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Analysis: Serious and unserious allegations of papal heresy

15 hours 17 min ago

Washington D.C., May 2, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- On April 30, a group of 19 Catholics released an open letter to the bishops of the world, accusing the pope of heresy and demanding that the college of bishops act to make him “adjure.”

According to the letter’s signers, which include a handful of prominent academics, Pope Francis has committed the canonical crime of heresy, which entails publicly and obstinately doubting or denying credenda teachings - those Catholics are required, according to canon law  “to believe with divine and Catholic faith.”

But despite the letter’s strident claims, the arguments advanced by its authors do not appear to make a legal, or consistent, argument against the Holy Father regarding the specific charge of canonical heresy.

Despite the insistence that the pope has committed the “canonical delict of heresy,” the letter’s authors appear unable to distinguish between the crime of heresy and what their letter actually appears to allege – material heresy.

Material heresy describes a situation in which a person has, in word or deed, manifested an opinion in doubt of or contradiction to a truth to be believed by divine and Catholic faith. Such a situation should, of course, be corrected by the Church. But the “evidence” presented in the letter appears, to many initial critics, to amount to little more than inferences open to interpretation.

Committing the canonical crime of heresy requires the obstinate doubt or denial of a credenda teaching, and like any crime, has to be clearly manifested in the external forum and not merely inferred to be a person’s inner disposition.

Legally, the criterion of obstinacy is demonstrated when a legitimate correction or warning is demonstrably rejected. The letter’s authors insist that the pope’s obstinacy – or “pertinacity” as they prefer – is demonstrated ipso facto by statements from the pope which he should, by his education experience and office, know better than to make.

The letter’s most substantive theological critique of the pope centers on the well-known controversies over some of the language in the 2015 Synod on the Family and the subsequent apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia. But the letter’s authors take no account of the number of bishops and theologians, including the pope himself, who contend that Amoris can and should be read in continuity with Catholic teaching on marriage, sexuality and the family.

While the letter may be an honest expression of opinion by the 19 signers, few experts have concluded that it serves to demonstrate the obstinate manifestation of heretical beliefs by the pope in law or fact.

Similarly, in their treatment of the pope’s singing of a declaration on interreligious cooperation in Abu Dhabi, which they also insist is heretical, the signers note that while the pope has offered both explanations and context for the document, “none of these explanations offers an unambiguous interpretation that is compatible with the Catholic faith.”.

Canonists commenting on the letter, apart from the single canon lawyer to sign it, have agreed that this does not meet the standards of an obstinate, explicit and external rejection of credenda teaching.

There is no legal requirement that the pope offer the letter’s signers an explanation of his behavior sufficient to meet their own standards, nor does canon law recognize the expression of their own concerns as a canonically meaningful warning.

Given the insistence of the letter that the pope is not only in material heresy, but guilty of the canonical delict, the apparent gap in legal understanding detracts significantly from the letter’s gravity.

Other papal “actions that indicate a rejection of truths of the faith” proposed by the letter consist of a long list of individuals Francis is accused of promoting or associating with. Further supposedly “indicative” proof appears even more tenuous, with the shape of a liturgical staff once used by Francis termed a “satanic stang” by the letter.

If support for the letter’s legal premise has been absent, its reception among theologians has largely been one of disappointment. 

Though many have noted that some of the issues raised in it are ongoing sources of concern and confusion for Catholics that would certainly benefit from an unambiguous clarification by the pope, by grounding their complaints in the “canonical crime of heresy,” the letters authors have been seen by many to work from a deeply flawed premise.

The attempt to yoke together serious issues, like the language of parts of Amoris Laetitia, with trivial complaints, like the shape of a staff in a liturgical procession, has largely been met with skepticism.

Many have observed that the letter’s scatter-gun approach to topics as varied as theological language and episcopal appointments lessens the impact of its concerns, even as it attempts to amplify them.

For those with serious, even legitimate concerns about the clarity of teaching in some papal writings, this letter and its invocation of canonical heresy may prove to be an unwelcome distraction.

What is not disputed is that a formal public accusation of heresy against the pope by a group of Catholics, including clerics and academics associated with Catholic universities and institutions, cannot simply be ignored.

Whatever the document’s intentions, it does seem to represent a direct and public appeal to the college of bishops against what is explicitly termed a criminal exercise of the papal teaching office.

While canon lawyers often debate the hypothetical possibility and legal repercussions of an heretical pope, the discussion of what may or should be done about the challenge to papal authority by the letter’s authors may prove to be anything but theoretical.

Pope Francis: 'The common good has become global'

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 23:01

Vatican City, May 2, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis called on nations to work toward a global common good Thursday, particularly in confronting climate change, human trafficking, and nuclear threats.

“In the current situation of globalization not only of the economy but also of technological and cultural exchanges, the nation state is no longer able to procure the common good of its population alone,” Pope Francis told the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences May 2.

“The common good has become global and nations must associate for their own benefit,” Francis said, noting that some nations today have “a spirit of opposition rather than cooperation.”

The pope called “building the common good of humanity, a necessary and essential element for the world balance.”

“While, according to the principle of subsidiarity, individual nations must be given the power to operate as far as they can, on the other hand, groups of neighboring nations - as is already the case - can strengthen their cooperation by attributing the exercise of certain functions and services to intergovernmental institutions that manage their common interests,” he said.

Pope Francis said that when a “supranational common good” is clearly identified, as in the case of climate change or human trafficking, it necessitates a special legal authority capable of facilitating solutions.

He called for new paths of cooperation among nations to achieve peace today when “multilateral nuclear disarmament appears outdated and does not stir the political conscience of nations that possess atomic weapons.”

“If, now, not only on earth but in space, there are offensive and defensive nuclear weapons, the so-called new technological frontier, raised and not lowered the danger of a nuclear holocaust,” he said.

The pope warned against “nationalism that raises walls” or leads to antisemitism or hatred of others.

The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences addressed the revival of nationalism at their plenary session May 1-3, “Nation, State, Nation-State.”

“The Church observes with concern the re-emergence, almost everywhere in the world, of aggressive currents towards foreigners, especially immigrants, as well as that growing nationalism that neglects the common good,” Pope Francis told the professors gathered in Vatican City for the plenary.

However, Pope Francis rejected the idea of “a universalism or generic internationalism that neglects the identity of individual peoples.”

“The Church has always urged the love of its people, of their homeland, to respect the treasure of the various cultural expressions, customs and habits and the right ways of living rooted in peoples,” he said.

