From the Vatican

The Feast Day of St George and the Pope’s Name Day

St. GeorgeApril 23, 2018 (Vatican Media) April 23rd marks the feast day of St George and the name day of Jorge (George) Mario Bergoglio. But who is the Saint behind the legend?

The Saint and the Legend

According to an 11th century legend, St George is the saint who killed the dragon, a symbol that iconography associates with the Devil himself. Born in Cappadocia, St George is believed to have been an officer in the army of the Emperor Diocletian. He died a martyr’s death in the year AD303. The episode of the dragon slaying relates how St George, protected by the Cross, killed a people-eating dragon, thus ensuring that Faith triumphed over evil.

Pope Francis and the question of evil

In his homilies, Pope Francis has often stressed that evil is not something abstract. It is a person with a name: Satan. At his Mass in the Santa Marta Chapel on April 11th 2014, the Pope said: “The life of Jesus was a struggle. He came to overcome evil, to defeat the Prince of this world, to defeat the Devil”. This is a struggle every Christian must face, continued the Pope on that occasion. And those who want to follow Jesus must “recognize this truth”.

Conquering Evil with Good

St George defeated the dragon in a symbolic victory of Good over Evil. During his reflections at the General Audience of February 8th 2017, Pope Francis said: “We can never repay evil with evil. We must overcome evil with good, offenses with forgiveness”. “This is how we live in peace”, he continued, “this is the Church. This is what Christian hope produces when it takes on the strong yet tender features of Love.” Because Love, said the Pope, is both “strong and tender. It is beautiful”.

Pope celebrates his name feast with poor and needy

Pope Francis on Monday marked the feast of his namesake, Jorge (George), in his characteristic unassuming way, spending time with the needy and homeless of Rome, the Office of Papal Charities said in a brief note.  It said that on this occasion it would distribute 3000 ice creams to the poor and homeless who daily come to soup kitchens, dormitories and other places run mostly by Caritas in the capital.

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio  to parents of Italian descent on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  He was baptized Jorge, the Spanish for George, at Christmas that year in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Buenos Aires.

After graduation, he entered the Jesuit novitiate on 11 March 1958 and went for further studies, including philosophy and theology, and also taught literature and psychology.

He was ordained a priest on 13 December, 1969. On 22 April, 1973 he made his final vows with the Jesuits, serving the society in various capacities such as novice master, professor, provincial consultor, rector and provincial superior for 6 years.  After that he resumed his teaching and pastoral activities. 

St. John Paul II appointed Jorge Bergoglio the Auxiliary of Buenos Aires on 20 May 1992, and on 3 June, 1997 was raised to the rank of Coadjutor Archbishop with the right of succession.

After the death of Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Jorge Bergoglio became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires on 28 February 1998. 

Three years later, at the Consistory of 21 February 2001, St. John Paul II created him Cardinal.  Twelve years later, he was elected Supreme Pontiff on 13 March 2013 and assumed the name Francis, after the popular 13th century Italian saint from Assisi.

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Discovering Our Identity as Disciples of the Risen Lord

Pope 042218April 22, 2018 (Vatican Media) In his reflection the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Pope Francis said the Liturgy “continues with the intention of helping us rediscover our identity as disciples of the Risen Lord.”

Beginning with the first Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Father said that St Peter openly declared that the healing of a crippled man was accomplished “in the Name of Jesus,” because there is “no salvation through anyone else.”

In the man who was healed, the Pope said, we see ourselves and our communities. We can all be healed of our spiritual infirmities “if we put our very being in the hands of the Risen Lord.

But who is the Christ who heals, Pope Francis asked? The answer is found in the day’s Gospel: Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Precisely because He offered His life for us, Jesus is the Good Shepherd par excellence.”

The second part of the Gospel, he continued, shows us the relationship that must exist between us and the Lord. “I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus says, “I know my own, and my own know me, as the Father knows me, and I know the Father.” This is not simply an intellectual knowledge, the Pope said, but rather, a personal relationship, a reflection of the love between the Father and the Son. Jesus knows us intimately, in the very depths of our hearts.

And we in turn are called to know Jesus. That, Pope Francis said, “implies an encounter with Him, who raises up in us the desire to follow Him, abandoning self-referential attitudes in order to walk along new paths, indicated by Christ Himself and opening on to vast horizons.” He warned that if our communities see the desire to follow Jesus cool, we will fall into “new ways of thinking and living,” which are not consistent with the Gospel.

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Pope at Mass: Christians Are Called to be 'Couriers of Hope'

Pope 042018By Linda Bordoni

April 20, 2018 (Vatican Media) On Friday Pope Francis travelled to the southern Italian town of Molfetta to mark the 25th anniversary of Don Tonino Bello. During the homily he held up the figure of Don Tonino as a true witness of Jesus who goes forth into the world bringing the Gospel message of hope and mercy into the most difficult "tabernacles of misery, pain and solitude".  Pope Francis urged Christians to be “couriers of hope,” “genuine witnesses of Jesus in the world”.

