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Pope Francis hails St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood

Rome Newsroom, Apr 13, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has hailed St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood in a letter marking fifty years since the 16th century Spanish mystic was declared the first female Doctor of the Church.

“Despite the five centuries that separate us from her earthly existence, the flame that Jesus lit within Teresa continues to shine in this world that is always in need of brave witnesses, capable of breaking any barrier, be it physical, existential or cultural,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

The pope’s to Bishop José María Gil Tamayo of Ávila was read aloud at the inaugural Mass for an international congress on St. Teresa that is taking place in Ávila, Spain and virtually via livestream April 12-15.

St. Teresa of Ávila was “‘an exceptional woman,’ as Saint Paul VI defined her,” Pope Francis said.

“Her courage, her intelligence, and her tenacity to which she united a sensitivity for the beautiful and a spiritual motherhood toward all those who approached her work, are an exemplary example of the extraordinary role that women have played throughout history in the Church and society.”

Pope Paul VI declared St. Teresa of Jesus a Doctor of the Church on Sept. 27, 1970. The title Doctor of the Church denotes recognition of the importance of a saint’s writings and teachings for Catholic theology.

Since St. Teresa, three other female saints have been declared Doctors of the Church. St. Catherine of Siena was recognized with the title one week after St. Teresa. And St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Hildegard of Bingen were declared Church doctors by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI respectively.

In his letter, Pope Francis said St. Teresa of Ávila “continues to speak to us today through her writings and her message is open to all.”

“Having her as a friend, companion and guide in our earthly pilgrimage confers security and peace to the soul,” he added.

St. Teresa was a Spanish Carmelite reformer and mystic. She was born in the Castilian city of Ávila during the year 1515, the third child in a family descended from Jewish merchants who had converted to Christianity during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

When she was nearly 40, Teresa experienced profound changes within her own soul in contemplative prayer, and remarkable visions that seemed to come from God. Under the direction of her confessors, Teresa wrote about some of these experiences in an autobiography that she completed in 1565.

This revolution in her spiritual life enabled Teresa to play a significant role in the renewal of the Church that followed the Council of Trent. She proposed a return of the Carmelites to their original rule of life, a simple and austere form of monasticism – founded on silence and solitude – that had received papal approval in the 12th century and was believed to date back to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

Together with her close collaborator, the priest and writer later canonized as Saint John of the Cross, she founded what is known today as the Order of Discalced Carmelites – “discalced,” meaning barefoot, symbolizing the simplicity to which they chose to return the order after a period of corruption. The reform met with fierce opposition, but resulted in the founding of 30 monasteries before her death in 1582.

St. Teresa of Ávila was canonized on March 22, 1622, along with St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Philip Neri.

In his letter, Pope Francis encouraged the priests, religious, and laity involved in the international congress on St. Teresa to continue spreading her teaching.

The is the joint effort of the Catholic University of St. Teresa of Ávila, the Discalced Carmelites, the local diocese, and the “Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt” in Germany. Speakers at the conference include Cardinal Aquilino Bocos Merino and Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, the archbishop of Valladolid.

Pope Francis signed his letter to the congress on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and noted that St. Teresa of Ávila had a great devotion to St. Joseph.

“She took him as a teacher, advocate, and intercessor. She entrusted herself to him, having certainty that she would receive the graces that she asked for. From this experience, she encouraged others to do the same,” the pope said.

“The saints always go hand in hand, and they sustain us by the trust placed in their intercession. May they intercede for you,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Crookston’s Bp Hoeppner after Vatican-ordered investigations

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minnesota, who was the subject of two Church investigations after he was accused of mishandling cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct.

Hoeppner, 71, was the first U.S. bishop to be investigated under , Pope Francis’ 2019 norms on investigating bishops accused of mishandling or obstructing allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Richard Edmund Pates, bishop emeritus of Des Moines, Iowa, to lead the Crookston diocese as apostolic administrator “sede vacante” until a new bishop is named.

Hoeppner is reported to have pressured an alleged victim to drop his allegation of abuse against a priest, failed to follow mandatory reporting laws, and neglected to follow protocols designed to monitor priests accused of misconduct.

A report on the investigation of Hoeppner was sent to Rome in late October 2019, and in February 2020, the Diocese of Crookston announced that the Vatican had ordered an additional investigation into the bishop.

Both investigations were conducted by Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Hoeppner was not permitted to oversee sexual abuse cases in his diocese during the second investigation.

as part of a legal settlement, Hoeppner is seen to admit to several of the charges against him. In those depositions, Hoeppner also defended a diocesan decision to allow a priest to remain in ministry, without notifying parents or parishioners, after the priest admitted that while he was teenager he had sexually abused a younger child.

The announcement in early 2020 about a second investigation into Hoeppner followed several months in which local Catholics called for Hoeppner’s resignation, and accused him of mistreating a popular priest removed from ministry under vague terms.

Priests in the diocese told CNA at the time that they expected Hoeppner to be removed from office, and that given the bishop’s record, the credibility of the procedures could be called into question if he is eventually permitted to remain in office.

allows the Vatican “to provide for a supplementary investigation” after initial steps are taken, if Vatican officials deem it necessary.

There are currently several investigations going on in dioceses in the U.S.

In 2021, announcements were made about new investigations into Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City and former Albany bishop Howard Hubbard.

Italian judge issues arrest warrant for Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered Vatican property deal

Rome Newsroom, Apr 12, 2021 / 10:05 am (CNA).

An Italian magistrate has issued an arrest warrant for Gianluigi Torzi, a broker who is under investigation due to his involvement in the Vatican’s controversial London property purchase.

Judge Corrado Cappiello signed the warrant for Torzi based on the investigation by police in Rome into his suspected fraudulent billing, money laundering, and other financial crimes in collaboration with three of his associates, the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported April 12.

Torzi is currently located in the United Kingdom and has not been served with the warrant.

The Italian broker is under investigation by the Vatican for his role in facilitating the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London property on 60 Sloane Avenue in 2018. The Vatican alleges that in doing so, Torzi was part of a conspiracy to defraud the secretariat of millions of euros.

“It is alarming how easily Gianluigi Torzi and his collaborators managed to organize fraudulent operations,” Judge Cappiello wrote, according to the Italian newspaper.

“In addition to the criminal proceedings pending within Vatican City State for which he was recently arrested, Gianluigi Torzi, has police records for unlawful financial activities, fraud, issuing and using invoices for non-existent transactions and is also being investigated for fraudulent bankruptcy … within the Tag Communications group,” he said.

Torzi was arrested by the Vatican last summer and held in custody for a little more than a week on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.

Last month, a British judge reversed the seizure of Torzi’s accounts that had been requested by Vatican prosecutors. 

Judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court stated that the Vatican’s “non-disclosures and misrepresentations are so appalling that the ultimate sanction” to reverse the seizure of the assets was appropriate.

The secretariat bought the property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione. Torzi brokered the sale, earning millions of euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.

Torzi sold the secretariat the 30,000 majority shares in Gutt SA, the holding company through which the London property was purchased, while he retained the 1,000 shares with voting rights.

The Vatican claims Torzi was “secretive and dishonest” when he retained the voting shares, while Torzi argues that everything was transparent and communicated to Vatican officials in conversation and in documents signed by them.

In his ruling, Baumgartner sided with Torzi, who has denied wrongdoing, saying that the claim that the broker was “secretive and dishonest” was not supported by the evidence before him and a “misrepresentation” by Vatican prosecutors.

Reuters reported that a separate arrest warrant states that Torzi billed the Vatican for a total 15 million euros for work that it said was not carried out. It also stated that it remains unclear whether Italian authorities will issue an international warrant for Torzi’s arrest.

Vatican summit on 'theology of the priesthood' will look at questions raised in recent synods

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Marc Ouellet announced Monday that the Vatican will host a theological symposium on the priesthood that will touch on questions raised in recent synods, including priestly celibacy, dwindling vocations, and the role of women in the Church.

“Insight from Divine Revelation on the priesthood of Christ and the participation of the Church in this priesthood is a crucial question for our time,” Cardinal Ouellet said at a Vatican press conference on April 12.

“During the synods on the family, on young people, and on the Church in Amazonia, questions regarding the priesthood and synodality were raised in all their magnitude, with an insistence on the reality of baptism, the basis of all vocations,” the cardinal said.

“The time has come to prolong the reflection and to promote a vocational movement facilitating the sharing of the various Church experiences all over the planet.”

The international theological symposium organized by the Congregation for Bishops will take place February 17-19, 2022 at the Vatican.

Cardinal Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, said that the symposium, entitled “Toward a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood,” will be open to all, but is especially intended for bishops and those interested in the theology of the priesthood. 

“Given the scope of this symposium, we hope it will mark a stage in the research of the Church  and encourage new initiatives and publications,” Ouellet said.

In his presentation of the 2022 theological summit on the priesthood, the cardinal said that the symposium will serve to clarify “a fundamental relationship between the priesthood of the baptized, which the Second Vatican Council has enhanced, and the priesthood of ministers, bishops and priests, which the Catholic Church has always affirmed and specified.”

“This rapport is not to be taken for granted in our time, because it entails pastoral readjustments, and it involves ecumenical questions not to be ignored, as well as the cultural movements that question the place of women in the Church,” he added.

When asked at the Vatican press conference whether the symposium will return to the debates from the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region on the ordination of mature, married men, sometimes called “viri probati,” Ouellet responded that priestly celibacy will not be the main focus of the summit, but said that the topic will be addressed.

“We are very aware that the celibacy issue is important and it will be dealt with, but it will not be the central issue of the symposium,” Ouellet said.

“It is not a symposium on priestly celibacy, as if this question had to be fundamentally taken up again, it is a broader perspective, starting with baptism.”

Ouellet published a book on the uninterrupted tradition of priestly celibacy in the Latin rite in 2019: .

"We are all aware of the scarcity of vocations in many regions, as well as tensions on the ground due to divergent pastoral visions, challenges posed by multiculturalism and migrations, not to mention the ideologies that condition the witness of the baptized and the exercise of the priestly ministry in secularized societies," Ouellet said at the press conference.

"In this context, how can we live a missionary conversion of all the baptized without a new awareness of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to the world through the Risen Christ?"

The cardinal said that the Second Vatican Council put the “priesthood of the baptized back in the foreground,” but that the “synthesis made by the Council has not entered the life of the Church.”

“The symposium will serve to deepen this question. It is not just a question of the way of organization and division of functions, but of the mystery of the Church,” he said.

Pope Francis: Christ’s wounds shower ‘mercy upon our misery’

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2021 / 05:48 am (CNA).

At every Mass we adore and kiss Christ’s wounded and risen body in the Eucharist, a channel of his mercy, Pope Francis said on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Offering Mass at the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia April 11, the pope reflected on Jesus’ appearances to his disciples between his resurrection and his ascension, explaining that the disciples received the mercy of Jesus Christ through the gifts of his peace, forgiveness, and wounds.

“His wounds are open channels between him and us, shedding mercy upon our misery,” Francis said. “His wounds are the pathways that God has opened up for us to enter into his tender love and actually ‘touch’ who he is. Let us never again doubt his mercy.”

“In adoring and kissing his wounds, we come to realize that in his tender love all our weaknesses are accepted,” the pope continued. “This happens at every Mass, where Jesus offers us his wounded and risen Body. We touch him and he touches our lives. He makes heaven come down to us. His radiant wounds dispel the darkness we carry within.”

He said: “Like Thomas, we discover God; we realize how close he is to us and we are moved to exclaim, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28). Everything comes from this, from the grace of receiving mercy.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday together with several priests who were designated “Missionaries of Mercy” during the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016.

Around 80 people were invited to attend the pope’s Mass, including a group of inmates from three Rome prisons: Regina Caeli, Rebibbia female, and Casal del Marmo.

Nurses from the nearby Hospital of S. Spirito in Sassia were also present, as well as people with disabilities, a family of migrants from Argentina, and young refugees from Syria, Nigeria, and Egypt.

Religious sisters of the Hospitaller Sisters of Mercy, and Civil Protection volunteers also attended the pope’s Mass.

“I address a special greeting to you, present here in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, the Shrine of Divine Mercy,” the pope said at the end of Mass.

“You represent some of the situations in which mercy is made tangible; it becomes closeness, service, care for those in difficulty,” he said. “I hope you will always feel you have been granted mercy, so as to be merciful to others in turn.”

Before reciting the Regina Coeli, a Marian antiphon prayed during the Easter season, Francis said: “May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, obtain this grace for us all.”

Afterward, Pope Francis greeted each person individually before returning to the Vatican.

Located down the street from St. Peter’s Basilica, Santo Spirito in Sassia is Rome’s official Divine Mercy shrine.

Originally built as a hospital chapel, the 16th-century church was transformed into a center of Divine Mercy spirituality at the request of St. Pope John Paul II in 1994. In a side chapel, the church has a large copy of the Divine Mercy painting of Christ, and relics of St. Faustina Kowalska and St. Pope John Paul II.

In his homily on Sunday, Pope Francis said because we have been forgiven by God in his abundant mercy, we must show the same mercy to others.

“Do you want proof that God has touched your life? See if you can stoop to bind the wounds of others,” the pope said in a homily April 11.

“Today is the day to ask, ‘Am I, who have so often received God’s peace, his mercy, merciful to others? Do I, who have so often been fed by the Body of Jesus, make any effort to relieve the hunger of the poor?’”

“Let us not remain indifferent,” Pope Francis urged, stating that a faith which receives but does not give becomes arid, barren, and sentimental.

“Having received mercy, let us now become merciful,” he said, “let us be renewed by the peace, forgiveness and wounds of the merciful Jesus. Let us ask for the grace to become witnesses of mercy. Only in this way will our faith be alive and our lives unified. Only in this way will we proclaim the Gospel of God, which is the Gospel of mercy.”

The pope also spoke about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also called confession.

“Let us ask for the grace to accept that gift, to embrace the Sacrament of forgiveness,” he said. “And to understand that confession is not about ourselves and our sins, but about God and his mercy. Let us not confess to abase ourselves, but to be raised up. We, all of us, need this badly.”

“Like little children who, whenever they fall, need to be picked up by their fathers, we need this,” he stated.

“We too fall frequently. And the hand of our Father is ready to set us on our feet again and to make us keep walking. That sure and trustworthy hand is confession.”

He recalled that the disciples, after receiving Christ’s mercy, in turn became merciful. In the Acts of the Apostles, it says “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common,” he said.

“This is not communism,” Francis underlined, “but pure Christianity.” The same disciples who had earlier argued about who was the greatest among them now share everything.

“How did they change like that? They now saw in others the same mercy that had changed their own lives,” he said. “They discovered that they shared the mission, the forgiveness and the Body of Jesus, and so it seemed natural to share their earthly possessions.”

Francis pointed to the verse that says: “There was not a needy person among them.”

“Their fears had been dispelled by touching the Lord’s wounds, and now they are unafraid to heal the wounds of those in need,” he stated. “Because there they see Jesus. Because Jesus is there, in the wounds of those in need.”

Australian Cardinal Edward Cassidy, Vatican official and diplomat, dies at 96

Rome Newsroom, Apr 10, 2021 / 08:26 am (CNA).

Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, a longtime Vatican diplomat and official, has died in Newcastle, Australia, at the age of 96.

Cassidy was president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity from 1989 until his retirement in 2001, when he returned to Australia after more than 30 years as a Vatican nuncio and curial official.

As head of the Holy See's office of Christian unity, Cassidy, together with the Lutheran World Federation, was responsible for the drafting and signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999.

He served as the sostituto, the second-ranking official, at the Secretariat of State for 21 months in 1988 and 1989.

His appointment to the Roman Curia ended almost 18 years as an apostolic pro-nuncio to the countries of China, Bangladesh, Lesotho, and the Netherlands. He was also apostolic delegate to South Africa for over five years while under apartheid.

St. Pope John Paul II made Cassidy a cardinal in 1991, but he missed voting in the conclave which elected Benedict XVI in 2005, because he had aged out of voting privileges just nine months prior.

Cassidy was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on July 5, 1924. When his family had financial difficulties after the death of his grandfather, Cassidy dropped out of high school to work as a junior clerk at the Department of Road Transport.

In 1942 he convinced his bishop to let him study for the priesthood and he entered the seminary the following year. Cassidy was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sydney in 1949 at the age of 25.

Not long afterward he was transferred to the Diocese of Wagga Wagga, a suffragan of the now-Archdiocese of Sydney.

He moved to Rome to study canon law in 1952, completing his doctorate at the Pontifical Lateran University in 1955. Cassidy also received a diploma in diplomatic studies from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

As a priest, Cassidy served in the nunciatures in India, Ireland, and Portugal. He was named counselor of the apostolic delegation in the United States in 1967, but the transfer of Ireland's nuncio to Portugal kept him in Dublin for some months before he was then named counselor of the nunciature in El Salvador.

He also served as counselor of the Nunciature in Argentina, before being named apostolic pro-nuncio to the Republic of China in 1970.

After his 2001 retirement, Cassidy wrote the book "Rediscovering Vatican II - Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue."

Pope Francis sends condolences to Queen Elizabeth for death of Prince Philip

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday expressed his sorrow at the death of Prince Philip in a letter to Queen Elizabeth II, his wife of 73 years.

"Saddened to learn of the death of your husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, His Holiness Pope Francis offers heartfelt condolences to your majesty and the members of the Royal Family," stated an April 10 telegram signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The death of Prince Philip, at the age of 99, was announced by Buckingham Palace April 9.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace said.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have four children, eight grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren. Prince Philip is the longest-serving consort of any British monarch.

The Vatican telegram April 10 said, "Recalling Prince Philip's devotion to his marriage and family, his distinguished record of public service and his commitment to the education and advancement of future generations, His Holiness commends him to the merciful love of Christ our Redeemer."

"Upon you and upon all who grieve his loss in the sure hope of the resurrection, the Holy Father invokes the Lord's blessings of consolation and peace," it closed.

Is Cardinal Becciu being rehabilitated? 

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2021 / 03:03 am (CNA).

Pope Francis' private visit to Cardinal Angelo Becciu on Holy Thursday set off speculation about whether the pope is attempting to rehabilitate the . 

 

The real reasons why Pope Francis asked Cardinal Becciu to resign as Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints and renounce his prerogatives as a cardinal late last year were never spelled out formally by the Vatican or Becciu.  

 

Nevertheless, according to information leaked to the press, Cardinal Becciu is currently under investigation for embezzlement, abuse of office, and “offense to the King” – that is, the pope – a little-known crime that is still part of the Vatican penal code.  

 

It is also known that Becciu was involved in two cases: the Secretariat of State’s investment in a luxury real estate venture in London – which was finalized by his successor Edgar Pena Parra and is now under scrutiny by Vatican magistrates – and the mismanagement of the Secretariat of State’s purse, of which the Secretariat has now been stripped.

 

The second case regards a series of suspicious transfers to Cecilia Marogna, an intelligence analyst and supposed mediator for the liberation of five nuns kidnapped in Africa.

 

The 39-year-old Marogna was later incarcerated and became the object of a Vatican international arrest request. Italian authorities later revoked Marogna's arrest, in a decision that criticized the Holy See, saying the incarceration had a “motivational vacuum”, i.e. there was no apparent reason for it.

 

Since the beginning of the Becciu-related investigations in October 2019, there have been six Vatican officials suspended: two of them – both priests – were sent back to their home dioceses; another one was not renewed in his position; two of them got early retirement; one of them was transferred to another office, effectively demoted.

 

But the Holy Thursday visit sparked rumors of a possible rehabilitation for Becciu, especially when the Vatican press office was slow to confirm the visit, while a person close to Cardinal Becciu said that “Pope Francis himself” gave the cardinal permission to spread the news of the visit. 

