of the faith, it "has to be a force that heals," the priest said, in words that recalled Pope Francis' description of the church as a "field hospital after battle."
When John Paul became the first pope to go to Albania, "it was like the good Samaritan. It was an evangelical moment," Father Meta said. It was "a dramatically wounded church, and the pope was like the man who reached out his hand and said, 'Arise.' "
Today, Albania is again found languishing on the roadside -- wounded not by persecution, but by the post-communist afflictions of isolation and social instability.
Francis' visit falls on the feast of St. Matthew, a day of enormous significance for the pope, who, as a 17-year-old boy, strongly felt God's presence and mercy, inspiring him to religious life.
His episcopal and papal motto -- "Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him" -- is based on the account of Jesus seeing Matthew, a sinner and tax collector, and calling him to "Follow me."
Nikolla said he believes that same vision of apostleship lies behind Pope Francis' visit.
"Just as God looked on him, a sinner, we are a country upon whom the pope has looked," seeing Albania through his own eyes of mercy and choosing it for great things.
Sep 3 14 9:55 PM
For that Filipino taste, caterer plans chicken adobo on papal menu
MANILA, Philippines–Although the dining details for the much-awaited visit of Pope Francis in January have yet to be planned, a caterer is planning to delight the papal palate with various versions of the popular chicken adobo identified as being Filipino.
“Of course, the timeless chicken adobo will be included in the menu. It has many versions,” said Steve Tamayo, who was most likely to be tasked, as in previous big Church events, with serving food for the Pope during his five-day visit to the country next year.
Tamayo is the owner of Tamayo’s Catering Services and Restaurant, conveniently situated just behind Manila Cathedral in the historic Intramuros, one of the many destinations of the Pope in the capital.
The Pope is expected to arrive in the Philippines on Jan. 15. He is scheduled to fly to Leyte province to be with survivors of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) on Jan. 17. The rest of his visit will be spent in Metro Manila.
Tamayo said that while nothing was official yet, friends from the clergy had advised him to prepare for the coming of Pope Francis.
“Actually, everything is still in the planning stage. But I was already advised to get ready because usually when there is a big event in the Church, I am tasked to cater food,” Tamayo told reporters.
He said he had already spruced up the family-owned Villa Immaculada, an events place and catering services in Intramuros, just in time for the papal visit.
The caterer said the kitchen had been renovated and that he had bought a brand-new walk-in freezer to ensure the high quality of food for the Pope.
“My kitchen is now bigger in preparation for my catering services because we serve food up to 10,000 people a day. This is to make sure that when the Pope comes, food will be delightful and of quality,” he added.
Tamayo said serving Pope Francis chicken adobo might be “the way” for Filipino cuisine to achieve international stature, which has been a longtime dream of many hotel managers and restaurateurs in the country.
“I am on the board of directors of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines and we are really pushing for Filipino food to gain international stature. So, this might be one way,” he said.
Aside from adobo, Tamayo said he was also prepared to come up with a fusion cuisine for the Pope, which would include Italian dishes.
Lechon (roasted pig) will also be an item on the menu, he added.
“It will really depend on what the organizers will request. Villa Immaculada is just behind Manila Cathedral so definitely, food orders will come. That’s why I am always prepared,” he said.
Tamayo said he has been providing food for the past 17 years every time the Church has big events, the most recent of which was the World Meeting of Families, when he fed 28,000 people.
“So even if nothing is official yet, I am already preparing for the coming of the Pope,” he said.
