Pope Prays for Quake Victims, Sends Donation, Urges Solidarity
Pope Francis offered his prayers to all of those affected by a deadly earthquake in Nepal, encouraged rescue and emergency workers in their efforts and sent an initial donation of $100,000.
More than 4,300 people were known to have been killed and an estimated 1 million people were left homeless after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit a mountainous region near Kathmandu April 25. The devastation included not just buildings collapsing from the tremors, but also people and villages being buried by landslides and avalanches triggered by the quake and aftershocks.
“I pray for the victims, those wounded and for all those who suffer because of this calamity,” Pope Francis said after reciting the Regina Coeli prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates charitable giving, announced that Pope Francis had sent “a first contribution of $100,000” to assist the victims.
High-level Tweeting: Study Confirms Pope’s Twitter Influence
When Pope Francis tweets, the world listens. According to “Twiplomacy,” a study of the Twitter accounts of world leaders and their retweet rates, U.S. President Barack Obama has the most Twitter followers, but Pope Francis’ @Pontifex is the most influential Twitter account — his average “retweet” and “favorite” rate is more than eight times higher than Obama’s.
Despite his account’s “massive following,” the study said, “@BarackObama tweets are on average ‘only’ retweeted 1,210 times. By this standard, Pope Francis — @Pontifex — is by far the most influential ‘tweep’ with 9,929 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish account and 7,527 retweets on average on his English account.”
Pope Francis also was determined “most influential” by the study in 2014 and 2013.
And in the category of all-time popular tweets, Pope Francis makes the top three.
U.N. Head Looks to Religions for “Moral Leadership” on Climate Change
Promoting sustainable development and mitigating climate change will take more than just global policies and agreements; it will also take a strong, unified stance from the world’s religions, the secretary-general of the United Nations said at the Vatican.
To have development without destruction and “to transform our economies, however, we must first transform our thinking and our values. In this, the world’s religions can provide valuable leadership,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told religious leaders, scientists and scholars. “If ever there were an issue that requires unity of purpose” among governments, private businesses, civil society and faith-based groups, “it is climate change,” he said, giving the opening address at a Vatican-sponsored workshop April 28.
Pope Says Inequality, Fear of Marriage Must Be Addressed
Two millennia after the “Gospel of the family” defeated an abusive social practice that humiliated women, the “radical equality” of spouses in Christian marriage must now bear “new fruit” in society, including “the right to equal pay for equal work,” said Pope Francis.
The Pope began by saying Jesus demonstrated his great fondness and solicitude for marriage and family when he changed water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
The love between man and woman in marriage is “God’s masterpiece,” the Pope said, straying from his prepared remarks. Though Jesus’ message to married couples is always the same, “many things have changed” since then, he said.
Today there are fewer marriages, more marriage breakups, and fewer children, the Pope noted. Family and marital bonds are broken with “always greater frequency and speed,” and children are always “the biggest victims,” he said.
The Pope said that if a person, since childhood, experiences marriage as a temporary bond, then “unconsciously” he or she will tend to live that way, too.
When It Comes to Scheduling, Pope Says He’s Definitely Not Infallible
Holding a European-wide gathering in Rome, Cursillos in Christianity Movement members were scheduled to meet Pope Francis May 1, but instead he had them join him at the Vatican the evening of April 30.
“You had to move many things around, creating difficulties, arranging transportation,” the Pope said. “Truly, I’m sorry.”
Interrupted frequently with applause, the Pope continued his apology, saying, “You know the Pope is infallible when he makes dogmatic definitions — something that rarely happens. But even the Pope has defects and infallibility has nothing to do with his personal defects.”
Pope Francis listed his defects as being “a bit disorganized and also undisciplined.”
Pope Tells Swiss Guard Soldiers to Arm Themselves With Gospel, Rosary
Wearing armor and carrying medieval-era weaponry — halberds and swords — is not enough. Pope Francis told Swiss Guards in a private audience that they should always be armed with a pocket edition of the Gospel and a rosary. “The thing I say to everyone, I’ll also say to you,” he said. “Always have on hand a small Gospel to read as soon as you have a quiet moment.”
