Category Archives: Vatican News

Pope addresses end-of-life issues

 

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis addressed end-of-life issues in his letter to the participants of a World Medical Association meeting on 16 Nov 2017.

“The anguish associated with conditions that bring us to the threshold of human mortality, and the difficulty of the decision we have to make, may tempt us to step back from the patient.  Yet this is where, more than anything else, we are called to show love and closeness, recognising the limit that we all share and showing our solidarity,” he said to the delegates of the European Regional Meeting.

In his message, the pope called for “greater wisdom” in striking a balance between medical efforts to prolong life, and the responsible decision to withhold treatment when death becomes inevitable.

“It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment,” the pope said. “From an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that it is often difficult to determine the proper course of action in increasingly complex cases.

“There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved,” he said, pointing to the traditional criteria of moral theology for evaluating human actions. But in this process, he insisted “the patient has the primary role.”

The pontiff also raised the issue of “a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care,” both globally – especially between different continents – and within individual, especially wealthy countries, where options for health care often depend more on “economic resources,” than the “actual need for treatment.”

It is important, Pope Francis said, to find agreed solutions to “these sensitive issues.” He emphasised the need to recognise different worldviews and ethical systems, but also noted the duty of the state to protect the dignity of every human person, especially the most vulnerable. – vatican radio

Mass is a time for silence and prayer, not idle chitchat, pope says

Pope Francis looks on during his general audience in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 15 Nov 2017. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY – Mass is the highest form of prayer and not an appropriate moment for small talk, Pope Francis said.

At church, Catholics should spend their time in silence before Mass, preparing “to meet with Jesus” instead of engaging in “chitchat,” the pope said on 15 Nov 2017 during his weekly general audience.

“Silence is so important,” he said. “Remember what I told you last time: we are not going to a show. Silence prepares us and accompanies us.”

The pope continued his new series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the Eucharist as a form of prayer that is “the highest, the most sublime and, at the same time, the most concrete” way of encountering God’s love.

“This is the greatest grace: to experience that the Eucharist is the privileged moment to be with Jesus and, through him, with God and with our brothers and sisters,” the pope said.

In the Gospels, he continued, Jesus teaches his disciples that the first thing needed to pray “is to know how to say ‘father'” and to trust in God with the humility of a child.

Christians also must allow themselves to be “surprised by the living encounter with the Lord,” he said, and not simply “talk to God like a parrot,” repeating the words of prayers without thinking.

“The encounter with God is a living encounter,” the pope said departing from his prepared remarks. “It is not an encounter of a museum, it is a living encounter. And we go to Mass, not a museum! We go to a living encounter with the Lord.”

Pope Francis said the Mass is also a gift and a consolation where Christians discover that God’s greatest surprise is that he “loves us even in our weakness.”

“The Lord encounters our frailty,” the pope said. “This is the environment of the Eucharist. This is prayer.” – CNS

Pope discusses priestly formation with dicastery heads

VATICAN CITY –  Vocations, formation in the seminaries and permanent training of the clergy were discussed on 13 November 2017 in the Bologna Hall of the Apostolic Palace, where Pope Francis presided over a meeting of the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

It was the so-called “interdicasterial” meeting, which takes place at least twice a year, with cardinals, bishops and prelates at the head of Congregations and Pontifical Councils.

The meeting discussed the formation of new priests according to the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, a document published by the Congregation of the Clergy in December 2016.

The document takes into account the papal magisterium and insists on the importance of integral human formation, and not only academic formation.

It emphasises the goal of becoming “missionary disciples and pastors” in the three phases of vocational pastoral work, formation of seminarians and permanent training for priests.

Discipleship and mission concern all baptised people while being pastors is specific to the priesthood.

It highlights the importance of integral human formation including affective formation so as to form shepherds capable of living among the people and sharing their expectations, joys and wounds.

The document, in the wake of Francis’ Magisterium – and in particular of the great responsibility that the exhortation Amoris laetitia brings upon the shoulders of priests, especially in accompanying the increasingly frequent difficult marriage situations – insists on the importance of discernment and formation for discernment.

In fact, there is a lack of adequate preparation for this accompaniment to married persons and the formators of future priests must verify whether seminarians are able to assume these responsibilities, as they require commitment, sharing and the ability to identify themselves in situations that are always different from one another.

Paragraph 120 of the document discussed by the Pope with his collaborators reads, “The call to be pastors of the people of God requires a formation that makes future priests experts in the art of pastoral discernment, that is to say, able to listen deeply to real situations and capable of good judgment in making choices and decisions. To make pastoral discernment effective, the evangelical style of listening must take central place. This frees the pastor from the temptation of abstraction, to self-promotion, to excessive self-assurances and to that aloofness that would make him a ’spiritual accountant’ instead of a good Samaritan.” – vaticaninsider

Vatican announces initiatives for first World Day of the Poor

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican has announced on Tuesday that it will have several initiatives to mark the first Day of the Poor here on 19 Nov 2017.

