Pray for peace, look to Mary

Peace is a gift. It comes through prayer and small daily efforts to sow harmony in one’s family, parish and community, Pope Francis said today.

“At the beginning of this new year, we are all called to re­ignite in our hearts a spark of hope, which must be translated into concrete works of peace,” Francis said during his midday recitation of the Angelus. “You don’t get along with that person? Make peace. In your home? Make peace.In the community? Make peace. At work? Make peace.”

Before announcing the names of the 20 new cardinals to be created in February, Pope Francis continued his reflection on peace, on Mary and on the Church that he began January 1, the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

Calling Mary the “Queen of Peace,” the Pope said that, despite difficulty, “she never lost her peace of heart, a fruit of having abandoned herself with trust to the mercy of God. We ask Mary, our tender mother, to point the whole world to the sure path of love and peace.”

Earlier that day, he told the congregation in his homily that “Jesus cannot be understood without his mother,” the one who gave him human flesh, raised him and was near him always, even as he died on the cross and rose from the dead.

“Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church,” the Pope said, and repeated what he has said in the past: “It is not possible to love Christ without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but not the Church.”

“Without the Church,” the Pope said, “Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.”


Cardinals dedicate new wing of US seminary in Rome

Sprinkling holy water and saying prayers at each of its 10 floors, five cardinals dedicated a new wing of the US seminary in Rome, its first major addition in more than 60 years.

Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State and highest Vatican official under the Pope, led the ceremony at the Pontifical North American College, which included Washington, DC Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Cardinal Parolin noted the large enrollment — 256 — at the college, the largest US Catholic seminary, “means that, at least in some areas, vocations are growing. Looking at the world scenario, this is very encouraging news.” The new wing extends the seminary’s space by 36,000 square feet, and contains new lighting that regulates itself according to outdoor sunlight levels.


Pope Francis greets a baby while meeting newly married couples during his general audience in the Paul IV Hall at the Vatican.

Pope Francis greets a baby while meeting newly married couples during his general audience in the Paul IV Hall at the Vatican.

World without mothers would be inhumane, lacking tenderness, pope says

Mothers are indispensable to society and the Church, showing the world what it means to generously give oneself for others, to respect life and to display tenderness and moral strength even in times of trouble, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to some 4,000 people gathered indoors for his General Audience, the Pope looked specifically at Mary’s role in the Gospel accounts of Christmas. “She gives us Jesus, she shows us Jesus, she lets us see Jesus,” the Pope said.

“Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of selfish individualism,” he said.

Quoting Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was shot and killed in 1980 as he celebrated Mass, he said giving one’s life for others can be “in that silence of daily life,” bit by bit, “like a mother, who, without fear and with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, brings it into the world, nurses it, raises it and lovingly cares” for the child.


Mass for victims of Paris attack

The morning after 12 people were shot to death and 11 others injured at the Paris office of a satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, Pope Francis dedicated his early morning Mass to the victims and their families.

He told the small congregation January 8 that the previous day’s attack in Paris was a reminder of “the cruelty man is capable of.” He continued: “Let us pray at this Mass for the victims of this cruelty — there are so many! And, we pray also for the perpetrators of such cruelty that the Lord will change their hearts.”

Among the dead were the weekly’s editor and four cartoonists, who have been criticized in the past by Muslim groups for their caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.


Panel unanimous that Archbishop Romero is a martyr

Archbishop Oscar Romero is pictured in a 1979 photo in San Salvador.

Archbishop Oscar Romero is pictured in a 1979 photo in San Salvador.

A panel of theologians advising the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes voted unanimously to recognize the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as a martyr, according to the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Avvenire.

The decision is a key step in the archbishop’s cause for sainthood, following extended debate over whether he was killed for political reasons or for his faith. The next step in the process lies with the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, bishops and cardinals who advise the Pope on issuing decrees of beatification. A miracle is not needed for beatification of a martyr, though a miracle is ordinarily needed for his or her canonization as saint.

Archbishop Romero, an advocate for the poor, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador during his country’s civil war. His sainthood cause was opened at the Vatican in 1993.

Pope Benedict XVI told reporters in 2007 that the archbishop was “certainly a great witness of the faith” who “merits beatification, I do not doubt.” But he said some had complicated the sainthood cause by trying to co-opt the archbishop as a political figure.


Pope to diplomats: Rejecting God, people, nature leads to conflict

In a wide-ranging speech today to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the Pope urged the world’s governments and individuals to work “to end every form of fighting, hatred and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace and the defense of the transcendent dignity of the human person.”

The Pope’s annual speech looked both at signs of promise and areas of concern around the globe, including the recent slaughter of children in Pakistan, the “tragic slayings” in Paris, the “brutality” and kidnappings in Nigeria, and “the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and in Iraq.” The past year also saw some success stories, the Pope said, as he praised the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba as “one example close to my heart of how dialogue can build bridges.”