 

In another bizarre twist to the story, the official , quoting “sources from the Focolare movement” and stressing that “since it is a private appointment of the Holy Father, there are no official confirmations for this news.”

 

However, if Pope Francis had wanted to rehabilitate Becciu, clear communication on his visit would have been the order of the day, authorized by the pope himself. If fact, when Becciu resigned, the pope wanted an official  to go out so fast that Becciu found out that the news had been made official only when he got back home.

 

Why, then, did Pope Francis visit Becciu? 

 

It is known that Pope Francis likes to spend Holy Thursday Mass with prisoners and other marginalized groups. Becciu is currently marginalized and under investigation. So, as one source told CNA, “The pope treated Becciu like any other inmate.”

 

It is also possible that the pope wanted to show a gesture of mercy. The investigations are stalled, and the latest reports suggest Vatican prosecutors are not even close to a decision. The gesture also shifts the news focus away from Vatican judicial system's perils to the visit itself.

 

However, Pope Francis' visit could in no way be in view for rehabilitation, a source confident with the Vatican judicial system told CNA. 

 

“Becciu's issue is in the Vatican prosecutor's hands,” the source said. “There are two options: either the pope exercises his power as Supreme Authority, interferes with the judicial power, and asks to stop the investigation; or the pope will make a paternal gesture, leaving the issue in the prosecutor's hands.”

 

According to the same sources within the Vatican tribunal, the investigation into Becciu might be concluded “within 40 days,” and “only then will we know if there will be indictments.”

 

This means that Cardinal Becciu will have to wait for any eventual rehabilitation.

 

Stripped of his duties as well as of his rights as a cardinal, Becciu might also testify in Italian court, probably more than once, since he has sued “L’Espresso,” the Italian magazine that broke many of the more damning stories against the cardinal and his family.

 

Whatever the Pope’s intention to visit him was, only time will tell if Becciu will be prosecuted or if he will regain the rights that go with his red hat. 

Documentary says Benedict XVI’s secretary tried to convince him not to resign

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2021 / 15:29 pm (CNA).

A documentary being released on Benedict XVI’s 94th birthday states that his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, tried to dissuade him from abdicating the papacy.

“Benedict XVI, the Pope Emeritus”, directed by Andrés Garrigó, will be released April 16 by Goya Productions.

The film will focus on Benedict’s papacy, and his time as prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“At that time he had to deal with such crises as Liberation Theology in its Marxist version with its affinity to guerrilla warfare, and the cases of pedophilia that were beginning to surface then. Elected in 2005, Benedict is faced with two immense tasks:  defending Catholic doctrine from the 'dictatorship of relativism' on the outside and reforming the Church from within, starting with the confusing structure of Vatican finances,” the filmmaker stated.

The film discusses Achbishop Gänswein's attempt to dissuade the pope from abdicating, "to which the pope replied that he had prayed and there would be no going back ... as was the case," the producer said.

Among those interviewed for the documentary are Gerhard Cardinal Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Julián Cardinal Herranz Casado, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts;  and Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela, Archbishop Emeritus of Madrid; historians such as Bernard Ardura; Vaticanisti such as Aldo Maria Valli, Andrea Tornielli, and Andrea Monda; and friends of Benedict, such as Réal Tremblay and Gabriele Kuby.

Vatican Museums to reopen with strict new measures in May

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican Museums are planning to reopen to the public next month with strict new COVID-19 measures.

“Considering the continuation of the health crisis and the still uncertain situation, we communicate that, at the moment, the Vatican Museums and Gardens are expected to reopen to the public from Monday, May 3,” a message on the Vatican Museums website said.

The reopened in February and the first half of March, after having been closed from Nov. 5, when the Italian government implemented tighter coronavirus restrictions, closing all museums in Italy.

Throughout the pandemic, the Vatican Museums have followed the Italian government’s measures. During a national lockdown in the spring of 2020, the museums were closed for a total of 12 weeks before reopening on June 1.

The Vatican Museums have published a five-page listing the new rules for visitors.

“These rules are necessary to ensure that your visit can take place in the best and safest conditions,” the website said.

In addition to being required to wear a face mask at all times, visitors also will have their temperature checked, and must stay three feet away from others at all times. There are new rules which include limiting tour groups to no more than 20 people and strict requirements about entering the museum at the booked time.

All visitors must book their tickets online in advance. The usual four euro ($5) online booking fee will be waived.

Pope Francis calls for global COVID-19 recovery plan in message to World Bank and IMF

CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis appealed for a global coronavirus recovery plan in a message to participants in the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a published by the Vatican April 8, the pope called for a comprehensive approach to rebuilding the world economy in the wake of COVID-19.

He said: “While many countries are now consolidating individual recovery plans, there remains an urgent need for a global plan that can create new or regenerate existing institutions, particularly those of global governance, and help to build a new network of international relations for advancing the integral human development of all peoples.”

“This necessarily means giving poorer and less developed nations an effective share in decision-making and facilitating access to the international market.”

The World Bank Group, founded in 1944, offers loans and grants to the governments of developing countries for capital projects. The IMF, formed in 1945, oversees the global monetary system. Both organizations are based in Washington, D.C.

The pope’s message was entrusted to Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to be presented during the April 5-11 meetings of the international financial institutions.

The pope wrote: “In this past year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world has been forced to confront a series of grave and interrelated socio-economic, ecological, and political crises.”

“It is my hope that your discussions will contribute to a model of ‘recovery’ capable of generating new, more inclusive, and sustainable solutions to support the real economy, assisting individuals and communities to achieve their deepest aspirations and the universal common good.”

He added: “The notion of recovery cannot be content to a return to an unequal and unsustainable model of economic and social life, where a tiny minority of the world’s population owns half of its wealth.”

In the message, Pope Francis urged the World Bank and IMF’s experts to focus on “the interconnectedness between people.” Citing his recent , , he encouraged them to build a “culture of encounter” by including the marginalized in “long-term inclusive projects.”

The pope repeated his call for the cancelation of the debts of poor countries battling COVID-19, which he first made in his Easter “Urbi et Orbi” in 2020.

“A spirit of global solidarity also demands at the least a significant reduction in the debt burden of the poorest nations, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” he wrote in the message, dated April 4.

“Relieving the burden of debt of so many countries and communities today is a profoundly human gesture that can help people to develop, to have access to vaccines, health, education, and jobs.”

The pope also highlighted what he called the “ecological debt” between richer and poorer countries.

“In this regard, I believe that the financial industry, which is distinguished by its great creativity, will prove capable of developing agile mechanisms for calculating this ecological debt, so that developed countries can pay it, not only by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy or by assisting poorer countries to enact policies and programs of sustainable development, but also by covering the costs of the innovation required for that purpose,” he wrote.

He argued that true development could only be achieved through the pursuit of the “universal common good.”

“It follows that public money may never be disjoined from the public good, and financial markets should be underpinned by laws and regulations aimed at ensuring that they truly work for the common good,” he said.

He continued: “It is time to acknowledge that markets -- particularly the financial ones -- do not govern themselves. Markets need to be underpinned by laws and regulations that ensure they work for the common good, guaranteeing that finance -- rather than being merely speculative or financing itself -- works for the societal goals so much needed in the context of the present global healthcare emergency.”

Referring to his Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” message, in which he called for threatened by COVID-19, he said that the poor should benefit from “justly financed vaccine solidarity.” He insisted that the law of the market should not come before “the law of love and the health of all.”

Concluding his message, he wrote: “It is my hope that in these days your formal deliberations and your personal encounters will bear much fruit for the discernment of wise solutions for a more inclusive and sustainable future.”

“A future where finance is at the service of the common good, where the vulnerable and the marginalized are placed at the center, and where the earth, our common home, is well cared for.”

Pope Francis recalls nights spent in Eucharistic adoration in his youth

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

In a letter to a Spanish weekly, Pope Francis recalled “with emotion” his time spent in adoration at the Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament in Buenos Aires.

As a young man of 17 and 18, Jorge Bergoglio would take a bus from his home in the Flores neighborhood to the basilica in downtown Buenos Aires for Eucharistic adoration.

On Saturday nights in 1954 and 1955, with his brother Oscar and a neighbor, the future Pope Francis would go to the basilica to listen to a homily by Fr. José Ramón Aristi.

In his to “Alfa y Omega,” Pope Francis said: “The adoration began around nine at night, after the preaching of Fr. Aristi.”

The pope wrote the letter after receiving a copy of a photograph of the ledger which recorded the names of the adorers at the Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament.

In the photo, the names of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Oscar Bergoglio can be seen on page 84 of the register.

“I was moved by the photocopy of the book on nocturnal adoration,” the pope said in the handwritten letter.

He explained that those there for adoration would take turns before the Blessed Sacrament while others slept on cots in a room connected to the church. They would wake each other for their turn in adoration by saying “venite adoremus,” the Latin phrase for “come, let us adore.”

Pope Francis has mentioned before his close connection to Fr. Aristi, a Sacramentine priest, who was his confessor for many years.

In 2014, the pope explained to priests in Rome that “Aristi was a famous confessor in Buenos Aires. Almost all the clergy confessed to him. He was a provincial of his order, a professor ... but always a confessor, and there was always a line at the church of the Blessed Sacrament.”

Aristi died in 1996, when Pope Francis was an auxiliary bishop and vicar general of Buenos Aires. Before Aristi’s funeral, Bishop Bergoglio visited his body in the crypt of the basilica.

Pope Francis revealed that during that visit, while arranging flowers in the priest’s coffin, he had a sudden urge and quickly pulled off the small cross on Fr. Aristi’s rosary and put it in his pocket.

“At that very moment I looked at him and I said to him: ‘Give me half of your mercy,’” Francis recalled.

He said he still carried the cross with him as pope. “Whenever I have a bad thought about someone, I always place my hand here. And I feel the grace! I feel it doing me good. The example of a merciful priest, of a priest who is close when there is suffering does so much good…” he said.

The only eyewitness to the future pope taking the cross was Fr. Andrés Taborda, an Argentinian Sacramentine priest who was also in the crypt.

“Aristi really was a merciful and wise priest,” Fr. Taborda told Italian newspaper La Stampa in 2014.

Recalling Easter day 1996, the day after Aristi’s death, he said: “We were there in the crypt next to Fr. Aristi’s coffin and I can still picture Bergoglio in his contemplative state; he was very thin at the time. I remember him saying: ‘He was my confessor and he absolved many people from their sins whilst holding this rosary. It can’t be buried…’”

“Fr. Aristi would give the rosary with the small cross to penitents to hold as he listened to their confessions, he would then use it to absolve them from their sins and then asked them to kiss it. Basically, that rosary along with the cross witnessed so much mercy,” Fr. Taborda said.

Pope Francis to offer Divine Mercy Sunday Mass in church with St. Faustina’s relics

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

On Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will offer Mass in a church containing the relics of both St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II.

This will be the second year that the pope has chosen to offer Mass in the church, Santo Spirito in Sassia, which was transformed into a center for Divine Mercy spirituality.

Pope Francis’ Divine Mercy Sunday Mass on April 11 will not be open to the public but will be broadcast on television and via live stream at 10:30 a.m. local time.

Following Mass, Pope Francis will recite the Regina Coeli prayer from inside the church.

Located near St. Peter’s Basilica, Santo Spirito in Sassia is Rome’s official Divine Mercy church. Before the coronavirus epidemic, people gathered each day there at 3 p.m. to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

"At the hour of Divine Mercy … truly the church is filled with many souls -- the young, the sick, couples, and people facing great difficulties of a moral nature who come to implore the Divine Mercy," Msgr. Jozef Bart, the church’s rector CNA.

The Polish priest was personally selected by Pope John Paul II to transform the 16th-century church, originally built as a hospital chapel, into a center for Divine Mercy spirituality in 1994.

When John Paul II visited the church on Divine Mercy Sunday in 1995, he highlighted the church’s role as a place of both spiritual and physical healing throughout history.

“Today in particular, I am pleased to be able to give thanks to God in this Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, attached to the hospital of the same name, and now a specialized center for the pastoral care of the sick, as well as for the promotion of the spirituality of Divine Mercy," John Paul II said.

“It is very significant and timely that precisely here, next to this very ancient hospital, prayers are said and work is done with constant care for the health of body and spirit,” he said of the church.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, the order to which St. Faustina belonged, help to lead the daily prayers and catechesis on the Divine Mercy in Santo Spirito in Sassia.

“Jesus told St. Faustina, ‘Man does not find any peace until he turns with faith to the Divine Mercy,’” Msgr. Bart said.

“We priests must remember that we are channels, instruments of the Divine Mercy,” he added.

At the pope’s Mass at Santo Spirito in Sassia , Francis recalled that St. Faustina wrote in her diary in 1937 that “In a soul that is suffering we should see Jesus on the cross, not a parasite and a burden... [Lord] you give us the chance to practice deeds of mercy, and we practice making judgments.”

Pope Francis said: “Today, in this church that has become a shrine of mercy in Rome, and on this Sunday that St. John Paul II dedicated to Divine Mercy 20 years ago, we confidently welcome this message. Jesus said to St. Faustina: ‘I am love and mercy itself; there is no human misery that could measure up to my mercy’.”

Vatican Observatory’s new website a launch pad to show the Catholic Church supports science

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s astronomical observatory has launched a new website as part of its mission to show the world the Catholic Church’s support of science and scientific research.

Together with the , which has hundreds of resources on faith and science, the Vatican Observatory has also started a to explore “the wonder of God’s universe” with Vatican astronomers and expert guests.

Jesuit Br. Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, told CNA in an email interview that the “was hardly ever visited.”

“The mission of the Vatican Observatory, articulated by Pope Leo XIII back in 1891, is to show the world that the Church supports science. And while we’ve done a pretty good job of doing the science, I know we’ve been less successful at ‘showing the world,’” Consolmagno said.

With roots dating back to 1582, the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world.

The headquarters are in Castel Gandolfo, a town just outside Rome and the location of the summer residence of the popes. A dozen priests and brothers live and study there.

The Vatican Observatory also has a research group at the University of Arizona, where in partnership with the university, the observatory constructed the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mount Graham. It began operation in 1993.

Consolmagno said the new website had been in the works for well over a year, and after receiving a grant at the beginning of summer 2020, “we’ve been working pretty much full time on the site.”

The astronomer said that when he meets people he frequently hears that they did not know the Vatican had an observatory.

“The message we have for the general public can be quite detailed,” he said, referencing the website’s .

“But frankly, the mere awareness that we exist, a modern astronomical observatory supported by the Vatican (and by donations to our Foundation), says everything essential that needs saying.”

Cardinal Turkson marks World Health Day with call to rethink healthcare

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Peter Turkson called for a rethink of healthcare to include a “holistic vision of care” in his message for this year’s World Health Day.

“For a fairer and healthier world, it is necessary to acquire a different overall view on human health and care that takes into account the physical, psychological, intellectual, social, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of the person,” Turkson wrote in the published April 7.

The prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said that it is necessary to “rethink the concept of health as integral health.”

“Acquiring this integral view allows us to understand that ensuring that everyone receives the necessary healthcare is an act of justice, that is, giving the person what is in his/her right,” he said.

“Those who care for the ill and suffering must have this overview, continually inspired by a holistic vision of care: a unanimous effort of health and pastoral workers for the integral health of their patients.”

The cardinal highlighted a document published by his Vatican dicastery earlier this year on mental health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 20-page , entitled “Accompanying people in psychological distress in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” addresses anxiety, despair, suicidal thoughts, and the need for community.

“The year 2020 will be remembered as a watershed year that separates the ‘before’ and the ‘after,’” Turkson said.

“The impact of the pandemic has been harshest on the most vulnerable communities, who are most exposed to the disease, with less chances of having access to quality healthcare services.”

was first established by the World Health Organization in 1948 and is celebrated annually by the WHO on April 7.

The 72-year-old Ghanaian cardinal noted that this year’s World Health Day emphasizes “the urgency of working to eliminate inequalities in access to healthcare, towards ‘Building a fairer, healthier world for all.’”

He said that it is an “urgent goal” that “universal health coverage be guaranteed to all individuals and all communities.”

Quoting previous comments by Pope Francis, Turkson also said: “The right to healthcare and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”

“More equitable and more just health systems can be built on these two principles.”

Pope Francis names Green Bay vicar general Fr. Daniel Felton as next bishop of Duluth

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has appointed the vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, Fr. Daniel J. Felton, as the next bishop of Duluth, Minnesota.

Felton, 66, has been both vicar general and moderator of the curia for Green Bay diocese since 2014.

The Diocese of Duluth, which serves more than 44,000 Catholics in northeastern Minnesota, has been without a bishop since the sudden of Bishop Paul Sirba on Dec. 1, 2019.

In June 2020, Pope Francis named Rapid City priest Fr. Michel J. Mulloy to succeed Sirba, but Mulloy a month before his consecration after an accusation surfaced that he had abused a minor in the 1980s.

The Diocese of Rapid City said in September 2020 that it had conducted a preliminary investigation into the allegation against Mulloy and a review board had agreed it merited a full canonical investigation.

The diocese ordered Mulloy to refrain from engaging in ministry.

Felton’s episcopal consecration is scheduled for May 20.

Fr. James Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth, said April 7: “We are grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for sending us our next bishop in this joyful Easter season.”

“We look forward to getting to know Bishop-elect Felton and beginning this new chapter in our walk of faith together under his leadership as our next shepherd.”

In addition to his role as vicar general of Green Bay diocese, Bishop-elect Felton was appointed priest moderator of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in the city of Green Bay in August last year.

Felton was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1955, and is the oldest of five children. He grew up in Wisconsin.

The bishop-elect was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay in 1981. In 1990, he received a licentiate in theology and a master’s degree in social communications from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Felton is a member of the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He is also a member of the diocesan college of consultors, presbyteral council, bishop advisory council, personnel board, diocesan finance council, St. Norbert board of trustees, and Silver Lake College board of directors.

Pope Francis at the general audience: ‘There is no grief in the Church that is borne in solitude’

CNA Staff, Apr 7, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that the communion of saints means that Christians are never alone in the darkest moments of their lives.

Speaking at his general audience on April 7, the pope noted that whenever people pray they are surrounded by both hidden and canonized saints.

“Prayer is always born again: each time we join our hands and open our hearts to God, we find ourselves in the company of anonymous saints and recognized saints who pray with us and who intercede for us as older brothers and sisters who have preceded us on this same human adventure,” he said.

“There is no grief in the Church that is borne in solitude, there are no tears shed in oblivion, because everyone breathes and participates in one common grace.”

The pope gave his , dedicated to praying in communion with the saints, in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions.

The address was the 28th reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

The pope said that when Catholics pray they are “immersed in a majestic river of invocations that precedes us and proceeds after us.”

He described how prayers of praise such as Mary’s and Simeon’s echo through the centuries.

He said: “Those prayers that are good are ‘expansive,’ like anything that is good; they propagate themselves continuously, with or without being posted on social networks: from hospital wards, from moments of festive gatherings to those in which we suffer silently…”

He noted that the early Christian community buried people in gardens surrounding a church. He said this was a way of saying that “the hosts of those who have preceded us participate in every Eucharist.”

“The saints are still here, not far from us; and their representations in churches evoke that ‘cloud of witnesses’ that always surrounds us,” the pope explained, quoting from the .

He continued: “They are witnesses that we do not adore -- that is understood that we do not adore these saints -- but whom we venerate and who in thousands of different ways bring us to Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Mediator between God and humanity.”

“A ‘saint’ that does not bring you to Jesus is not a saint, not even a Christian. A saint makes you remember Jesus Christ because he or she trod the path of living as a Christian. The saints remind us that even in our lives, however weak and marked by sin, holiness can unfold. Even at the last moment.”

“In fact, we read in the Gospel that the first saint canonized by Jesus Himself was a thief, not a pope. Holiness is a journey of life, a long or short or instantaneous encounter with Jesus. But he or she is always a witness, a saint is a witness, a man or woman who encountered Jesus and followed Jesus. It is never too late to be converted to the Lord who is good and great in love.”