Pope Francis has called for a day for the poor at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in November 2016.

The Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation announced a number of special events that are taking place throughout the week to highlight this annual initiative.

On Sunday morning in St Peter’s Basilica, some four thousand poor and needy people, accompanied by volunteers from Italy, France, Spain, Brussels, Luxembourg and Poland will take part in a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

Following the Eucharist, 1.500 of the visitors will be invited to lunch in the adjacent Paul VI Hall, while the other 2.500 guests will be taken to lunch in some of the Catholic colleges, seminaries and charitable organisations in the vicinity of the Vatican.

Those dining in the Paul VI Hall will be served a meal of gnocchi with tomato sauce and veal stew with vegetables, plus tiramisu and coffee for dessert, all prepared by papal chef Sergio Dussin from Bassano del Grappa in Italy’s northern Veneto region.

The Vatican police band and a children’s choir will provide background music for the festive lunch, which has been organised in collaboration with a number of local charity organisations and parishes.

On  Saturday, Nov 18, at 8 pm, there will be a prayer vigil in the ancient Rome Basilica of St Lawrence to remember volunteers all over the world who offer their services in support of the poor and marginalised.

Throughout the week of Nov 13 – 19, a mobile clinic has been set up just in front of St Peter’s Square offering free specialised medical services between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm.

A special booklet marking this first World Day of the Poor has also been published in six languages as a pastoral aid for dioceses and parishes worldwide who wish to take part in this important initiative. –  Vatican Radio

Couples need help forming, following their consciences, pope says

Twenty-one couples celebrate their convalidation ceremony at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va, 24 June 2017. The Catholic Church must strengthen its programmes “to respond to the desire for family that emerges in the soul of the young generations” and to help couples once they are married, Pope Francis said on 11 Nov 2017 in Rome. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

VATICAN CITY — Marriage and family life are blessings for individuals and for society, but both are filled with difficult choices that Catholic couples must be helped to face prayerfully and in the light of their consciences, Pope Francis said.

Unfortunately, too many people today confuse a rightly formed conscience with personal preferences dominated by selfishness, the pope said in a video message to an Italian meeting on “Amoris Laetitia,” his exhortation on the family.

“The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual” even when the individual’s decisions impact his or her marriage and family life, the pope said.

Repeating a remark he had made to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis said, “There are those who even speak of ‘egolatry,’ that is, the true worship of the ego on whose altar everything, including the dearest affections, is sacrificed.”

Confusing conscience with selfishness “is not harmless,” the pope said. “This is a ‘pollution’ that corrodes souls and confounds minds and hearts, producing false illusions.”

The conference sponsored by the Italian bishops’ conference was focused on “conscience and norm” in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation.

Diagnosing problems in the church’s outreach to married couples and families, Pope Francis had written, “We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life.”

“We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations,” he wrote in “Amoris Laetitia.” “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.”

In his message to the meeting on 11 Nov 2017 in Rome, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must strengthen its programmes “to respond to the desire for family that emerges in the soul of the young generations” and to help couples once they are married.

“Love between a man and a woman is obviously among the most generative human experiences; it is the leaven of a culture of encounter, and introduces to the present world an injection of sociality,” he said.

Marriage and family life are “the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant,” he said, but it does not do one any good to pretend that marriage and family life are free from situations requiring difficult choices.

“In the domestic reality, sometimes there are concrete knots to be addressed with prudent conscience on the part of each,” he said. “It is important that spouses, parents, not be left alone, but accompanied in their commitment to applying the Gospel to the concreteness of life.”

Conscience, he said, always has God’s desire for the human person as its ultimate reference point.

“In the very depths of each one of us, there is a place wherein the ‘Mystery’ reveals itself, and illuminates the person, making the person the protagonist of his story,” he said. “Conscience, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is this ‘most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.'”

Each Christian, the pope said, must be “vigilant so that in this kind of tabernacle there is no lack of divine grace, which illuminates and strengthens married love and the parental mission.” – NCR, CNS

Pope bans cigarette sales at Vatican

A man smokes a cigarette in front of St. Peter Square at the Vatican Nov. 9. Pope Francis has decided that the Vatican will stop selling cigarettes to its employees in 2018 because of the health risks of smoking. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY – Starting in 2018, the Vatican will ‘cease to sell cigarettes to employees,’ the Catholic Herald posted on its news portal on 9 Nov 2017.

Concerned by the damage caused by smoking, Pope Francis has banned the sale of cigarettes in Vatican City State.

Starting in 2018, the Vatican “will cease to sell cigarettes to employees,” Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, said in a statement.

