Pope Nominates Head of Economic Affairs as Prefect of Education Congregation
Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, who until now has been the president of the Holy See’s Prefecture for Economic Affairs, will be the new head of the Congregation responsible for the Vatican dicastery dedicated to Catholic education, the Vatican announced March 31.
The Congregation for Catholic Education, for which Cardinal Versaldi will now be prefect, is responsible for houses of formation of religious and secular institutes; universities, faculties, institutes and higher schools of study, either ecclesial or civil, dependent on ecclesial persons; and schools and educational institutes depending on ecclesiastical authorities.
Holy Father Calls Pope Emeritus for His Name Day
On March 19, Pope Francis called his predecessor to congratulate him on the feast of St. Joseph, his name day. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI congratulated the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the second anniversary of the Inauguration Mass of his Petrine ministry in 2013.
Pope Francis chose to inaugurate his pontificate on the feast of St. Joseph.
Benedict XVI lives a quiet life at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, located within Vatican City, where he lives a life of prayer.
“I am simply a pilgrim who begins the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth,” he said on the final day of his pontificate from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo.
“I Was in the Sistine Chapel; I saw a door open. The Pope came out … My goodness!”
Kristoph, a homeless “resident” in the portico of Via della Conciliazione — where the Holy See Press Office is located — looks like a child. Yellow cap, blond hair, blue eyes and rubicund face, which immediately reveal his Polish origin. And although Kristoph is 51, he has spent 20 of those years on the street, working “until they caught me.”
Separated, with a 23-year-old son, this gentle, middle-aged man has been occupying his little post very close to St. Peter’s for about seven months. He and his friends were in a group of 150 homeless who visited the Vatican Museums March 26, invited by the Apostolic Almonry and who, unexpectedly, shook Pope Francis’ hand.
Kristoph’s eyes flash with joy on recalling that instant: “We were in the museums so long… They are very, very, very beautiful! At the end we went to the Sistine Chapel and we were told to sit down. We thought there would be a Mass, a prayer, something like that… Instead, from behind the door, Don Corrado came out (almoner Konrad Krajewski) and close to him, the Pope. My goodness!”
“We applauded very loudly. He greeted us; we thanked him. Then, we recited the Our Father together. The Pope even allowed photographs to be taken with us. So many photographs were taken and Don Corrado promised that he would bring them. Then, the Pope greeted each one of us. He shook the hands of all 150, do you realize? My goodness…”
Kristoph was also able to shake the Holy Father’s hand. “I said to him: Thank you, Pope. I wish you so many good things, especially health and strength. He smiled and said ‘Thank you, thank you…’”
“I also had tears,” he said. “My friends here also wept, even if now they appear to be hardened… I wept because I know I’m fortunate: not everyone has the possibility to meet the Pope so close, to kiss his hand, to embrace him…” “
He is doing so much for us: the showers, barbers, umbrellas, museums … I also heard that he wants to prepare a small clinic for those who need medical care. We are truly happy about everything.”
All these “are really important things for us; they are useful. The Pope understands this. He loves us.”
And the gang does not fail to return this affection, perhaps not materially, but with prayer, which, if humble and sincere, is worth more than a thousand gestures of charity.
“Every morning we say to ourselves, ‘Let’s pray for Pope Francis.’ At 9:00 am, sisters come to us, sometimes a priest, and they make us pray together. And we always pray for the Pope, for his health, because we want him to live many years. In any case, we also pray for all priests and for people… for good people, those who do us good. There are so many…”
Panama Cardinal: “I learned about my appointment by a Whatsapp message”
At the end of the January 4th Angelus prayer, Pope Francis read a list of new cardinals. At that moment, Bishop José Luis Lacunza became a future cardinal.
That’s when most of the world learned about his appointment. But the first cardinal from Panama found out in a less traditional way.
Bishop José Luis Lacunza: “My oldest sister sent me a Whatsapp message from Spain. I received it at 6:30 when I was at breakfast. She sent me three messages. ‘Hey, do you have something to tell us?’; the second message read, ‘The Pope has made new appointments’; the third message read, ‘How would it affect you? Call me when you can.’ I thought, ‘My sister has gone crazy. What has gotten into her?’”
Bishop Lacunza collaborated with then-Cardinal Bergoglio at the Latin American Episcopal Conference. They worked together to draft the Aparecida document, which is a pastoral guide for the Church in Latin America. He said the document is key to understanding Pope Francis.
Bishop José Luis Lacunza: “I think the Pope wants to strengthen the life of the Church in Latin America. He also wants to feel surrounded and accompanied by those who understand the type of Church he wants. That Church is the one designed by the Latin American Episcopal Conference, especially in Aparecida.”
With the newest cardinals, Latin America now has 21 cardinal electors who are eligible to vote in an eventual conclave.
Helena Lobato, one of the adults Baptized by Pope Francis
Helena Lobato is a 44-year-old artist from Portugal. For years, she dedicated most of her time to painting and art work. Religion was never really part of her life, but one day, the artist found herself asking deeper questions about life and Christianity.
Helena Lobato: “I never considered myself a person of faith, much less one who knew what religious life was about.”
Fast forward about a year or so: Helena was baptized by Pope Francis. She’s one of many adults who received the sacrament during this year’s Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.
It all started with a letter. Even though she wasn’t Catholic, she felt compelled to send a hand-written letter to Pope Francis in Portuguese. She shared her thoughts, fears and even doubts. Above all else, she asked for a source of light and purpose. To her great surprise she received a response. “In the letter, the Pope said he was praying for me so that I could receive that light I yearned for,” she said. “But he said true light comes from Jesus and through the Sacrament of Baptism.”
Helena had been attending adult catechism courses to learn more about the Catholic faith. But it took her two months to accept the papal invitation. She wanted to say “yes” for all the right reasons.
Now looking back, it’s something that moves her to tears. It’s part of a process that’s still not finished, but she says she’s looking forward to each and every step of the journey.
Willy, the homeless man buried in the heart of the Vatican
Willy was a homeless man of Flemish origin. His exact age was unknown, but he was believed to have been around 80 years of age.
He died on December 12 last year and was buried in the Teutonic Cemetery, within Vatican City State, on January 9.
Willy was a familiar face to many in the area of the Vatican. He attended daily Mass in Sant’Anna parish in the Vatican and spent his days and nights on the streets around St. Peter’s Square, Borgo Pio and Via di Porta Angelica.
The pastor of Sant’Anna in the Vatican, Father Bruno Silvestrini, dedicated the Nativity Scene at Christmas to Willy, adding a homeless man among the shepherds. “For over 25 years he attended the 7:00 Mass,” Fr. Silvestrini told Vatican Radio.”He was very, very open and had made many friends. He spoke a lot with young people, he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke of the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist.”
Willy died in Holy Spirit Hospital, where he had been brought by ambulance on a cold December evening after he collapsed. The costs of his funeral were covered by a German-speaking family, the funeral was held in the chapel of the Teutonic Cemetery, and Willy was buried in the old Germanic cemetery in Vatican City State.