On February 11, 2017, Cardinal Parolin, sent as papal legate in Lourdes, France, for the Day of the Sick and explained what a ‘papal legate’ is: "It is the highest way to represent the Holy Father. In legal terms, it is as if the Pope himself were visiting a place."
Pope Francis, Cardinal Parolin stated, "is especially close to the sick." In Lourdes, he said, "what strikes me is to see the faith of people; that is what has always struck me here. In addition to healing, the ill people ask to be able to accept the situation of frailty that they are experiencing, and offer it up. It is the summit of the Christian experience ... to be like Jesus on the Cross."
The message of Lourdes, he added, is "the message of closeness to the person who suffers": "The Virgin who is close and who invites us to be close to all people who are sick (including) those who suffer from mental illness." It is a "closeness to sinners" because "the most serious illness is sin."
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.
Pope Francis prays for persecuted Christian communities
(Vatican Radio) On Easter Monday Pope Francis greeted pilgrims and visitors gathered in St Peter’s Square, praying especially for Christians who are persecuted for their faith. Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace before the recitation of the Regina Coeli midday prayer, the Pope said the day’s liturgy echoes the great cry of Easter Sunday, ‘Christ is Risen, Hallelujah!’
Pope Francis blesses pilgrims and visitors on Easter Monday, remembering especially those Christian communities that are persecuted for their faith - REUTERS
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We hear the words of the angel to the women at the tomb, saying ‘Go quickly and tell his disciples, he has been raised from the dead.”
Those words are directed at us too, the Pope said, inviting us to go quickly and proclaim this message of joy and hope to the women and men of our day. The message that death and the tomb have not had the last word, but that Christ is Risen, bringing new life to all. Solidarity and welcome
In light of this event, Pope Francis said, we are called to be men and women who affirm the value of life. In the midst of so much suffering in the world, he said, we will be Resurrection people if we know how to offer gestures of solidarity and welcome, strengthening the desire for peace and for a world which is free from degradation. Transformed by the Spirit
Those ordinary, human gestures, sustained by faith in the Risen Lord, the Pope said, will be transformed by the Spirit and take on new strength to reach into every heart, freeing us from wretchedness and bringing hope to the suffering and oppressed. Corageous witness of faith
May Mary, a silent witness to the death and Resurrection of her son Jesus, help us to be signs of the Risen Christ in the world, the Pope said. He concluded by praying in a special way for all those Christian communities that are persecuted and oppressed in different parts of the world today, saying they are called to give a particularly difficult and courageous witness to the Easter message.
Pope Francis once again broke with tradition on Easter Sunday, delivering a largely improvised homily centered on a phone call from the day before with a young engineer suffering from a serious illness. Francis said he attempted to explain to the young man that while God does not give explanations for the suffering of the world, he does offer the promise of the resurrection, which the pope insisted is no mere "fantasy."
Pope Francis celebrates Easter Mass, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini.)
ROME- In vintage Pope Francis style, the pontiff broke with tradition and delivered an off-the-cuff homily for Easter Sunday, one of the very few improvised speeches in such a solemn setting from a pope who’s used to putting his prepared remarks aside to speak from the heart on more informal occasions.
“Jesus has risen from the dead,” Francis said. “And this is not a fantasy. It’s not a celebration with many flowers [pointing at the arrangements surrounding him]. This is beautiful, but [the resurrection] is more.”
Pope Francis celebrates the Easter Mass, in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini.)
“It is the mystery of the thrown-away stone, that ends up being the cornerstone of our existence. Christ has risen from the dead. In this throwaway culture, where that which is not useful takes the path of the use-and-throw, where that which is not useful is discarded, that stone that was discarded is the fountain of life,” he said.
And even “us, little pebbles,” who’ve been thrown in an earth full of “suffering, tragedy,” with faith in the risen Christ, “have a reason for being, amidst so much calamity. A sense to look beyond: There is not a wall, but a horizon. There’s life, joy, in there is the cross with this ambivalence.”
