Author Archives: AY

Pope begins weeklong retreat with Curia officials

Ariccia, Spiritual Exercices 5 Mar 2017 / © PHOTO.VA – OSSERVATORE ROMANO

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis left for his annual retreat at Casa Gesu Divin Maestro (the Divine Master House) in the town of Ariccia near Rome in the afternoon of 18 Feb 2018.

For a week, the Holy Father will remain there praying with members of the Roman Curia.

During his Sunday Angelus address, the Pope asked the faithful to pray for him and those who would be with him participating in the weeklong retreat. At 4 pm, he and the Curia members left on a bus and arrived at the place by 6 pm.

Meditations this year have been entrusted by the Pope to Portuguese priest and Biblical theologian, Father José Tolentino de Mendonça, vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon, who will lead the meditations on the theme: “Praise of Thirst.”

The priest, who is also an award winning poet and consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will give nine reflections in total and they generally will be held twice a day, in the morning and afternoon, except on Friday, the last day.

The activities of the Pope and members of the Curia will include morning and evening prayer, and Eucharistic adoration.

The retreat will conclude on the morning of Friday, Feb 23. Until then, all of the Pope’s activities, including the weekly General Audience, Feb 21, are suspended.

Originally, the Spiritual Exercises took place in the Vatican, but Pope Francis moved them to the retreat house, 16 miles outside of Rome.

The retreat house is run by the Society of St Paul. – zenit.org

Over 1000 catechumens enrolled in the Book of the Elect

A section of the RCIA coordinators posing with the concelebrants after the Rite of Election, 18 Feb 2018, Sacred Heart Cathedral Karamunsing.

KOTA KINABALU – Over 1000 catechumens have their names enrolled in the Book of the Elect at the Rite of Election or Enrollment of Names on 18 Feb 2018, first Sunday of Lent, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral here.

Archbishop John Wong officiated the trilingual Rite of Election.  The 1,013 catechumens, their 865 sponsors/godparents, 151 facilitators and 17 parish pastors, gathered at the cathedral for the rite.  The catechumens publicly expressed their desire for baptism.  Their names were recorded in their respective parish books which were duly presented to the prelate by the coordinators for his signature.  They are now called the Elect.

The days of Lent are the final Period of Purification and Enlightenment leading up to the Easter Vigil. Lent is a period of preparation marked by prayer, study, and spiritual direction for the Elect, and prayers for them by the parish communities. The Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday, Mar 31, and on Easter Sunday, Apr 1, when the Elect receives the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.

The Elect came from the 18 parishes and two sub-parishes in the archdiocese with Ranau having the largest contingent of 140.  Labuan has its own Rite of Election (47 Elect) due to its geographical location.

Pope Francis: Paul VI will be a saint this year

Blessed Paul VI (Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY – “Paul VI will be a saint this year.”

Pope Francis seemed to confirm the imminent canonisation of his predecessor, Paul VI, in a dialogue with Rome’s parish priests earlier this week at the Lateran Basilica.

“There are two Bishops of Rome who are already saints,” he said, referring to the two most recent Popes to be canonised: St John XXIII, and St John Paul II. Over 80 popes are

Over 80 popes are recognised as saints by the Catholic Church. Several others have active “causes” including Pius IX – who, like Paul VI, has already been beatified – and Pius XII, whose “heroic virtues” have been recognised, making him “Venerable.” In his remarks on 15 Feb 2018, Pope Francis mentioned the cause of John Paul I, who is also Venerable, and whose cause is ongoing.

“And [Pope emeritus] Benedict [XVI] and I are on the waiting list,” Pope Francis said, jokingly. “Pray for us!”

In his homily for the closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, during which he had beatified Paul VI, Pope Francis referred to his predecessor as a “great Pope,” and a “tireless Apostle,” courageous in his “humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!”

Paul, he said, “before the advent of a secularised and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Paul VI, he concluded, “truly ‘rendered to God what is God’s’ by devoting his whole life to the ‘sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ,’ loving the Church and leading her so that she might be ‘a loving Mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation’.” – Christopher Wells, Vatican News

Singapore prelate recounts experience and witness of Church in the city-state

VATICAN CITY – In this third installment of the interview, Archbishop William Goh of Singapore recounts the experience and the witness of the Catholic Church in the city-state. He was with the Malaysian and Brunei bishops in their ad limina visit to the Holy See on 4-9 Feb 2018. This interview took place on Feb 9.