The Pope’s exhortation to leave the Lord’s table after the Eucharist and to be active in bringing His message of peace and mercy into the world, came during the homily at Holy Mass in the southern Italian town of Molfetta where he travelled to pay tribute to Fr. Tonino Bello who was known as “the pastor of mercy” and the bishop of “the last ones.

Addressing the crowds gathered for Mass in the port area of the coastal town, Pope Francis commented on the liturgical readings of the day which focus on two central elements for Christian life: Bread and the Word.

The Bread of Life and of Peace

Pointing out that bread is the essential food for living and Jesus in the Gospel offers himself to us as the Bread of Life, the Pope said the Eucharist is not just a beautiful rite, but a communion of love that calls on each Christian to be nourished by the Lord in order to then give him or herself to others.

“As Don Tonino Bello recalled, works of charity are not enough, if the charity of works is lacking, if the love in which the works are conceived is lacking, if the starting point which is the Eucharist is lacking, every pastoral commitment is only a merry-go-round” he said.

Living for others is the trademark of a Christian

And remarking on the fact that living for others is the “trademark” of a Christian, the Pope said “One could post a warning outside every church: ‘After Mass one no longer lives for oneself, but for others’.

Don Tonino lived like this, he said, amongst his people he was a Bishop-Servant, a Pastor whom, before the Tabernacle, “learned to be eaten by the people”.

“He dreamed of a Church that is hungry for Jesus and intolerant to worldliness, a Church that sees the body of Christ in the uncomfortable tabernacles of misery, suffering and loneliness”.

And reiterating that the “Eucharist cannot stand sedentariness” Francis invited the faithful to ask themselves whether they ‘like to be served at table by the Lord, or do they get up and serve like the Lord?’ ‘Do they give back in life what they receive at Mass?’

“And as Church we could ask ourselves: after so many Communions, have we become people of communion?” he said.

The Bread of Life, the Pope continued is also the Bread of Peace, and as Don Tonino maintained, peace comes with conviviality, in “eating bread together with others”, because conflict and war, he said, are rooted in not knowing the other.

“We, who share this Bread of unity and peace, are called to love every face, to heal every tear; to be, always and everywhere, builders of peace” he said.

The Word that saves

Turning to the theme of the “Word”, the Pope said there is nothing to be gained by just “discussing the words of Jesus.”

The Word of Jesus, he continued, “is to walk in life, not to sit down and talk about what goes and what does not go”.

Don Tonino, he said, urged his people to move from words to deeds, encouraging and supporting those who did not have the courage to change.

Reflecting on the first Reading in which the risen Jesus addresses Saul and asks him to put his life at stake saying “Get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do”, the Pope said the first thing to avoid is to ‘not get up’, to submit oneself to life, to be gripped by fear”. Don Tonino, he said, used to say “Stand up!” Because one must stand before the Risen One: “one must stand up and look up because an apostle of Jesus cannot just get by in life with small satisfactions”.

The Lord, the Pope said, asks each of us to go forth, to have the courage to leave our comfort zones and to take risks.

'Couriers of hope'

“A Christian life must be invested for Jesus and spent for others” he said.

As Don Tonino used to say, he continued, “Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we are called to be bearers of Easter hope, servants – not employees - of the world”.

It is nice to be "couriers of hope", simple and joyful distributors of the Easter alleluia” he said.

Finally Pope Francis invited those present to be humble, because humility does not mean being shy or resigned, but docile to God, and empty of oneself.

And once we are stripped of presumption and pride he said, the Word of God frees us, it allows us to move forward, “humble and courageous at the same time”, it does not make us protagonists or champions of our own skills, but genuine witnesses of Jesus in the world.

“Dear brothers and sisters, the Pope concluded, at every Mass we nourish ourselves with the Bread of life and with the saving Word: let us put into practice what we celebrate! So, like Don Tonino, we will be sources of hope, joy and peace”.

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Pope at Mass: “Evangelization is the Spirit’s Work”

Pope 041918April 19, 2018 (Vatican Media) During his homily at Thursday morning’s Mass at Santa Marta, Pope Francis reminded us that every Christian has an obligation and a mission to accomplish: evangelization. “Get up”, draw near”, and “start with an actual situation” are three keys to unlock what evangelization is.

The wind of persecution sows God’s Word

Pope Francis began by explaining that the “wind of persecution” experienced by the early Church drove the disciples out of Jerusalem to other parts of Judea and to Samaria.

Just like the wind does with seeds from plants, it transports and sows them elsewhere, so also it happens here: they went elsewhere, with the seed of the Word, and they sowed the Word of God… From the wind of persecution, the disciples brought evangelization…. This is how the Lord evangelizes…. This is how the Lord wants us to evangelize.