“The reason is very simple: The Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people,” he said. “According to the World Health Organization, every year smoking is the cause of more than seven million deaths throughout the world.”

The Vatican used to be known as a safe haven for cigarette smokers. That changed dramatically in 2002, when Vatican City prohibited smoking in offices and public places.

However, cigarettes continued to be sold to current and retired personnel at the Vatican. Even after the cigarette ban goes into effect, the Vatican will continue discount sales of gasoline, groceries and other goods to employees and retirees.

Nevertheless, while cigarette sales “are a source of revenue for the Holy See, no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk,” Burke said.

On a moral level, the church has never defined smoking as a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the gift of physical health requires “reasonable care” of the body, and more specifically says: “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine.”

Pope Francis tells his audience to stop taking cell-phone photos at Mass

Members of the faithful take photos of Pope Francis, as he arrives to lead the Liturgy of Penance in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 17 March  2017.  (Photo credit: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY – On Wednesday Pope Francis chastised those who spend Mass talking to others, looking at their phone or even taking pictures during papal liturgies, saying these are distractions that take focus away from the “heart of the Church,” which is the Eucharist.

“The Mass is not a show: it is to go to meet the passion and resurrection of the Lord,” the Pope said on 8 Nov 2017. “The Lord is here with us, present. Many times we go there, we look at things and chat among ourselves while the priest celebrates the Eucharist… But it is the Lord!”

In particular, Francis condemned the use of cell phones to take photos at papal Masses. At one point during the Mass the priest says, “we lift up our hearts,” he said. “He does not say, ‘We lift up our phones to take photographs!’”

“It’s a bad thing! And I tell you that it gives me so much sadness when I celebrate here in the Piazza or Basilica and I see so many raised cellphones, not just of the faithful, even of some priests and even bishops.”

“But think: when you go to Mass, the Lord is there! And you’re distracted. (But) it is the Lord!”

During the general audience, Pope Francis said the Eucharist would be the new focus of his weekly catechesis for the year, because “it is fundamental for us Christians to understand well the value and meaning of the Holy Mass to live more and more fully our relationship with God.”

In the Eucharist we rediscover, through our senses, what is essential, he said. Just as the Apostle Thomas asked to see and touch the wounds of Jesus after his resurrection, we need the same thing: “to see him and touch him to be able to recognise him.”

In this way, the Sacraments meet this very “human need” of ours, he said. And in the Eucharist, in particular, we find a privileged way to meet God and his love.

The Second Vatican Council was inspired by the desire to help Christians understand the beauty of the encounter in the Eucharist even better, he continued. This is why “it was necessary first to implement, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an adequate renewal of the liturgy.”

A central theme emphasised at Vatican II was the liturgical formation of the faithful, which Francis said is also the aim of the series of catechesis he began on Wednesday: to help people “grow in the knowledge of this great gift God has given us in the Eucharist.”

As a side note, Francis asked if people had noticed the chaotic way children make the sign of cross at Mass, moving their hand all over their chest, and asked people to teach children to make the sign of the cross well.

“We need to teach children to do the sign of the cross well,” he said, noting that this is how Mass begins, because just as Mass begins this way, “so life begins, so the day begins.”

Concluding his reflection on the Mass and the Eucharist, Pope Francis said that he hopes that through these brief weekly lessons, everyone will rediscover the beauty “hidden in the Eucharistic celebration, and which, when revealed, gives a full meaning to the life of everyone.” – CNA/EWTN News

New book reveals details of John Paul I’s death

ROME – A new book discloses details about the death of Pope John Paul I – who died in 1978 after just 33 days in office – and conclusive evidence that his death was the result of a heart attack, as previously thought, the CNA/EWTN News posted on its news portal on 6 Nov 2017.

In the book, called “Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death,” Vatican journalist Stefania Falasca presents thoroughly-researched evidence, including previously undisclosed medical reports, witness testimonies and Vatican documents, confirming original reports that the late pontiff died of a heart attack.

Albino Luciani, who was born on 17 Oct 1912 in Italy’s northern Veneto region, was elected Bishop of Rome at the age of 65. He took the name Pope John Paul to honour both of his immediate predecessors, St John XXIII and Bl Paul VI.

His term as pope was short-lived, however, as he died suddenly on 28 Sept 1978, after only 33 days in office. It has been presumed his death was caused by a heart attack, but a lack of published evidence has allowed conspiracy theories to surface, including insinuations of murder.

The book will be released Nov 7, which is said to coincide with the announcement that John Paul I’s cause for sainthood is moving forward. According to Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, on Nov 7 or 8 the Vatican may announce Pope Francis’ approval of the “heroic virtue” of Albino Luciani, declaring him “venerable.”

This then opens the path for his beatification, which requires the approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession. Currently, the Vatican is examining two alleged miracles from the late Pope’s intercession.