The pope began his remarks saying that the Church, facing “our distrust, [and] closed and fearful hearts,” continues to say, “calm down, the Lord has risen.”
But, he continued, if he has come back from the dead, “how do these things happen, so many tragedies: illnesses, human trafficking, human exploitation, wars, destruction, mutilations, vengeance, hatred?”
“Where is the Lord?” he asked aloud.
Francis then shared that on Saturday he’d phoned a young man, an engineer with a “serious illness,” and the pope told him “there are no explanations for what’s happening to you. Look at Jesus crucified, God has done this with his son. There’s no other explanation.”
To this, the pontiff said, the man answered: “Yes, but he [God] asked his Son and the Son said yes. He didn’t ask me if I wanted this.
“And this moves us. Not one of us is asked, ‘Are you happy with what’s happening in the World? Are you willing to carry this cross?’” he said.
“Today the Church continues to say, stop, Jesus is risen.”
Francis has improvised homilies before. He does so every morning in Santa Marta, behind closed doors. Every Holy Thursday, when he visits prisons or refugee centers to celebrate the Mass for the Lord’s Last Supper, and he even did so once in the middle of a tropical storm, in the Philippines, back in 2015.
Yet he’s never strayed far from the text in such a solemn context before. On this occasion, however, there was no homily, he improvised all the way.
“You, little pebble, have a reason in life. Because you’re a pebble holding on to the cornerstone, that stone that evilness of sin has discarded,” Francis said in his homily. “What does the Church say amidst so much tragedy: the stone that was discarded wasn’t … From within the heart [the Church says] Jesus is risen!”
Closing his homily, Francis called upon those present to think about the every-day problems of life, illnesses, wars, human tragedies and say, “with a humble voice, without flowers, alone, to God who’s in front of us: ‘I don’t know how this is going, but I’m sure that Christ has risen.’”
Urbi et Orbi
After the Mass, and this time staying true to the text, Pope Francis went up to the “loggia centrale,” or the central balcony in St. Peter’s Basilica overlooking the square, to deliver what is known as the Urbi et Orbi blessing.
Pope Francis waves prior to delivering his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) message, from the main balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Credit: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.)
This window is used regularly twice a year, for this blessing imparted on Easter Sunday and Christmas day. It’s also the window from where a new pope is presented to the world.
Popes typically use their Easter Day Urbi et Orbi blessing, addressed “to the city and to the world,” to present a summary of the global situation, singling out what are bound to be the Vatican’s key political and social concerns for the foreseeable future.
Pope Francis held to form on Sunday, and judging by what seemed to be foremost on his mind, as proved by his improvised homily, it’s a good bet that the instruction to reach out to what he’s described as “the outskirts of society” amidst a throwaway culture will continue to loom front and center of his papacy, as has been the case for the past four years.
He spoke of the “Risen Shepherd,” meaning Christ who rose from the dead on the third day. Francis used this figure to say that he “tirelessly seek us,” with the “marks of the passion- the wounds of his merciful love- he draws on us to follow him on his way.”
Today too, Francis said, “he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms,” before listing many of them.
He began with all those “lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization.”
For a pope who’s often railed against the modern economic system, saying that this “economy kills,” having placed the “god money” at the center instead of the human person, he was at it again on Sunday, but going after the two most profitable “illegal industries:” Human slavery and drug trafficking.
The Risen Shepherd, the pope said, takes upon himself the victims of every form of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and decriminalization, and grave form of addictions, and those abused in their own homes.
Seeing that Francis is currently hosting both Christian and Muslim refugee families in the Vatican, the world has come to expect the Argentine pontiff to shine a light over the thousands who still venture towards Europe in overloaded rubber boats every day, with countless lives lost in the “mare mortum,” the Mediterranean Sea, which as he’s said before, has become a cemetery.
“The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes,” he said, placing attention also on those who look after people forced to migrate.
Expressing a hope more than stating a fact, Francis then urged the Risen Lord to “guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”
As is usually the case, the pope then “ticked off” specific conflict zones, praying in particular for the civil population in Syria, “pray to end a war that continues to sow horror and death,” the entire Middle East, particularly the Holy Land, Iraq and Yemen.