Pope Francis quoted St. Thomas Aquinas’ answer to the tenth objection to the ninth question in his Disputed Questions on Spiritual Creatures, noting that he believes St. Thomas has a beautiful idea of what it means to be ‘a people’: “As the Seine river is not ‘this particular river’ because of ‘this flowing water,’ but because of ‘this source’ and ‘this bed,’ and hence is always called the same river, although there may be other water flowing down it; likewise a people is the same, not because of a sameness of soul or of men, but because of the same dwelling place, or rather because of the same laws and the same manner of living, as Aristotle says in the third book of the Politics.”

Pope Francis went on to talk about the importance of welcoming and integrating migrants.

“It is the task of public authority to protect migrants and to regulate migratory flows with the virtue of prudence, as well as to promote reception so that local populations are trained and encouraged to consciously participate in the integrating process of migrants who are welcomed,” he said.

“The way in which a nation welcomes migrants reveals its vision of human dignity and its relationship with humanity. Every human person is a member of humanity and has the same dignity,” Pope Francis said.

Theologians accuse pope of heresy

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 23:35

Vatican City, May 1, 2019 / 11:35 am (CNA).- A group of nineteen Catholics, including some prominent academics, have published an open letter to the bishops of the world accusing Pope Francis of heresy.

The letter, made public on April 30, was dated “Easter week” and signed by 19 individuals, including Fr. Aiden Nichols OP, an internationally recognized theologian and author. The 15-page letter begins by asking the bishops of the world to take some action against the pope.

“We are addressing this letter to you for two reasons: first to accuse Pope Francis of the canonical delict of heresy, and second, to request that you take the steps necessary to deal with the grave situation of a [sic] heretical pope.”

The letter lists seven specific areas of Church teaching where the signatories believe the pope has “through his words and actions, publicly and pertinaciously” demonstrated his belief in “propositions that contradict divine law.”

The complaints focus on supposed teachings of the pope concerning sexuality and morality which they claim run contrary to the Church’s magisterium. The letter highlights what the signatories believe to be problematic passages from the pope’s 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, especially concerning Catholics in irregular marital situations.

Among specific heretical beliefs the letter accuses the pope of holding is the position that a Catholic can, with full knowledge of divine law, violate that law and not be in a state of grave sin.

The letter also references a number of bishops, cardinals, and priests whom the authors claim are themselves heretical and the pope either appointed or allowed to remain in office, as further proof of the Holy Father’s “heresy.”

The letter also suggests that a cross and staff used by the pope during the 2018 Synod on Young People liturgical were respectively “satanic” and proof of a pro-homosexual agenda.

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., Petri, vice president and academic dean at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, told CNA that the letter is“frankly disappointing.”

“I cannot understand how one could accuse the pope of heresy based on low-level appointments forwarded to him for pro-forma approval or on vestiture given to him to use for a liturgy.”

“It’s quite stunning to include such ‘facts’ as evidence of heresy,” Petri said.

Canon law defines heresy as the “obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of some truth to be believed with divine and Catholic faith.”

Attached to the letter is a four-page canonical rationale, in which the writers cite previous declaration by Pope Leo II that his predecessor, Pope Honorius, had supported the monothelite heresy in the seventh century.

The letter acknowledges that “it is agreed that the Church does not have jurisdiction over the pope, and hence that the Church cannot remove a pope from office by an exercise of superior authority, even for the crime of heresy.”

Nevertheless, the letter asserts, a pope with “heretical views cannot continue as pope.” The letter then suggests that the pope could lose office de facto as a result of obstinately holding public heretical views and that the bishops of the Church have an “absolute duty to act in concert to remedy this evil.”

The Code of Canon Law explicitly provides for the punishment of Catholics who “make recourse against an act of the Roman Pontiff to an ecumenical council or the college of bishops.”

Canon law also defines that both an ecumenical council and the college of bishops can only ever act with and under the authority of the pope.

While the letter makes numerous references to the “canonical delict of heresy,” only one of the signatories is listed as having a licentiate in canon law. The letter does not call for a canonical action to be taken against the pope, despite insisting that he has committed the delict of heresy, instead, the authors ask the bishops of the world to “admonish” the pope and cause him to formally “abjure” his alleged heresies.

Among the signatories of the letter are some prominent Catholics, including Professor John Rist,a research professor in philosophy at the Catholic University of America, where he previously held the Father Kurt Pritzl, O.P., Chair in Philosophy.

In a statement to CNA, Catholic University said that Rist does not speak for the university, and underscored his limited role there.

“He is not a teaching professor. His personal views about papal reform do not reflect those of the University,” a university spokesperson said.

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, a professor of philosophy, also signed the letter. Kwasniewski is a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio.

Robert Corzine, vice president of programs at the St. Paul Center, told CNA that Kwasniewski “definitely does not speak for the St. Paul Center in this regard.”

Corzine noted that the center had previously published an English language version of a handbook for the pastoral care of the family according to Amoris Laetitia.

“While the signatories of that letter clearly have their own particular was of interpreting Amoris Laetitia, if anything can be read in continuity with orthodox teaching and tradition it should be – and Amoris Laetitia definitely can be,” Corzine said.

Petri told CNA that the letter is unconvincing in both its arguments and its rationale.

“Apart from the canonical implications this may have for the signers, the letter itself is a hodgepodge of concerns that prevent it being taken very seriously as a whole,” Petri said.

“While I agree there remain questions and concerns about some applications of Amoris Laetitia, I cannot see how any of those concerns are necessarily material heresy.”

Vatican accepts resignation of Bishop McGrath of San Jose

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 18:29

Vatican City, May 1, 2019 / 06:29 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday accepted the resignation of Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of San Jose, California, who will be automatically succeeded by his coadjutor Bishop Oscar Cantú.

McGrath, 73, was bishop of San Jose for nearly 20 years, and before that was coadjutor bishop of the diocese for an additional one year.

Citing the wish to let a younger man become bishop, McGrath last year asked the Holy See permission to retire before turning 75, which is when bishops are required by canon law to submit letters of resignation for consideration by the pope.

McGrath was hospitalized last November after a serious fall, which caused a "slight fracture of a disc in his back," according to a diocesan spokesperson.

The bishop became the object of criticism in August 2018 for a decision to purchase a five-bedroom, 3,300 quare-foot home, for $2.3 million to live in after retirement.

McGrath later changed his plans, stating that the purchase made economic sense as a good investment, but that he had "erred in judgment" in purchasing the house.

“I failed to consider adequately the housing crisis in this valley and the struggles of so many families and communities in light of that crisis,” he said Aug. 27. “I have heard from many on this topic and I have decided that I will not move into this house.”

The diocese sold the house in December for $50,000 more than it was purchased for; the profit was donated to Charities Housing, operated by Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.

The bishop has said he plans to live in a rectory of one of San Jose's parishes after his retirement.

McGrath was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1945. He attended seminary in Waterford, Ireland before being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1970.

