How a Change in Vatican Protocol Reflects Outreach to the Divorced-and-Remarried

With an eye toward divorced-and-remarried Catholics, Pope Francis has recently changed protocol for heads of state who are visiting the Pope at the Vatican.

Catholic heads of state who are in an irregular marital situation may now take part in an official visit to the Pope as a couple, accompanied by their irregular spouse.

The Pope made the change in February. By chance, the first to benefit from the new protocol was Argentina’s President Mauricio Macrì. He made an official visit to Pope Francis February 27, accompanied by his third wife, Juliana Awada.

Before the change in protocol, the Catholic head of state in an irregular marital situation could not be accompanied by his or her irregular spouse during the visit.

The new spouse waited in another room and was not included in the official picture. The Pope later greeted the irregular spouse separately.

This protocol was observed only for Catholic heads of state. If a head of state was not a Catholic, there were no exceptions.



God Did Not Create Us to Remain Crushed by Sin, Pope says

Leading his annual penitential service on Friday, Pope Francis told attendees to stand tall and be open to forgiveness, and not to let themselves remain under the heavy burden of sin.

“Let us cast off… all that prevents us from racing towards him, unafraid of leaving behind those things which make us feel safe and to which we are attached,” the Pope said March 4.

4.03.2016 Basilica Vaticana. Durante la Celebrazione della Penitenza Papa Francesco si confessa. Padre Rocco Rizzo, rettore del Collegio dei penitenzieri vaticani, oggi ha confessato il papa Francesco.

The Pope’s homily was part of the annual “24 Hours for the Lord” event, which takes place the fourth Friday and Saturday of Lent inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

A worldwide initiative led by Pope Francis, the event points to confession as a primary way to experience God’s merciful embrace. It was launched in 2014 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

As part of the penitential service, Pope Francis went to confession himself before administering the sacrament to a number of individuals. Following the service in the Vatican, churches throughout Rome remained open for 24 hours to give pilgrims the opportunity to go to confession and take part in Eucharistic Adoration.


The Catholic Church Grew Faster than the Global Population in Past Decade

The number of Catholics has increased at a faster rate than the rest of the population, newly released statistics by the Vatican reveal.

Over the course of nine years, the number of Catholics worldwide has increased by 17.8 percent, compared to the global population, which increased by 17.3 percent.

This and other statistics, released by the Vatican on Saturday, are contained within the 2016 Pontifical Yearbook, and the 2014 Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae.


Pope: New Annulment Process has an “Eminently Pastoral” Goal

Today Pope Francis told participants in a course on the streamlined annulment process that the main goal of the new norms is pastoral, and seeks to reach out to families suffering from a broken marriage.

“These measures have an eminently pastoral goal: to show the Church’s concern for those faithful who are waiting for a quick verification on their marital status,” the Pope said March 12.

He noted that many faithful suffer due to the end of their marriages, and couples are frequently “oppressed by doubt” as to whether or not their marriage was valid or invalid.

It is out of both charity and mercy, as well as lived experience, that the Church decided to create the new, streamlined annulment process, which aims to grow closer to persons with a failed marriage, and to meet “their legitimate desire for justice,” he said.

Francis stressed that the new procedures were created with a pastoral intention, and that for divorced couples living in a second union, the “most important” concern of the Church is that they don’t feel ostracized, but continue to participate in the ecclesial community.


It’s Official: Mother Teresa will be Canonized September 4

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After months of anticipation, the date of Mother Teresa’s canonization has finally been announced.

It falls on September 4, which this year will also mark a special jubilee for workers and volunteers of mercy. Though it’s been rumored for months that Mother Teresa’s canonization will take place September 4, the Vatican made the date official during a March 15 consistory of cardinals.


Pope’s Instagram Launches with Appeal for Prayer

The official Instagram account of Pope Francis launched on Saturday with a simple request for his followers: “Pray for me.”