In a last-minute addition to his text, Pope Francis commented on a suicide bombing in Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday that killed roughly 100 people, most of whom were refugees waiting to be evacuated from four government-held vans. The attacker drove the powerful bomb up to buses waiting to carry people to safety, using a van meant to hold aid supplies.
“Just yesterday, there was the latest ignoble attack on refugees attempting to flee, which provoked numerous deaths and injuries,” the pope said.
Francis then turned his attention to Africa.
“May the Good Shepherd,” Francis said, remain close to South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo, all waging their own civil and ethnic wars, aggravated by a famine affecting certain parts of Africa and which has put millions of lives at risk.
Avoiding naming any country in particular, or perhaps knowing that it applies to most, he prayed for Latin America, hoping that the Risen Jesus may sustain those committed to ensuring the common good despite political and social tensions that “in some cases have resulted in violence.”
Last but not least, he prayed for Ukraine, “still beset by conflict and bloodshed,” and Europe. It’s worth remembering that the Ukraine was invaded by Russia in 2014.
Francis closed his blessing noting that all Christians this year celebrate Easter on the same date- a rare occurrence since different churches use different calendars.
“With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: ‘The Lord is truly risen, as he said!’ May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.”
"To bear fruit, Jesus lived love all the way, letting himself be broken by death like a seed under the earth. Precisely there, at that extreme point of his lowering himself, which is also the highest point of love, hope germinated," Pope Francis said at his weekly general audience.
Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 12. (Credit: CNS/Paul Haring.)
ROME - The cross, loving service and humble sacrifice are the only way to overcome evil and give hope to the world, Pope Francis said.
Those who love their own lives and always hunger for more are the losers, the pope said at his weekly general audience April 12.
Rather, those who readily serve others and “live God’s way” are the winners, who “save themselves and others, becoming seeds of hope for the world,” he said.
This seemingly illogical process is the source and strength of Christian hope, Pope Francis said, continuing his series of talks on the unique nature of this hope.
Jesus explains the new kind of hope he offers in a verse from the Gospel according of St. John when he says, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
It is only when a seed splits apart and opens up that it can give rise to new life that grows and gives abundant fruit, the pope said.
Jesus himself followed this process by “falling to the earth” from his celestial glory as a small baby, like a tiny grain of wheat.
“But that was still not enough. To bear fruit, Jesus lived love all the way, letting himself be broken by death like a seed under the earth. Precisely there, at that extreme point of his lowering himself, which is also the highest point of love, hope germinated,” sprouting forth because of the power of love, he said.
That is why with his death and resurrection, God made everything new, transforming “our sin into forgiveness, our death into resurrection, our fear into faith. That’s why, there on the cross, our hope was born and is always reborn.”
That is why Jesus is the one who can always turn every single dark moment into light, “every defeat into victory, every disappointment into hope,” he said. “Hope overcomes everything because it is born from the love of Jesus who made himself be like a grain of wheat on earth and died to give life” - a life full of the love that comes from hope.
When people begin to choose God’s way, they soon discover the victorious path in life is the life of a seed and humble love, he said. “There is no other way to defeat evil and give hope to the world.”
Real love must follow the cross and sacrifice, not as its goal, but as the necessary path to true glory and new life, the pope said.
“This is what mothers do, they give another life, they suffer (with labor and birth), but then they are joyful and happy because they have given birth to another life.
“Love is the engine that drives our hope forward,” and people need to learn to love more and more each day.
One can see how a life built on having and possessing, rather than giving and serving, leads nowhere, the pope said. Voracious greed is never satisfied - the more one has, the more one wants and “that is a terrible thirst.”
Instead, “it’s wonderful to help others, serve others,” he said, because though it may be tiring, “the heart fills with joy and hope.”
The pope asked people to contemplate the crucifix every day and tell Christ, “With you, nothing is lost. With you, I can always have hope. You are my hope.