He received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in 1977.

In 1989 he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, serving as vicar for clergy, moderator of the curia, and vicar for parishes.

Pope John Paul II named him coadjutor bishop of San Jose in 1998, and he succeeded Bishop Pierre DuMaine as bishop near the end of 1999.

Cantú, 52, was appointed coadjutor of San Jose in July 2018. He had been bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico since February 2013 and is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, and French.

He was first made a bishop at age 41, when Pope Benedict XVI named him an auxiliary of San Antonio, Texas in 2008.

Born in Houston, Texas in 1966, he is the fifth of eight children. His parents, Ramiro and Maria de Jesus Cantú, are from small towns near Monterey, Mexico.

In 2016, Cantú was one of two delegates chosen to represent the U.S. bishops’ conference during Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico.

The Diocese of San Jose encompasses 1,300 square miles in Santa Clara County, usually referred to as Silicon Valley. Catholics make up 32% of the just under 2 million inhabitants.

Satan is real, Pope Francis says

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 16:19

Vatican City, May 1, 2019 / 04:19 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday reminded those who think belief in the devil is antiquated or outdated that Satan really exists and that Jesus himself experienced his temptations and overcame them.

“So began the public life of Jesus, with the temptation that comes from Satan. Satan was present,” the pope said May 1.

“Many people say: ‘But why talk about the devil, which is an ancient thing? The devil does not exist.’ But look at what the Gospel teaches you,” Francis emphasized. “Jesus confronted the devil, he was tempted by Satan. But Jesus rejects every temptation and comes out victorious.”

He advised people to remember in their own moments of temptation that “Jesus has already fought this temptation for us.”

The pope spoke about Satan during his weekly audience, where he continued his catechesis on the Our Father with a reflection on the line, “and lead us not into temptation.”

Pope Francis has before been critical of the way the original line has been translated in some languages. Last year the Italian bishops’ conference voted to change the Italian translation of the line to “do not abandon us to temptation.”

The pope commented Wednesday that “the original Greek expression [of this line] contained in the Gospels is difficult to render exactly, and all modern translations are somewhat limping.”

However, it is clear, he continued, that it is not intended to mean God is a tempter: “Christians have nothing to do with an envious God, in competition with man, or [one] who enjoys putting him to the test,” he stated.

Recalling that Jesus himself was tempted and underwent trials during his life, Francis said those words of the prayer which ask God to not leave or abandon his people in their moment of need “have already been answered.”

“God has not left us alone, but in Jesus he manifests himself as ‘God-with-us’ unto the outermost consequences,” he said.

“He is with us when he gives us life, he is with us during life, he is with us in joy, he is with us in trials, he is with us in sadness, he is with us in defeats, when we sin, but he is always with us, because he is a Father and cannot abandon us.”

This, he noted, contrasts with the fallenness of humanity. For example, when the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane during Christ’s agony: “God asks man not to abandon him, and man instead sleeps.”

Pope Francis said that instead, in man’s moment of trial, God keeps watch with them.

“In the worst moments of our life, in the most suffering moments, in the most anguishing moments, God watches with us, God fights with us. Always close to us. Why? Because [he is] a father,” he explained.

This can be a comfort to each person in his or her “hour of trial,” he continued. To know Jesus has already crossed the valley, that it “is no longer desolate, but is blessed by the presence of the Son of God.”

“Thus, we began the prayer: Our Father. A father who does not abandon his children.”

“When this time [of trial] comes for us, show us, Our Father, that we are not alone,” Francis prayed. “Show us that Christ has already taken upon himself the weight of that cross, show us and call us to carry it with him, trusting in the love of the Father.”

Pope Francis gives $500,000 to support migrants in Mexico

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 09:00

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2019 / 09:00 pm (CNA).- Peter’s Pence, a global charitable fund overseen by Pope Francis, will support migrants in limbo in Mexico, the charity has announced.
“Men and women, often with young children, flee poverty and violence, hoping for a better future in the United States,” said the Peter’s Pence website. “However, the U.S. border remains closed to them.”
“All these people were stranded, unable to enter the United States, without a home or livelihood,” the announcement continued. “The Catholic Church hosts thousands of them in the hotels within dioceses or religious congregations, providing basic necessities, from housing to clothing.”
A $500,000 allocation will go to 27 projects in 16 dioceses and religious congregations who are seeking to provide housing, food and basic necessities to the migrants.
The Peter’s Pence website said there were six migrant caravans, totaling 75,000 people, that entered Mexico, as did other groups. Most of these people came from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Fleeing violence or poverty or seeking a better life, migrants are sometimes encouraged by human traffickers’ false promises of jobs in the U.S. Some take out loans to pay for the trip, which then may lead to retaliation against families if unpaid. The trips can be dangerous, with sexual assault of women a common danger.
“Thanks to these projects, and thanks to Christian charity and solidarity, the Mexican Bishops hope to be able to continue helping our migrant brothers and sisters,” the Peter’s Pence website said.
According to Peter’s Pence media coverage of the migrant emergency has been decreasing, leading to a decrease in aid to migrants by the government and private individuals.
The collection for the papal charity generally takes place June 29 or the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
Peter’s Pence is supported by individuals and by diocesan or national collections. Projects may also be supported through its website.
Under Pope Francis, Peter’s Pence has funded flood relief efforts in Iran, education for hearing-impaired children in Rwanda, Hurricane relief in Haiti, and other projects.
The Peter’s Pence website says the collection is “not only a gesture of charity, a way of supporting the activity of the Pope and of the universal Church in favoring especially the poorest and Churches in difficulty.”
“It is also an invitation to pay attention and be near to new forms of poverty and fragility in which we are called to recognize the suffering Christ,” the website says.

“In this way, we can evangelize our societies and individualistic lifestyles, which are often indifferent to the fate of their fellow men and women and communities who are at the thresholds of our homes, and our countries.”
In early April a federal judge blocked Trump administration protocols that would have kept in Mexico those seeking asylum in the United States while their cases were being decided. Asylum seekers were to remain in Tijuana, near the border with the United States, and would be bussed to San Diego for court appearances.
Foes of the policy, including the American Civil Liberties Union, had filed a lawsuit charging that it violated international law regarding humanitarian protections.
Asylum seekers must prove they face credible threats, including fear of persecution or torture.
The Trump administration has argued said that only about 20 percent of asylum applicants gain final approval. It has argued that more asylum seekers must be detained to prevent them from disappearing and becoming permanent undocumented U.S. residents. There is a major backlog in asylum cases, with years before some cases are heard, the New York Times reports.
Other critics of the asylum protocols requiring migrants to remain in Mexico include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services. In a March 13 statement, leaders with both organizations said the policy “needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols.”