Citing the , the pope encouraged Catholics to ask the saints to intercede for them and the whole world.

“There is a mysterious solidarity in Christ between those who have already passed to the other life and we pilgrims in this one: from heaven, our beloved deceased continue to take care of us. They pray for us, and we pray for them and we pray with them,” he said.

The pope added that we gain an insight into the communion of the saints when we pray for those around us.

“To pray for others is the first way to love them and it moves us toward concretely drawing near,” he said, recommending that people pray especially for those with whom they are in conflict.

“And something changes with prayer. The first thing that changes is my heart and my attitude. The Lord changes it so it might be turned into an encounter, a new encounter so that the conflict does not become a never-ending war,” he noted.

The pope also called on Catholics in times of trouble to pray to the saint associated with their baptismal name.

He said: “The name given to us at baptism is not a label or a decoration! It is usually the name of the Virgin, or a saint, who expect nothing other than to ‘give us a hand’ in life, to give us a hand to obtain the grace from God that we need.”

“If the trials of life have not reached the breaking point, if we are still capable of persevering, if despite everything we proceed trustingly, more than due to our own merits, perhaps we owe all this to the intercession of all the saints, some who are in heaven, others who are pilgrims like us on earth, who have protected and accompanied us, because all of us know there are holy people here on this earth, saintly men and women who live in holiness.”

At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis said that he was praying for victims of floods in Indonesia and East Timor that have killed more than 150 people.

The pope also observed that April 6 was the , established by the United Nations.

“I hope that this might set in motion once again the experience of sports as a team event, to promote dialogue through different cultures and peoples,” he said, offering a particular word of encouragement to the Vatican City sports team, .

In his message to Polish-speaking Catholics watching the audience via , the pope noted that this Sunday marked the Feast of Divine Mercy.

“Let us turn confidently to the merciful Christ and let us ask for the grace of forgiveness and active love towards our neighbor,” he said.

American priest reveals communication ‘mix-up’ about end of Vatican job

Rome Newsroom, Apr 6, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Msgr. Robert Oliver, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, said last week that due to a “mix-up,” he was not told in advance that his service on the Vatican’s safeguarding commission was ending after six years.

Oliver had been secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) since its beginning in 2014. For the two years prior, he had been promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

On March 24, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had extended the terms of 15 members of the commission for a year, a member, Chilean survivor of clerical sexual abuse Juan Carlos Cruz, for a term of three years. Oliver’s term as secretary was not renewed.

Oliver said in a Good Friday in Boston on April 2 that he had learned the news from journalists as he was boarding a plane to come to Boston for a visit.

“It was just a few days ago that I was at the airport returning to Boston, for what I thought was going to be just a short trip,” he said. “We were just about to board the plane and my phone lit up, and several media members were asking why it was that the Vatican had announced that my service at the Holy See was ending.”

“Well, it seems that through a rather amusing mix-up in communications, unfortunately my superiors in Rome had kind of failed to let me know,” Oliver said.

The priest explained that he then spoke to his bishop, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who confirmed that the news was true and he would be returning to Boston archdiocese.

O’Malley is also president of the PCPM, a position he will continue to hold, according to the Archdiocese of Boston.

Oliver’s homily was delivered during the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord, celebrated by O’Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

In his homily, Oliver reflected on the image of Jesus on the cross, with his arms outstretched, and the feelings of “rejection, anger, all of us have experienced in our life.”

“And there’s the sense, really, that there was still so much that I had hoped to achieve,” he said.

He noted that for 20 years he has worked with Cardinal O’Malley for victims of abuse and for priests wrongly accused of abuse, “hoping to contribute something to the reform of our Church.”

He said that as he has tried to process his thoughts and emotions about the end of his time in Rome, he is primarily filled with gratitude.

“In the homily, I wanted to convey clearly my joy at coming home to serve in the archdiocese and that the time in Rome will remain an important chapter in my years of priestly ministry,” Oliver told CNA via email, calling the end of his service at the Vatican “not at all unexpected.”

“In fact, I ended up serving longer than the expected time,” he said.

In the homily, he said: “But OK, now it’s time for a change, and the readings put the cross before us. But really, feelings of rejection? There hangs the Savior of the world, of every human being, one cast out and alone, on the hill of Golgotha. Anger? What depth of hatred can lead someone to nail another person to a cross and to stand there taunting him and spitting on him for hours?”

“And there are the arms of our Savior stretched out to his executioners and praying for forgiveness.”

Oliver said that he had been given a warm welcome in Boston, but did not know what he would be doing next, describing himself as being in a “free agent period, just like professional athletes.”

“Maybe the Patriots still have a bit of money left over,” he joked.

He said that he had been particularly touched by an email he received from a young woman who had been the victim of clerical sexual abuse and afterward ignored by the Church. She had been traumatized by her experience and almost committed suicide, he said.

The woman wrote to him after hearing that his term in Rome had ended. Oliver said that she wrote: “I’m so sorry to hear the news. It must be so difficult for you, I can’t possibly imagine. Please know how valuable your service as a priest is. Please know that God has great things ahead for you. Take a moment today and pause.”

“This is a victim of abuse by a priest,” he said, “when feeling completely rejected and alone, rejected by the Church, and she’s writing these words to a priest. This is evangelization.”

“As St. Paul writes in Ephesians, we need strength, we need the divine strength of God to understand these things, to comprehend the breadth, and the length, the depth, and the height of the love of the Crucified Savior,” he concluded.

“He has borne our sins. He welcomes us to the Father. He wishes us to respond, he wishes us to bring this life to others, and to speak to them about what he has done in our lives.”

Pope Francis urges Catholics to pray for people risking lives to fight for fundamental rights

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is inviting Catholics around the world to pray this month for people risking their lives by standing up for fundamental rights.

The pope made the appeal in his prayer intention for April, released on Tuesday.

“Let us pray for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis, that they may see their sacrifice and their work bear abundant fruit,” reads the monthly prayer intention, April 6 by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

The network also released an accompanying , in which Pope Francis explained the rationale for the prayer intention.

Speaking in Spanish, the pope said: “Defending fundamental human rights demands courage and determination. I’m referring to actively combatting poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land, and housing, and the denial of social and labor rights.”

“Often, in practice, fundamental human rights are not equal for all. There are first-, second-, and third-class people, and those who are disposable. No. They must be equal for all.”

He continued: “In some places, defending people’s dignity can mean going to prison, even without a trial. Or it might mean slander.”

“Every human being has the right to develop fully, and this fundamental right cannot be denied by any country.”

Although the prayer intention and video did not mention any countries by name, the pope has called attention repeatedly in recent weeks to the crisis in Burma following a military coup.

“Once again and with great sadness, I feel the urgency to speak about the tragic situation in Myanmar, where many people, mostly young people, are losing their lives to give hope to their country,” he at the end of a general audience on March 17.

The advocacy group estimates that security forces have killed 570 protesters in the Southeast Asian country as of April 5.

Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO, issued a report in March 2020 arguing that democracy was decreasing not only in authoritarian states but also in countries with a long history of upholding basic rights.

Its report found that political rights and civil liberties had deteriorated worldwide for a 14th year in succession.

Among the territories highlighted in the study was Hong Kong. In recent months, Western governments have accused China of undermining the territory’s democratic system.

Under a “national security” law that came into force last summer, a number of have been arrested and charged with terrorism, sedition, and foreign collusion.

Pope Francis has not addressed the situation publicly.

The Standard, an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, said last month that Vatican Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher had defended the Holy See’s approach.

It the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States as saying that, concerning Hong Kong, “I don’t think that ‘grandstanding’ statements can be terribly effective.”

“I think you have to ask what effect [a statement] is going to have? Is it going to produce a positive change, or does it make the situation more complicated for the local Church and for relations with the Holy See? At the moment, we feel that’s the right approach,” Gallagher reportedly said.

Commenting on the pope's prayer intention for April, Fr. Fréderic Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said: “It’s not the first time that Pope Francis has insisted on the importance of people’s fundamental rights.”

“In his latest encyclical, , he denounced the fact that ‘While one part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees its own dignity denied, scorned or trampled upon, and its fundamental rights discarded or violated.’”

“Pope Francis asks us this month to pray for ‘those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis.’”

“It’s an invitation to remember those men and women, in so many countries of the world, who continue to be in prison or in dangerous situations, or who have lost their life, and many of them in the name of their faith in Jesus Christ. Let us not forget them; let us pray for them.”

Pope Francis at the Regina Coeli: ‘Never tire of seeking the risen Christ’

CNA Staff, Apr 5, 2021 / 05:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Monday that Christians should “never tire of seeking the risen Christ.”

Speaking before the recitation of the Regina Coeli April 5, the pope noted that Easter Monday is known in Italy as Lunedì dell’Angelo, or the Monday of the Angel.

Referring to the Gospel reading () in which Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encountered an angel at the empty tomb while looking for Jesus, he observed that the angel greeted the women with the words “Do not be afraid.”

“We can reap a precious teaching from the angel’s words: we should never tire of seeking the risen Christ who gives life in abundance to those who meet him,” he .

The pope gave his address in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions. Italy entered a three-day nationwide lockdown on Saturday. Easter Monday -- also known in Italy as La Pasquetta, or “Little Easter” -- marked the final day of the lockdown, which the authorities hope will help to reduce a third wave of the virus.

Standing beneath Pietro Perugino’s of the Resurrection, Pope Francis recalled the angel’s next words to the women: “I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”

He commented: “This expression ‘He has risen’ goes beyond human capacity. Even the women who had gone to the tomb and had found it open and empty could not confirm ‘He has risen,’ but they could only say that the tomb was empty.”

“‘He has risen’ is a message… Only an angel could say that Jesus had risen, only an angel with the authority to be the bearer of a heavenly message, with the power given by God to say it, just as an angel -- only an angel -- had been able to say to Mary: ‘You will conceive a son, [….] and he will be called the Son of the Most High’ (Luke 1:31-32).”

The pope pointed out that in St. Matthew’s account there was a “great earthquake” as the angel rolled back the stone at the entrance to Jesus’ tomb and sat upon it.

“That large stone, that was supposed to be the seal of the victory of evil and death, was put underfoot, it becomes the footstool of the angel of the Lord. All of the plans and defenses of Jesus’ enemies and persecutors were in vain. All the seals had crumbled,” he said.

“The image of the angel sitting on the stone before the tomb is the concrete manifestation, the visible manifestation of God’s victory over evil, the manifestation of Christ’s victory over the prince of this world, the manifestation of the victory of light over darkness.”

“Jesus’ tomb was not opened by a physical phenomenon, but by the Lord’s intervention.”

Francis contrasted the fear-filled reaction of the guards with that of the women at the tomb.

He said: “To find Christ means to discover peace in our hearts. The same women of the Gospel, after initially being shaken -- that is understandable -- experience great joy in discovering the Master alive.”

Quoting a Communion antiphon, he continued: “In this Easter season, my wish is that everyone might have the same spiritual experience, welcoming in our hearts, in our homes, and in our families the joyful proclamation of Easter: ‘Christ, having risen from the dead, dies now no more; death will no longer have dominion over him.’”

“The Easter proclamation is this: Christ is alive, Christ accompanies my life, Christ is beside me. Christ knocks at the door of my heart so you can let him in, Christ is alive. In these days of Easter, it would be good for us to repeat this: the Lord is alive.”

The pope added that it was the Resurrection that inspired Catholics to pray the prayer throughout the 50 days of Easter.

“The angel Gabriel had greeted [Mary] thus the first time: ‘Rejoice, full of grace!’ Now Mary’s joy is complete: Jesus lives, Love has conquered. May this be our joy as well,” he said.

Speaking immediately after he had recited the Regina Coeli, the pope greeted those watching via television and live stream.

“I am thinking in particular of the elderly, those who are ill, connected from their own homes or rest homes. To them, I send a word of encouragement and recognition of their witness: I am near them,” he said.

Concluding his address, the pope said he hoped that everyone would live out the Easter Octave with faith.

“Take every opportune occasion to witness to the joy and peace of the Risen Lord,” he urged.

“A happy, peaceful, and holy Easter to everyone! And please do not forget to pray for me.”

Full text: Pope Francis’ Easter Urbi et Orbi blessing 2021

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, a good, happy and peaceful Easter!

Today, throughout the world, the Church’s proclamation resounds: “Jesus, who was crucified, has risen as he said. Alleluia!”

The Easter message does not offer us a mirage or reveal a magic formula. It does not point to an escape from the difficult situation we are experiencing. The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened. That is today’s scandal.

In the face of, or better, in the midst of this complex reality, the Easter message speaks concisely of the event that gives us the hope that does not disappoint: “Jesus who was crucified has risen.” It speaks to us not about angels or ghosts, but about a man, a man of flesh and bone, with a face and a name: Jesus. The Gospel testifies that this Jesus, crucified under Pontius Pilate for claiming he was the Christ, the Son of God, rose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, just as he had foretold to his disciples.

The crucified Jesus, none other, has risen from the dead. God the Father raised Jesus, his Son, because he fully accomplished his saving will. Jesus took upon himself our weakness, our infirmities, even our death. He endured our sufferings and bore the weight of our sins. Because of this, God the Father exalted him and now Jesus Christ lives forever; he is the Lord.

The witnesses report an important detail: the risen Jesus bears the marks of the wounds in his hands, feet and side. These wounds are the everlasting seal of his love for us. All those who experience a painful trial in body or spirit can find refuge in these wounds and, through them, receive the grace of the hope that does not disappoint.

The risen Christ is hope for all who continue to suffer from the pandemic, both the sick and those who have lost a loved one. May the Lord give them comfort and sustain the valiant efforts of doctors and nurses. Everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care. This is even more evident in these times when all of us are called to combat the pandemic. Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight. I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries.

The crucified and risen Lord is comfort for those who have lost their jobs or experience serious economic difficulties and lack adequate social protection. May he inspire public authorities to act so that everyone, especially families in greatest need, will be offered the assistance needed for a decent standard of living. Sadly, the pandemic has dramatically increased the number of the poor and the despair of thousands of people.

“The poor of every kind must begin once more to hope.” Saint John Paul II spoke these words during his visit to Haiti. It is precisely to the beloved Haitian people that my thoughts turn in these days. I urge them not to be overwhelmed by difficulties, but to look to the future with confidence and hope. And my thoughts turn especially to you, my dear Haitian brothers and sisters. I am close to you and I want a definitive resolution to your problems. I am praying for this, dear Haitian brothers and sisters.

The risen Jesus is hope for all those young people forced to go long periods without attending school or university, or spending time with their friends. Experiencing real human relationships, not just virtual relationships, is something that everyone needs, especially at an age when a person’s character and personality is being formed. I express my closeness to young people throughout the world and, in these days, especially to the young people of Myanmar committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully, in the knowledge that hatred can be dispelled only by love.

May the light of the risen Jesus be a source of rebirth for migrants fleeing from war and extreme poverty. Let us recognize in their faces the marred and suffering face of the Lord as he walked the path to Calvary. May they never lack concrete signs of solidarity and human fraternity, a pledge of the victory of life over death that we celebrate on this day. I thank the nations that generously receive people who are suffering and seeking refuge. Lebanon and Jordan in particular are taking in many refugees who have fled from the conflict in Syria.

May the people of Lebanon, who are undergoing times of difficulty and uncertainty, experience the consolation of the Risen Lord and find support from the international community in their vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism.

May Christ our peace finally bring an end to the clash of arms in beloved and war-torn Syria, where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions; in Yemen, whose situation has met with a deafening and scandalous silence; and in Libya, where at last there is hope that a decade of bloody strife and clashes may come to an end. May all parties involved commit themselves effectively to ending conflicts and allowing war-weary peoples to live in peace and to begin the reconstruction of their respective countries.

The Resurrection naturally takes us to Jerusalem. On Jerusalem we ask the Lord to grant peace and security (cf. Ps 122), so that it can embrace its calling to be a place of encounter where all can see one another as brothers and sisters, and where Israelis and Palestinians will rediscover the power of dialogue for reaching a stable solution that will enable the two states to dwell side by side in peace and prosperity.

On this festive day, my thoughts also return to Iraq, which I had the joy of visiting last month. I pray that it may continue along the path of peace and thus fulfill God’s dream for a human family hospitable and welcoming to all his children.[1]

May the power of the risen Lord sustain the peoples of Africa who see their future compromised by internal violence and international terrorism, especially in the Sahel and Nigeria, as well as in Tigray and the Cabo Delgado region. May the efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully continue, in respect for human rights and the sacredness of life, through fraternal and constructive dialogue in a spirit of reconciliation and true solidarity.

There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world! May the Lord, who is our peace, help us to overcome the mindset of war. May he grant that prisoners of conflicts, especially in eastern Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, may return safely to their families, and may he inspire world leaders to curb the race for new weaponry. Today, April 4, marks the International Awareness Day against anti-personnel landmines, insidious and horrible devices that kill or maim many innocent people each year and prevent humanity from “walking together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death!”[2] How much better our world would be without these instruments of death!

Dear brothers and sisters, once again this year, in various places many Christians have celebrated Easter under severe restrictions and, at times, without being able to attend liturgical celebrations. We pray that those restrictions, as well as all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide, may be lifted and everyone be allowed to pray and praise God freely.

Amid the many hardships we are enduring, let us never forget that we have been healed by the wounds of Christ (cf. 1 Pet 2:24). In the light of the Risen Lord, our sufferings are now transfigured. Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation. In embracing the cross, Jesus bestowed meaning on our sufferings and now we pray that the benefits of that healing will spread throughout the world. A good, happy and serene Easter to all of you!

[1] Address at the Interreligious Meeting in Ur, 6 March 2021.

[2] John Paul II, Angelus, 28 February 1999.

Pope Francis on Easter: Christ’s wounds are the ‘seal of his love for us’

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2021 / 04:25 am (CNA).

May those who suffer take refuge in the wounds of Christ, and through them, receive the hope which does not disappoint, Pope Francis prayed on Easter Sunday.

In his Urbi et Orbi blessing April 4, the pope said the witnesses of Christ’s resurrection “report an important detail: the risen Jesus bears the marks of the wounds in his hands, feet and side.”

“These wounds are the everlasting seal of his love for us,” Francis said. “All those who experience a painful trial in body or spirit can find refuge in these wounds and, through them, receive the grace of the hope that does not disappoint.”

“Amid the many hardships we are enduring, let us never forget that we have been healed by the wounds of Christ,” he said.

The pope added: “In the light of the Risen Lord, our sufferings are now transfigured. Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation. In embracing the cross, Jesus bestowed meaning on our sufferings and now we pray that the benefits of that healing will spread throughout the world. A good, happy and serene Easter to all of you!”

Pope Francis gave the Easter Urbi et Orbi message and blessing from the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he had offered Easter Sunday Mass with a congregation of around 200 people.

With Italy in a new lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, the blessing was given inside the basilica, instead of from the central loggia overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

After the proclamation of the Gospel, sung in Latin and Greek, the pope did not pronounce a homily, but kept a moment of silence for personal reflection.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis thanked everyone who helped to make the Holy Week and Easter liturgies at the Vatican beautiful. He also thanked Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who has recently retired, for his 16 years of service as the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.

In the Urbi et Orbi blessing, Pope Francis noted that “once again this year, in various places many Christians have celebrated Easter under severe restrictions and, at times, without being able to attend liturgical celebrations.”

“We pray that those restrictions, as well as all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide, may be lifted and everyone be allowed to pray and praise God freely,” he said.

The pope explained that “Today, throughout the world, the Church’s proclamation resounds: ‘Jesus, who was crucified, has risen as he said. Alleluia!’”

The Easter message, he continued, is not a mirage or a magic formula, nor is it an escape from the difficult situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe social and economic crises it has caused.

“Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened,” he said.

“In the face of, or better, in the midst of this complex reality, the Easter message speaks concisely of the event that gives us the hope that does not disappoint,” the pope explained. “‘Jesus who was crucified has risen.’”

This message is about a man “of flesh and bone, with a face and a name: Jesus,” he said.

“The crucified Jesus, none other, has risen from the dead. God the Father raised Jesus, his Son, because he fully accomplished his saving will,” the pope added. “Jesus took upon himself our weakness, our infirmities, even our death. He endured our sufferings and bore the weight of our sins. Because of this, God the Father exalted him and now Jesus Christ lives forever; he is the Lord.”

Pope Francis prayed that those who are sick with the coronavirus, or who have lost loved ones in the pandemic, may be comforted by the Risen Christ.

He prayed for the vulnerable, for those who have lost their jobs, and for anyone experiencing financial insecurity.

He also prayed that the risen Jesus would give hope to all the children and young adults forced to go a long time without attending school or university, or without seeing their friends.

“I express my closeness to young people throughout the world,” Francis said, “and, in these days, especially to the young people of Myanmar committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully, in the knowledge that hatred can be dispelled only by love.”

He prayed that Jesus will be a source of rebirth to migrants fleeing war and poverty, and thanked Lebanon and Jordan for taking in so many refugees of the conflict in Syria.

“May the people of Lebanon, who are undergoing times of difficulty and uncertainty, experience the consolation of the Risen Lord and find support from the international community in their vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism,” he said.

The pope prayed that Christ would bring peace to the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. Remembering his trip to Iraq last month, he said, “I pray that it may continue along the path of peace and thus fulfill God’s dream for a human family hospitable and welcoming to all his children.”

For the people of Africa, he prayed for freedom from internal violence and international terrorism, especially in the Sahel, Nigeria, Tigray, and the Cabo Delgado region.

“There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world!” he emphasized. “May the Lord, who is our peace, help us to overcome the mindset of war. May he grant that prisoners of conflicts, especially in eastern Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, may return safely to their families, and may he inspire world leaders to curb the race for new weaponry.”

At the end of the Easter message, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti read the pronouncement of the plenary indulgence associated with the Urbi et Orbi before Pope Francis bestowed his blessing on the city of Rome and the world.

Full Text: Pope Francis’ homily for Easter Vigil at the Vatican

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2021 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The women thought they would find a body to anoint; instead they found an empty tomb. They went to mourn the dead; instead they heard a proclamation of life. 

For this reason, the Gospel  tells us, the women “were seized with trembling and amazement” (Mk 16:8). Full of fear, trembling, and full of amazement. A fear mingled with joy that took their hearts by surprise when they saw the great stone before the tomb rolled away and inside a young man in a white robe. 

Wonder at hearing the words: “Do not be afraid! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen.” And a message: “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”

May we too accept this message, the message of Easter. Let us go to Galilee, where the Risen Lord has gone ahead of us. Yet what does it mean “to go to Galilee?” 

To go to Galilee means, first, to begin anew. For the disciples it meant going back to the place where the Lord first sought them out and called them to follow him. The place of their first  encounter and the place of their first love. 

From that moment on, leaving their nets behind, they followed Jesus, listening to his preaching and witnessing the miracles he performed. Yet, though they were always with him, they did not fully understand him. Frequently they misunderstood his words and in the face of the cross they abandoned him and fled. 

Even so, the Risen Lord once more appears as the  one who goes ahead of them to Galilee. He precedes them. He stands before them and constantly calls them to follow him. He says to them: “Let us start over from where we began. Let us begin anew. I want you to be with me again, in spite of everything”. 

In this Galilee, we learn to be amazed by the Lord’s infinite love, which opens new trails along the path of our defeats. He is like this, and he invites us to Galilee to be like this.

This is the first Easter message that I would offer you: it is always possible to begin anew,  because there is always a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures. 

Even from the rubble of our hearts -- each of us knows, knows the rubble of his own heart. From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can  prepare a new history. He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and  death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn. In these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the Risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and  never lose hope.  

Going to Galilee also means setting out on new paths. It means walking away from the tomb. The women were looking for Jesus in the tomb; they went to recall what they had  experienced with him, which was now gone forever. They went to indulge in their grief. 

There is a kind of faith that can become the memory of something once beautiful, now simply to be recalled.  Many people -- we too --  experience such a “faith of memories,” as if Jesus were someone from the past, an old friend from their youth who is now far distant, an event that took place long ago, when they attended catechism as a child. A faith made up of habits, things from the past, lovely childhood memories, but no longer a faith that moves me, or challenges me.

Going to Galilee, on the other hand, means realizing that faith, if it is to be alive, must get back on the road. It must daily renew the first steps of the journey, the amazement of the first encounter. And it must continue to trust, not thinking it already knows everything, but embracing the humility of those who let themselves be surprised by God’s ways. 

We are afraid of God's surprises; we are often afraid that God will surprise us. And today the Lord invites us to let ourselves be surprised.

Let us go to Galilee, then, to discover that God cannot be filed away  among our childhood memories, but is alive and filled with surprises. Risen from the dead, Jesus  never ceases to amaze us.  

This, then, is the second message of Easter: faith is not an album of past memories; Jesus is  not outdated. He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are  experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams. 

He opens new doors when you least expect it, he urges you not to indulge in nostalgia for the past or cynicism about the present. Even if you feel that all is lost, please let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: he will surely surprise you.  

Going to Galilee also means going to the peripheries. Galilee was an outpost: the people living in that diverse and disparate region were those farthest from the ritual purity of Jerusalem. Yet that is where Jesus began his mission. There he brought his message to those struggling to live from day to day, proclaiming this message to the excluded, the vulnerable and the poor. There he brought the face and presence of God, who tirelessly seeks out those who are discouraged or lost, who goes to the very peripheries  of existence, since in his eyes no one is least, no one is excluded. 

The Risen Lord is asking his disciples to go there even today. He asks us to go to Galilee, to this “real Galilee”. It is the settings of daily life, the streets we travel every day, the corners of our cities. There the Lord goes ahead of us and makes himself present in the lives of those around us, those who share in our day, our home, our work, our difficulties and hopes. 

In Galilee we learn that we can find the Risen One in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the  enthusiasm of those who dream and the resignation of those who are discouraged, in the smiles of  those who rejoice and the tears of those who suffer, and above all in the poor and those on the  fringes. We will be amazed how the greatness of God is revealed in littleness, how his beauty  shines forth in the poor and simple. 

And this is the third message of Easter: Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is  there at every moment of our lives. Having made himself present in the heart of our world, he  invites us to overcome barriers, banish prejudices and draw near to those around us every day in  order to rediscover the grace of everyday life. 

Let us recognize him here present in our Galilees, in everyday life. With him, life will change. For beyond all defeats, evil and violence, beyond all  suffering and death, the Risen One lives and the Risen One guides history.  

Sister, brother, if on this night you are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed or a dream shattered, go open your heart with amazement to the  message of Easter: “Do not be afraid, he has risen! He awaits you in Galilee”. 

Your expectations  will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be dried, your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord always goes ahead of you, he always walks before you. And, with Him, life always begins anew. 

Pope Francis at Easter Vigil: 'The Risen Lord loves us without limits'

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

At Vatican's Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis said that Jesus’ love is without limits and always provides the grace to begin anew.

The pope said in his homily on April 3 that "it is always possible to begin anew because there is always a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.”

He continued: “From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can prepare a new history. He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn.”

“Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is there at every moment of our lives,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church,” according to the Roman Missal.

Pope Francis offered the Vigil Mass at the basilica’s Altar of the Chair with about 200 people present.

St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world, is normally packed for the Easter Vigil. This year’s Easter Triduum liturgies were once again scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The preparation of the Paschal candle was omitted and no baptisms took place at the vigil, only a renewal of baptismal promises.

The liturgy began in darkness with the blessing of the new fire. The pope and concelebrating cardinals then processed through the dark church carrying lit candles to signify the light of Christ coming to dispel the darkness.

“If on this night you are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed, or a dream shattered, go open your heart with amazement to the message of Easter: ‘Do not be afraid, he has risen! He awaits you in Galilee,’” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be dried, your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord always goes ahead of you, he always walks before you. And, with him, life always begins anew.”

During the liturgy, a cantor sang the Exsultet Easter Proclamation, which tells the story of salvation from the creation, the testing and fall of Adam, the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and culminates in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and leads us to salvation.

The basilica was lit up gradually until it was fully illuminated at the Gloria, when the bells of St. Peter’s tolled.

In his homily, the pope asked people to reflect on the angel’s message to Mary Magdalene and the others who went to anoint Jesus’ body, but found an empty tomb, as described in the Gospel of Mark:

“Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter,  ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”

Pope Francis said: “Let us go to Galilee, where the Risen Lord has gone ahead of us. Yet what  does it mean ‘to go to Galilee?’”

The pope then explained that “going to Galilee” can mean setting out on new paths, beginning anew, and going out to the peripheries.

“Galilee was an outpost: the people living in that diverse and disparate region were those farthest from the ritual purity of Jerusalem. Yet that is where Jesus began his mission. There he brought his message to those struggling to live from day to day … the excluded, the vulnerable and the poor,” he said.

“There he brought the face and presence of God, who tirelessly seeks out those who are discouraged or lost, who goes to the very peripheries of existence, since in his eyes no one is least, no one is excluded.”

Pope Francis said that he thinks many people today view the Catholic faith as a thing of the past or “lovely childhood memories” that no longer influence their daily lives.

“God cannot be filed away among our childhood memories, but is alive and filled with surprises. Risen from the dead, Jesus never ceases to amaze us,” he said.

Pope Francis continued: “Jesus is not outdated. He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams. … Even if you feel that all is lost, please, let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: He will surely surprise you.”


Pope Francis leads Via Crucis seen through the eyes of children

CNA Staff, Apr 2, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis led the Way of the Cross, featuring meditations prepared by children, at the Vatican on Good Friday evening.

With Italy still facing coronavirus restrictions, this was the second year in succession that the Via Crucis was not held at the Colosseum, a Roman amphitheater associated with the Christian martyrs.

The prayer began at 9 p.m. local time on the parvis in front of an illuminated St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis had a scouting group from central Italy and youngsters from a Roman parish to prepare the texts for this year’s Stations of the Cross.

The Agesci “Foligno I” Scout Group in Umbria, made up of 145 young people between the ages of eight and 19, devised the meditations and prayers.

An additional group of around 500 children from the First Communion and Confirmation catechism classes at the south Rome parish of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda also contributed.

Explaining the choice of children to write the meditations, Vatican News : “Pope Francis has called on the faithful to look at the sufferings of humanity through the eyes of children by entrusting them this year with the meditations for the Way of the Cross.”

“He asks us to consider more deeply their perspective of the world today, especially in this tragic time of the pandemic.”

Each of the 14 stations was accompanied by a drawing by young children and adolescents living at the Mater Divini Amoris and Tetto Casal Fattoria family homes in Rome.

The Mater Divini Amoris Family Home is run by the sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Divine Love and currently looks after eight children ages three to eight.

The Tetto Casal Fattoria Family Home is a social cooperative that supports children and youth “in the growth and construction of a life project.”

Pope Francis sat listening intently on a velvet-covered chair on a spotlit platform overlooking the square, rising to read a prayer at the end of each station. Behind him hung a scarlet curtain with a large crucifix, with candles burning beneath it.

The introductory prayer : “Dear Jesus, You know that we children also have crosses to carry. Crosses that are no lighter or heavier than those of adults, but are still real crosses, crosses that weigh us down even at night. Only you know what they are, and take them seriously. Only you.”

The reflections were read out by children as a small group carrying a simple black cross processed around the Egyptian obelisk at the center of St. Peter’s Square, led by four people carrying burning torches.

The group, which consisted of children and educators wearing face coverings, moved along a route lined by small fires. The lights formed a large flickering cross in the otherwise empty square.

As the stations progressed, the procession moved towards Pope Francis. Before the 14th and final station, a girl presented the cross to the pope. He held it tightly, pressing his forehead to it, while the meditation and prayer were read out.

The Roman tradition of holding the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday dates back to the pontificate of Benedict XIV, who died in 1758.

After dying out for a period, the tradition was revived in 1964 by Pope Paul VI, while under Pope John Paul II the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum became a worldwide television event.

Each year, the pope personally chooses who will write the meditations for the stations.

Last year, Pope Francis the chaplaincy at the “Due Palazzi” House of Detention in Padua, northern Italy, to prepare the meditations.

This year’s stations concluded with a final prayer which said: “Lord, merciful Father, once again this year we have followed your Son Jesus on the way of the cross. We followed him by listening to the voices and the prayers of the children whom you yourself set before us as the model for entering your kingdom.”

“Help us to be like them: little, in need of everything, open to life. May we regain our purity of heart and our ability to see things in a clear light.”

It continued: “We ask you to bless and protect every child in our world. May all children grow in wisdom, age and grace, and so come to know and follow your special plan for their happiness.”

“Bless too all parents, and those who assist them in raising these, your children, so that they may always feel one with you as givers of life and love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The official for the ceremony suggested that the pope would offer a short reflection at the end of the Via Crucis. But instead, he simply imparted his apostolic blessing, as he did last year.

After giving the apostolic blessing, the pope greeted four small children who ran up to him. He hugged them and patted their heads, before walking off the stage together with them.

Full text: Cardinal Cantalamessa's homily at the Vatican's Good Friday liturgy

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2021 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

On October 3, 2020, at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, the Holy Father Pope Francis signed his Encyclical Letter, “On Fraternity and Social Friendship”, . Within a short period, it has reawakened in many hearts the aspiration towards that universal value; has shed light on many wounds that afflict the world today; has suggested some ways to reach real and just human fraternity; and has urged everyone – both people and institutions – to work for that goal.

The encyclical is addressed to a very wide audience, inside and outside the Church, indeed practically the whole of humankind. The letter spans numerous spheres of life, ranging from the private to the public sector, and from religious circles to social and political spheres. Given its universal scope, it correctly avoids limiting the discussion to aspects that characterize and belong exclusively to Christians. Towards the end of the encyclical, there is however a paragraph in which the gospel foundations of fraternity are summed up. Sparse in words but vibrant in meaning it reads:

The mystery of the cross that we are celebrating obliges us to focus precisely on this Christological foundation of fraternity which was inaugurated on Calvary.

At times, the New Testament uses the term brother (adelfos) in its primitive, most common, meaning, that is, a sibling, someone who was born of the same father and the same mother. Secondly, people who belong to the same nation or people are referred to as brothers. Paul said that he would be willing to become anathema – separated from Christ – if it would benefit his brothers, his “kindred according to the flesh,” the Israelites (see Rm 9:3). In those contexts, as in other instances, brothers is a generic term that includes men and women, brothers and sisters.

The horizon of meaning widens to include every human person, just in virtue of being such. Brother, in this sense, is sometimes translated in the Bible as neighbor. “Whoever hates his brother ...” (1 Jn 2:9) means “whoever hates his neighbor.” When Jesus says: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40), he intends to include every human person in need of help.

Besides all these nuances, the New Testament also uses the word brother to indicate a specific group of people. My brothers are Jesus’ disciples, those who welcome his teachings. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? [...] Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt 12:48-50).

Easter marks a new and decisive development in this regard. In the Paschal Mystery, Christ becomes “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rm 8:29). The disciples become brothers and sisters in a new and very profound sense. They not only share a belief in Jesus’ teaching, but also his own Spirit, his new life as the Risen One.

Significantly, only after the resurrection for the first time Jesus calls his disciples brothers. He instructs Mary Magdalene, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (Jn 20:17). The Letter to the Hebrews uses the term in the same sense, “The one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb 2:11).

After the Easter event, this is the most common use of the term brother. It indicates a brother in the faith, a member of the Christian community. They are also blood brothers – but in the blood of Christ! Because Christ is also God, this fraternity is both unique and transcendent. Christ’s fraternity does not replace other types of fraternity, due to family, nation, or race, but rather it crowns them. As creatures of the same God and Father, all human beings are brothers. The Christian faith adds a second and decisive dimension. We are brothers not only because we all have the same Father in virtue of creation, but we also have the same brother, Christ, “the firstborn among many brothers” in virtue of redemption.

Some practical consequences flow from this truth. We build fraternity in precisely the same way that we build peace, that is starting close by, with ourselves, not with great strategies and ambitious, abstract objectives. For us, that means universal fraternity starts with the Catholic Church. For once, I want to put to the side even the second circle, namely the fraternity that exists between all believers in Christ, that is ecumenism.

Fraternity among Catholics is wounded! Divisions between Churches have torn Christ’s tunic to shreds, and worse still, each shredded strip has been cut up into even smaller snippets. I speak of course of the human element of it, because no one will ever be able to tear the true tunic of Christ, his mystical body animated by the Holy Spirit. In God's eyes, the Church is "one, holy, catholic and apostolic", and will remain so until the end of the world. This, however, does not excuse our divisions, but makes them more guilty and must push us more forcefully to heal them.

What is the most common cause of the bitter divisions among Catholics? It is not dogma, nor is it the sacraments and ministries, none of the things that by God’s singular grace we fully and universally preserve. The divisions that polarize Catholics stem from political options that grow into ideologies taking priority over religious and ecclesial considerations and leading to complete abandon of the value and the duty of obedience in the Church.

In many parts of the world, these divisions are very real, even though they are not openly talked about or are disdainfully denied. This is sin in its primal meaning. The kingdom of this world becomes more important, in the person’s heart than the Kingdom of God.

I believe that we all need to make a serious examination of conscience in this regard and be converted. Fomenting division is the work par excellence of the one whose name is ‘diabolos’ that is, the divider, the enemy who sows weeds, as Jesus referred to him in the parable (see Mt 13:25).

We need to learn from Jesus’ example and the Gospel. He lived at a time of strong political polarization. Four parties existed: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the Zealots. Jesus did not side with any of them and energetically resisted attempts to be pulled towards one or the other. The earliest Christian community faithfully followed him in that choice, setting an example above all for pastors, who need to be shepherds of the entire flock, not only of part of it. Pastors need to be the first to make a serious examination of conscience. They need to ask themselves where it is that they are leading their flocks – to their position or Jesus’. The Second Vatican Council entrusted especially to laypeople the task of translating the social, economic and political implications of the Gospel into practice in different historical situations, always in a respectful and peaceful way.

If there is a special charism or gift that the Catholic Church is called to cultivate for all the Christian Churches, it is precisely unity. The Holy Father’s recent trip to Iraq has made us see firsthand how much it means to oppressed peoples or survivors of persecution, atrocities, and wars to feel a sense of belonging to a universal body, with someone lending his voice to the voiceless, so that their cry might be heard by the rest of the world and hope revived. Once again Christ’s mandate to Peter, “Strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32) has been fulfilled.

To the One who died on the cross “to gather into one the dispersed children of God” (Jn 11:52), with a humble spirit and contrite heart we lift up the prayer addressed to him by the Church before Communion at every Mass:

Amen.

The next hundred years of St. John Paul II’s legacy

Denver Newsroom, Apr 2, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope St. John Paul II— who would have turned 100 years old May 18— was a man of great humility, whose nearly 27-year pontificate nevertheless left a lasting impression on the Catholic Church and the world, according to his biographer and others who knew the man.

“He's the great Christian witness of our time. He's the exemplar of the fact that a life wholly dedicated to Jesus Christ and the Gospel is the most exciting human life possible,” George Weigel, the pope’s biographer, told CNA.

After an upbringing marked by the sadness of losing his mother, father, and brother, he endured the Nazi’s occupation of Poland, working hard as a laborer and eventually clandestinely studied for the priesthood and became cardinal archbishop of Krakow.

He eventually became the most traveled pope in history, and a beloved saint. He died in 2005, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.