He also told them to pray the rosary, especially when they are serving as honor guards and must stand immobile and at attention for hours.
Pope Suggests Divine Comedy as Important Reading for Year of Mercy
As the Italian government formally celebrated the 750th anniversary of Dante Aligheri’s birth May 4, Pope Francis sent a message saying that while the centuries have passed, Dante “still has much to say and to offer through his immortal works to those who wish to follow the route of true knowledge and authentic discovery of the self, the world and the profound and transcendent meaning of existence.”
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, read the Pope’s message at the celebration in the Italian Senate where Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni read from the final portion, Paradise, of Dante’s epic poem of an allegorical journey through Hell, purgatory and heaven.
“We are able to enrich ourselves with his experience in order to cross the many dark forests still scattered on our earth,” the Pope said, “and to happily complete our pilgrim story, to reach the destination dreamed of and wished for by everyone: ‘The love that moves the sun and other stars.’”
Vatican Unveils Logo, Prayer, Details of Holy Year of Mercy
The Holy Year of Mercy will be an opportunity to encourage Christians to meet people’s “real needs” with concrete assistance, to experience a “true pilgrimage” on foot, and to send “missionaries of mercy” throughout the world to forgive even the most serious of sins, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella.
The year-long extraordinary jubilee also will include several individual jubilee days, such as for the Roman Curia, catechists, teenagers and prisoners, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the office organizing events for the Holy Year of Mercy.
During a news conference at the Vatican May 5, Archbishop Fisichella unveiled the official prayer, logo, calendar of events and other details of the special Holy Year, which will be celebrated from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016.
The motto, “Merciful Like the Father,” he said, “serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father who asks us not to judge or condemn but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure.”
Pope: Marriage is Not a Showy Ceremony, But a Brave Promise to Love Like Jesus
Marriage is an act of faith between a man and woman who are both fragile and limited, but courageous enough to follow Christ and seek to love each other as he loves them, the Pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“Men and women, courageous enough to carry this treasure in the ‘earthen vessels’ of our humanity, are an essential resource for the Church and for the whole world,” he said. “May God bless them a thousand times for this!”
A Christian marriage “is not simply a ceremony that you have in church with flowers, the dress, photos. Christian marriage is a sacrament that takes place in the church and is also something the Church does, ushering in a new domestic community,” he said.
Pope: Love of Sports Doesn’t Mean “Timeout” From Church, Friends, Poor
In the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall, the Pope met with athletes, coaches, sports fans and team owners that belong to the Lazio Sports Society, which was established in 1900 by young people who wanted an organization that was open to everyone and upheld sports’ ethical and moral values.
Back then, organized sports were geared toward those who had natural athletic talent, the Pope said, but the group’s founders wanted people of all abilities and backgrounds to be able to take part.
“I encourage you to continue to be welcoming, to value diverse talents” and offer a way for people to experience friendship and harmony ‘without discrimination.’”
Papal Push: Caritas Leader Sees “Francis Effect” at Work on The Ground
Catholic charities around the world have no doubt about the reality of a “Francis effect” on their work.
Because of the ongoing global economic crisis, most of the 164 national Catholic charities that form the Caritas Internationalis confederation report no significant increase in donations. However, the secretary-general of the Vatican-based network says Pope Francis has had a huge impact on their programs and priorities, on the number of volunteers and, especially, on their sharing.
Michel Roy, the secretary-general, said even the smallest and materially poorest national Caritas organizations are donating what they can, for example, to help people impacted by the earthquake in Nepal April 25.
Vatican Releases Details of Pope’s July 5-12 Trip to South America
The Pope will begin his July 5-12 three-nation South America tour in Ecuador before moving on to Bolivia and Paraguay, the Vatican announced.