Archbishop Etienne of Anchorage named coadjutor of Seattle

Mon, 04/29/2019 - 16:46

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2019 / 04:46 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday appointed Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage to be coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

As coadjutor, Etienne will assist Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, 66, in the administration of the Archdiocese of Seattle, and succeed Sartain upon his retirement or death.

Seattle also has two auxiliaries, Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel H Mueggenborg.

Etienne, 59, served as a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis from 1992 until 2009, when he was appointed Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

In 2016, Pope Francis named him to head the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.

Etienne wrote in a blog post April 29 that he is excited and surprised by the announcement of his new appointment, and noted that his time as head of the Anchorage archdiocese the last two and a half years was "too short."

"But I am mindful of a phrase in Sacred Scripture that refers to God's timing, known as 'the fullness of time,'" he wrote. "That time has now come in God's plan for new leadership" in Anchorage.

The archbishop said he has known Archbishop Sartain for many years, and has nothing but "admiration and esteem" for him, and that he has been praying for the people of Seattle and western Washington since receiving the news of his appointment April 13.

He also expressed his gratitude for the "profound faith" of the people of Anchorage: "We now place the future once again, as always, into the hands of a faithful and loving God," he said.

Archbishop Etienne's Rite of Reception in Seattle is scheduled for Friday, June 7.

Etienne, an outdoorsman, grew up as one of six children. He has two brothers who are priests and a sister who is a religious sister.

He graduated from the University of St. Thomas/St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a degree in business administration before studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

After serving as an associate pastor and assistant vocations director in Indianapolis for a period, he returned to Rome to receive his licenciate in spiritual theology.

In the U.S., he later served as vocations director in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, vice-rector of the Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis, and as a parish priest.

He was appointed Bishop of Cheyenne in 2009. He has served as a metropolitan, the Archbishop of Anchorage, since November 2016.

The Archdiocese of Seattle covers the western part of Washington state, from the Canadian to the Oregon border and from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

It has 173 parishes, missions, and pastoral centers and serves over 579,500 Catholics.

Reflecting on the fact the announcement of his appointment was made on the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Etienne said he is mindful of her and her "profound love for God the Father, for her Lord, Jesus Christ, for the Holy Father and for the Church."

"For many years, I have seen St. Catherine as a companion and a kindred spirit," he said. "She called the Holy Father 'Sweet Christ on earth.' She was his emissary on various occasions, and she offered many sacrifices for the unity of the Church."

Etienne asked for prayers through St. Catherine's intercession, that his ministry "will be fruitful and conducive to the unity of the Church and the salvation of God’s people."

Rome’s center of Divine Mercy established by St. John Paul II

Sun, 04/28/2019 - 19:49

Rome, Italy, Apr 28, 2019 / 07:49 am (CNA).- Each day at 3 p.m. people gather to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Rome’s Santo Spirito in Sassia, a church containing relics of both St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II.

Located just steps from St. Peter’s Basilica, Santo Spirito in Sassia is Rome’s official Divine Mercy church.

"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," Monsignor Jozef Bart, the church’s rector told CNA.

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

"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 on Divine Mercy Sunday in 1995.

"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.

This year, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrated Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday in the church and Pope Francis extended a greeting to all who gathered in Santo Spirit in Sassia for the feast during his Regina Coeli address.

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,’” Monsignor Bart said.

The church offers Eucharistic adoration with priests available for confession in several languages, including English, at 6 p.m. each day.

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

"Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium,” St. John Paul II said on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001.

“‘Jesus, I trust in you.’ This prayer, dear to so many of the devout, clearly expresses the attitude with which we too would like to abandon ourselves trustfully in your hands, O Lord, our only Savior,” he continued.

"A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow, of doubt and desperation. The rays of your divine mercy restore hope, in a special way, to those who feel overwhelmed by the burden of sin,” John Paul II said.

The Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia is located at 12 Via dei Penitenzieri in Rome, a five minute walk from St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis: Divine Mercy is found in Christ’s wounds

Sun, 04/28/2019 - 18:06

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2019 / 06:06 am (CNA).- On Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on Christ’s wounds, which he said contain the difficulties and persecutions endured by people who suffer today.

“Touch the wounds of Jesus,” Pope Francis said April 28. “The wounds of Jesus are a treasure from which mercy comes.”

Pope Francis said that in visiting someone who is suffering, one can touch the wounds of Christ.

“Let us draw close to Jesus and touch his wounds in our brothers,” he said before leading pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in the Regina Coeli prayer.

Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated each year on the Sunday immediately following Easter since St. Pope John Paul II established it in 2000 during the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska.

In his remarks on the feast day, Pope Francis called for prayers for refugees held in detention centers in Libya, where increasingly violent conflict has threatened their safety.

“I appeal for the special evacuation of women, children and the sick as soon as possible through humanitarian corridors,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also prayed for those who lost their lives or suffered serious damage due to the recent floods in South Africa, which have displaced more than 1000 people.

“With his wounds, Jesus intercedes before the Father,” the pope said. The wounds of Jesus, he said, contain “the many problems, difficulties, persecutions, diseases of so many suffering people."

Pope Francis said that when Jesus appeared to his disciples in the Upper Room after his resurrection, he brought them the gifts of “peace, joy, and apostolic mission.”

“The Risen One brings authentic peace, because through his sacrifice on the cross he has realized the reconciliation between God and humanity and has overcome sin and death,” Francis said.

“The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of a new dynamism of love, capable of transforming the world with the presence of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Pope Francis sends message of peace to the Korean peninsula

Sat, 04/27/2019 - 16:59

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2019 / 04:59 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a video message Saturday to the leaders of South and North Korea expressing his hope for a future of peace and unity for the peninsula on the anniversary of the inter-Korean summit.

“I pray that this anniversary of the Panmunjom Declaration may bring about a new era of peace for all Koreans,” Pope Francis said in his video message released April 27.

“May this celebration offer hope to all that a future based on unity, dialogue and fraternal solidarity is indeed possible,” he said.

With the Panmunjun Declaration -- a peace agreement signed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In on April 27, 2018 -- the two leaders established a common goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The first Inter-Korean Summit set off a months of diplomatic engagement with North Korea that led to the historic meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June and a second meeting in Vietnam in Feb. 27-28.

Pope Francis’ message to the leaders of the Korean peninsula comes one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok.

North Korean media reported that Kim told Putin that he believed the U.S. acted in “bad faith” in sanctions negotiations during the recent Vietnam summit.

"Kim Jong Un said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the region is now at a standstill, and has reached a critical point where it may return to its original state, as the US took a unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second DPRK-US summit talks," North Korean state-run KCNA news reported April 26.