“This man lived a life of such extraordinary drama that no Hollywood scriptwriter would dare come up with such a storyline. It would just be regarded as absurd,” Weigel added.

Weigel— and a former member of the Swiss Guard who served John Paul II for four years— spoke to CNA about what they think the pope will be remembered for in the next 100— or even the next 1,000— years.

Karol Wojtyla was born a century ago, on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland.

His father, also named Karol, was a Polish Army lieutenant, and his mother Emilia was a school teacher. The couple had three children: Edmund in 1906; Olga, who died shortly after her birth; and Karol, named for his faither, in 1920.

Karol was bright; a good student and an aspiring actor. Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University and in a school for drama in 1938.

The Nazi occupation forces in Poland closed the university in 1939, and young Karol had to work in a quarry for four years, and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

To make matters worse, Karol would lose his entire immediate family while still a young man. His mother died in 1929; his older brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932; and his father died in 1941.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow once it had reopened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to the priesthood in Krakow on November 1, 1946.

On January 13, 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Krakow, and later a cardinal on June 26, 1967.

Elected in 1978, he was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

John Paul II was a man of deep prayer who loved and trusted God, and also had a deep devotion to Mary. The rosary was one of his favorite prayers, and he even gave the Church a new way to contemplate truths about Jesus in the form of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary,

Mario Enzler, a former Swiss Guard member who served John Paul II, said he hopes that people will remember the pope’s simplicity— a quality he was privileged to observe firsthand.

Enzler, now a professor and author of the book recounts the first time he ever met John Paul II, in 1989. It was very soon after he started as a Swiss Guard, on the third floor of the apostolic palace. He got a call saying the Holy Father was leaving his apartment to go to the Secretary of State’s office.

The protocol for the guards in that instance was to make sure nobody was milling around in the corridor, and to stand at attention as the pope walked by. Sometimes the pope would stop to talk to the guards— but oftentimes not.

In this case, when John Paul walked by, he stopped, and Enzler remained at attention.

“He said to me: 'You must be a new one,'” Enzler recalled. He introduced himself.

“He let me finish my sentence, shook my hand…then he grabbed his hand with both of his hands, and said: 'Thank you Mario, for serving who serves.’ Then he left,” Enzler said.

“The concept of servant leadership got, can I say, tattooed on my soul,” he remembers.

“Because he didn't even know who I was, he saw that I was a new one, and he was kind enough to stop, shake my hand, ask my name; but he said, thank you for serving who serves.'

“The first time that I met him, I was obviously extremely emotional. I was really emotional when he came. I could sense he was special— he had something different.”

Enzler says he encounters many young people today who do not really know the beloved pope. 

“He was a genius, a man of prayer...but he could make anybody feel comfortable. Doesn't matter if he was talking to a Nobel prize [winner] or a homeless person, from the president of a state to a kindergarten schoolteacher,” Enzler said.

“He was capable of making everybody feel comfortable...it was just with a gesture, a caress, with a word, or just with a hug or just simply looking. I would say that in 1,000 years, he will be remembered because of his simplicity.”

Weigel, author of the definitive biography of John Paul II, for decades chronicled the pope’s engagement with civic leaders, and the way he influenced the political landscape he inhabited.

The pope famously met with dozens of political figures, in the course of 38 official visits, 738 audiences and meetings held with Heads of State, including with President Ronald Reagan— just a few days before Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall.

“He thought of himself as the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, dealing with sovereign political actors who were as subject to the universal moral law as anybody else. I think he also had a very shrewd sense of political possibility,” Weigel said. 

“He was willing to be a risk-taker, but he also appreciated that prudence is the greatest of political virtues. And I think he was quite respected by world political leaders because of his transparent integrity. His essential attitude toward these men and women was: how can I help you? What can I do to help?”

Despite his political shrewdness, John Paul II understood his role as primarily a spiritual, rather than political, leader.

This is especially evident, Weigel says, when one looks back on the saint’s speeches in his native Poland during his 1979 visit— one of the first visits outside Italy he made as pope.

“It's not that he didn't talk about politics primarily, he didn't talk about politics at all,” Weigel said.

“Aside from acknowledging the presence of government officials on his arrival in Warsaw on June 2, and acknowledging their presence at his departure from Krakow on June 10th, he simply ignored them.”

The country was then under Communist rule. Catholicism was a centerpiece of Polish culture, as it had been for centuries, despite the Communists’ efforts to stamp it out.

“He spoke to his people about Polish culture, about what made Poland Poland. And at the center of that, of course, in addition to a distinctive history, and distinctive language, distinctive literature— the intensity of Poland's Catholic faith.”

The pope’s primary impact on the world of affairs, Weigel says, was his central role in creating the revolution of conscience which made possible the nonviolent revolution of 1989 and the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe.

John Paul II had a remarkable capacity to encourage, Weigel said— in the sense of stirring up the courage that is within everybody.

“He embodied the cardinal virtue of courage, which we sometimes call fortitude. And that was faith-based,” he said.

“That was rooted in an absolute conviction that because God the Father had raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and constituted him as Lord and Savior, God was going to get eventually what God wanted in history. And our task is not to imagine that we're going to determine the final outcome of history.”

After John Paul’s visit to his native Poland in 1979, it would be another decade before the Solidarity Party in Poland, with the pope’s encouragement, would finally gain a majority in Parliament, and, largely peacefully, the country would shrug off the shackles of Communism.

Weigel says he believed European Communism would have collapsed at some point of its own “implausibility”— the system was so contradictory to the essential nature of the human person, he said, that it was bound to collapse at some point.

“The reason why it collapsed when it did, in 1989...is because of that revolution of conscience. So, that made a huge difference. It accelerated the collapse of European Communism, and it brought about its demise without massive bloodshed.”

People tend to forget, he said, that the 20th century's normal way of affecting massive social change was enormous bloodletting. There was very little of that during the revolution that toppled communism in much of Europe in 1989— only Romania saw widespread violence.

“In every other respect, this great tyranny was dismantled without bloodshed. That's remarkable, and it might not have happened that way, and it almost certainly would not have happened at that moment in time absent John Paul II.”

One of John Paul II’s most enduring legacies is the huge number of saints he recognized— he celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 blesseds, as well as celebrating 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is perhaps the most well-known contemporary of John Paul II who is now officially a saint.

Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom John Paul II beatified in 1990, is another well-known holy person that the pope has helped to bring to the world.

Enzler writes in his book that there are several other friends of John Paul who are likely to be saints soon, such as Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, a prelate from Benin who served as Dean of the College of Cardinals— and who confirmed Enzler when he was a child.

Even John Paul’s parents are on their way to sainthood, after Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Krakow announced in March 2020 that the archdiocese had opened their beatification processes.

John Paul II visited some 129 counties during his pontificate— more than any other pope had visited up to that point.

He also created World Youth Days in 1985, and presided over 19 of them as pope.

Weigel says John Paul II understood that the pope must be present to the people of the Church, wherever they are.

“He chose to do it by these extensive travels, which he insisted were not travels, they were pilgrimages,” Wegel said.

“This was the successor of Peter, on pilgrimage to various parts of the world, of the Church. And that's why these pilgrimages were always built around liturgical events, prayer, adoration of the Holy Eucharist, ecumenical and interreligious gatherings— all of this was part of a pilgrimage experience.”

In the latter half of the 20th century— a time of enormous social change and upheaval— John Paul II’s extensive travels, during which he proclaimed the gospel to huge crowds and made headlines wherever he went, were just what the world needed, Weigel said.

“At a moment in history when the Church really seemed to be on the defensive, when a lot of leaders in the Church seemed to have lost confidence in the ability to proclaim the Gospel, it was very important for this compelling human personality to display how vital and alive the Gospel is in the late 20th century and early 21st. So I think it was a good fit for the time,” he said.

Like his friend St. Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II occasionally suffered through periods of darkness and doubt. His private diaries, published in 2014, show him agonizing about whether he was doing enough to serve God.

In addition to spiritual suffering, the pope endured an assination attempt by a Turkish terrorist on May 13, 1981, who shot him in the chest— after which he forgave his attacker, and credited Mary’s intercession for his survival.

He also experienced other health problems in the form of severe Parkinson’s Disease in the last few years of his life.

It is the fact that he was able to overcome the dark periods through prayer that Enzler finds most remarkable.

“He was fearless. He was fearless. And that's where I think the emulation for me comes,” Enzler said.

“He knew that suffering was mandatory, because suffering belongs to a higher gospel…that's what he basically showed to me, is that sacrifice and suffering is redemptive.”

Of course, John Paul II is not without critics, and his pontificate not above criticism.

John Paul has often faced criticism for how he handled abusive clergy during his pontificate, with critics pointing especially to the crimes of Marcial Maciel, the now-notorious founder of the Legionaries of Christ religious order. Maciel was only dismissed from ministry after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

“I think it's important for people to understand that while this was a man of great spiritual gifts, great intellectual gifts, a luminous personality, a singular capacity for friendship and leadership— this is also a normal human being,” Weigel said.

“He had his dark nights, he had his questions, he had his struggles...and one should not turn him into a plastic car ornament saint. His sanctity is luminous enough coming through this remarkably engaging and attractive human being, that you don't have to plasticize it.

John Paul II was a scholar who promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, and also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law during his pontificate.

In addition to many books, John Paul II also authored 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, and 45 apostolic letters.

Enzler recommended picking up the pope’s many writings, such as his 1990 encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Enzler found that document helpful as he started a classical school with his wife.

“In 27 years of pontificate, for sure he either wrote or talked about many of the topics that we are somehow trying to understand. Let's just try and find what he said.”

For his part, Weigel says the Church has really only begun to unpack what he calls the “magisterium” of John Paul II, in the form of his writings and his intellectual influence.

In the United States and throughout the world, for example, John Paul’s Theology of the Body remains enormously influential.

“You've got an entire generation of Catholics, now in their 30s, 40s and 50s— laity, religious, and clergy, who continue to take their inspiration from John Paul II,” Weigel said.

“So if you subtract him from those biographies, it's not clear what you get, but it's clear what you probably wouldn't get, which is this kind of an evangelical fervor. A lot of the Church would still be stuck in institutional maintenance mode.”

One place that John Paul II’s evangelical fervor has taken root has been in Africa. As mentioned before, John Paul II had a particular friendship with Beninese Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, and visited Africa many times.

“John Paul II was fascinated by Africa; he saw African Christianity as living, a kind of new testament experience of the freshness of the Gospel, and he was very eager to support that, and lift it up,” he said.

“It was very interesting that during the two synods on marriage and the family in 2014 and 2015, some of the strongest defenses of the Church's classic understanding of marriage and family came from African bishops. Some of whom are first, second generation Christians, deeply formed in the image of John Paul II, whom they regard as a model bishop.”

“I think wherever you look around the world Church, the living parts of the Church are those that have accepted the Magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. And the dying parts of the Church, the moribund parts of the Church are those parts that have ignored that Magisterium.”

Papal preacher on Good Friday: Political ideologies wound fraternity in the Catholic Church

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2021 / 11:10 am (CNA).

Politics turned into ideologies have wounded fraternity in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., said at the Vatican’s Passion of the Lord liturgy on Good Friday.

“I believe that we all need to make a serious examination of conscience in this regard and be converted,” the papal preacher said April 2. “Fomenting division is the work par excellence of the one whose name is ‘diabolos’ that is, the divider, the enemy who sows weeds, as Jesus referred to him in the parable (see Mt 13:25).”

Cantalamessa, who was made a cardinal in November in recognition of his over 41 years as Preacher of the Papal Household, gave the homily at Pope Francis’ Good Friday liturgy at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

At the beginning of the liturgy, Pope Francis entered a silent basilica and lay prostrate for about two minutes on the floor at the foot of the steps to the altar. He then stood for another three minutes in silence.

After the Liturgy of the Word, including the chanting of the reading from the Gospel of St. John, Cantalamessa preached on the topic of human fraternity, the subject of Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical , to the congregation of around 140 people and around 50 cardinals.

“As creatures of the same God and Father, all human beings are brothers,” Cantalamessa said, explaining that the Christian faith adds another “decisive dimension” to this fact.

“We are brothers not only because we all have the same Father in virtue of creation, but we also have the same brother, Christ, ‘the firstborn among many brothers’ in virtue of redemption,” he said. “For us, that means universal fraternity starts with the Catholic Church.”

The 86-year-old Capuchin friar said today he was going to put aside the topic of ecumenism, which is fraternity among all Christian believers, to focus on the Catholic Church.

“Fraternity among Catholics is wounded!” he said. “Divisions between Churches have torn Christ’s tunic to shreds, and worse still, each shredded strip has been cut up into even smaller snippets.”

“I speak of course of the human element of it, because no one will ever be able to tear the true tunic of Christ, his mystical body animated by the Holy Spirit,” he explained. “In God’s eyes, the Church is ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic,’ and will remain so until the end of the world.”

He added that “this, however, does not excuse our divisions, but makes them more guilty and must push us more forcefully to heal them.”

According to the cardinal, the most common cause of bitter division among Catholics is not dogma, the sacraments, or ministries: “none of the things that by God’s singular grace we fully and universally preserve.”

“The divisions that polarize Catholics stem from political options that grow into ideologies taking priority over religious and ecclesial considerations and leading to complete abandon of the value and the duty of obedience in the Church,” he said.

He noted that even when they are not spoken about or are denied, these divisions are very real in many parts of the world.

“This is sin in its primal meaning,” Cantalamessa stated. “The kingdom of this world becomes more important in the person’s heart than the Kingdom of God.”

He invited all Catholics, starting with pastors, to make a serious examination of conscience about what is more important in their own heart, to learn from Jesus’ example in the Gospel, and to be converted.

Christ “lived at a time of strong political polarization,” he said. “Four parties existed: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the Zealots. Jesus did not side with any of them and energetically resisted attempts to be pulled towards one or the other.”

“The earliest Christian community faithfully followed him in that choice, setting an example above all for pastors, who need to be shepherds of the entire flock, not only of part of it,” he added.

Pastors “need to ask themselves where it is that they are leading their flocks – to their position or Jesus’,” he said, also noting that “the Second Vatican Council entrusted especially to laypeople the task of translating the social, economic and political implications of the Gospel into practice in different historical situations, always in a respectful and peaceful way.”

Cantalamessa quoted Pope Francis’ words from paragraph 277 of , that “Others drink from other sources. For us, the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From it, there arises, ‘for Christian thought and for the action of the Church, the primacy given to relationship, to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, to universal communion with the entire human family, as a vocation of all.’”

“The mystery of the cross that we are celebrating obliges us to focus precisely on this Christological foundation of fraternity which was inaugurated on Calvary,” the preacher said.

He explained that “if there is a special charism or gift that the Catholic Church is called to cultivate for all the Christian Churches, it is precisely unity,” as Pope Francis’ recent trip to Iraq demonstrated firsthand.

“To the One who died on the cross ‘to gather into one the dispersed children of God' (Jn 11:52), with a humble spirit and contrite heart we lift up the prayer addressed to him by the Church before Communion at every Mass,” he concluded.

“Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you; look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. You live and reign forever and ever. Amen.”

Pope Francis visits Vatican vaccination center

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on the morning of Good Friday visited the auditorium where the Vatican is vaccinating 1,200 people in need this week.

The Holy See Press Office said the pope went to the Pope Paul VI Hall shortly before 10:00 a.m. April 2 to greet the people waiting to receive their first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19.

Francis also spoke to the doctors and nurses who have volunteered their time to administer the vaccine.

The Office of Papal Charities , purchased by the Holy See, to around 1,200 of "the poorest and most marginalized people" during Holy Week.

The press office said as of April 2, around 800 people have received the first dose.

Among those were a group of over 100 residents of a homeless shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity, and residents of other shelters in the city.

Volunteers from the Community of Sant'Egidio, Caritas of Rome, and other Catholic charitable associations have accompanied those receiving the vaccine, who were also greeted by the papal almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.

Krajewski himself recovered from COVID-19 after being hospitalized for 10 days in December.

The almoner has set up a where people can sponsor the vaccination of a person in need through an online donation to the Office of Papal Charities.

The Pope Paul VI Hall was where Pope Francis and Vatican employees were vaccinated beginning earlier this year.

Providing vaccinations for Rome's poor and homeless is the Vatican’s latest effort to respond to Pope Francis’ appeals to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine against COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Report: Pope Francis celebrates Holy Thursday Mass with Cardinal Becciu

CNA Staff, Apr 1, 2021 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

Italian media reported Thursday that Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who resigned from his Vatican post last September.

Citing sources close to the cardinal, La Repubblica that the pope celebrated the Mass at around 5:30 p.m. Rome time on April 1 in the chapel of Becciu’s private apartment.

The Holy See press office has not confirmed the reports, but Vatican News posted a brief , saying that there was no official confirmation as the Mass was a private papal engagement.

The Mass would have taken place around the same time as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Mass was by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals.

The Vatican did not say in advance why the 84-year-old pope opted not to preside at this year’s Mass. Francis did, however, the Chrism Mass on Thursday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica.

La Repubblica said that Francis used to visit Becciu every Holy Thursday for lunch with Roman priests and decided to maintain the tradition, even after Becciu dramatically on Sept. 24 as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals.

La Stampa that nuns who help to maintain Becciu’s home and members of the Focolare Movement were also present at the Mass.

The Italian newspaper said that the cardinal’s brother, Tonio Becciu, told the ANSA news agency that the cardinal had called him to tell him about the pope’s visit.

“His Holiness went to his apartment in the afternoon and they celebrated Coena Domini [the Mass of the Lord’s Supper] together. We are all very happy. It is really a beautiful thing,” Tonio Becciu was quoted as saying.

The Associated Press that Becciu’s private secretary had confirmed that the Mass took place.

Becciu served as “sostituto,” or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018, when Pope Francis named him a cardinal and moved him to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

During his tenure in that position, he was linked to a number of financial scandals, most recently the Secretariat’s investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian businessman Rafaelle Mincione and the controversial purchase of a London building.

The financial scandals are the focus of a continuing Vatican investigation that is expected to result in prosecutions.

Becciu has repeatedly maintained his innocence of financial wrongdoing, including at a press conference on the day after his resignation.

“I didn’t commit any crimes,” Becciu told journalists Sept. 25. “I received no communication on the part of the [Vatican] magistrates. I’m ready. If they want me to explain [my actions], I’ll explain.”

“I’m maintaining my serenity,” he said. “I renew my trust in the Holy Father.”

The cardinal described the meeting with the pope and his subsequent resignation as “surreal,” because “yesterday, until 6:02 p.m., I felt I was a friend of the pope, a faithful agent of the pope ... and then there, speaking, he tells me that he no longer trusts me.”

“That he no longer trusts me because he had seen reports from the [Vatican] magistrates that I had embezzled,” he said.

Cardinal Re at Vatican Mass: ‘Holy Thursday reminds us how much we have been loved’

CNA Staff, Apr 1, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Holy Thursday evening reminds us how much God loves us, a Vatican cardinal said at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Preaching at the Mass on April 1, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re noted that the Holy Thursday liturgy recalls the night when Jesus instituted the Eucharist and priesthood, giving his disciples a new commandment to love one another.

“Holy Thursday evening, therefore, reminds us how much we have been loved,” Re said in his homily at the Mass, celebrated at the Altar of the Chair.

“It tells us that the Son of God, out of His love for us, gave us not something, but He gave us Himself -- His Body and His Blood -- that is, the totality of His person, and that, for our redemption, he accepted to suffer the most ignominious death.”

Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, offered the Mass which was celebrated by Pope Francis. The Vatican did not say why the 84-year-old pope, who suffers from sciatica, opted not to preside at this year’s . Francis did, however, the Chrism Mass on Thursday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica.

For a second consecutive year, attendance at the Vatican’s Holy Thursday evening Mass was tightly restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Masked worshipers sat spaced apart and the offertory procession and the traditional foot-washing were omitted to limit the risk of spreading the virus.