In her book, Falasca, who also serves as vice-postulator of Luciani’s cause for sainthood, outlines evidence regarding John Paul I’s death, including how the evening before his death he suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem.

It occurred while sitting and praying vespers in the chapel with his Irish secretary, Msgr John Magee, before dinner. The pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor and the pain went away without treatment. His doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the event after his death.

Contrary to what was first announced by the Vatican, however, it wasn’t the pope’s secretaries who first found him the next morning, but a young sister.

When the elderly Sister Vicenza, who helped care for the pope, noticed that he had not come out of his room to take his morning coffee, she knocked on his door, opening it when he didn’t answer.

She immediately came back out in a state of shock, however, and called for the younger Sister Margherita Marin. In her sworn testimony, Sr Margherita relates that entering the room she “touched his hands, they were cold, and I saw, and was struck by the fact that his nails were a little dark.”

Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is from the same region as John Paul I, contributed a preface to the book. In it he explains that while serving as Patriarch of Venice in 1975, Cardinal Luciani also suffered from a heart problem and was treated with anti-coagulants appearing to resolve it.

Sr Margherita, now 76 years old, said in her testimony that John Paul I did not seem tired or weighed down by his new responsibilities, but that she always saw him “calm, serene, full of trust, confident.”

Though his papacy was very short, requests to begin John Paul I’s beatification process followed shortly after his death and came from many parts of the world. These requests were formalized in 1990, with a document signed by 226 Brazilian bishops.

On 23 Nov 2003, he was declared a Servant of God by his immediate successor, Pope John Paul II.

Pope urges members of secular institutes to act and be God’s Word

File photo: OCDS members pose with Fr Aloysius Deeney ocd (back row, 3rd from L) and Fr Felix Chung (back row, 3rd from R) after making their Definitive Promise or Renewal of Promise, 28 July 2007, Carmelite Chapel KK.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Saturday, 28 Oct 2017,  reminded members of Secular Institutes about their ‎prophetic presence in the world, especially by being and acting the Word of God they hear.  ‎

‎The Holy Father’s exhortation came in a message he sent to the Italian Conference of ‎Secular Institutes(CIIS) that is holding a conference in Rome, Oct. 28-29, on the theme, “Beyond and ‎in the Midst: Secular Institutes: Stories of passion and prophecy for God and the world.”

A secular ‎institute is an organization of consecrated persons who live in the world, unlike members of a religious ‎institute or congregation who are required to live in a community.  ‎

Pope Francis told the conference participants that their laicity consists in knowing what God has to say to the ‎world, where “saying” means acting and not talking.  This, he said is very much needed in our times ‎where difficulties could tempt one to isolate herself or himself into a comfortable and secure situation ‎and withdraw from the world.  But the Pope said, “your place is to “stay in” with the transforming ‎presence of the Gospel.”   He admitted it is a difficult path, but assured them the Lord wants to walk ‎with them.‎

Pope Francis said that their vocation and mission is to be aware not only of their surroundings, without ‎stopping at appearance but going deeper, but also discovering where God manifests Himself.  In other ‎words –  aware of the world but with hearts immersed in God.    ‎

In this regard, Pope Francis suggested five spiritual attitudes.  One needs to pray to be united to God and to listen to Him.  One needs discernment to distinguish between essentials and unimportant things.  Like Jesus, one needs to share the lot of ‎men and women even in tragic and dark times.  One should never to lose confidence and courage, knowing how to find ‎good in everything. And lastly, one should be animated by Christ’s sympathy for the world and the people, to be free and passionate like salt and ‎yeast in the world.‎

In Sabah, there are four secular institutes: Secular Franciscan Order (OFS), Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS), Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation (IMSA), and Institusi Komuniti Betania (ISKB). – vatican radio/kksoccom

Pope Francis speaks with ISS commander and crew

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis spoke via satellite link with the crew of the International Space Station on 26 Oct 2017. Astronaut Randolph Bresnik of the US commands the current, 53rd ISS expedition, which has a complement of five mission specialists: Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli; Russian astronauts Sergey Ryanzansky and Alexander Misurkin; and US astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei.

The video link-up lasted about 20 minutes, with the pope speaking to the astronauts from the “auletta” of the Paul VI Hall, in the presence of the President of the Italian Space Agency (ASA), Roberto Battiston, and the Director of Earth Observation Programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher.

During the course of the virtual visit, Pope Francis asked questions of the astronauts, on topics ranging from the place of humanity in the universe, to the difference in perspective that living on the ISS brings, to the role of “That Love which moves the sun and the other stars,” in their work of understanding, to their reasons for desiring to explore space.

Francis is not the first pontiff to speak to the ISS. Benedict XVI had done so on 21 May 2011. In thanking the crew, the pope said, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts; this is the example you give us. Thank you for representing the whole human family in the great research project of this space station.” – vatican radio/asianews.it

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