The inaugural post, which was translated into nine languages, features a photo of the Pope reverently kneeling in prayer.

The post was made after noon under the handle @Franciscus — which is Latin for Francis. Within 30 minutes of going live, the account had more than 10,000 followers.


Pope Francis Mourns Belgium Attacks

Today Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of attacks at an airport and metro in Belgium, condemning the acts as “blind violence” and praying for peace.

The Pope’s prayers come after at least 34 people were killed and 170 more injured in March 22 attacks at Brussels Zaventem International Airport and a city metro station near buildings belonging to the E.U.

The attacks have prompted Belgium to raise its terrorism threat to the highest level, and fall just four days after Salah Abdeslam, primary fugitive in the Paris attacks, was arrested in Brussels.

At the general audience in St Peter’s Square today, all the faithful present joined the pontiff in witnessing closeness to the population, the victims’ relatives and to all those who are hospitalized due to the “cruel abominations that only cause death, dread or horror,” as Francis defined such acts.

Addressing a new “appeal to all people of good will to join in the unanimous condemnation” of the events of the previous day, the Pope asked everyone to “to persevere in prayer and in asking the Lord, in this Holy Week, to comfort suffering hearts and to convert the hearts of these people blinded by cruel fundamentalism.”


Pope Francis: Gestures of Fraternity Defeat Hatred and Greed

Pope Francis celebrated the Missa in Coena Domini on Holy Thursday evening, at the CARA Welcome and Hospitality Centre operated by the Auxilium cooperative. Located a short distance outside Rome’s city limits, in Castelnuovo di Porto, the Centre provides temporary lodging and services to nearly 900 asylum seekers from 25 different countries. In his homily, Pope Francis renewed his condemnation of those who — like Judas Iscariot — sow  discord for gain and trade in arms, selling the tools of bloodshed for profit. The Holy Father also spoke of the communicative power of concrete actions, saying that gestures of fraternity, concord and peace among people of different religion and cultural traditions who truly desire peace and resolve to live as brothers and sisters offer a powerful witness to a world sorely in need of such signs.


Pope: Easter Message Brings Hope to Victims of Terrorism, Persecution

In his Urbi et Orbi (“To the City and to the World”) message for Easter, Pope Francis encouraged victims of terrorism and Christian persecution to find hope in the Lord’s resurrection.

By rising from the dead, Jesus has “triumphed over evil and sin,” the Pope said to the crowds which filled St. Peter’s Square. “On this Easter feast may he draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world.”

The pontiff cited the March 22 attack in Brussels, where suicide bombers killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds of others, and other terrorism-afflicted nations.

“With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His Son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all.”

Speaking on persecuted Christians, Francis encouraged them to find comfort in Christ’s resurrection.

“Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: ‘Take courage; I have conquered the world!’ (John 16:33).”

Francis delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi address from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to an estimated 70,000 people after celebrating Easter Mass in the square.

Actor Jim Caviezel pays his respects at the casket of Mother Angelica before her April 1 funeral Mass at the the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala. Mother Angelica, who founded the Eternal Word Television Network and turned it into one of the world's largest religious media operations, died March 27 at age 92. (CNS photo/Jeffrey Bruno, EWTN) See MOTHER-ANGELICA-FUNERAL April 1, 2016.

Actor Jim Caviezel pays his respects at the casket of Mother Angelica before her April 1 funeral Mass at the the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama (CNS photo/Jeffrey Bruno, EWTN)


Benedict XVI Responds to Mother Angelica’s Death

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI had a special response to Mother Angelica’s death falling on Easter Sunday: “It’s a gift.”

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, told CNA about the Pope emeritus’ comment on March 28.

Mother Angelica, an Ohio-born Poor Clare nun, founded EWTN Global Catholic Network in Alabama in 1981. It has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She passed away March 27, Easter Sunday, at the age of 92.

Her death prompted memorials, eulogies and remembrances from around the world.

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