Concelebrants at the Mass, which marks the start of the , included cardinals and bishops, senior Vatican Secretariat of State officials, and canons of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Re, an 87-year-old Italian , preached after the Gospel reading, , which describes Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples at the Cenacle in Jerusalem.

He said: “The existence of the Eucharist can only be explained because Christ loved us and wanted to be near every one of us forever, even till the end of the world. Only a God could have imagined such a great gift and only an infinite power and love could have brought it about.”

“The Church has always considered the Sacrament of the Eucharist as the most precious gift it has been endowed with. It is the gift through which Christ walks with us as light, as strength, as nourishment, as help in all the days of our history.”

Re, who served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops from 2000 to 2010, continued: “The Eucharist is the center and heart of the life of the Church. It must be the center and heart of the life of every Christian as well.”

“Those who believe in the Eucharist never feel alone in life. They know that in the dimness and in the silence of all the churches there is Someone who knows their name, who knows their story, Someone who loves them, who waits for them and who listens willingly.”

“And before the tabernacle, everyone can confide whatever is in their heart and receive comfort, strength, and peace of heart.”

He urged Catholics not only to believe in the Eucharist but also to live it by serving their neighbors.

He said: “The Eucharist is a call of openness to toward others, to fraternal love, to know how to forgive and to help those in difficulty; it is an invitation to solidarity, to support each other, to abandon no one.”

“The Eucharist calls us to an industrious commitment to the poor, the suffering, the marginalized; it is the light to recognize the face of Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially in the wounded and most in need.”

Re was dean of the College of Cardinals in January 2020, succeeding Cardinal Angelo Sodano. He is serving a five-year term under new established by Pope Francis in a motu proprio issued December 2019.

In his homily, Re described how Christ instituted the Catholic priesthood at the Last Supper.

“Christ, the true priest, said to the Apostles: ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Do this -- that is, the Sacrament of the Eucharist -- ‘in memory of me.’ And three days later, Easter Sunday evening, He also said to the Apostles: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven’ (John 20:23),” he said.

“Thus, Christ transmits on His Apostles the priestly powers so that the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Pardon might continue and be renewed in the Church. He gave humanity an incomparable gift.”

Vatican throughout the Triduum will be than usual due to the ongoing pandemic.

Good Friday will include both the papal liturgy of the Passion of the Lord at 6 p.m. local time and the Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis at 9 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope will offer the Easter Vigil Mass on April 3 in St. Peter’s Basilica at 7:30 p.m. and will also celebrate the Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. after which he will offer the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Re noted in his homily that Holy Thursday is also an “evening of betrayal,” because Judas left the Last Supper with the intention of handing Jesus over to the authorities. The cardinal said that at the table in the Cenacle, “God’s love and man’s betrayal faced each other.”

“Holy Thursday is, therefore, also an invitation to become aware of our own sins; it is a call to put our lives in order a bit and to embark on the path of repentance and renewal to obtain God’s pardon,” he reflected.

“In the Eucharist, God drew so near to us that we must never feel abandoned, because we are always sought by Him, loved and invited to obtain the joy of His pardon with repentance and with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to begin a spiritual recovery with hearts open more to God and hearts open more to all our brothers and sisters.”

After Holy Communion, Re carried the Eucharist to the chapel of repose as the congregation sang a Latin hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

As he censed the Blessed Sacrament, the congregation sang a Eucharistic hymn also attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas.

After a period of silent adoration, the cardinal returned to the sacristy and the congregation left the basilica in silence.

In his homily, Re noted that in many places Catholics are unable to remain for hours before altars of repose on Holy Thursday evening because of coronavirus restrictions.

“The dramatic situation created by COVID-19, and the unfortunate risk this year of contamination, does not allow this, just as it happened last year,” he said.

“Returning, however, to our homes, we must continue to pray with our thoughts and our hearts filled with gratitude for Jesus Christ, who wanted to remain present among us as our contemporary under the appearances of bread and wine.”

He continued: “We have experienced in a universal way how a small virus can bring the entire world to its knees. Until this tragedy subsides, we must have recourse to all the human means that science puts at our disposal. ”

“But another irreplaceable step is needed: we must raise a huge chorus of prayer so that the hand of God might come to our aid and end this tragic situation that has worrying consequences in the fields of health, employment, economy, education, and direct relationships with people.”

“As Jesus Himself taught us, it is necessary to go and knock loudly on the door of God, the Father Almighty.”

Pope Francis tells priests at Chrism Mass: ‘The cross is non-negotiable’

Vatican City, Apr 1, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told priests at Thursday’s Chrism Mass at the Vatican that “the cross is non-negotiable” when preaching the Gospel.

“The preaching of the Good News is mysteriously linked to persecution and the cross,” Pope Francis said in his homily on April 1.

The pope went further to say that “the preaching of the Gospel is effective not because of our  eloquent words, but because of the power of the cross.”

The Chrism Mass of Holy Week is the Mass at which the pope, as the bishop of Rome, blesses the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Chrism Oil, which will be used throughout the diocese over the coming year. 

This year, fewer than 100 priests from the Diocese of Rome were allowed to concelebrate the Mass and renew their priestly vows in St. Peter’s Basilica due to COVID-19 restrictions.

At the Mass offered at the basilica’s Altar of the Chair, the pope emphasized that the cross was present in the Lord’s life “from the very beginning.”

“It is there in the persecution of Herod and in the hardships endured by the Holy Family, like those of so many other families obliged to live in exile from their homeland,” he said.

The pope also explained how “over and over again in the Gospels” Jesus’ preaching is met by envy, rejection, and scorn.

“The closeness of Jesus, who dines with sinners, wins hearts like those of Zacchaeus, Matthew  and the Samaritan woman, but it also awakens scorn in the self-righteous,” Francis said.

The presence of the cross throughout the Lord’s life and preaching “makes us understand that the cross is not an afterthought, something that happened by chance in the Lord’s life,” the pope said. 

“It is true that all who crucify others throughout history would have the cross appear as collateral damage, but that is not the case: the cross does not appear by chance.”

Pope Francis said that mere circumstances did not condition the saving power of the cross.

“Why did the Lord embrace the cross fully and to the end? Why did Jesus embrace his entire  Passion: his betrayal and abandonment by his friends after the Last Supper, his illegal arrest, his  summary trial and disproportionate sentence, the gratuitous and unjustifiable violence with which he was beaten and spat upon? If mere circumstances conditioned the saving power of the cross, the Lord would not have embraced everything. But when his hour came, he embraced the cross fully. For on the cross there can be no ambiguity! The cross is non-negotiable,” he said.


The pope shared a story with the priests, a memory from his own experience in priestly ministry in Argentina.

“Once, in a very dark moment in my life, I asked the Lord for the grace to free me from a difficult and complex situation. A dark moment,” he said.

“I had to preach the Spiritual Exercises to some women religious, and on the last day, as was customary in those days, they all went to confession. One elderly sister came; she had a clear gaze, eyes full of light -- a woman of God.”

“At the end of the confession, I felt the urge to ask her a favor, so I said to her, ‘Sister, as your penance, pray for me because I need a particular grace’... If you ask the Lord for it, surely he will give it to me.’”

“She paused for a moment and seemed to be praying, then looked at me and told me, ‘The Lord  will certainly give you that grace, but make no mistake about it: he will give it to you in his own  divine way’.

Pope Francis concluded: “This did me much good, hearing that the Lord always gives us what we ask for, but that he does so in his divine way. That way involves the cross, not for masochism, but for love, love to the very end.”


Is Vatican City’s judicial system in peril?

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

The U.K. court ruling that overturned an account seizure request by Vatican City prosecutors has raised questions about the reliability of the Holy See’s judicial system.

The verdict by judge Tony Baumgartner overturned an earlier decision seizing the British accounts of the Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi. Torzi was involved in the Secretariat of State’s luxury real estate investment in London.


Torzi was arrested by the Vatican last summer on two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.


In his ruling, Baumgartner often used the words “misrepresentation” and “mischaracterization” in relation to the Vatican’s request for the accounts seizure (known as a “restraint application”).


In his conclusion, Baumgartner noted that “an applicant to this court for a restraint order relying on external requests should be careful in relying upon facts unverified or unsupported by direct evidence, and should not unhesitatingly rely upon assertions that are not properly established on the facts.”


He also pointed out that “applications of this nature often are brought with haste because of the fear of the real risk of dissipation of assets, but the restraint application was not an application prompted by discoveries made in a new investigation, or even in an investigation that was unfolding.”


This is the third time that Vatican prosecutors have received a negative response from authorities abroad.

The first concerned Cecilia Marogna, who allegedly misused Vatican funds intended for humanitarian activities. Marogna, an Italian citizen, ended up in prison in Italy, while Vatican prosecutors also submitted a request to extradite Marogna to the Vatican. A lower court validated the arrest. But the Supreme Court of Cassation canceled the arrest because the request had no specific motive and “lacked the specific cautionary needs.”


The second was the search and seizure in Fabrizio Tirabassi’s apartment. Tirabassi, an official of the Secretariat of State's administrative section, was one of the five Vatican officials suspended when the London investigation began. Rome’s public prosecutor initially validated the seizures in his apartment following a Vatican request.


But the measure was later declared null since the search and seizures were part of an “out of the ordinary request,” with “evident and substantial” illegitimate actions, such as that the seizure order came directly by the prosecutor without the validation of a judge.
The Baumgartner ruling is more significant than the other two because it is the first time that a third-party judge has looked into the documents and challenged the professionalism of Vatican prosecutors.

Baumgartner wrote that the Vatican’s “non-disclosures and misrepresentations are so appalling that the ultimate sanction” to reverse the assets’ seizure was appropriate.


The prosecutors, Baumgartner said, maintained that Torzi “‘dishonestly and secretly’ decided to issue himself controlling shares in Gutt (one of the societies that intervened in the purchase) to prevent the Secretariat from acquiring the whole of the interest in the Chelsea Property until the Secretariat agreed to pay him a further EUR 15,000,000 [around $17.6 million].”

But the judge concluded that the allocation of 31,000 shares of Gutt “is improperly characterized as secretive and dishonest in the Letter of Request, and that (...) is a misrepresentation of the facts.”
The British judge also noted that “the Letter of Request is conspicuously silent about [senior Vatican Secretariat of State official] Archbishop Peña Parra’s involvement throughout, a matter I find of some surprise given it emerged after the restraint order had been made that he is said to be the subject of the blackmail” -- the alleged extortion of the $17.6 million.

The investigation has not yet led to an indictment, but questions have arisen regarding Archbishop Peña Parra: If he was aware of and endorsed the controversial financial operation, why wasn’t he too included in the investigation?


Most importantly, the British judge’s ruling could mark a serious setback for the Vatican judicial system’s credibility on the eve of the Moneyval report on the Holy See.


Moneyval is the Council of Europe’s committee that evaluates if member states are adhering to international standards. Moneyval will issue its fourth progress report on the Vatican at the end of April. This report will discuss the Vatican judicial system’s effectiveness in countering money laundering and the prevention of financing terrorism, so the Vatican prosecutor will be under strict scrutiny.

Many argue that the Vatican prosecutor’s reliability is in question since he conducted his investigation disregarding the rights of the people involved.

This began with Torzi’s arrest at the Vatican. He went with his lawyers for an interrogation but found himself thrown in a cell for 10 days.


Then there was Raffaele Mincione, an Italian citizen taken from a hotel and placed in custody in Italy. He has filed two lawsuits in London against the Holy See.


There are also possible lawsuits at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg; since some of the defendants have been arrested or subjected to search and seizures without even knowing the charges against them.

Six people were first suspended and then demoted from (or not renewed in) their positions because of the London investigation. They had no notice of the charges against them until the prosecutors had interrogated them. Still, they do not know if they will face trial.

The Holy See is part of an international system and signs declarations, memoranda of understanding, and international conventions. Yet the Vatican state is an absolute monarchy, with a judicial system working under the decisions of an absolute monarch.

What if the activism of the Vatican tribunal backfires against the Holy See? What if any state hostile to religion uses these procedural mistakes and human rights failings to attack the Holy See and the Catholic Church in a broader sense?

These are the reasons why the Baumgartner ruling sends an alarm signal that the pope cannot ignore.

Benedict XVI ‘delighted’ by Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has paid tribute to the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis and urged Catholics to read Francis’ , describing it as a simple text “coming from the heart and going to the heart, yet containing such profound depth.”

In an with the German Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagespost, the 93-year-old, whose baptismal patron saint is Joseph, also talked about family memories, and impressions from his pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

“I am of course particularly delighted that Pope Francis has drawn the attention of the faithful to St. Joseph,” Benedict XVI said in the interview which will be published in full April 1.

“I have therefore read with particular gratitude and heartfelt approval the apostolic letter , which the Holy Father issued on the occasion of the elevation of St. Joseph to patron saint of the entire Church 150 years ago.”

“I think that this text should be read and considered again and again by the faithful and thus contribute to a purification and deepening of our veneration of the saints in general and of St. Joseph in particular.”

In the wide-ranging interview with journalist Regina Einig, the pope emeritus reflected on the silence of Joseph. His seeming absence in Scripture eloquently expresses the saint’s particular message, Benedict said.

“His silence is in fact his message. It expresses the ‘Yes’ that he took upon himself by uniting with Mary and thus with Jesus,” he commented.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, that in the interview Benedict XVI shared his family’s tradition of celebrating St. Joseph’s Day -- March 19 in his native Bavaria.

His mother would usually save up for the purchase of a good book for the feast day, Benedict recalled. In addition, to celebrate Josefi, as the day is called in Bavaria, the Ratzinger family would make coffee from coffee beans, which his father loved but which the family could not afford every day. This coffee was drunk for breakfast and a special tablecloth was laid out for the occasion to mark the saint’s day.

Benedict recounted that “to top it all off, there was always a primrose as a sign of spring, which St. Joseph brings with him. Finally, our mother baked a cake with icing -- that fully expressed the extraordinary nature of the feast day. Thus, from the morning hours on, the specialness of St. Joseph’s Day was given, in a compelling way.”

In addition, Benedict described his personal impressions of his visit to Nazareth, the hometown of his namesake and patron saint which he visited as pope in 2009. He also commented on the tradition of invoking St. Joseph as intercessor for a good hour of death.

Noting that Joseph is not mentioned in Scripture after the first public appearance of Jesus as recounted in Luke 4:22, the retired pope commented that “the idea that he [Joseph] ended his earthly life in Mary’s care is well-founded. Therefore, to ask him to kindly accompany us in our last hour is a well-founded form of piety.”

Pope Francis: In Christ’s Passion, we remember victims of wars, everyday violence, abortions

Vatican City, Mar 31, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

In the contemplation of Christ’s Passion during Holy Week, Pope Francis said he is thinking also of the innocent victims of war, everyday violence, and abortion who are “crucified in our time.”

“By adoring the Cross, we will relive the journey of the innocent Lamb sacrificed for our salvation. We will carry in our minds and hearts the sufferings of the sick, the poor, the rejected of this world; we will remember the ‘sacrificed lambs,’ the innocent victims of wars, dictatorships, everyday violence, abortions,” Pope Francis on March 31.

“Before the image of the crucified God, we will bring, in prayer, the many, the too many who are crucified in our time, who can only receive from Him the comfort and meaning of their suffering.”

Speaking via live stream on Holy Wednesday from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the pope urged Catholics “not to forget today’s crucified ones” because “in them is Jesus.”

Pope Francis said that it is important to remember that “every time the Eucharist is offered” it is “as if we were going to Calvary … to renew the Paschal mystery again.”

“In this Sacrament, Jesus replaced the sacrificial victim -- the Paschal lamb -- with Himself. His Body and Blood give us salvation from the slavery of sin and death. Salvation from all slavery is found there,” the pope said at his general audience.

Jesus on the cross entered into “the abyss of suffering … these calamities of this world, to redeem and transform,” he said. “And also to free each of us from the power of darkness, from pride, from the resistance to being loved by God.”

“Because the world is in darkness. Let’s make a list of all the wars that are being fought right now, of all children who are dying of hunger, children who have no education, of entire peoples destroyed by wars, by terrorism. Of the many, many people who need medicine to feel a little better, the pharmaceutical industry that kills -- it is a calamity, a desert,” Francis said.

The pope added that because “Jesus took upon himself the wounds of humanity and death itself, God’s love has irrigated these deserts of ours, he has enlightened our darkness.”

For nearly a year, Pope Francis has dedicated his weekly Wednesday audiences to reflections on prayer. During Holy Week, the pope looked ahead to the liturgies of the Paschal Triduum, three days of prayer beginning on Holy Thursday and ending on Easter Sunday.

Pope Francis explained that during the Triduum “we will experience the central days of the liturgical year, celebrating the mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord.”

“On the evening of Holy Thursday, as we enter the Easter Triduum, we will relive what happened at the Last Supper -- what happened there at that moment -- in the Mass known as ‘in Coena Domini.’ It is the evening when Christ left his disciples the testament of his love in the Eucharist, not as a remembrance, but as a memorial of his everlasting presence,” he said.

“It is the evening in which he asks us to love each other by making us servants of one another, as he did by washing the feet of the disciples -- a gesture that anticipates the bloody oblation on the cross. And indeed the Master and Lord will die the next day to purify not the feet, but the hearts and the entire life of his disciples. It was an offering of service to all of us, because with that service of his sacrifice, he redeemed us all,” he added.

Good Friday, the pope explained, is a day of penance, fasting, and prayer.

“Through the texts of Sacred Scripture and liturgical prayers, we will be gathered on Calvary to commemorate the Passion and redemptive Death of Jesus Christ. In the intensity of the rite of liturgical action, we will be presented with the Crucifix to adore,” he said.

“Holy Saturday is the day of silence,” Pope Francis noted. “There is a great silence over the earth; a silence lived in tears and bewilderment by the first disciples, upset by the ignominious death of Jesus.”

“This Saturday is also Mary’s day. She too lived it in tears, but her heart was full of faith, full of hope, full of love. The Mother of Jesus had followed her Son along the Via Dolorosa and remained at the foot of the cross with her soul pierced,” he said.

“But when everything seemed to be over, she kept watch. She watches in anticipation, keeping hope in the promise of God who raises the dead. Thus, in the darkest hour of the world, she became the Mother of believers, the Mother of the Church, and a sign of hope. Her testimony and her intercession support us when the weight of the cross becomes too heavy for each of us.”

From this darkness on Holy Saturday, the light will break out through the liturgy of the Easter Vigil as the faithful sing Alleluia, the pope said.

“It will be an encounter in faith with the risen Christ and the Easter joy will last for all the 50 days that will follow, until the coming of the Holy Spirit. He who was crucified is risen! All questions and uncertainties, hesitations and fears are dispelled by this revelation.”

“The Risen One gives us the certainty that good always triumphs over evil, that life always overcomes death and our end is not to descend lower and lower, from sadness to sadness, but to rise above.”

Pope Francis prayed that the joy of Easter morning would restore hope, trust, and peace amid the difficulties the world currently faces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dear brothers and sisters, this year too we will experience the Easter celebrations in the context of the pandemic. In many situations of suffering, especially when people, families, and populations already tried by poverty, calamity or conflict suffer them, the Cross of Christ is like a beacon that indicates the port to ships still offshore in the stormy sea,” he said.

“Christ’s Cross is a sign of the hope that does not disappoint; and it tells us that not even one tear, not one sigh is lost in God’s plan.”

Vatican: Commission overseeing reform of office managing St. Peter’s completes work

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican said Monday that a commission overseeing reform of the office managing St. Peter’s Basilica had completed its work.

The Holy See press office announced March 29 that the reform of the Fabric of St. Peter was ready to go and would be implemented at the will of the office’s new president, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, O.F.M. Conv.