Sep 6 14 3:33 PM
Francis may be paying a visit to Turkey in November. Before the Pope’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, had expressed the hope that Francis would follow in the footsteps of St. Andrew and go on a pilgrimage to Turkey to mark the feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 30 November. Francis immediately agreed but there needed to be sent from the Turkish government. According to Marco Ansaldo, a Vatican correspondent and Turkish affairs expert writing for Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Ankara is apparently preparing to send the Holy See a formal invitation for a papal visit. The Vatican is being extremely cautious, partly due to what occurred nine years ago at the start of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. On that occasion, an invitation from the civil authorities did not follow immediately after the Patriarchate’s invitation. This time, Ankara apparently has a November-time visit in mind. “The possibility of a visit is currently being looked into but no official confirmation has been given yet,” Roman Curia sources inform Vatican Insider. “For us it is a pending question,” they add. There are many issues that need to be addressed. According to Aid to the Church in Need’s annual report, Turkish authorities have on a number of occasions expressed their intention to improve the conditions of religious minorities, sensitive to pressures from international organisations. The resolution adopted by the Council of Europe's Commission for Religious Freedom in March 2010 is part of this. The resolution asked Turkey to give legal recognition to religious minorities that did not previously benefit from this; the Latin Rite Catholic Church for example. It also called for Turkey to commit to combating all forms of discrimination. On a number of occasions, Recep Tayip Erdoğan promised to return property that had been seized by religious minorities in 1923 when the modern Republic of Turkey was established and then in the mid 30’s and 60’s. This promise – made official with the signing of a decree – was made to the representatives of 161 religious foundations that were interested in the issue. These foundations belonged to the three non Muslim minorities recognised by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), that is, members of the Greek Orthodox Church (led by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), members of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Jews. In November, the Directorate General of Foundations (a government body), decided to grant them legal recognition. Erdoğan gave interested parties a year to present their claims for the return of property or compensation, regardless of whether this property was in the hands of the State or had been sold to private entities. Such properties included churches, monasteries, cemeteries, hospitals, schools, residential buildings, fountains and land. More than a thousand of these had been confiscated from the Greek Orthodox Church (represented by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) while about 30 or so properties had been seized from the Armenian Apostolic Church; the Jewish community, meanwhile, should get back all the cemeteries that were in its possession prior to 1930. Mgr. François Yakan, the Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar in Istanbul, protested against the exclusion of his Church from this decree. The Chaldean Catholic Church in Turkey is not mentioned anywhere in the Treaty of Lausanne and so has no legal status whatsoever. Mgr. Yakan has announced his intention to demand the return of property which the State seized from his Church. The same goes for the Syriac Catholic Church which is also not mentioned in the Treaty of Lausanne. It too intends to ask for some property to be returned to it: the Church of the Sacred Heart in Istanbul, the Monastery of St. Ephraim and some land in Mardin. All this does not include the property seized from the Armenians at the time of the genocide in 1915. This element, which is of no little importance, was contested by the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Aram I, (which was once based in Cilicia in southern Turkey, and later moved to Lebanon for security reasons), who wrote an open letter to Erdoğan stressing the inadequacy of his decision.
Sep 10 14 2:40 AM
Pope Francis to visit Turkey in November
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis will visit Turkey in November, eight years after his predecessor, Benedict XVI, made a landmark visit to the predominantly Muslim country.
Turkey’s newly elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, extended a formal invitation to Francis, and the Turkish Embassy to the Holy See confirmed Tuesday (Sept. 9) that the pope has accepted.
“The pope has been invited by both the Orthodox Church and the government and he is expected to meet the president during his visit,” an embassy representative said.
Orthodox church officials in Istanbul said they expected the pope to attend a commemoration in honor of St. Andrew, one of Jesus’ disciples, whose feast day falls on Nov. 30. According to Orthodox tradition, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who leads the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, is the successor to Andrew.
Bartholomew personally invited the pope to visit Istanbul when the two religious leaders met in a historic encounter soon after the pope’s election in 2013. The two met again on Francis’ May trip to the Middle East and later for a peace prayer with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents in the Vatican gardens on June 8.
The patriarch was the first head of the Eastern Orthodox Church to attend a papal enthronement since the church split from the Catholic Church nearly 1,000 years ago.
The Middle East is high on the pope’s agenda and Francis has been particularly outspoken about worsening violence in Syria and Iraq and the persecution of Christian minorities in both countries. It’s possible he will visit with Iraqi refugees on Turkey’s border.
The 77-year-old pope’s predecessor at the Holy See — Benedict XVI — visited Turkey in 2006 and made what was only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship.
Meanwhile, the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Raphael Sako, on Monday (Sept. urged Francis to visit war-torn Iraq.