A large part of the Singaporean population identifies with a religious faith. Buddhists are about 40% and Christianity is the second largest group. Thanks also to Western influence, the number of Christians in the country (local and permanent residents) are growing and the approximately 383 thousand Catholics make up 11% of the population, while Protestants are 14%. Next in line is Islam at 18% and Taoism at 14%.

According to Abp Goh: However, and this is a concern for us, there is an increasing number of people who claim not to belong to any confession. This is an important group that we must try to approach as a possibility of evangelisation.

The archbishop of Singapore believes social outreach is “the main missionary front for the local Church.”

We have many organisations that assist people in need, such as Caritas Singapore, which leads other 25 associations. In Singapore, the funds and donations collected by our initiatives cannot by law be allocated to foreign projects, unless this is specified before to interested donors. For humanitarian initiatives outside the national borders (Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar), the Archdiocese has established the Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives (Charis). The faithful are very involved and offer great support, witnessing their faith among those most in need.”

Another focus area for the Singapore Church is interreligious dialogue and the promotion of harmony among the various confessions.

We organise many initiatives to share our experiences of faith without proselytising. We bear witness to what Jesus did in our lives, how he changed them and made the difference.

The archdiocese pays particular attention to the education of young people. In this regard, Abp Goh states:

In each of the over 35 Catholic schools we form the heart of the boys, even before their intellect. We do not want leaders who live for themselves, but people who care about their neighbour. The Christian schools, Catholic and Protestant, have worked hard on this and it is a precious legacy that they leave to the ruling class of the country.

If Singapore is a successful nation today, it is also because most of our rulers have attended missionary schools, even though many of them are not Christians. It is also thanks to the teaching of the values of the Gospel that Singapore pays special attention to policies in favour of life and the family, resisting the pressure of the West for the implementation of laws such as those on homosexual unions. Honesty and integrity are virtues that are very close to the Singaporeans.

Every year, the Church of Singapore welcomes about 3,000 new baptised, but conversions are not the sole purpose of the initiatives of the Catholic community.

Our goal is to build a Church that is vibrant, evangelical and missionary. This is also the decree of the archdiocese. My commitment is to make Catholics more aware, not only in Singapore but also abroad. To this end, we created the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS), to prepare students for the new evangelisation among the many cultures and religions of our continent, since the formation of the laity is fundamental to mission. The faith of the Catholic community in Singapore is truly surprising, for example the lunchtime mass we organise for workers. The cathedral is always crowded and the participation is remarkable in all the 33 parishes of the archdiocese, where every day there are about 300-400 faithful. They seek peace, comfort in a everyday life in Singapore, which can be quite stressful.

Having a high level of education, the Singaporean Catholics are quite demanding. So our priests have to give good homilies. The faithful crave the Word of God and feel the need to find a link between faith and their lives, which is why they know how to be critical of pastors whose sermons are lacking. Fortunately, we have good priests, who through the Word are able to touch hearts.

The decline in priestly vocations is a great concern for Abp Goh, who says increased lay participation in pastoral works a way to counteract the negative effects of the phenomenon.

It is more important than ever to involve the laity in the life of the Church, because in the end it is to them that it belongs. Our schools are directed above all by non-consecrated persons, since the average age of the clergy is always higher. In parishes serving about 6 thousand faithful, we consider a 40-year-old priest to be ‘young.’

In every community there is always a lot of work to do and the time we dedicate to young people is always too little. Added to this is the great difference in age between the young people and the pastors, which affects dialogue between them.  The risk is that there is no one to respond to the numerous and increasingly demanding questions of adolescents. To find a solution to the problem and provide for the pastoral care of young people, we have set up the Office for Young People (YOP). This initiative assists the youngsters in the search for Jesus and the answers they need. – Paolo Fossati, AsiaNews

Pope Francis warns against ‘fake fasting’ during Lent

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Casa Santa Marta (Vatican Media).

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis’ words of warning against what he called “fake fasting” came during the homily at the morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on 16 Feb 2018.

When fasting, Pope Francis said, a true Christian must be consistent, not putting himself on show, never despising others or engaging in quarrels or disagreements.

Warning against behavior that is inconsistent with the Lenten spirit, the Pope invited those present to ask themselves how they interact with others.

He reflected on the First Reading of the day that highlights how the fasting that is acceptable to the Lord aims to “release those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke.”

Pope Francis reminded believers that fasting is one of the tasks of Lent, and said that even “if you cannot commit to a total fast, the kind that makes you feels hunger in your bones” you can still fast humbly and consistently.

Isaiah, he said, highlights so many inconsistencies in the practice of virtue, like “carrying out your own pursuits, driving all your laborers, and yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting.”