Despite the current diplomatic difficulties, Pope Francis said that peace is still possible.

“Through patient and persistent efforts, the pursuit of harmony and concord can overcome division and confrontation,” Francis said.

Pope Francis has been an active supporter of diplomatic efforts to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula.

A “Mass for Peace” on the Korean peninsula celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in October by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin with South Korean President Moon and his wife in attendance.

Pope Francis prayed for a strengthening of “the bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean peninsula” during his most recent Christmas blessing. The pope prayed that the Korean leaders may be able to reach solutions “capable of ensuring the development and well-being of all.”

The 2018 Panmunjun Declaration included a commitment to increased exchanges, visits, and cooperation between the two Koreas to promote a sense of unity, including the reunion of families separated during the Korean War.

The Inter-Korean Summit one year ago marked the first time that a North Korean leader crossed the military demarcation line within the Demilitarized Zone that has divided the Korean peninsula since 1953.

Analysis: Curial reform aims for unity in service, not a team of rivals

Sat, 04/27/2019 - 01:25

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2019 / 01:25 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis is widely expected to approve a new structure for the Roman curia in the near future. While the apostolic constitution outlining that structure is not expected to be released for several more weeks, many Church-watchers have begun speculating about what the reorganization could look like, and what it might mean.

Evangelium praedicate, as the constitution is expected to be entitled, will be the culmination of six years of work undertaken by Francis’s Council of Cardinals to better structure curial offices to the current needs of the Church.

Among its provisions, the new constitution is expected to fold the work of various smaller departments into the larger ones. This would be an extension of previous moves by Francis over the last several years, which have already seen various pontifical councils merged into the more well-known congregations, often under a new heading of simply “dicastery.”

One of the most anticipated and commented upon changes is the expected creation of a “super-dicastery” that would come through the merger of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, usually known as Propaganda Fide, with the much smaller Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, created by Pope Benedict in 2010.

In reality, this would be an acquisition, not a merger, as Propaganda Fide, charged with the Church’s missionary works and territories, has a much broader portfolio, and significantly more administrative responsibility, than the council on the new evangelization.

Still, the prediction of a more prominent role for Propaganda Fide is curiously pitched. Already one of the largest curial departments, it has a size and scope far exceeding almost any other.

Its apparently pending expansion into a so-called “super-department” comes as something of a surprise to those experts and curial staffers who consider that it has been, in fact, a “super-department” of the Vatican for several hundred years.

The beneficiary of centuries of dedicated legacies and bequests, Propaganda Fide is also the most financially autonomous curial department. During Francis’s early attempts to impose financial transparency on the curia, one staffer at the Prefecture for the Economy noted that Propaganda Fide probably had a larger asset portfolio and discretionary budget than APSA, the Vatican’s central bank.

While it is hard to see how such a department could get measurably “bigger,” much of the commentary surrounding its supposed elevation in the coming reforms seems to suggest a change in seniority. Some have described it as “replacing” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Vatican’s “supreme” department. Such predictions appear to reflect a viewpoint out of step with how the curia is constituted and actually functions.

The traditional billing of the CDF as the “supreme” congregation was rooted in a now dormant custom by which the pope personally served as the department’s head. That practice, along with the use of the word “supreme” in its title, was dropped decades ago.

The very idea of a fixed departmental hierarchy misunderstands the Church’s own conception of the curia, which exists only as an extension of the papal office, at the service of the whole Church.

In the current apostolic constitution organizing the Vatican, Pastor bonus, Pope St. John Paul II describes the curia as being at the service of unity, working to strengthen the unity of the world’s bishops and dioceses with the pope and with each other in the threefold communion which defines Catholicism: communion of faith, of sacraments, and of discipline.

In 1198, Pope Innocent III described curial officials as “extensions of our own body,” charged with tending to those things the pope would handle himself if time allowed. Throughout history, different departments have appeared to have more or less prominence, depending on the priorities of the pope at the time and the situation he was addressing.

Having no inherent authority of their own, and being only a practical creation of ecclesiastical (not divine) law, every curial department exists as an expression of the pope’s own authority. While one or another department’s work might appear prioritized according to the circumstances of the time, suggesting that one expression of papal authority “outranks” any other is simply contradictory to the Church’s expressed self-understanding.

The specific comparison of Propaganda Fide with the CDF offers a useful illustration of the essentially complementary work of all the Vatican departments.

The CDF’s responsibility is, at its core, vigilance. Concerned with protecting the Church from error in faith and morals, it handles matters ranging from the vetting of theological works to judging canonical crimes against the faith – including sexual abuse.

But as an office of vigilance, the work, in a sense, comes to it. The CDF does not have geographic territory or a “missionary function.” It does not post officials around the world to carry out its work.

Propaganda Fide, on the other hand, has a dynamic and global function. Charged with the whole of the Church’s missionary outreach, and with oversight of the Church’s institutional presence in large swathes of the globe, including – for example – China, and other places where dioceses have either not been erected or are not yet self-sustaining.

At a time when much of the Church’s concern focused on a world that was institutionally Christian but prone to great doctrinal controversies, especially in the centuries following the protestant reformation, the CDF’s role was of special significance.

As the Church enters the third millennium explicitly focused on a “new evangelization” of a secularized culture, Propaganda Fide’s mandate has a near universal applicability – something already reflected in the relative size of its staff and resources compared to other departments.

Suggestions that future curial changes in emphasis are reflective of a shift in core Church priorities would seem to mistake the essential unity of the curia’s work in service to the Church’s basic mission to announce the gospel always and everywhere.

Viewing, for example, Propaganda Fide’s work as somehow separate, subordinate or superior to that of the CDF seems to suggest a mistaken understanding that the act of preaching the good news is in conflict with the content of the message.

While the publication of the final document is not expected before next month, Francis has repeatedly stated his aim for curial structures to be better organized to serve their intended purpose and reflect the evangelical mission of the Church.

That mission will be served better by a curia constantly reoriented to its purpose, but achieving that requires a right understanding of the curia’s nature.


Being a Christian has always been challenging, Pope Francis tells youth

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 21:59

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2019 / 09:59 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that although today has its challenges, especially with the sexual abuse crisis, it is not more difficult to be a Christian now than in other periods over the last 2,000 years.

“The current context is not easy, also because of the painful and complex issue of abuses committed by members of the Church,” the pope said April 25. “However, I would like to repeat to you that today it is no more difficult than in other eras of the Church: it is only different.”

Speaking to a group of young people from France, the pope underlined the beauty of their effort to strengthen their faith through a pilgrimage to Rome “with the apostles Peter and Paul and all those witnesses, including some young people, who suffered martyrdom for choosing to remain faithful to Jesus Christ.”