Although local Jesuit communities have enjoyed Pope Francis’ special attention on several of the seven foreign trips he already has made as Pope, the South American trip is the first time the Vatican has specifically listed the encounter on the official schedule. He will have lunch July 6 with the Jesuit community at Colegio Javier in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The next evening, he will pay a “private visit” to Quito’s Church of the Society of Jesus, known as La Compania, a jewel of Spanish Baroque architecture. The first Jesuits reached Ecuador in 1574, just 34 years after the society was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Work on the church in Quito began in 1605.
Due to the high elevation, Pope Francis will spend less than four hours in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. The same evening he arrives in Bolivia, July 8, he will fly on to Santa Cruz after the welcoming ceremony, a visit with the president and a meeting with civil authorities.
But the heart of the visit is expected to be his public Masses and the time he spends with people often on the margins of society. On July 8, he will visit a home for the aged run by the Missionaries of Charity in Quito; in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, he will address participants in the second World Meeting of Popular Movements, a group of grass-roots activists; and in Asuncion, Paraguay, he will visit both a pediatric hospital and the residents of one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, Banado Norte.
Fatima “Lifts Veil” on Evil, Christian Persecution, Says Cardinal
The prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes opened a conference on “The Message of Fatima Between Charism and Prophecy.” The text of his talk was published May 8 on the website of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
Cardinal Amato said he had “the privilege” of reading the original manuscripts of the secrets of Fatima when he served as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2002 to 2008.
“I meditated on them at length because they cast a light of faith and hope on the very sad events of the past century, but not only that,” he said.
Despite popular hopes that the 20th century would be a time of reason and brotherhood, “it was in fact a tragic period for Christianity,” he said.
Besides the two world wars, he said, “most tragic” incidents of Christian persecution occurred, including “the Armenian genocide, the Mexican repression, the Spanish persecution, the Nazi massacres, the communist extermination and, in this first part of the third millennium, Islamist persecution.”
“The message of Fatima, in a visionary way, evokes this tragedy, lifting the veil on concrete historical events,” where the devil “opposes God’s benevolence,” he said.
Castro Says Pope is so Impressive He Might Start Praying Again
After spending close to an hour with Pope Francis, Cuban President Raul Castro — younger brother of Fidel Castro — told reporters he is so impressed by what the Pope does and says that he might start praying and could even return to the Church.
“I had a very agreeable meeting this morning with Pope Francis. He is a Jesuit, as you well know. I am, too, in a certain sense because I was always in Jesuit schools,” Castro told reporters.
“When the Pope comes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses and will do so happily,” the president told reporters at a news conference he held later in the day with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Castro said he left his meeting with the Pope “very much struck by his wisdom, his humility and all the virtues that we all know he has.”
“I read all the speeches of the Pope,” Castro said, and he told reporters that he already had told Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, “If the Pope continues to speak this way, sooner or later I could start praying again and return to the Catholic Church. I’m not kidding. I’m a communist, (a member) of the Cuban Communist Party. The party has never admitted believers.”
In Family Relations, Good Manners Are No Joke, Pope Says at Audience
The closer two people are to each other, the more care is required in respecting the other’s freedom and feelings, Pope Francis said at his weekly general audience.
Speaking on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the Pope began the gathering by praying silently before a statue of Mary and, after a Portuguese aide summarized his talk, the Pope asked him to lead the Hail Mary in Portuguese. The aide complied, his voice breaking with emotion at the surprise request.
Pope Francis’ main talk focused on the three phrases he often recommends families use frequently: “Please. Thank you. Forgive me.”
The words are simple, he said, and hearing the Pope advise their frequent use could make someone smile at first. “But when we forget them, it’s no laughing matter, right?”
Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church.
Without fanfare, the Vatican has been referring to the “State of Palestine” at least since January 2013. The Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican’s official yearbook, lists a diplomatic relationship with the “State of Palestine.”
Pope Gives Coaches Game Plan for Building Team Spirit, Ethical Players
Coaches need to show integrity, fairness, patience, joy and kindness, especially toward those who are struggling, Pope Francis said.