Sep 12 14 3:45 PM
The Pope is expected to visit Istanbul on November 30th to celebrate the feast day of St Andrew, founder of the Eastern Church and patron saint of the Orthodox world. While a delegation from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity goes regularly to Turkey for the annual celebration, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st invited Pope Francis to attend the event in person this year. Pope Francis will be following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who visited the Turkish cities of Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul in November 2006. Pope Francis to visit Istanbul to mark feast of St Andrew
Sep 14 14 1:34 AM
Pope Francis goes to Turkey
As Crux and other news outlets have reported, plans are afoot for Pope Francis to travel to Turkey in late November, possibly with an excursion near the Iraq border for the pontiff to meet refugees from the self-declared Islamic State and to express concern for the violence.
Details are still being worked out, but assuming the trip materializes it will be significant for at least three reasons.
First, Pope Francis and the Vatican are deeply concerned about Iraq in part because of the country’s Christian minority. Iraq had one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East prior to the first Gulf War in 1991, estimated at somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million believers, but it’s been decimated by the subsequent chaos and today is on life support.
At the same time, the Vatican is also keen about not framing the conflict in Iraq as Christian v. Muslim, in part out of fear that if it’s seen that way, it would represent a propaganda and recruiting boon for the Islamic State, which is already drawing ardent jihadists from other parts of the world to its cause.
It’s a small but telling example that when Francis became the first pope to attach a photo to one of his tweets, it was a Catholic Relief Services photo of a Yazidi family from Erbil currently living under an overpass. Subtly, the pope was making the point that it’s not just Christians who are at risk.
Turkey is a country with its own troubled history of occasional anti-Christian outbreaks. A Catholic missionary priest named the Rev. Andrea Santoro was killed there in 2006, and Capuchin Bishop Luigi Padovese was murdered in Turkey in 2010.
Francis would thus face the challenge of not going silent on anti-Christian violence, but while also being careful in what he says not to antagonize his hosts or inflame the nearby Iraqi conflict.
Second, this would be the pope’s first outing to a Muslim nation outside the Holy Land, and thus his first real opportunity to lay out a vision for Muslim/Christian relations in the 21st century.
Francis met with Muslim leaders when he visited Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, and Israel in May, but he had much more to do on that trip, including outreach to Jewish leaders in Israel and trying to kick-start the stalled Israeli/Palestinian peace process.
The last time a pope came to Turkey was when Benedict XVI did so in 2006, shortly after a controversial speech he delivered in Regensburg, Germany, linking Muhammad with violence, had set off a firestorm of protest across the Islamic world. Obviously, that controversy looks different today given the rise of ISIS and the carnage that’s followed.
At the time, however, the do-to list for the trip was largely about putting out fires, which Benedict did with a stop at Istanbul’s famed Blue Mosque where he paused for a moment of silent prayer.
Today, Francis has the opportunity to present a more positive, forward-looking agenda for Muslim/Christian ties, which arguably has never been more urgent in light of the perceived need to give greater visibility to moderate Muslim voices.
Turkey is an important platform for the pope to make his pitch, given its aspirations to a leadership role all across the Islamic world, and also its proximity to the region’s most volatile conflicts.
Third, there’s an ecumenical subtext to the Turkey trip in that Francis will likely go to the Phanar, the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, to visit Bartholomew I and to continue his press for Christian unity.
Nov. 30 is the feast of St. Andrew, considered by Orthodox believers as the founder of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in something of the same way that Catholics regard St. Peter as the first pope.
Bartholomew has become Francis’ favorite geopolitical partner, having joined him on June 8 in the Vatican gardens for his peace prayer with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents. Presumably, he and Francis will not only talk about healing the wounds of the past between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, but also how the two churches can pool resources on other shared moral and humanitarian concerns.
The details of the pope’s program in Turkey may still be up in the air, but there’s no doubt that whatever they turn out to be, a great deal is at stake.
Sep 15 14 2:01 AM
Sep 19 14 3:31 PM
Sep 19 14 3:33 PM
Oct 3 14 2:52 AM
Philippine general shrugs off papal visit terrorist fears
'There is no terror threat. What we're concerned about is, will he be mobbed by people'
Philippine authorities say they are more concerned over people mobbing Pope Francis during his visit to the country in January than terrorists launching an attack against the pontiff.