“This is even more important because many people think that today it is more difficult to call themselves Christians and live faith in Christ. And you are certainly experiencing these difficulties, which sometimes become tests,” he said.

The group of young people came from the Diocese of Aire et Dax, in the south of France.

Their bishop is Nicolas Jean-Marie Souchu. His predecessor, Bishop Herve Gaschignard, was asked to submit his retirement in 2017 at the age of 57 over allegations of “inappropriate” gestures and words towards young people in the diocese, according to the Associated Press.

Gaschignard’s resignation was immediately accepted by Pope Francis. Before 2012, and his promotion to bishop of Aire and Dax, there had been similar suspicions against him in his previous position as an auxiliary for the Diocese of Toulouse.

In their audience, Francis advised the French youth to take advantage of their pilgrimage to rediscover that the Church “has been walking for two thousand years, sharing the joys and hopes, sadness and anguish of men,” as he wrote in Christus vivit, his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on young people.

Looking at the young people gives him hope, the pope said, because he knows that the Lord will never abandon his Church, and that he renews it through “your youth, your enthusiasm and the talents that he has entrusted to you.”

He urged reception of the sacraments, reading Scripture, fraternal life, and service to others as ways to stay close to Christ, following the example of their pastors, elder brothers and sisters in the faith, and the saints, who all faced difficulties in their own times and places.

“In the Church, holy and composed of sinners, may you recognize what that word is, that message of Jesus that God wants to address to the world through your life,” he said.

Recalling the image of the pine of Landes, France, Pope Francis said, “root yourself in the love of God to ensure that, where you live, the Church is loved.”

“I count on you. The Church needs your impetus, your intuitions and your faith!” he concluded.

Pope Francis: Bible the 'beating heart' of the Church

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 21:47

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2019 / 09:47 am (CNA).- Pope Francis emphasized Friday the importance of the Bible in the life of the Church, echoing Benedict XVI’s call for “a new season of greater love for Sacred Scripture.”

“It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit, the Life-Giver, loves to work through Scripture. The Word brings the breath of God into the world, infuses the warmth of the Lord in the heart,” Pope Francis said April 26.

“The word of God is alive: it does not die nor does it age, it remains forever,” he said. “It is alive and it gives life.”

The pope met with the participants in international congress promoted by the Catholic Biblical Federation in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on the 50th anniversary of the organization’s founding. The April 24-26 congress discussed “the Biblical inspiration of the whole pastoral life and mission of the Church.”

Pope Francis said “it would be nice to see ‘a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that … their personal relationship with Jesus may be deepened,’” quoting Benedict’s 2010 apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini.

Francis called for the “Word of God to become the heart of every ecclesial activity; the beating heart, which vitalizes the limbs of the Body.”

“The Word gives life to each believer by teaching them to renounce themselves in order to announce Him,” he said.

The Bible is “constantly calling us to come out of ourselves” he explained, adding that Word of God helps people to be less self-centered.

“The Word leads to Easter living: as a seed that dying gives life, like grapes that give wine through the press, like olives that give oil after passing through the mill. Thus, provoking radical gifts of life, the Word vivifies,” Francis said.

The pope said that the Bible should not remain in the library, but should be brought into the streets of the world where people live.

“The Bible is not a beautiful collection of sacred books to study, it is the Word of Life to sow,” he said.

“I wish you to be good bearers of the Word, with the same enthusiasm that we read these days in the Easter stories, where everyone runs,” Pope Francis said. “They run to meet and announce the living Word.”

Bishop Donald J. Hying appointed to lead Madison diocese

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 16:04

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2019 / 04:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Thursday appointed Donald J. Hying the next bishop of Madison, Wis., following the death of Bishop Robert C. Morlino in November.

Hying, 55, has been the bishop of Gary, Ind. since 2014. Before that he was an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisc. for three and a half years.

He replaces Bishop Morlino, who died Nov. 24, 2018 at St. Mary Hospital in Madison after suffering a cardiac event while undergoing scheduled medical tests. He was 71.

Morlino was installed as the fourth bishop of Madison Aug. 1, 2003. Prior to his time in Madison, he was bishop of Helena.

Bishop Hying was born on Aug. 18, 1963 in West Allis, Wis. He is the youngest of six brothers. He was ordained a priest for the Milwaukee archdiocese in May 1989 at the age of 25.

He is fluent in Spanish. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history, philosophy and theology from Marquette University and a master’s of divinity degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary.

From 2007 to 2011 he was the rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee.

As bishop of Gary, Hying called the diocese's first synod in 2017, following which he outlined the top pastoral priorities for the diocese over the coming years.

In support of those plans, Hying was making comprehensive visits to each parish in the diocese during 2019.

The Diocese of Madison was established in 1945 and has 104 parishes and 142 diocesan and religious priests.

The diocese has around 285,000 Catholics, which is just over 27% of the area's total population.

In the statement announcing the death of Morlino in November, the Diocese of Madison outlined his three priorities as bishop. These were to “increase the number and quality of men ordained to the diocesan priesthood,” to increase a sense of reverence throughout the diocese, and “to challenge Catholic institutions in the diocese to live out their professed faith in Jesus Christ” with their ministry in the secular realm.

In August 2018, Morlino released a pastoral letter saying the “homosexual subculture” within the Church was “wreaking great devastation.” He also called for additional Masses of reparation and fasting, and promised to respond firmly to any allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the clergy or seminarians.


Pope Francis: To stop evil, give more love than required

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 16:46

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2019 / 04:46 am (CNA).- To stop the spread of evil in the world, Catholics must go above and beyond, loving and forgiving others even when it is undeserved, Pope Francis urged Wednesday.

“Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships. In life, not everything is resolved with justice,” he said April 24.

“Especially where we must put a barricade against evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, to start a story of grace again,” he said, warning that “evil is familiar with its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.”

The Easter Octave, he said, is a good time to think about the beauty of forgiveness and to pray to the Father for the grace to forgive others, explaining that Jesus replaced the “law of retaliation” with the “law of love: what God has done for me, I give it back to you!”

The pope continued his general audience catechesis on the ‘Our Father’ by reflecting on the line which says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In forgiveness we find “the bond between love for God and love of neighbor,” he said. “Love calls love, forgiveness calls forgiveness.”

“Every Christian knows that forgiveness of sins exists for him. This we all know, that Jesus forgives everyone and forgives always. Nothing in the Gospels suggests that God does not forgive the sins of those who are well disposed and who ask to be re-embraced,” he said.

“But,” he continued, “the abundant grace of God is always challenging. He who has received so much must learn to give so much.”

He said God gives every Christian the grace to do good in the lives of their brothers and sisters, even those who have done something wrong, and with “a word, a hug, a smile, we can convey to others what most precious thing we have received.”