The Fabric of St. Peter is the office responsible for the conservation and maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica and the surrounding area.

Gambetti, who was last month to the triple position of archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, vicar general for Vatican City State, and president of the Fabric of St. Peter, started in his new roles this week.

In June 2020, Pope Francis a commissioner to reform the administration of the Fabric, where documents and computers were seized at the request of judicial authorities.

The decision to appoint a commissioner was made following a report by the Vatican’s auditor general, which is responsible for monitoring offices of the Roman Curia and Vatican City State for financial corruption.

The pope gave retired nuncio Archbishop Mario Giordana the task of “updating the statutes, clarifying the administration and reorganizing the administrative and technical offices” of the Fabric of St. Peter, together with the help of a commission.

The Holy See press office said March 29 that the statutes were finished and the work of Giordana and the commission had ended.

“In these nine months, in addition to preparing the new norms, [commission members] have dedicated themselves to the reorganization of the administrative and technical offices of the Fabric,” the noted.

As the head of the Fabric of St. Peter, Gambetti will be responsible for the statute’s application.

The Franciscan friar, who was to the position of cardinal in November 2020, was general custos, or head, of the convent attached to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi from 2013 to 2020.

At 55 years old, Gambetti is the third youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

The archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica is in charge of the worship and pastoral activity in the basilica. The position has a long history and has always been assigned to a cardinal. Since 1991, the archpriest of the basilica has served also as the pope’s vicar for the Vatican City State.

The archpriest is one of the pope’s closest collaborators. He manages and organizes the worship at the most emblematic church in the Catholic world, with 45 altars and 11 chapels, plus additional chapels below the basilica in the Vatican Grottoes.

Earlier this month, a letter was on the sacristy door of St. Peter’s Basilica restricting the celebration of individual Masses in the upper part of the basilica.

The letter from the first section of the Vatican Secretariat of State was not addressed to Gambetti as archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, but to Archbishop Mario Giordana, the then extraordinary commissioner of the Fabric of St. Peter.

The changes have prompted responses from , who have expressed the hope that Pope Francis will reverse the decision.

‘Many are being devoured’: Pope Francis highlights rise in climate-caused migration

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has highlighted the plight of people forced from their homes due to the climate crisis, calling on Catholics to respond with selflessness and charity.

In the preface to the document published March 30, Pope Francis said, “When we look, what do we see?”

“Many are being devoured in conditions that make it impossible to survive. Forced to abandon fields and shorelines, homes and villages, people flee in haste carrying just a few souvenirs and treasures, scraps of their culture and heritage,” he said.

“They set out in hope, meaning to restart their lives in a place of safety,” he added. “But where they mostly end up are dangerously overcrowded slums or makeshift settlements, waiting on fate.”

The pope said that when people are driven from their homes because they have become uninhabitable, “it might look like a process of nature, something inevitable.”

“Yet, the deteriorating climate is very often the result of poor choices and destructive activity, of selfishness and neglect, that set humankind at odds with creation, our common home,” he underlined.

“Pastoral Orientations on Climate Displaced People” was published by the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees section, which is led by Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J.

According to Fr. Fabio Baggio, C.S., under-secretary of the department, the guidelines are intended to help bishops’ conferences, dioceses, religious congregations, Catholic organizations, pastors, and all Catholics “in pastoral planning and development programs for the assistance of climate displaced persons.”

“The climate crisis has a ‘human face,’” Baggio said at a March 30 press conference. “It is already a reality for millions of people throughout the world, in particular for the inhabitants of the existential peripheries. The Catholic Church has a motherly concern for all those who have been displaced by the effects of this crisis.”

In the preface, Pope Francis said that the document “calls on us to broaden the way we look at this drama of our time. It urges us to see the tragedy of prolonged uprootedness that causes our brothers and sisters to cry out, year after year, ‘We can’t go back, and we can’t begin anew.’”

The document “invites us to become aware of the indifference of societies and governments to this tragedy,” he added. “It asks us to see, and to care. It invites the Church and others to act together, and spells out how we might do so.”

At the press conference, Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam outlined the drastic climate change caused by the rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the last several decades.

“We need to acknowledge that there exists a strong nexus between climate crisis and displacement,” he said, emphasizing that “the climate crisis is becoming one of the primary triggers of displacement in recent years.”

People can be forced to leave their homes due to “rapid-onset triggers, mainly extreme weather phenomena like floods, storms, droughts, and wildfires,” he said, or by “slow-onset processes like water scarcity and depletion of other natural resources, desertification, rising temperatures, and sea-level rise.”

Kureethadam said that in 2019, out of more than 33 million newly displaced people, 8.5 million were displaced because of violence and conflict, while 24.9 million people were displaced due to natural disasters.

“It is ultimately a moral problem,” he commented. “The poor and vulnerable communities whose carbon emissions are only a fraction of those of the rich world are already the early and disproportionate victims of the crisis.”

He noted that the designation of “climate-caused displacement,” or CCD, does not yet exist, and that “the poorest don’t even manage to cross” borders into new countries, but are mostly displaced within their own country, “because they don’t have any resources, any help to go anywhere.”

Pope Francis said that helping people in this situation “is the work the Lord asks now of us, and there is great joy in it. We are not going to get out of crises like climate or COVID-19 by hunkering down in individualism but only by ‘being many together,’ by encounter and dialogue and cooperation.”

“To see or not to see is the question that leads us to the answer in action together. These pages show us what is needed and, with God’s help, what to do.”

Pope Francis warns priests and seminarians against worldly temptations

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told priests on Monday that “spiritual worldliness” is one of the worst temptations in clerical life.

“Today’s problems demand that we priests conform to the Lord,” the pope in an audience with students of the Pontifical Mexican College at the Vatican on March 29.

“We are called not to underestimate the worldly temptations that can lead to insufficient personal knowledge, self-referential attitudes, consumerism, and multiple forms of evasion of our responsibilities. … Please beware of worldliness. It is the door to corruption,” Pope Francis said.

During the meeting in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the pope encouraged the Mexican clergy to keep their gaze fixed on “Christ, the Suffering Servant.”

The pope pointed to the writings of 20th-century Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac, particularly recommending the last few pages of his book, “The Splendor of the Church,” on spiritual worldliness.

Pope Francis also cited an “ancient text from a Benedictine,” which, he said, argued that “spiritual worldliness is the worst evil that can happen to the Church.”

He added: “It is worse still than the times when popes had concubines.”

The pope said that it is essential for priests to conform their outlook with that of Christ’s gaze of love, which generates “tenderness, reconciliation, and fraternity.”

“We need to have a look of tenderness with that our Father God sees the problems that afflict society: violence, social and economic inequalities, polarization, corruption and lack of hope, especially among the youngest people,” he said.

The Pontifical Mexican College was founded in 1967. It was originally conceived as a seminary, but very soon it consolidated its identity as a priestly community.

Today Mexican diocesan priests are sent to live at the pontifical college in Rome while obtaining further degrees of study at pontifical universities.

Mexico is the world’s second-largest Catholic country with more than 96 million Catholics -- 85% percent of its total population, according to the Pew Research Center.

“The vivid memory of the encounters I had with the holy people of God during my apostolic visit to Mexico in 2016 -- which in a certain way is renewed each year with the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe here in the Vatican Basilica -- accompanies me today, and I greet every one of you, who constitute the community of the Pontifical Mexican College,” Pope Francis said.

The pope asked for the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of St. Joseph, who he said is a model of “humble and silent service” for all of the clergy in Mexico.

“May the bless you,” he said. “And please do not forget to pray for me. I need it because this job is not easy at all.”

Cardinal Zen expresses ‘pain and indignation’ at St. Peter’s Basilica private Mass restrictions

CNA Staff, Mar 30, 2021 / 01:35 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen on Tuesday expressed “pain and indignation” at restrictions on private Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The former bishop of Hong Kong said March 30 that if he could, he would fly to Rome and kneel outside the pope’s residence until the decree was withdrawn.

He wrote: “Pain and indignation invade my heart to hear certain incredible news: They have forbidden private masses in St. Peter’s!?”

“If it were not for the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus, I would take the first flight to come to Rome and get on my knees in front of the door of Santa Marta (now the papal residence) until the Holy Father has this edict withdrawn.”

Zen made his remarks on his website in an to Cardinal Robert Sarah after the former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship Pope Francis on Monday to reinstate the celebration of private Masses at the side altars in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Zen is the fifth cardinal to voice opposition to the change, which March 22, after , , , and .

In his open letter, translated into English by Bree A. Dail, Zen wrote: “It was the thing that strengthened my faith most every time I came to Rome: at exactly seven o’clock I would enter the sacristy (where I almost always would meet that holy man, the Archbishop, then Cardinal Paolo Sardi); a young priest would come forward and would help me to dress in the vestments, and then they take me to an altar (in the Basilica proper or in the grottoes, that would make no difference to me, we were in St. Peter’s Basilica!).”

The , issued by the First Section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, that priests will be invited to take part in several concelebrated Masses at St. Peter’s every day but will not be permitted to offer private Masses at the basilica’s many side altars.

It was a long-standing custom that priests would offer individual Masses in the early morning hours at some of the side altars in the basilica. Sometimes priests said the Mass alone or with only a deacon, and other times they would be accompanied by small groups of Catholics.

Priests traveling with pilgrim groups were also permitted to reserve an altar for a private Mass.

There are a total of 45 altars and 11 chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The 89-year-old cardinal, an outspoken defender of persecuted Chinese Catholics, said that he used to pray “with tears” for the Church in China at the Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“I think these were the Masses that, in my life, I celebrated with more fervor and emotion, sometimes with tears praying for our living martyrs in China (now abandoned and pushed into the bosom of the schismatic church by the “Holy See” [as that document of June 2020 was presented without signatures and without the revisions of the Congregation for Doctrine]),” he wrote.

Zen has the Vatican Secretariat of State’s role in securing a “provisional agreement” between the Holy See and China over the appointment of bishops.

Concluding his open letter, he wrote: “It is time to reduce the excessive power of the Secretariat of State. Remove these sacrilegious hands from the communal home for all the Faithful in the world! Let them content themselves with playing worldly diplomacy with the father of lies. Let them make the Secretariat of State ‘a den of thieves’, But leave the devoted people of God alone!”

Cardinal Sarah asks Pope Francis to reinstate individual Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, Mar 29, 2021 / 08:28 am (CNA).

Cardinal Robert Sarah has asked Pope Francis to reinstate the celebration of private Masses at the side altars in St. Peter’s Basilica, after individual Masses were suspended earlier this month in favor of concelebration.

“I humbly beg the Holy Father to order the withdrawal of the recent norms issued by the secretariat of state,” Cardinal Sarah wrote in an essay published Monday on the blog of Vatican journalist Sandro Magister.

The cardinal said the new norms “are as lacking in justice as in love, do not correspond to the truth or the law, do not facilitate but rather endanger the decorum of the celebration, devout participation in the Mass, and the freedom of the children of God.”

Sarah, prefect emeritus of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, joins Cardinals Raymond Burke, Gerhard Muller, and Walter Brandmuller, in publicly voicing disagreement with the ban on individual Masses,

, which were decreed by the First Section of the Secretariat of State, said priests will be invited to take part in several concelebrated Masses at St. Peter’s every day, but will not be permitted to offer private Masses at the basilica’s many side altars.

It was a long-standing custom in the basilica that priests would offer individual Masses in the early morning hours at some of the side altars in the basilica. Sometimes priests said the Mass alone or with only a deacon, and other times they would be accompanied by small groups of Catholics.

Priests traveling with pilgrim groups were also permitted to reserve an altar for a private Mass.

There are a total of 45 altars and 11 chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In his essay, Cardinal Sarah asked if it was necessary to break this “ancient and venerable custom,” writing, “does such a decision really produce greater good for the Church and greater decorum in the liturgy?”

The cardinal said “the main, not to say the only, role of an altar is in fact that the Eucharistic sacrifice be offered on it.”

“The presence of the relics of the saints under the altars has a biblical, theological, liturgical, and spiritual value of such magnitude that there is no need even to mention them,” he added. “With the new norms the altars of St. Peter’s are destined to serve, except one day a year, only as tombs of saints, if not as mere works of art. Those altars, instead, must live, and their life is the daily celebration of the Holy Mass.”

Sarah also recalled that, over the centuries, there have been many saints who offered Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica when they were in Rome.

He questioned why this experience is now being denied to “the saints of today -- who thank God exist, are among us, and visit Rome at least from time to time.”

Cardinal Sarah referenced canon 902 of the Code of Canon Law, which refers to “Sacrosanctum concilium” no. 57, and “guarantees priests the possibility of personally celebrating the Eucharist.”

He also noted that there are priests who come to Rome and do not speak Italian, and who would therefore find it difficult to concelebrate one of the official Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica, as the new norms dictate.

The cardinal quoted the decree “Presbyterorum ordinis,” from the Second Vatican Council, which says: “In the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfill their greatest task, the work of our redemption is being constantly carried on; and hence the daily celebration of Mass is strongly urged, since even if there cannot be present a number of the faithful, it is still an act of Christ and of the Church.”

“Not only is it confirmed here that, even when the priest celebrates without the people, the Mass remains an act of Christ and of the Church, but its daily celebration is also recommended,” Sarah commented.

“When possible, community celebration is preferred, but individual celebration by a priest remains the work of Christ and the Church. The magisterium not only does not prohibit it, but approves it, and recommends that priests celebrate Holy Mass every day, because from every Mass there flows a great quantity of graces for the whole world,” he said.

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Sarah's resignation as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on Feb. 20, after Sarah turned 75 in June 2020.

At Angelus, Pope Francis prays for Indonesian Catholics injured in Palm Sunday bombing

CNA Staff, Mar 28, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for Indonesian Catholics injured in a bombing as they left a Palm Sunday Mass.

Speaking before the recitation of the Angelus on March 28, the pope referred to the that took place at around 10:30 a.m. local time on Sunday outside Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, capital of South Sulawesi province.

Initial reports suggested that at least 10 worshipers were injured by the blast.

“Let us pray for all the victims of violence, especially those of this morning’s attack in Indonesia, in front of the Cathedral of Makassar,” the pope .

The pope made the remark at the end of his Angelus address at the conclusion of his at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Reflecting on the start of Holy Week, he said: “For the second time we will live it within the context of the pandemic. Last year we were more upset; this year it is more trying for us. And the economic crisis has become heavy.”

“In this historical and social situation, what is God doing? He takes up the cross. Jesus takes up the cross, that is, he takes on the evil that this situation entails, the physical and psychological evil -- and above all the spiritual evil -- because the Evil One is taking advantage of the crisis to disseminate distrust, desperation, and discord.”

He continued: “And us? What should we do? The one who shows us is the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who is also his first disciple. She followed her Son. She took upon herself her own portion of suffering, of darkness, of confusion, and she walked the way of the passion keeping the lamp of faith lit in her heart. With God’s grace, we too can make that journey.”

“And, along the daily way of the cross, we meet the faces of so many brothers and sisters in difficulty: let us not pass by, let us allow our hearts to be moved with compassion, and let us draw near. When it happens, like the Cyrenian, we might think: ‘Why me?’ But then we will discover the gift that, without our own merit, has touched us.”

The pope concluded: “May the Madonna who always precedes us on the path of faith help us.”

Full text: Pope Francis’ 2021 Palm Sunday homily

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2021 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Every year this liturgy leaves us amazed: we pass from the joy of welcoming Jesus as he enters Jerusalem to the sorrow of watching him condemned to death and then crucified. That sense of interior amazement will remain with us throughout Holy Week. Let us reflect more deeply on it.

From the start, Jesus leaves us amazed. His people give him a solemn welcome, yet he enters Jerusalem on a lowly colt. His people expect a powerful liberator at Passover, yet he comes to bring the Passover to fulfillment by sacrificing himself.  His people are hoping to triumph over the Romans by the sword, but Jesus comes to celebrate God’s triumph through the cross. What happened to those people who in a few days’ time went from shouting “Hosanna” to crying out “Crucify him”?  What happened? They were following an  of the Messiah rather than  Messiah. They  Jesus, but they did not let themselves be  by him. Amazement is not the same as admiration. Admiration can be worldly, since it follows its own tastes and expectations.  Amazement, on the other hand, remains open to others and to the newness they bring. Even today, there are many people who admire Jesus: he said beautiful things; he was filled with love and forgiveness; his example changed history … and so on. They admire him, but their lives are not changed. To admire Jesus is not enough. We have to follow in his footsteps, to let ourselves be challenged by him; to pass from admiration to amazement.

What is most amazing about the Lord and his Passover? It is the fact that he achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid.  Jesus -- as St. Paul tells us -- “emptied himself… he humbled himself” (Philippians2:7-8). This is the amazing thing: to see the Almighty reduced to nothing. To see the Word who knows all things teach us in silence from the height of the cross. To see the king of kings enthroned on a gibbet. Seeing the God of the universe stripped of everything and crowned with thorns instead of glory. To see the One who is goodness personified, insulted and beaten. Why all this humiliation? Why, Lord, did you wish to endure all this?

Jesus did it for us, to plumb the depths of our human experience, our entire existence, all our evil. To draw near to us and not abandon us in our suffering and our death. To redeem us, to save us.  Jesus was lifted high on the cross in order to descend to the abyss of our suffering. He experienced our deepest sorrows: failure, loss of everything, betrayal by a friend, even abandonment by God. By experiencing in the flesh our deepest struggles and conflicts, he redeemed and transformed them. His love draws close to our frailty; it touches the very things of which we are most ashamed. Yet now we know that we are not alone: God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word. God triumphs, but the palm of victory passes through the wood of the cross. For the palm and the cross are inseparable.

Let us ask for the grace to be amazed. A Christian life without amazement becomes drab and dreary.  How can we talk about the joy of meeting Jesus, unless we are daily astonished and amazed by his love, which brings us forgiveness and the possibility of a new beginning?  When faith no longer experiences amazement, it grows dull: it becomes blind to the wonders of grace; it can no longer taste the Bread of life and hear the Word; it can no longer perceive the beauty of our brothers and sisters and the gift of creation. It has no other course than to take refuge in legalisms, in clericalisms and in all these things that Jesus condemns in chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew.

During this Holy Week, let us lift our eyes to the cross, in order to receive the grace of amazement. As St. Francis of Assisi contemplated the crucified Lord, he was amazed that his friars did not weep. What about us? Can we still be moved by God’s love? Have we lost the ability to be amazed by him? Why? Maybe our faith has grown dull from habit. Maybe we remain trapped in our regrets and allow ourselves to be crippled by our disappointments. Maybe we have lost all our trust or even feel worthless. But perhaps, behind all these “maybes,” lies the fact that we are not open to the gift of the Spirit who gives us the grace of amazement.

Let us start over from amazement. Let us gaze upon Jesus on the cross and say to him: “Lord, how much you love me! How precious I am to you!” Let us be amazed by Jesus so that we can start living again, for the grandeur of life lies not in possessions and promotions, but in realizing that we are loved. This is the grandeur of life: discovering that we are loved. And the grandeur of life lies precisely in the beauty of love. In the crucified Jesus, we see God humiliated, the Almighty dismissed and discarded. And with the grace of amazement we come to realize that in welcoming the dismissed and discarded, in drawing close to those ill-treated by life, we are loving Jesus. For that is where he is: in the least of our brothers and sisters, in the rejected and discarded, in those whom our self-righteous culture condemns.

Today’s Gospel shows us, immediately after the death of Jesus, a splendid icon of amazement. It is the scene of the centurion who, upon seeing that Jesus had died, said: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). He was amazed by love. How did he see Jesus die? He saw him die in love, and this amazed him. Jesus suffered immensely, but he never stopped loving.  This is what it is to be amazed before God, who can fill even death with love. In that gratuitous and unprecedented love, the pagan centurion found God. His words --  -- “seal” the Passion narrative.  The Gospels tell us that many others before him had admired Jesus for his miracles and prodigious works, and had acknowledged that he was the Son of God. Yet Christ silenced them, because they risked remaining purely on the level of worldly admiration at the idea of a God to be adored and feared for his power and might. Now it can no longer be so, for at the foot of the cross there can be no mistake: God has revealed himself and reigns only with the disarmed and disarming power of love.