"There is no terror threat. What we're concerned about is, will he be mobbed by people," Philippine armed forces chief Gen Gregorio Pio Catapang said on Tuesday.
(I have to admit, that is a very real possibility. When St. John Paul II was here, massive crowds followed him everywhere he went, going so far as to camp outside the Apostolic Nuncio, where he was staying.)"The people really like him very much … What if he trips, those type of incidents," Catapang told reporters.
"There is no threat to the pope. You know, our pope is very popular…. [His visit] is something that we look forward to," he said.
(That is the understatement of the year!)The general said the military has not monitored any organized group, including the Islamic State, threatening the visit of Pope Francis.
Philippine Catholic bishops last week called on the government to provide comprehensive security to ensure the safety of Pope Francis when he visits the country.
The bishops' call comes amid reports that supporters of the IS are threatening to assassinate the pontiff during an overseas visit.
Media reports early this month said the group has recruited members in the Philippines.
The Philippine military on Sunday announced that it will deploy two army units to help provide security for the papal trip after concerns were raised over the pontiff's safety. (If I remember correctly, among the military troops to be deployed are the men of the elite Philippine Peacekeeping Force, who saw action in the Middle East. Keeping the Pope safe is very much a matter of national honour.)
Oct 7 14 2:59 AM
Oct 7 14 4:30 AM
Oct 21 14 4:34 AM
The Vatican has confirmed Pope Francis’s itinerary for his upcoming trip to Turkey. The visit, which will take place from November 28 to 30, will begin at the mausoleum of the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The pontiff will also meet Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On the following day, Francis will travel to Istanbul. He will pay a visit to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica which is now a museum. The visit to the Blue Mosque will see Pope Francis follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Benedict XVI who prayed there during his trip to Turkey in 2006. The Pope will also celebrate Mass at Istanbul’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, participate in ecumenical prayers at the Church of St George and meet with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.
Oct 30 14 3:27 AM
Zenit - It has been confirmed Pope Francis will visit Sri Lanka this January, marking his second apostolic visit to Asia. From Sri Lanka, he will travel to the Philippines. During a meeting with priests, the archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, confirmed the Holy Father's Jan. 13-15 visit to Sri Lanka, reported Fides. Encouraging the faithful to pray for the Holy Father’s visit, the cardinal asked the priests present at the meeting to inform the faithful in parishes and Catholic institutions that the Pope's trip will take place. In addition, the archbishop of Colombo informed them that the Holy See and local episcopal conference are working on the details. The program, he said, will be defined during the preparatory visit of a Vatican delegation in Sri Lanka in early November. In recent weeks, he said, the bishops discussed with relevant government authorities the safety measures to be implemented. Due to presidential elections potentially being set around the days of the Pope’s visit in January, Church leaders are asking the vote to be postponed at least to the end of January 2015
Nov 4 14 8:37 PM
'Pope can remind Europe there is strength in unity'
European Union institutions prepare for Nov 25 papal visit
Pope Francis will visit European Union institutions in Strasbourg, France, on November 25. He will address the European Parliament and later give a short speech to the Council of Europe. In an interview with La Croix, Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, explains the context of the visit, which he discussed with the pope during an October 30 meeting at the Vatican.
1. Where did the idea of inviting Pope Francis to the European Parliament come from?
Martin Schulz: My two predecessors, Jerzy Buzek and Hans-Gert Pöttering, extended similar invitations to previous popes. John Paul II was the last pontiff to address the European Parliament more than 25 years ago. At the time, the Parliament had 12 member states; the Berlin Wall had not yet fallen. Since then, the European Union has changed enormously: it has enlarged to include 28 countries and it now has a broader scope of powers. The European Parliament has greater authority and is at the core of the union today. With Pope Francis, we are receiving one of the major leaders of our time, who is a reference point at present not only for Catholics but also for a large number of people. He is offering guidance at a time when many people are disoriented because the world is moving forward at a dramatic pace, often in quite dangerous directions. We need this dialogue. Although I am not a practicing Catholic, I was nevertheless able to see for myself when I was a mayor that society does not function properly without churches, religious communities and lay people.