“And what precious thing have we received? Forgiveness.”

Sometimes, the pope said, he has heard people say they will “never forgive” some person for what they have done to them. But God has told his people if they do not forgive others, they will not be forgiven, Francis underlined. “You close the door.”

He recounted a story told to him by a priest, who had visited an old woman on her death bed. She could barely speak, but when asked if she was sorry for her sins, she said ‘yes.’

But when the priest asked her if she forgave others, she said, ‘no.’ “The priest was distressed,” Pope Francis said. “If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. If you cannot forgive, ask the Lord to give you strength to do it.”

Jesus tells a parable which illustrates the concept of forgiving others as God has forgiven you, he noted.

In the parable, found in the Gospel of Matthew, a servant owes his master a huge debt, something impossible to repay. But miraculously, he receives not only an extension, but full forgiveness of the debt. “An unexpected grace!”

But, Francis explained, the servant immediately turned to his brother to demand from him the much smaller debt he was owed.

“Therefore, in the end, the master calls him back and has [the servant] condemned,” he said. “Because if you do not try to forgive, you will not be forgiven; if you do not try to love, you will not be loved either.”

Pope Francis gifts 6,000 rosaries, asks for prayers on name day

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 22:16

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2019 / 10:16 am (CNA).- Pope Francis celebrated the feast of his patron St. George – Jorge in Spanish – by giving away rosaries to 6,000 young people from Milan, asking them to pray for him through Mary’s intercession.

The rosaries came from World Youth Day in Panama and were given to the Milanese youth during a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan in St. Peter’s Basilica Tuesday morning.

Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said with this gesture Pope Francis “asked the young people to remember him in a special way in their prayer, particularly by entrusting him to the Virgin Mary.”

The same group of young people will be present at the general audience April 24.

The feast of St. George is the “onomastico,” or name day, of Pope Francis’ baptismal name: Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The day, April 23, is an official holiday in the Vatican.

The 6,000 boys and girls who received rosaries are on pilgrimage in Rome. They are part of the Ambrosian rite, named for St. Ambrose, who led the diocese in the 4th century.

The Ambrosian rite is still celebrated throughout the Archdiocese of Milan.

For his name day in 2018, Pope Francis gave away around 3,000 gelatos to homeless served by Caritas soup kitchens and shelters around Rome.

The papal almoner’s office, headed by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, distributed the ice cream.

During the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, Francis marked St. George’s feast day by hearing the confessions of 16 boys and girls in St. Peter’s Square.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Sri Lanka Easter bombings

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 19:09

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 23, 2019 / 07:09 am (CNA).- The Islamic State claimed responsibility Tuesday for the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka that killed at least 321 people and left 500 injured.

“The perpetrators of the attack that targeted nationals of the countries of the coalitions and Christians in Sri Lanka before yesterday are fighters from the Islamic State,” the Islamic State said through its Aamaq news agency April 23.

Sri Lankan officials suspected the local Islamist group, the National Thowheed Jamath, of carrying out the attacks, but one government spokesman added that it was likely that an international network also supported the attacks.

In the past, the Islamic State has claimed attacks perpetrated by others that support their ideology, however, the sophistication of the seven coordinated suicide bombings in three Sri Lankan cities points to the possibility of direct involvement.

Sri Lanka’s minister of defense Ruwan Wijewardene claimed Tuesday that the church bombings in Sri Lanka were in retaliation for the mosque bombings in Christchurch New Zealand, AP reported. The office of New Zealand’s prime minister responded to the claim by saying that they had not seen any intelligence to support the connection.

Funeral Masses were held April 23 for the victims of the attacks on St. Sebastian's Catholic Church in Negombo and St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, told EWTN that the local Catholic community has suffered tremendously because of the horrible massacre on Easter Sunday.

“We lost so many valuable lives in both churches ... a huge amount of people,” Cardinal Ranjith told EWTN News Nightly April 22.

The Sri Lankan cardinal said that he rushed to St. Anthony’s shrine as soon as he heard of the attack Sunday morning, but the police did not allow him to enter because they suspected that more bombs could be inside the church.

“From the outside I saw a lot of devastation outside the church,” Ranjith said. “When I saw so many bodies, I was completely moved and disturbed.”

The Knights of Columbus have pledged $100,000 in aid for victims of the Sri Lankan attacks to help Cardinal Ranjith rebuild and repair his Christian community.

“Terrorist attacks like those on Easter Sunday are the acts of those who reject the sanctity of life, human rights and religious freedom,” Carl Anderson, CEO and Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus said April 22.

“Globally, it is well documented that Christians are the most persecuted religious group today,” Anderson said. “Now is the time for every country to take concrete steps to protect their minority populations, including Christians, and to stop this persecution and slaughter.”

Investigations into the Easter attacks on two Catholic churches, an evangelical church, three hotels, and a private residence are ongoing. According to some reports, as many as 24 arrests have been made as Sri Lanka has declared a state of national emergency.

Pope Francis renewed his prayers for the victims in Sri Lanka and appealed for international support during his Regina Coeli address Monday.

“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary,” the pope said April 22.

“I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” he said.

Pope Francis: The resurrection is the most shocking event in human history

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 17:05

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2019 / 05:05 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Monday that the resurrection of Christ is the most shocking event in human history.

“What was humanly unthinkable happened,” Pope Francis said April 22. “‘Christ, my hope, is risen!’ And in Him we too are resurrected, passing from death to life, from the slavery of sin to the freedom of love.”

The pope spoke from the window of the Vatican Apostolic Palace before leading those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the traditional Easter prayer, the Regina Coeli.

“After the rites of the Easter Triduum, which made us relive the mystery of death and resurrection of our Lord, now with the eyes of faith we contemplate him risen and alive,” he said.

Pope Francis said “the risen Jesus walks beside us. He manifests himself to those who invoke and love him. First of all in prayer, but also in simple joys lived with faith and gratitude.”

The pope pointed to the important role that women played in announcing Christ’s resurrection.

“It is women who are the first to meet the Risen One and bring the announcement that he is alive,” Pope Francis said.

“All the Gospels highlight the role of women, Mary Magdalene and the others, as the first witnesses of the resurrection,” he said.

Pope Francis said that the words Jesus addressed to the women must also resound in our lives today, “Do not be afraid; go and announce …”

“We ask the Virgin Mary to allow us to receive full peace and serenity, gifts from the Risen One, to share with our brothers, especially those who need comfort and hope the most,” Pope Francis said.

“Let us allow ourselves, therefore, to reach out from the consoling message of Easter and wrap ourselves in its glorious light, which dissipates the darkness of fear and sadness,” he said.