Brothers and sisters, today God continues to fill our minds and hearts with amazement. Let us be filled with that amazement as we gaze upon the crucified Lord. May we too say: “You are truly the Son of God.  You are my God”.

Pope Francis on Palm Sunday: Lift your eyes to the cross in Holy Week

CNA Staff, Mar 28, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Catholics to focus on the cross during Holy Week as he celebrated Mass on Palm Sunday.

Offering Mass at the Altar of the Chair March 28, the pope said that Holy Week was an opportunity to rediscover “amazement” at Christ’s saving Passion.

“During this Holy Week, let us lift our eyes to the cross, in order to receive the grace of amazement,” he .

For a consecutive year, attendance at the papal Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica was tightly restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The congregation consisted of around 120 people, holding palm leaves and booklets containing the . Approximately 30 cardinals were also present.

In his homily, the pope reflected on Christ’s triumphal entry in Jerusalem, when Jesus was greeted by crowds bearing palms.

“His people give him a solemn welcome, yet he enters Jerusalem on a lowly colt. His people expect a powerful liberator at Passover, yet he comes to bring the Passover to fulfillment by sacrificing himself. His people are hoping to triumph over the Romans by the sword, but Jesus comes to celebrate God’s triumph through the cross,” he said.

“What happened to those people who in a few days’ time went from shouting ‘Hosanna’ to crying out ‘Crucify him’? What happened? They were following an idea of the Messiah rather than the Messiah. They admired Jesus, but they did not let themselves be amazed by him.”

The pope said that today many people also admire Jesus for his life and teaching, but that “to admire Jesus is not enough.”

“What is most amazing about the Lord and his Passover?” he asked. “It is the fact that he achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid. Jesus -- as St. Paul tells us -- ‘emptied himself… he humbled himself’ (Philippians 2:7-8).”

“This is the amazing thing: to see the Almighty reduced to nothing. To see the Word who knows all things teach us in silence from the height of the cross. To see the King of Kings enthroned on a gibbet. Seeing the God of the universe stripped of everything and crowned with thorns instead of glory. To see the One who is goodness personified, insulted and beaten.”

He continued: “Why all this humiliation? Why, Lord, did you wish to endure all this? Jesus did it for us, to plumb the depths of our human experience, our entire existence, all our evil. To draw near to us and not abandon us in our suffering and our death. To redeem us, to save us. Jesus was lifted high on the cross in order to descend to the abyss of our suffering.”

After the Passion, human beings are never alone, the pope explained.

“God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word. God triumphs, but the palm of victory passes through the wood of the cross. For the palm and the cross are inseparable,” he said.

“Let us ask for the grace to be amazed. A Christian life without amazement becomes dreary.”

The pope said that his namesake St. Francis of Assisi was surprised that his friars did not cry when they meditated on the crucifixion.

“What about us? Can we still be moved by God’s love? Have we lost the ability to be amazed by him? Maybe our faith has grown dull from habit. Maybe we remain trapped in our regrets and allow ourselves to be crippled by our disappointments. Maybe we have lost all our trust or even feel worthless,” he said.

“But behind all these ‘maybes’ lies the fact that we are not open to the gift of the Spirit who gives us the grace of amazement.”

The pope urged people facing this struggle to “start over from amazement”

“Let us gaze upon Jesus on the cross and say to him: ‘Lord, how much you love me! How precious I am to you!’ Let us be amazed by Jesus so that we can start living again, for the grandeur of life lies not in possessions and asserting oneself, but in realizing that we are loved.”

Papal liturgies throughout will be much due to the ongoing pandemic.

On Holy Thursday, the pope will preside over the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of April 1. But he will not be present at the Vatican’s Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside instead.

Good Friday at the Vatican will include both the papal liturgy of the Passion of the Lord at 6 p.m. local time and the Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis at 9 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope will offer the Easter Vigil Mass on April 3 in St. Peter’s Basilica at 7:30 p.m. and will also celebrate the Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. after which he will offer the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Concluding his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis said: “Today God continues to fill our minds and hearts with amazement. Let us be filled with that amazement as we gaze upon the crucified Lord. May we too say: ‘You are truly the Son of God. You are my God.’”

Cardinal hails Mother Angelica’s ‘extraordinary’ creativity on fifth anniversary of her death

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Fernando Filoni recalled Saturday the “extraordinary creative capacities” of Mother Angelica as he celebrated Mass in suffrage of the EWTN founder on the fifth anniversary of her death.

Preaching at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica March 27, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre said that the nun earned “the gratitude of the whole Church” for building a global media network at the service of the Gospel.

Mother Angelica began broadcasting from a converted garage in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1981. She died on March 27, 2016 -- Easter Sunday -- at the age of 92. By the time of her death, EWTN had become the largest religious media network in the world.

Filoni said: “She crossed the whole 20th century facing poverties and sufferings, which were constant friends in her life until the end; at the same time, she experienced the consolation of Jesus and the constant help of Divine Providence; she could not do what she did alone.”

“In a thick and, sometimes, black ‘wood’ of our world, the finger of God was guiding her: ‘I knew that God knew me and loved me and he was interested to me. All I would like to do’ -- she said after a serious sickness -- ‘was to donate myself to Jesus.’”

Filoni, a veteran Vatican diplomat who led the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 2011 to 2019, noted that the nun, who was born Rita Rizzo, took the name Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation when she in 1944.

“I do not know whether, assuming the name of ‘Annunciation,’ she had the perception of her future mission in the communications field,” he said.

The 74-year-old Italian cardinal, who was appointed Grand Master in December 2019, continued: “Becoming rich in many experiences, in contemplative life, in missionary accomplishments and pastoral initiatives, Mother Angelica, with her extraordinary creative capacities, generates the non-profit society EWTN, a broadcasting group linked to civil and religious life.”

“Spreading the Gospel in our society was the high finality of EWTN, with style and adherence to the truth: ‘The truth will set you free’ (John 8:32); the ‘Truth’ is Jesus: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). These words were always clear in Mother Angelica’s mind and heart.”

In his homily at Mass in the of St. Peter’s Basilica, Filoni said that Mother Angelica was held in high regard by the past three popes.

“Mother Angelica was close to Pope John Paul II; she got the high esteem of Benedict XVI and the consideration of Pope Francis; the more and more she got, the gratitude of the whole Church and especially of the affectionate audience that maintains a link with EWTN,” he said.

“If we could consider EWTN Mother Angelica’s first ‘daughter.’ it has not been the only offspring of the ‘family,’ enriched by the National Catholic Register, Catholic News Agency, and so on.”

Addressing employees of EWTN present at the Mass, the cardinal said: “What is very important to you, dear friends, is the confidence of your listeners, readers and viewers: please, have always high respect for them; you can generate life, hope, confidence, love.”

He added: “It is necessary to build the sanctuary of the Lord among the peoples, in the families, in society, and nobody can do it better than a broadcasting network, able to enter beyond every door, many times closed; a sanctuary not made by material bricks, but by truth and love.”

“Remembering today Mother Angelica, we like to find a dart of fidelity to Christ, ‘the Light of nations’ (, 1), and to his Church, being ‘like a sacrament or a sign and instrument’ of God among us.”

Concluding his homily, he said: “Finally, let us be reminded here of a few words of Pope Benedict the XVI when he started his pontificate: It is sufficient for me to be a simple worker in the vineyard of the Lord!”

“This is my wish to you, at the vigil of the Holy Week: Be good workers in the vineyard of the Lord!”

“Thank you for your generous and appreciated work for the Church.”

“Mother Angelica, I am sure, she is happy.”

Book marks 1st anniversary of Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi blessing as pandemic swept world

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican Dicastery for Communication has released a book marking the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” blessing as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world.

Pope Francis presided over a time of solemn prayer and Eucharistic adoration on March 27, 2020, before offering the blessing in an empty, rainswept St. Peter’s Square.

As hospitals struggled to care for a vast wave of patients infected by COVID-19, the pope spoke about faith and trust in God, reflecting on the disciples’ experience when their boat was caught in a violent storm.

“We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love,” Francis during the event, known as the Statio Orbis.

The new book -- “Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith?” -- is being released around the world in several languages through a collaboration between the Vatican Publishing House and the French publisher Bayard. The is published in conjunction with OSV.

A press statement from the Dicastery for Communication explained that the book consisted of texts and photographs related to the blessing.

It said: “They are accompanied by a brief but intense dialogue with Pope Francis, who, a year on from the Statio Orbis, recalls: ‘I was in contact with the people. I was not alone, at that moment…’”

“And in response to the question on what gave him strength and hope in that intense and dramatic moment, Francis replies: ‘Kissing the feet of the Crucified Jesus always gives hope. He knows what it means to walk and he understands quarantine, because they put two nails there to hold him still. Jesus’ feet are a compass in people’s lives.’”

Pope Francis to Vatican tribunal: be guided by ‘founding principles of ecclesial life’

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Saturday that the Vatican’s quest for transparency should be inspired by “the founding principles of ecclesial life” and conform to international standards.

The pope made the remark March 27 as he opened the 92nd judicial year of the Vatican City State Tribunal in the Apostolic Palace’s Hall of Blessings.

He began his by noting that the gilded hall is situated between St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square.

He said: “In this singular position one could see the meaning and the task of the Church, constituted and sent by Christ the Lord to carry out the mission of upholding the truth and -- as the Second Vatican Council teaches -- proclaiming, ‘even by its own example, humility and self-sacrifice,’ with God’s own style: closeness, compassion, tenderness.”

“With this mandate, the Church enters history and becomes a place of encounter among peoples and of reconciliation among men, in order to lead them, with the Word and the Sacraments, with grace and examples of life, to the faith, freedom, and peace of Christ.”

This was the consecutive year that Pope Francis has attended the opening of the tribunal’s judicial year.

The pope said: “I exhort everyone so that the initiatives recently launched, and those to be taken, for the absolute transparency of the institutional activities of the Vatican State, especially in the economic and financial field, are always inspired by the founding principles of ecclesial life and, at the same time, take due account of the parameters and ‘good practices’ current at international level, and appear exemplary, as is imposed on a reality such as the Catholic Church.”

The pope offered the tribunal general indications for the coming year, emphasizing the need for efficiency, irreproachable behavior, “new and more incisive forms of cooperation,” and equal treatment of all members of the Church.

He said: “I urge you to reflect on the fact that, by carrying out your hidden and patient work day after day, you offer a precious contribution so that the Church, in this tiny Vatican City State, may give a good example of what she teaches in her social magisterium.”

The opening address was given by Gian Piero Milano, promoter of justice at the Vatican City state court, outlining legal reforms over the past 12 months. Among those attending the ceremony was the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi.

Referring to financial scandals that have rocked the Vatican in the past year, Milano thanked legal authorities in Italy and further afield for their cooperation in investigations.

“We would like to express our gratitude to all these subjects for their active cooperation in delicate and complex investigations still in progress, which have led to important results,” he said, adding that this cooperation was likely to continue as cases went to trial.

Milano said that despite the challenges of the pandemic and overseeing complex trials, the tribunal had completed its work without accumulating backlogs.

He highlighted the that the tribunal handed down in January to former “Vatican bank” president Angelo Caloia, his lawyer, Gabriele Liuzzo, and Liuzzo’s son, Lamberto.

He said that in the past 12 months, the tribunal had issued 13 international letters rogatory: seven to Italy, two to the U.K., two to the Channel Island of Jersey, and two to Slovenia.

Letters rogatory are formal requests from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance.

He said that the tribunal had also requested the seizure of some 105 million euros ($124 million), part of which it has received and part of which remains the subject of dispute.

Milano also noted recent reforms to the laws governing the Vatican City State.

But he said: “Even with these changes, the journey of reform is far from complete. There are still gaps and inconsistencies in many sectors.”

Pope Francis ended his address by encouraging tribunal officials to dedicate time to prayer.

He said: “The language of painting and sculpture often depicts Justice intent, with one hand, to weigh opposing interests or situations with the scales, and ready, with the other hand, to defend the right with the sword.”

“Christian iconography then adds to the previous artistic tradition a detail of no small importance: the eyes of Justice are not blindfolded, but turned upwards and look at heaven, because only in heaven does true justice exist.”

UK judge overturns Vatican request to seize accounts of Italian broker

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A British judge has reversed the seizure of the accounts of an Italian broker under investigation by the Vatican, saying that Vatican prosecutors withheld and misrepresented information in their request to the UK court.

Judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court overturned another judge’s decision to seize the British-based accounts of Gianluigi Torzi, as had been requested by Vatican prosecutors.

Torzi was arrested by the Vatican last summer on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.

Torzi is under investigation by the Vatican after he helped broker the Secretariat of State’s controversial purchase of a London property development. The Vatican alleges that in doing so, Torzi was part of a conspiracy to defraud the secretariat of millions of euros.

In his 42-page ruling, made public this week and first reported by the Catholic investigative news website The Pillar, Baumgartner wrote that the Vatican’s “non-disclosures and misrepresentations are so appalling that the ultimate sanction” to reverse the seizure of the assets was appropriate.

He said, “I do not consider there is reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Torzi has benefited from criminal conduct,” as the Vatican argued.

A copy of the court’s ruling was provided to CNA by a member of Torzi’s press team.

The secretariat bought the property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione. Torzi brokered the sale, earning millions of euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.

Torzi sold the secretariat the 30,000 majority shares in Gutt SA, the holding company through which the London property was purchased, while he retained the 1,000 shares with voting rights.

The Vatican claims Torzi was “secretive and dishonest” when he retained the voting shares, while Torzi argues that everything was transparent and communicated to Vatican officials in conversation and in documents signed by them.

In his ruling, Baumgartner sided with Torzi, saying the claim that the broker was “secretive and dishonest” was not supported by the evidence before him and a “misrepresentation” by Vatican prosecutors.

In their case against Torzi, Vatican prosecutors said that Torzi knew Enrico Crasso, an investment manager for the secretariat, and secretariat officials Fabrizio Tirabassi and Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, were acting outside their actual authority to defraud the secretariat.

The judge said the claim, which is “the crux” of the Vatican’s case against Torzi, was not suggested by the evidence presented, including the fact that the transaction “was expressly approved and authorized by Archbishop Peña Parra in his proxy to Monsignor Perlasca dated 22 November 2018.”

“I have seen nothing to suggest that Mr. Torzi knew or suspected Monsignor Perlasca was acting other than in accordance with what he was telling his superiors within the Secretariat including, ultimately, the Secretariat himself, Cardinal Parolin,” Baumgartner wrote.

Vatican to vaccinate 1,200 people in need during Holy Week

CNA Staff, Mar 26, 2021 / 09:50 am (CNA).

The Vatican plans to vaccinate 1,200 people living in poverty during Holy Week with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The Office of Papal Charities is offering doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, purchased by the Holy See and offered by the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital through the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, to “the poorest and most marginalized people who, because of their situation, are the most exposed to the virus,” according to a released March 26.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski oversees the Office of Papal Charities, the Vatican department that offers charitable assistance to the poor on behalf of the pope. Krajewski himself was hospitalized with COVID-19 for 10 days in December but recovered.

The papal almoner has also set up a where people can sponsor the vaccination of a person in need through an online donation to the Office of Papal Charities.

The vaccine will be administered to the poor by volunteer medical workers in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where Pope Francis and Vatican employees were vaccinated beginning in 2021.

This is the latest step in the Vatican’s efforts to respond to Pope Francis’ appeals to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine against COVID-19 during the pandemic.

When Vatican City State first began its vaccination campaign in January, the pope requested that homeless people residing at the shelter owned by the Office of Papal Charities be among the first to be vaccinated.

Both Pope Francis, 84, and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, 93, have received the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

At his traditional Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, the pope called for COVID-19 vaccines to be made available to the world’s neediest people.

The pope said: “I ask everyone -- government leaders, businesses, international organizations -- to foster cooperation and not competition, and to seek a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy.”

Yes, Pope Francis was involved in the CDF’s document on same-sex blessings

Vatican City, Mar 25, 2021 / 19:19 pm (CNA).

Following a Vatican clarification that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions, some media outlets have speculated about Pope Francis’ involvement – or lack thereof – in releasing the document.

However, the pope’s consent is a necessary part of any , and Pope Francis himself has multiple times reiterated the Church’s well-established teaching on marriage and sexuality.

The document in question is the  (response) which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave to a question about the blessing to same-sex unions. The said that “God cannot bless sin.”

The also stressed that “the Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.”

The Church cannot bless sexual unions outside the marriage of one man and one woman, the document said. However, blessings can be given “to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching.”

Although the document reiterates the Church's longstanding teaching, it has sparked controversy and harsh reactions from progressive voices within the Church.

There has also been an attempt to distance Pope Francis from the document, with one media outlet claiming the issue was not discussed at the monthly plenary meeting of the CDF, but only by a small group of congregation officials.

However, the clearly says that Pope Francis “was informed and gave his assent to the publication of the above-mentioned dubium, with the annexed Explanatory note.”

are responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to questions about the Catholic teaching. They originate at the monthly meetings of the Congregation. From there, cardinals, consulters and experts and consulted. This process can take months or years. The resulting is then discussed by the Congregation before being presented to the pope, who can approve, reject, or amend the text. The pope must consent to the final document.

Not all the are made public, but only those that have a particular meaning for the universal Church. Others are sent directly to the bishop, priest, or faithful who made the inquiry.

The timing of the recent is significant, as there has been discussion about blessings of same-sex couples in the German Church’s “Synodal Path,” with several German bishops suggesting such blessings are acceptable.

Pope Francis, then, was undoubtedly aware of the content of the , and authorized its publication. On numerous occasions, the pope has stressed the importance of defending marriage as the union of man and woman and the foundation of a family.

Furthermore, the message of the document is nothing new. The Church has long made clear that it cannot endorse same-sex unions.

In 1975, the CDF issued , which dealt with the pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies.

In some cases, this document said, “people conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage.”

The CDF stressed that all persons must be treated pastorally and with understanding, but clarified that “no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality.”

In 1986, the CDF sent a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the .”

The letter encouraged bishops “to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses.”

Nevertheless, the letter said, “increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.”

In 1992, the CDF published “Some considerations concerning .”

That document stressed that “homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons including the right of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity.”

However, the document noted that “there are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.”

In 2003, the CDF published “,” which clarified that “the Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society.”

Drawing on this well-established background, the latest  has solid roots in Church teaching. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has found it reasonable to pronounce this teaching once again. 

Pope Francis’ schedule for Holy Week 2021 at the Vatican unveiled

Vatican City, Mar 25, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has published Pope Francis’ schedule for Holy Week at the Vatican this year.

For the second year in a row, the papal liturgies for Holy Week will be much smaller than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the Way of the Cross, traditionally held at the Colosseum, moved to St. Peter’s Square instead.

On Palm Sunday on March 28, Pope Francis will offer Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Altar of the Chair at 10:30 a.m. local time.

The pope will also preside over the Chrism Mass, which will occur at the same altar in the basilica on the morning of April 1, Holy Thursday. But the pope will not be present at the Vatican’s Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside instead.

Good Friday at the Vatican will include both the papal liturgy of the Passion of the Lord at 6 p.m. and the Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis at 9 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square.

This year Pope Francisa scouting group from central Italy and kids from a Roman parish to prepare the meditations for this year’s Way of the Cross.

The pope will offer the Easter Vigil Mass on April 3 in St. Peter’s Basilica at 7:30 p.m. and will also celebrate the Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. after which he will offer the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing.