Category Archives: Vatican News

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

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

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

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

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

Faithful have “spiritual right” to receive the treasure of God’s Word

Pope Francis at the General Audience, 14 Feb 2018. (Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Mass in his reflections at the General Audience on 14 February 2018.

“If the soul is always joyful, it is a good day.” The weather was “a little ugly,” as Pope Francis said Wednesday, but the Holy Father found a way to brighten everyone’s spirit at the weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square.

The Pope began his audience with a small group of sick people gathered in the Paul VI Hall. He then ventured out into the wind and rain, where he delivered his catechesis to a small crowd of pilgrims who braved the inclement Roman winter weather.

The teaching at Wednesday’s General Audience was focused once again on the Mass, as Pope Francis reflected on the end of the Liturgy of the Word. Hearing the Word of God, with the explanation in the homily that follows, is a right, “the spiritual right of the people of God to receive the treasure of the Word of God in abundance.” Everyone who goes to Mass, the Pope said, “has the right to receive abundantly the Word of God, read well, proclaimed well, and then explained well in the homily. It’s a right!”

After the homily, the Pope spoke about the moment of silence, which gives people time to reflect on what they have heard.

Pope Francis then spoke about the communal recitation of the Creed at the Mass, which “manifests the common response to what was heard by the community in the Word of God. He emphasised the “vital connection” between hearing and faith, recalling the words of Saint Paul, that “faith comes from hearing.” Faith then leads to the Sacrament, so that the Creed becomes a link between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

After the Creed, the Mass continues with the Prayer of the Faithful, or the Universal Prayer – so called, the Pope said, because it embraces all of the needs of the Church and of the world. The Prayer of the Faithful, he said, echoing the General Instruction of the Missal, is an exercise of their baptismal priesthood by the People of God.

Reflecting on the words of Jesus – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” – Pope Francis said we don’t believe this, “because we have little faith.” He encouraged us to have great faith when we pray together during the Mass.

“The intention for which the faithful are invited to pray should give voice to the concrete needs of the ecclesial community and of the world, avoiding having recourse to conventional and short-sighted formulas,” he said. “The Universal Prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word, exhorts us to make our own the loving gaze of God, who cares for all His children.” – Christopher Wells, Vatican News

Pope Francis registers for World Youth Day 2019 in Panama

VATICAN CITY – After delivering his weekly Sunday catechesis and praying the Angelus with the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square on 11 Feb 2018, Pope Francis declared “Registration opens today for World Youth Day, which will take place in Panama in January 2019. Right now, along with two young people, I too will register on the internet.”

Then with the help of two people on either side, Pope Francis registered himself. “There.” He said, “I am now enrolled as a pilgrim to World Youth Day. I invite all young people around the world to live this event of grace and fraternity with faith and enthusiasm, either by going to Panama or by participating in their communities,” the Pope said.

World Youth Day will take place in Panama from 22-27 January 2019. Pilgrims can now register online here, just like the Pope did!

Pope Francis then sent cordial greetings to the “millions of men and women who will celebrate the Lunar New Year” on 15 February. He hopes that they “will live ever more in solidarity, fraternity, desiring to do good, to help create a society in which every person is welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated.” And he invited them to pray for peace.

The Pope then greeted families, parishes, and groups from Italy, Spain, and Portugal. He greeted in a particular way the Congolese community from Rome present in the Square. “I join in its prayer for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he said, and reminded everyone that “this intention will be particularly present on the Day of Prayer and Fasting that I have called for February 23.”

After greeting newly confirmed young people from Italy, the Pope concluded addressing the sick. Invoking Our Lady Help of the Sick he prayed that they might “find comfort in body and spirit, thanks to adequate health care and the fraternal charity that knows how to give concrete and supportive attention to those in need.” – Bernadette Mary Reis fsp, Vatican News

Pope Francis: sinners can become saints, but the corrupt cannot

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday, 8 Feb 2018. (Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY – In his homily at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on 8 Feb 2018, Pope Francis spoke of the risk to which all people are exposed, weakness of the heart.

David is a saint, even if he was a sinner; the great and wise Solomon, on the other hand, was rejected by the Lord because he was corrupt. Pope Francis focused on this apparent paradox in his homily at the daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The first Reading in the day’s liturgy, taken from the First Book of Kings, speaks about Solomon and his disobedience. We have heard about something a bit strange, the Pope said. The heart of Solomon was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of David, his father, had been.

He explained that it was strange because we do not know that Solomon had committed great sins, he was always very balanced; while we know that David had had a difficult life, that he was a sinner. And yet David is a saint, while it is said of Solomon, who had been praised by the Lord for seeking wisdom rather than riches, that his heart was “turned away from the Lord.”