“Bit by bit, we will realize that hoping with Jesus is learning to already see the plant inside the seed, Easter in the cross, life in death".
Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 13. The statue, which was present for the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima, is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, pool)
Pope Francis will canonize two of the three Portuguese shepherd children—Jacinta Marto and her brother Francisco—to whom Our Lady appeared at the famous shrine in Fatima 100 years ago. Though the Vatican has not said so yet, it is likely that he will do so during his upcoming visit to that shrine on May 12 to13.
The Vatican announced today, March 23, that the pope has opened the door to the canonization of the two children when he formally recognized the second miracle attributed to their intercession at a meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato.
The two children died young, as Our Lady had told them. The third, Lucia, wrote down the three secrets of Fatima. She was the only one to reach adult life, and became a Carmelite nun. Lucia was born in 1907 and died in 2005, and the cause for her beatification is now well under way. The first two secrets were a call for prayer and penance to save the world from even greater disaster and an end to World War I. The third secret, which attracted the most attention, spoke about the sufferings of the church and the assassination of a pope.
St. John Paul II, who understood this vision as referring to himself, beatified the two children at the Fatima shrine on May 13, 2000, after recognizing a miracle to their intercession. On that day, the Vatican also announced that the third secret would be revealed soon after by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
When Pope Francis canonizes them, they will become the youngest children (apart from martyrs) ever to be recognized as saints by the church. Jacinta died at age 9, on Feb. 20, 1920, while her brother Francisco died at age 10, on April 4, 1919.
Our Lady appeared to the three poor children several times between May 13, 1917, and Oct. 13, 1917. During the final apparition,“the miracle of the sun” took place and was witnessed by the children and as many as 100,000 people, media reports of the time state.
Pope Francis leads the Ash Wednesday Mass at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome - REUTERS
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass for Ash Wednesday at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome.
In his homily, the Holy Father said Lent is a path that "leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God's children." Click here to see a report on the Pope's Mass.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope's homily:
“Return to me with all your heart… return to the Lord” (Jl 2:12, 13). The prophet Joel makes this plea to the people in the Lord’s name. No one should feel excluded: “Assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast, the bridegroom… and the bride” (v. 16). All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 13).
We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father. In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust. True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.
The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.
Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.
Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning.
Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love”.
Pope Francis greets a family at the Vatican. (L'Osservatore Romano via CNA)
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for Lent 2017, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that they should heed the Scriptures and treat each human person they encounter as a gift.
“Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor,” he said. “May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.”
Scripture is also a gift, the Pope said in his message, which was released last October to help Catholics across the globe prepare for the 2017 Lenten season.
In his message, Pope Francis reflected on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In that story, a poor man named Lazarus lives on the doorstep of a wealthy man who ignores him. When they die, Lazarus rests in paradise, while the rich man suffers.
Although Lazarus is “practically invisible to the rich man,” Pope Francis said, we should see him as a concrete person, whom God views as a priceless treasure.
“Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift,” the pontiff said. “A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change.”
In this way, the parable invites us to see each person as a blessing, he said, and Lent is a particularly fitting time to open our door to all those in need and the face of Christ in them.
“Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.”
Another important lesson from the parable is how sin can blind us, Pope Francis said. He pointed to the rich man’s ostentatious displays of wealth, saying, “In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride.”
“Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol,” the Pope warned. “Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.”
“For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego,” the Holy Father warned.
“The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.”
The end of the parable offers an additional lesson, the Pope continued. In the afterlife, the rich man calls out to Abraham from his place of torment. This is the first mention of the fact that he belongs to the people of God, for during his life, “his only God was himself.”
When the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still living, Abraham responds, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them…If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”
Thus, we ultimately see that the problem of the rich man is a “failure to heed God’s word,” Pope Francis said. “As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor.”
“The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.”
As we start the journey of Lent, with its emphasis on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, we have a chance at a new beginning in our own lives, the Pope noted.
“This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God with all their hearts, to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord,” he said, adding that Christ waits for us patiently, ready to forgive us when we fall short.
“Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor,” he concluded. “Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.”