2. Do you think the reasons for your invitation to the pope have been clearly understood by all the members of the European Parliament?
M.S.: All the heads of political groups in the European Parliament, from left to right, unanimously supported the idea. Jean-Luc Mélenchon was, I believe, the only European deputy to see it as a violation of the secular nature of our institution. I replied — and he knows when I am joking — that I hoped the pope was praying for him, too. But if I have come to the Vatican to prepare the visit, it is mainly to explain the European Parliament, its pluralism and the diversity of opinions expressed within it.
3. In your opinion, will the pope refer to the "Christian roots" of Europe?
M.S.: Obviously, the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition on Europe has been very strong. The same is true of the influence of other religions, such as Islam on Spain. The pope knows he will be addressing a multicultural and multi-confessional assembly. We shall see how he highlights that fact in his speech.
4. The Argentinean pope is sometimes criticized for failing to take an interest in European integration, compared with his predecessors. Have you had the same impression and have you observed a change?
M.S.: Just because the pope is Argentinean doesn't mean he is not interested in Europe. He has a very accurate perception of it as a non-European. I wish other Europeans knew as much about how the European Union works. From my meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, it was evident that the Holy See has in-depth knowledge of the union as well.
5. What did you think of the pope's decision to make his first visit in Europe to Albania?
M.S.: I was surprised by the choice, which was highly significant. Pope Francis decided to visit this poor, peripheral country, which is facing numerous problems, but is also a very young country, where different religions coexist harmoniously.
6. The pope has repeatedly said: "Europe is tired." How do you interpret this observation?
M.S.: He's right. There is a feeling of exhaustion, of weariness in the struggle for greater justice and greater cohesiveness. Extremist parties thrive when that state of mind is prevalent. Countries are tempted to turn inward today, when we need to do just the opposite. The pope can remind us that there is strength in unity, that Europe is not only European institutions but all the states that belong to it and are responsible for it. In coming to the European Parliament, he will be speaking not only to the 751 deputies, but to all the people of Europe.
7. American conservatives depict Pope Francis as a Marxist. Have you invited a “leftist” pope?
M.S.: The pope cannot be judged according to the usual political criteria, but clearly, this pope has shown he is very close to Christian social doctrine. (Given the strident complaints by certain quarters - particularly those who profess such fondness for Raymund Burke - one wonders if that is such a bad thing, considering that the Pope is a Catholic and a Christian!)
8. Are you annoyed that after your invitation to the Parliament, the pope also plans to address the Council of Europe?
M.S.: Not at all, on the contrary. I am among those who have developed ties between the European Union and the Council of Europe, which are not competing but complementary institutions. There are legal ties between them. In Strasbourg, the pope will also meet the new president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.
9. Having been invited to the European Parliament, could the pope have chosen to go to Brussels instead?
M.S.: The pope was invited to the seat of the European Parliament, which, according to the European treaties, is legally located in Strasbourg.
Nov 5 14 3:27 AM
Greeting Italian-speaking pilgrims following Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Francis confirmed that he will travel to the northern Italian city of Turin in the summer of 2015.
During his journey the Holy Father will visit the Holy Shroud of Turin, which will be on display for the veneration of pilgrims from April 19 to June 24, 2015. The Shroud, which bears the image of a crucified man, is believed by many Christians to be the burial cloth of Jesus, although the Church has never made a definitive judgement about its authenticity.
Pope Francis had earlier expressed his desire to venerate the Shroud. The Archdiocese of Turin indicated the extended display of the relic – the longest period of time the Shroud has ever been open to public view – was chosen to facilitate a visit by the Pope.
Early in his papacy, Pope Francis spoke about the image on the burial cloth, saying “the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth.” The image, he said, “speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.”
The display of the Holy Shroud and the visit of Pope Francis coincide with events in the Diocese to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint John Bosco, the famous 19th century saint who is honoured as patron of Catholic schools.Pope to honour Holy Shroud, St John Bosco in visit to Turin
Nov 14 14 11:49 AM
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