Fasting, the Pope said, is a little like “stripping oneself” of pride. He said that to thank the Lord and at the same time despise your labourers that are forced to fast because they do not have enough to eat is inconsistent and unchristian.

Inviting those present to perform penance in peace, he said, “you cannot talk to God on the one hand and to the devil on the other.”

He also warned against the temptation of ‘showing off’ by fasting: “by making a fuss of it and letting people know that we are practising Catholics and we do penance, so that people think ‘what a good person.’  “This is a trick,” he said, “It’s pretending to be virtuous.”

“We must pretend,” Francis continued, “but with a smile. That is not showing others that we are performing acts of penance.”

He invited the faithful to fast in order “to help others. But always with a smile.”

Fasting, he said, also involves lowering oneself by reflecting on one’s sins and asking forgiveness from the Lord.

How ashamed would I be, he continued, if my sin was to become common knowledge through the press? And referring again to the Scripture Reading of the day he invited Christians to “release unjust bounds.”

“I think of so many maids who work for their bread and they are humiliated and despised … I have never been able to forget the time I went to a friend’s house as a child and I witnessed the mother slapping the 81-year-old maid…”

Reiterating that he has never forgotten that shameful episode, Pope Francis urged the faithful to ask themselves whether they treat their domestic workers with fairness, whether they treat them “as people or as slaves,” whether they are paid a just salary and have the right to holidays and are recognised in their human dignity.

Pope Francis went on to tell another story stemming from personal experience. He said that once, when speaking to a very cultured gentleman who was known to exploit his domestic workers, he explained to him that this is a serious sin because we are all created in the image of God.

And referring again to the First Reading that tells us “to share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when we see them, not turn our back on our own,” the Pope noted that currently there is much discussion around whether or not to give shelter to those who ask for it.

He exhorted Christians to “do penance,” to “feel a little hunger,” to “pray more during Lent,” and to ask themselves how they behave towards the other.

“Does my fast help others? If it does not it’s fake, it’s inconsistent and it takes you on the path to a double life, pretending to be a just Christian – like the Pharisees or the Sadducees,” he said.

“Let us ask for the grace of consistency,” he said,  “if I am unable to do something, I will not do it. I will do only what I can with the consistency of a true Christian.” – Linda Bordoni, Vatican News

Parishioners turn up for combined opening Way of the Cross despite being first day of the Chinese New Year

Abp Wong animates the parishioners at the combined way of the cross outside Sacred Heart Cathedral, 16 Feb 2018.

KOTA KINABALU – Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) and Church of Mary Immaculate (CMI) parishioners of the three language groups turned up for the combined opening of the weekly Way of the Cross at its outdoor Centenary Way of the Cross Monuments here on 16 Feb 2018 despite being the first day of the Chinese New Year.

The Way of the Cross is a traditional devotional practice during Lent worldwide.

Archbishop John Wong animated those present before the 14 stations were read out alternately in English, Bahasa Malaysia, and Mandarin.

After the opening event, SHC will hold it every Friday in the cathedral during Lent at 6 pm (English), 7 pm (BM) and 8 pm (Mandarin).  CMI will have it at 7:30 pm in English and Mandarin.

There will be a combined closing Way of the Cross at the monuments on Good Friday Mar 30 at 7 am with Passion Play.

Young people participate in synodal process

2015 synod of bishops

VATICAN CITY – Three hundred young people from around the world have been chosen to come to Rome in preparation for the 15th Synod of Bishops to take place in October 2018.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops explained at a press conference on 16 Feb 2018 that for the first time in the history of the Synod of Bishops, a pre-synodal meeting is planned for the 19-24 of March.

The young people attending this meeting were chosen by Conferences of Bishops, religious congregations, and other Vatican dicasteries. They represent young people from various ethnic, and religious backgrounds, walks of life, and lived experience—including some who have experienced human trafficking.

This meeting is being held to assure that the voice of the very audience the Synod is addressing will be heard first-hand. The input from this meeting will be presented to Pope Francis on 25 March. It will also be included in the Instrumentum laboris which will be used by the Synod Fathers as they focus this theme.

Social media is the primary way that the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops wishes to hear from young people. Over 221,000 responses to the online questionnaire have already been received. It is now possible to participate in Facebook Groups in various languages by signing up using the link found on the Synod’s website.

Also present at Friday’s press conference were two young people participating in a group organised by the Secretariat preparing for the Synod.

Filippo Passantino underlined the use of social media in order to involve young people in the Synod. Referring to the Synod’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, he said that “with our advice and our intuition we offered a younger perspective in order to speak to other young people. The objective of the online presence is to create interactions with our peers throughout the world and to facilitate their participation.”

And Stella Marillene Nishimwe, speaking in French, said, “I would (…) like to invite all the young people of the world to participate in this precious moment that the Church offers us to make our voice reach as far as possible.” –Bernadette Mary Reis fsp, Vatican News

Reflection for First Sunday of Lent B

praying-over-bible-300x225

First Reading
Genesis 9:8-15
God establishes a covenant with Noah, giving a rainbow as its sign.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9
A prayer praising God for his covenant

Second Reading
1 Peter 3:18-22
In our baptism, we are saved through Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:12-15
Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan.

Background on the Gospel Reading

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading in each Lectionary cycle is about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This event in the life of Jesus is reported in each of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—but it is not found in John’s Gospel. This year we read Mark’s account of this event.

Compared to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the details throughout Mark’s narrative are sparse. This is evident in Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Mark tells us only that Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit and that for 40 days he was tempted by Satan. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke explain that Jesus fasted while in the desert, that Satan presented him with three temptations, and that Jesus refused each one, quoting Scripture. Only the Gospels of Matthew and Mark report that angels ministered to Jesus at the end of his time in the desert.

In each of the Synoptic Gospels, the temptation of Jesus follows his baptism by John the Baptist. In Mark’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus went into the desert immediately after his baptism, led by the Spirit. Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee begins after his temptation in the desert. Mark’s Gospel makes a connection between the arrest of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ preaching about the Kingdom of God is in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist, but it is also something new. As Jesus announces it, the Kingdom of God is beginning; the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises is here.

The fact that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert is significant. This recalls the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after being led from slavery in Egypt. The prophet Elijah also journeyed in the desert for 40days and nights, making his way to Horeb, the mountain of God, where he was also attended to by an angel of the Lord. Remembering the significance of these events, we also set aside 40 days for the season of Lent.

In Mark’s Gospel, the desert marks beginning of Jesus’ battle with Satan; the ultimate test will be in Jesus’ final hours on the cross. In a similar way, our Lenten observances are only a beginning, a preparation for and a reinforcement of our ongoing struggle to resist the temptations we face in our lives. During Lent, we are led by the Holy Spirit to remember the vows of Baptism in which we promised to reject sin and to follow Jesus. Just as Jesus was ministered to by the angels, God also supports us in our struggle against sin and temptation. We succeed because Jesus conquered sin once and for all in his saving death on the cross. –loyolapress.com

Singapore prelate calls on Europe ‘to let itself be inspired by religion’

VATICAN CITY – AsiaNews published the second installment of a three-part interview with Archbishop William Goh of Singapore on 15 Feb 2018.  In this installment, the archbishop analyses the differences in religious experience in the West and East.  He was with the Malaysian and Brunei bishops at their ad limina visit to the Holy See on 4-9 Feb 2018 and gave the interview to Asia News Feb 9.

After having illustrated the climate of harmony and the relationship of collaboration between the city-state institutions and religious confessions, Archbishop Goh analyses the misunderstandings that mark relations between religion and Western societies.

Instead of rejecting it, the European countries should be inspired by religion in the government of people, in making their lives better, in giving them meaning and fulfillment. I think that Singapore can be an example in this sense.

However, unlike Europe, our government is secular but not secularist or anti-religious. The European weakness is represented by the fact that many governments are adverse to faith. How can a secular government help people to realise themselves, if it does not contemplate God and neglects religious sentiment? In the West, a very important dimension of people’s lives is being lost. In an attempt to be more and more secularised, faith is relegated to something private, marginal. In this way, men will never find happiness in the things they possess.

Although Singapore is a very prosperous country, where competitiveness and economic development are primary objectives, society holds “a strong religious feeling.”

The archbishop explains why:

When you have everything you need, the question that arises is: ‘What is the meaning of life?’. Religion provides the solution to this question, which cannot be answered without God. Even the younger generations of Singapore, who have been raised in a state of well-being, ask themselves these questions: ‘What do you live for? Do you want to make a difference in people’s lives? You cannot find meaning in your life if you do not live for others.

I am used to meeting numerous entrepreneurs, successful people, who in the course of their lives all become philanthropists. They are people who possess more than necessary, money that they would not be able to spend in their whole lifetime. And so they begin to try to benefit others, offering their service for the good of the country and giving part of their wealth to non-governmental organisations, the Church and charitable institutions. People in Singapore are very generous and donate without prejudice. The parishes are full and the Church is alive. This is why, when we come to Europe, we are sad to see empty churches. We are very busy and in all we celebrate eight liturgies every weekend.