How can we explain this? the Pope asked. It is because David, knowing that he had sinned, always asked for forgiveness, while Solomon, who was praised throughout the world, distanced himself from the Lord to follow other gods, but did not recognise his fault.

And here is the problem of “weakness of the heart.” When the heart begins to weaken, it is not like a situation of sin: you commit a sin, and you realise it immediately. “I have committed this sin”; it’s clear. Weakness of the heart is a slow journey, that slides along step by step, step by step, step by step… And Solomon, adorned in his glory, in his fame, began to take this road.

Paradoxically, “the clarity of a sin is better than weakness of the heart,” the Pope said. “The great king Solomon wound up corrupted: tranquilly corrupt, because his heart was weakened”:

And a man and a woman with weak hearts, or weakened hearts, is a defeated woman, a defeated man. This is the process of many Christians, of many of us. ‘No, I haven’t committed grave sins.’ But how is your heart? Is it strong? Does it stay faithful to the Lord, or is it slowly sliding away?

The drama of the weakness of the heart can happen to all of us in life. What do we do then? The answer, Pope Francis said, is vigilance: “Be watchful. Guard your heart. Be watchful. Every day, be careful about what is happening in your heart. He concluded:

David was a saint. He was a sinner. A sinner, and he became a saint. Solomon was rejected because he was corrupt. Someone who is corrupt cannot become a saint. And one becomes corrupt by following the path of weakness of the heart. Vigilance! Guard your heart at all times. How is my heart doing? How is my relationship with the Lord? And enjoy the beauty and the joy of fidelity. – Vatican News

Pope at audience: ‘brief, well-prepared homily at Mass’

General Audience, 7 Feb 2018.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Mass at his Wednesday General Audience on 7 Feb 2018, reflecting on the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word in the Gospel and the homily.

He said the Gospel sheds the light of the mystery of Christ on the scriptural readings that precede it.  “Within all of Scripture, as within the whole liturgical celebration, Christ is the centre and fullness,” he said.

The Pope said the rites surrounding the Gospel proclamation aim at venerating it as the living and saving word of God. “Through these signs the assembly recognises the presence of Christ, who sends the ‘Good News,’ which converts and transforms.”

He said, “We listen to the Gospel, and we must respond with our lives.”

Pope Francis then turned to the homily, which he said continues the dialogue between the Lord and his people already opened up by the Gospel.

“The Word of the Lord enters through the ears, arrives at the heart, and goes to the hands [to perform] good works. The homily,” he said, “also follows the Word of the Lord along this journey”.

The Holy Father said the homily requires both the preacher and the congregation to be open to God’s Word.

The homilist, he said, must “pay due attention, taking on the correct interior dispositions – without subjective pretexts – and knowing that every preacher has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the congregation has reason to be bored by a homily that is too long, irrelevant, or incomprehensible; at other times, it is prejudice that becomes an obstacle.”

Speaking off-the-cuff, Pope Francis spoke to priests, deacons, and bishops who preach at Mass. He said the homily must be well-prepared and brief.

The way to prepare a good homily, said Pope Francis, is with “prayer, study of the Word of God, and a clear, brief synthesis, which must not go over 10 minutes”. – Devin Watkins, Vatican News

Benedict, pope emeritus: I am on a pilgrimage towards home

VATICAN CITY – Pope emeritus Benedict has sent a short letter to the editor of the Italian news daily Il Corriere della Sera recently.

The pope emeritus was responding to the many inquiries from readers as to how he is spending “this last period of his life.” Noting the “slow decline” of his “physical strength,” Benedict says in the letter that “interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.” The former Roman Pontiff admits that “this last stretch of the road” is “at times difficult,” but says, “It is a great grace for me to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could not have imagined.”

Concluding his letter, Benedict said he considers the concern of the readers for his well-being as an “accompaniment” for the journey. In closing, he expresses his gratitude, and assures everyone of his prayers.

The paper says it had contacted Benedict XVI through a “reserved channel” to ask him how he was doing.

The letter, marked “urgent by hand”, arrived at their Rome headquarters on Tuesday morning, 6 Feb 2018,  from “Monastero Mater Ecclesiae, V-120, Città del Vatican,” the retired pope’s residence.

This Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s shock announcement that he intended to resign the papacy. His resignation took effect on 28 Feb 2013.

In 2013, Benedict XVI became the first pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign the papacy. In the announcement of his resignation, Benedict said he would continue to serve the Church “through a life dedicated to prayer.” Since May 2013, the pope emeritus has resided in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery within the borders of Vatican City State. – Vatican News, Catholic Herald

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