Instilled with solid values and Christian faith, athletes can help prevent sports from becoming distorted by “pressure from many increasingly intrusive interests, especially economic,” he said in a written message.
The message was presented to participants at an international seminar on the role of coaches and trainers as educators of human and Christian values. The seminar at the Vatican May 14-16 was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s Church and Sport office.
Church Needs Women’s Voices, Input, Experiences, Pope Tells Religious
“Women should be promoted” in the Roman Curia, Pope Francis said during an audience with an international group of religious working in the Diocese of Rome. But assigning a certain number of women to leadership positions is “simply functionalism,” he said.
What is important is to ensure that women have a voice and are listened to, he said, because the Church needs their specific contributions. “When we men are dealing with a problem, we arrive at a conclusion, but if we deal with the same problem along with women, the conclusion could be different. It could lead along the same path, but would be richer, stronger, more intuitive,” he said.
“Women in the Church must have this role,” because the Church needs “the feminine genius,” he said.
Exhaustion: Bishop Says Life in Syria Needs “Attitude of Faith”
Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, president of the Church’s charitable agency there, Caritas Syria, attended the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis in Rome May 12-17.
Daily life “is becoming more and more difficult and tiring,” he told Catholic News Service. When the fighting first began in 2011, he said, the people of Aleppo held up well because the danger zones were far away.
“Now our situation is very bad, very difficult,” he said. “We are without electricity, without (running) water.”
“Something like 80 percent of people in Aleppo are without jobs. So they don’t have any money to survive,” the bishop said.
“We have daily bombings,” he said. “I can have a bomb on my street, my cathedral, my bishopric, on the schools. We don’t know why and where,” but it happens every day.
Pope Says Parents Must Not Exclude Themselves From Children’s Lives
Parents must not exclude themselves from their children’s lives and, despite what some “experts” may say, they must take an active role in their children’s education, said Pope Francis during his general audience.
“It’s time for fathers and mothers to come out of their exile — because they have exiled themselves from their children’s education — and to fully assume again their educational role,” he said.
“‘Critical’ intellectuals have silenced parents in a thousand ways to defend the younger generation from the damages — real or imagined — of education in the family,” he said. “The family has been accused, among other things, of authoritarianism, favoritism, conformism and affective repression that generates conflict.”
“The educative partnership between society and family is in crisis because mutual trust has been undermined,” the Pope said.
Greenbacks and The Green Economy: Ecology is Good Business
Paul Polman, CEO of the company that owns brands like Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s and Suave, told a Vatican-sponsored conference that “the cost of inaction (on climate change) is starting to exceed the cost of action.”
As a small example, he said, people in communities facing regular power outages cannot keep his products in their freezers, and severe water shortages mean they don’t take showers as often, so shampoo sales decline.
The encyclical has triggered pre-emptive criticism, depicting it as the work of a naive Pope who accepts the trendy notion that human activity is responsible for climate change.
Some express fear that the encyclical’s conclusions will be built upon his supposedly socialist leanings — especially his distrust of the free-market economy. In reality, when discussing capitalism, Pope Francis has condemned attitudes of greed and idolatry that seem to insist economic activity is somehow free from any moral or ethical obligations. And while he has said he has met many communists who are good people, he adds a firm conviction that the communist ideology “is wrong.”
Archbishop Romero was Motivated by Gospel, Not Politics, Cardinal Says
Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero’s preferential love for the poor “was not ideological, but evangelical,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
The cardinal, delegated by Pope Francis to preside over Archbishop Romero’s beatification May 23 in San Salvador, told Vatican Radio the martyred archbishop “was, in fact, a good priest and a wise bishop, but most of all, he was a virtuous man.”
“He loved Jesus and adored him in the Eucharist, he loved the church, he venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary and he loved his people,” Amato said. “His martyrdom was not an improvisation,” he said, “but had a long preparation,” which went back to Romero’s preparation for priestly ordination in 1942 when he consecrated his very life to God.