The pope again expressed his spiritual closeness with the people of Sri Lanka, where explosions in Catholic churches killed more than 200 people on Easter morning.

Pope Francis condemned the acts of terrorism and said that the Sri Lankan people continue to be in his prayers.

“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary. I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” Pope Francis said.

Easter brings a 'new world,' Pope Francis says in Urbi et Orbi

Sun, 04/21/2019 - 16:56

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2019 / 04:56 am (CNA).- Christ’s resurrection ushers in a new world – one of peace, love, and fraternity, Pope Francis said on Easter Sunday, as he prayed for the many people who are suffering throughout the world.

“Christ is alive and he remains with us. Risen, he shows us the light of his face, and he does not abandon all those experiencing hardship, pain and sorrow,” Pope Francis said April 21.

“Yet Easter is also the beginning of the new world, set free from the slavery of sin and death: the world open at last to the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of love, peace and fraternity.”

Pope Francis gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica following Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

He forwent giving a homily at Mass this year, and instead paused for a moment of silent reflection following the Gospel.

“Urbi et Orbi” means “To the City [of Rome] and to the World” and is a special apostolic blessing given by the pope every year on Easter Sunday, Christmas, and other special occasions.

Christ’s resurrection is “the principle of new life for every man and every woman,” the pope said in his blessing, explaining that “true renewal always begins from the heart, from the conscience.”

Francis prayed for the many people throughout the world living in places experiencing conflict, tension, and violence.

Beginning with Syria, he said there is a risk of becoming resigned and indifferent to the ongoing conflict in that country and emphasized that now is the time for a renewed commitment to a political solution for the humanitarian crisis in the country.

People there are hoping for “freedom, peace and justice,” he said, urging solutions for a safe re-entry to the country for those who have been displaced, especially in Lebanon and Jordan.

The pope prayed for Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen, that they would continue to “patiently persevere in their witness to the Risen Lord and to the victory of life over death.”

“May the light of Easter illumine all government leaders and peoples in the Middle East, beginning with Israelis and Palestinians, and spur them to alleviate such great suffering and to pursue a future of peace and stability,” he stated.

He begged for an end to conflict and bloodshed in Libya, and for peace on the entire African conflict, particularly in the countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Recalling the spiritual retreat held at the Vatican earlier this month for several religious and political leaders of South Sudan, he prayed for the opening of “a new page” in the history of the country.

Francis prayed for the peace of Easter to bring comfort to the people of the eastern regions of Ukraine.

For the American continent, he invoked the joy of the resurrection for all those experiencing difficult political and economic situations.

Underlining the situations in Venezuela and Nicaragua, he asked the Lord to “grant that all those with political responsibilities may work to end social injustices, abuses and acts of violence, and take the concrete steps needed to heal divisions and offer the population the help they need.”

Let there be an end to the arms race and to the “troubling spread of weaponry,” he added.

“Before the many sufferings of our time, may the Lord of life not find us cold and indifferent. May he make us builders of bridges, not walls,” Francis stated.

He added: “May the Risen Christ, who flung open the doors of the tomb, open our hearts to the needs of the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized, and all those who knock at our door in search of bread, refuge, and the recognition of their dignity.”

“Today the Church renews the proclamation made by the first disciples: ‘Jesus is risen!’ And from mouth to mouth, from heart to heart, there resounds a call to praise: ‘Alleluia, Alleluia!’” he rejoiced.

Quoting from Christus vivit, his recently-published apostolic exhortation on young people, the pope said “Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive! He is in you, he is with you and he never abandons you.”

“However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and he waits for your to return to him and start over again.”

At the end of the blessing, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for several bombings which took place in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka Sunday morning. More than 100 people were killed and hundreds injured in explosions at three luxury hotels and three churches.

St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Catholic parish in Negombo were targeted, as well as the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaolo.

Francis entrusted to the Lord those who have died and been wounded, and all who are suffering because of the attack: “I wish to express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, struck while it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” he said.

The pope wished all those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and all those participating via radio or television, a happy Easter, noting that it was on Easter Sunday 70 years ago that a pope spoke for the first time on television.

Venerable Pope Pius XII addressed the viewers of French TV, “underlining how the eyes of the Successor of Peter and the faithful could also meet through a new means of communication,” he said.

“This occasion offers me the opportunity to encourage Christian communities to use all the tools that the technique makes available to announce the good news of the risen Christ.”

Francis also thanked the donors of the flowers in St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, which came from the Netherlands and Slovenia.

“Enlightened by the light of Easter, we carry the scent of the Risen Christ into the solitude, into the misery, into the suffering of so many of our brothers, reversing the stone of indifference,” he concluded.

A plenary indulgence, or the remittance of temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven, is granted to those who participate in the Urbi et Orbi blessing in person or through radio, television, or the internet.

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence must be met: the individual must be in the state of grace and have complete detachment from sin. The person must also pray for the pope's intentions and sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.

Pope Francis at Easter Vigil: Ask Christ to roll back the stone blocking your heart

Sun, 04/21/2019 - 02:16

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2019 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- In his Easter Vigil homily, Pope Francis said that the Risen Christ desires to “roll back the stone” that blocks the entrance to one’s heart, so that God’s light and love can enter.

“The Lord calls us to get up, to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica April 20.

“Each of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?” he asked.

Pope Francis said the “stone of sin” blocks many hearts. “Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away,” he explained.

“Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death,” he said, adding that with Christ we can pass “from self-centredness to communion, from desolation to consolation, from fear to confidence.”

“Why not prefer Jesus, the true light, to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?” Francis asked.

The Vatican Easter Vigil Mass began with the blessing of the new fire in the atrium and the blessing of the paschal candle. The pope then processed into the dark church carrying the lit candle to signify the light of Christ coming to dispel the darkness.

“Today, let us remember how Jesus first called us, how he overcame our darkness, our resistance, our sins, and how he touched our hearts with his word,” he said.

Francis warned against having a “museum faith” instead of a living, “Easter faith.” Christ is “a person living today,” he said, not only a person from the past. “We encounter him in life.”

“Let us not keep our faces bowed to the ground in fear, but raise our eyes to the risen Christ. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us that we are loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love remains unchanged,” he said.

Pope Francis described Christ’s love as the “one non-negotiable certitude we have in this life.”

“The Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it,” he said.

“In Easter he shows you how much he loves that life: even to the point of … experiencing anguish, abandonment, death and hell, in order to emerge triumphant to tell you: ‘You are not alone; put your trust in me!’” he continued.

During the Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis administered the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist -- to eight people, from Italy, Ecuador, Peru, Albania, and Indonesia.

“Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the centre of our lives,” Pope Francis said. “Let us seek him in all things and above all things. With him, we will rise again.”