Markets cannot be the answer to economic inequities, pope says in book

The world cannot wait for an economic system that will cause poverty to fix itself, Pope Francis said.

There must be “programs, mechanisms and procedures aimed at a better distribution of resources, job creation and the integral advancement of those who are excluded,” he said in a recently-published interview.

Conducted in October 2014, it was published in a new book, Pope Francis: This Economy Kills by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, released January 13. Excerpts were published in the Italian newspaper La Stampa January 11. He said if he were to use the same phrases from the homilies of some early Church Fathers “on how to treat the poor, there would be someone accusing my homily of being Marxist.”

“This attention to the poor is in the Gospel and is in the tradition of the Church; it is not an invention of communism, and there is no need to turn it into an ideology, as has sometimes been the case throughout history,” he said.


In Madhu, pope tells Sri Lankans reconciliation requires repentance

Pope Francis, arriving in Sri Lanka today, told Sri Lankans seeking reconciliation after two and a half decades of civil war that, before they can forgive each other, they must repent of their own sins.

“Only when we come to understand, in light of the cross, the evil we are capable of, and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance,” he said. “Only then can we receive the grace to approach one another in true contrition, offering and seeking true forgiveness.” He spoke during a prayer service in the northern jungle town of Madhu.

The Pope had traveled 160 miles in a helicopter from the capital city of Colombo to visit the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, which houses a statue of Mary venerated by Sri Lankans since the 16th century. The 300,000 people assembled for the Pope’s visit included families who had lost members during what he described as a “long conflict which tore open the heart of Sri Lanka.”


For heaven’s sake: Papal astronomers promote science, faith

The Pope’s own astronomers are using the immensity of the heavens to draw people on earth closer together.

And they are using their love of the cosmos and Christ to demonstrate the Church’s longtime support of science.

Jesuit Father Jose Funes, an expert in galaxies and head of the Vatican Observatory, joined Iran’s Embassy to the Holy See to sponsor a January 13-15 workshop studying “The Role of Astronomy in Christianity and Islam.”

The workshop, which brought Muslim, Catholic and other scholars together, looked at some of the ways Christianity and Islam studied the heavens in the fields of science and faith.

The Vatican astronomers also invited priests and parish educators to a first-ever “Faith and Astronomy” workshop January 19-23 in Tucson, Arizona, where they do most of their research, to discuss both astronomy and the Church’s historical and ongoing support of the sciences.

A Swiss Guard keeps watch as Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps.

A Swiss Guard keeps watch as Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps.


Pope urges Filipino families: Dream, resist “ideological colonization”

Pope Francis today urged Catholic families to dream of how they might fulfill the will of God, while resisting “ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family” through such practices as contraception and same-sex marriage.

The Pope spoke to a meeting of families at the Mall of Asia Arena, filled to its capacity of 20,000 people. The arena reverberated with people crying out, “We love you, Lolo Kiko” (“Grandpa Kiko,” the Filipino nickname for Francis) as the Pope walked the red carpet, stopping to touch the faithful and bless families who were among those representing the 86 dioceses of the country.

Commenting on the Gospel passage in Matthew in which St. Joseph twice learns God’s will for the Holy Family from an angel in a dream, Pope Francis said dreaming could serve an analogous purpose in ordinary Christian families.

“I very much like this idea of dreaming in a family,” the Pope said. “Every mother and father dreams of their son or daughter in the womb for nine months… When you lose this capacity to dream, you lose the capacity and energy to love.”

Pope Francis said dreaming could provide solutions to problems and reveal the good qualities of one’s spouse. He added, to much laughter: “Don’t ever lose the dream of when you were boyfriend and girlfriend. Very important, that.”

And just as St. Joseph’s dreams also revealed the “dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee,” the Pope noted, so “God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families.”

First among them, he said, is “ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family,” calling it “materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality.”

The Pope praised Blessed Paul VI for his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which affirmed Catholic teaching against contraception, also noting that it instructed confessors to show “compassion in particular cases” of penitents who had failed to follow it. Blessed Paul “saw the threat of the destruction of the family by depriving it of children. Paul VI was courageous, he was a good pastor, and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching.”


Pope tells typhoon survivors they are not alone

Pilgrims walk down Roxas Boulevard in Manila, Philippines.

Pilgrims walk down Roxas Boulevard in Manila, Philippines.

Fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines, Pope Francis braved a tropical storm to encourage survivors in their ongoing work of recovery.

The Pope arrived at Tacloban International Airport a little before 9 a.m. January 17, after a bumpy 75-minute-long flight from Manila. For his short ride in an open-sided popemobile to the site of the open-air Mass, he donned the same kind of yellow plastic poncho worn by the hundreds of thousands of people awaiting him in the rain. He recalled his initial reaction, on November 8, 2013, to the typhoon that claimed some more than 7,300 lives and destroyed more than 1 million homes.

“When I saw that catastrophe from Rome, I felt that I had to be here, and on that day I decided to be here. Now I have come to be with you — a little bit late, but I am here,” the Pope said.


Tears are often the only correct response to suffering, pope tells youth

The realities of life described by young people, especially the tearful question of a 12-year-old about suffering, led Pope Francis to set aside his first prepared text for a January 18 meeting with young people.

“Certain realities in life can only be seen through eyes cleansed by tears,” the Pope said after listening to Glyzelle Palomar, who lived on the streets until a Manila foundation for street children rescued her. Palomar spoke after Jun Chura — a 14-year-old rescued by the foundation — described life on the streets as a struggle to find enough to eat, to fight the temptation of drugs, and to avoid exploitation by adults.

Covering her face with her hands as she wept in front of the microphone, Palomar asked the Pope, “Why did God let this happen to us?”

The Pope kissed the top of Palomar’s head and pulled her close for a big hug, then embraced her and Chura together. While it is impossible to explain why God would allow children to suffer, he told the young people, “only when we, too, can cry” can one approach a response.

“I invite each one of you here to ask yourself, ‘Have I learned to weep and cry when I see a child cast aside, when I see someone with a drug problem, when I see someone who has suffered abuse?” the Pope told them. “Jesus in the Gospel cried, he cried for his dead friend,” Lazarus, “he cried in his heart for the family that had lost its child, he cried in his heart when he saw the old widow having to bury her son, he was moved to tears of compassion when he saw the multitude of crowds without a pastor,” Pope Francis said.

Responding to other questions, Pope Francis focused on love, compassion and the challenge of not just helping the poor, but allowing oneself to learn from and be evangelized by them.

“The Sadducees and doctors of the law in the time of Jesus gave much to the people, they gave them the law and taught them, but they never allowed the people to give them something,” he said. “Learn how to beg,” to receive with humility, said the Pope, “to be evangelized by the poor. The persons we help, the poor, the sick have so much to give us.”

Pope, at Mass with millions, tells Filipinos to protect the family

Pope Francis told a crowd of an estimated 6 million gathered in a Manila park to protect the family “against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.”

The Pope’s homily at the January 18 Mass in Rizal Park, on the popular feast day of “Santo Nino,” the Holy Child, also reprised several other themes he had sounded during the four-day visit, including environmental problems, poverty and corruption.

The government estimated total crowd size at 6 million-7 million people, the largest number of people ever gathered to see a Pope, according to Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. A Mass with St. John Paul II drew an estimated 4-5 million in the same place 20 years earlier, often described as the largest live crowd in history.

MONDAY 19 Pope says he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra Pope

Francis said his September trip to the US will take him to Philadelphia, New York and Washington — where he intends to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra — but probably no other stops.

Pope Francis made his remarks January 19, in an hour-long news conference with reporters accompanying him back to Rome.

Four days after announcing he would canonize Blessed Junipero in the US in September, the Pope said he wished he could do so in California, the 18th-century Franciscan’s mission field, but would not have time to travel there.

The Pope said he planned instead to perform the canonization ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, saying Washington would be a fitting location because a statue of Blessed Junipero stands in the US Capitol.

Pope says Catholics must practice “responsible parenthood”

Pope Francis stressed that, despite Church doctrine against contraception, Catholics have many other “licit” methods to practice “responsible parenthood.”

He also denounced the teaching of “gender theory” in schools, likening it to indoctrination of children by the Nazis and Fascists.

The Pope made his remarks in a news conference with reporters accompanying him back to Rome from a week-long trip to Asia.


Nigerian bishop calls for Western intervention to stop Boko Haram

Underlining the failure of the Nigerian government to stop the violent rampage of Boko Haram, a Catholic bishop has called for Western military intervention. The Muslim militant group’s increasingly deadly assaults and expanded recruitment from countries across North Africa mean “a concerted military campaign is needed by the West to crush Boko Haram,” said Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, capital of the troubled Borno state.

“The West should bring in security — land forces — to contain and beat back Boko Haram,” he said in an interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Boko Haram, labeled a terrorist organization by the US, seeks to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state.

SUNDAY 25 Persecuted for faith, Christians are united in bloodshed, pope says Christians are united in bloodshed as they suffer from violence and persecution in various parts of the world, Pope Francis told Christian leaders. Today’s martyrs are men and women, who through their witness to Jesus, are “persecuted and killed because they are Christian,” he said during an ecumenical prayer service marking the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Those who persecute them make no distinction about “which denomination they belong to. They are Christians and for that persecuted. This, brothers and sisters, is the ecumenism of blood.”

With Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and other Christians present and reading some of the prayers, Francis presided over the service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

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