Msgr Goh identifies in the “domain of rationalism and the industrial revolution” the causes of the crisis of values sweeping through European countries.

Europe has thus become rationalist, materialistic and individualistic – he says – religion cannot be explained, it is something that comes from the heart, it is an encounter. Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith is greater than reason.”

There are also many differences between East and West in how religion is experienced.

Asians are generally sentimental people, very spiritual. Europe has instead lost its spiritual dimension and a large part of religion is in the minds of people. Reasoning prevails over personal experience, over the encounter. The Gospel is a miracle, it goes beyond human words.”

According to Msgr Goh, one of the reasons why Christianity, especially Catholicism, has taken root in Asia is “respect for what is sacred”, typical of local cultures.

This is the reason why religions in Asia are flourishing, what drives us to rediscover our encounter with Christ. However,  given that Singapore subject to strong Western influence, my fear is that our citizens tend to be too ‘cerebral.’

Consequently, in his pastoral work, Msgr Goh seeks to renew the faith of Catholics through spiritual retreats and experiences of conversion.

As a bishop, it is my duty to guide this kind of initiative every year, to help people meet Jesus directly. This, moreover, is the foundation of our faith. Without this meeting, one can study all the theology that one wants, but no change will take place in people’s heart. Theology is faith that seeks knowledge, it is not an explanation of faith. This is where Europe’s failure resides, which also contributes to the scandals and bad examples that have invested religious leaders. As Pope Francis affirms, the renewal of the Church passes through the renewal of her pastors. The faithful want this change, in Singapore they are ‘hungry’ for the Word of God. We need a conversion of hearts that starts from the top and reaches the base. – Paolo Fossati, AsiaNews

Francis modifies norms for the resignation of bishops

Pope Francis greets a bishop. Credit: Daniel Ibanez, CNA

VATICAN CITY – On Thursday Pope Francis tweaked the Church’s policies on bishops and curial officials reaching the age of retirement, indicating that they should accept what God wants, whether accepting retirement or accepting continued service.

The changes were made through a motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, meaning “Learning to take your leave,” published on 15 Feb 2018.

Previous norms stated that the appointment of most bishops serving as curial officials and papal diplomats lapsed after the officials had reached the Vatican’s usual age of retirement of 75. Now, like diocesan bishops, they are requested to resign at 75, and will continue in their positions unless the Pope accepts their resignation. He may also request them to stay on, at his discretion.

In the motu proprio, signed Feb 12, Pope Francis cited the generous commitment and experience of many bishops in dioceses or working in the Curia, as a reason for the update in norms.

He noted that the period of transition, whether a resignation is accepted or not, can require an interior attitude of acceptance, and that even the conclusion of an ecclesial office itself is a service and requires “a new form of availability.”

“This interior attitude is necessary both when, for reasons of age, one must prepare oneself to leave office, and when asked to continue that service for a longer period, even though the age of seventy-five has been reached,” he said.

The Pope also provided some examples of reasons he might choose to extend a curial bishop’s service in an ecclesial office past the age of 75.

The reasons could include, he said, the importance of continuity and the adequate completion of important projects, the difficulties associated with changing leadership of a dicastery already in a period of transition, and the contribution of the person in the application of new directives or new magisterial guidelines from the Holy See.

Francis explained that the transition from active service to retirement requires adequate internal preparation, which includes stripping oneself of the desire for power and or the need to be indispensable to others.

Such preparation will help to make the transition full of peace and confidence, rather than pain and conflict, he said.

 As much as possible, this new “project of life,” should include austerity, humility, intercessory prayer, and time dedicated to reading and providing simple pastoral services, he said, noting that prayer is also a powerful tool for discerning how to live out this time.

On the other hand, if a bishop’s resignation is not accepted, and he is asked to continue his service for a longer period, this requires that he abandon his personal desires and projects “with generosity,” the Pope said.

He also emphasised that such a request of the Pope should not be considered a “privilege, or a personal triumph,” a favour between friends, or even an act of gratitude for the service he has provided.

“Any possible extension can be understood only for certain reasons always linked to the ecclesial common good,” he said, and is not an “automatic act, but an act of government.”

The Pope said that the virtue of prudence is applied, along with adequate discernment, in order to make the appropriate decision in these cases.- CNA/EWTN News

Copyright © 2018. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.