“Get up and go”

Evangelization is not proselytism, Pope Francis continued. True evangelization takes place under the action of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who indicates in mysterious ways where we are to go and to whom we are to “proclaim the name of Jesus”, Pope Francis said. Commenting on the Spirit’s interaction with Philip, the Pope said:

And he begins saying: “Get up and go”. Get up and go to that place. An “armchair” evangelization does not exist. “Get up and go”. It is always on the move. “Go”. Movement. Go to the place where you must declare the Word.

Pope Francis recalled the many missionaries who left everything to bring the Word of God to far off lands. “Not having the antibodies to resist the illnesses of those lands”, many died or were martyred, he said.

Draw near in order to use actual situations

Instead of beginning with a theory, the Pope said that we need to draw near to what is actually occurring and start from that. Pope Francis illustrated this with the example of Philip evangelizing the Ethiopian eunuch.

Evangelization is not theoretical. Evangelization takes place person to person. The starting point is a situation, not a theory. [Philip] announces Jesus Christ, and the courage of the Spirit moves him to baptize [the eunuch]. Go beyond, go, go, until you feel that your work has been accomplished. This is how to evangelize.

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Pope Audience: ‘Sign of Cross Reminder of Baptism’

Pope 041818By Devin Watkins

April 18, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis continued his catechesis on Baptism at the Wednesday General Audience, inviting parents and godparents to teach children to make the sign of the cross correctly.  The Holy Father said the sign of the cross is a reminder of who we are and to whom we belong.

He said the priest and parents trace the sign of the cross on the child during the Baptismal liturgy to express “the imprint of Christ on the one who is going to belong to him.” He said it also “signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his cross.”

Speaking off-the-cuff, the Holy Father urged parents and godparents to teach children to make this sign correctly, because “if they learn it as children, they will make it correctly later as adults.”

Words and gestures

Pope Francis said the words pronounced and gestures performed at the celebration of Baptism unfold the Sacrament’s meaning as the beginning of our new life in Christ.

“What happens in the celebration of Baptism provokes a spiritual dynamic that runs through the whole life of the baptized; it is the beginning of a process that allows one to live united to Christ in the Church.”

An important sign at Baptism is the name given by parents to their child. The Pope said a person’s name represents their identity and is a constant reminder that they are a unique person. God, he said, “calls every person by name, loving us uniquely in the concreteness of our lives.” He said this requires a personal response and not a simple “copy and paste.”

Journey of faith

Pope Francis said becoming a Christian in Baptism is “a gift from above.” We become God’s children and begin a journey of faith.

The Pope said the formation of catechumens and preparation of the parents helps the baptized person to be brought up in holiness in union with Jesus.

The mystery of the cross traced on the child’s forehead is the Christian’s distinctive sign, he said.

“The cross is the badge that shows who we are: our speaking, thinking, looking, and working are all done under the sign of the cross, that is, under the sign of Jesus' love to the end.”

Sign of cross: measure of Christian life

Pope Francis said we become Christians in the measure in which the cross is imprinted as an “Easter sign” in our lives.

“Making the sign of the cross – when we wake, before meals, in the face of danger, to defend against evil, and the evening before sleeping – means reminding ourselves and others to whom we belong and who we want to be.”

That’s why, he said, “it’s so important to teach children how to make the sign of the cross.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope mentioned Saturday’s World Bank Spring Meeting in Washington and encouraged participants to make “efforts for financial inclusion that aim to promote the life of the poor.” Pope Francis expressed hope that the upcoming World Bank Meeting may yield positive results that favor “an authentic integral development that is respectful of human dignity.”

The Spring Meetings of the International Monetary and the World Bank Group each year bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives and other experts to discuss economic issues of global concern.

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Pope at Mass: The Church Needs Prophets

Pope 041718By Linda Bordoni

April 17, 2018 (Vatican Media) Speaking during his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta Tuesday, Pope Francis said a true prophet is he who is capable of weeping for his people who do not heed him.

He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day in which Stephen accused the people, the elders and the scribes of being stiff-necked people who always oppose the Holy Spirit, and just like their ancestors did, they persecute the prophets.

Francis said that those people did not have open hearts, they did not want to listen to Stephen and they did not remember the history of Israel.

Persecuted for speaking the truth

Just like their ancestors persecuted the prophets – the Pope said – those elders and scribes who were so infuriated rushed upon Stephen, threw him out of the city and began to stone him.

“When the prophet speaks the truth and touches the heart, or the heart opens or becomes stone, anger and persecutions are unleashed” he said “that’s how life ends for the prophet”.

A true prophet weeps for his people

“Sometimes truth is not easy to listen to” Francis pointed out noting that “prophets have always had to deal with being persecuted for speaking the truth.

A true prophet, he added, is he who not only speaks the truth, but is capable of weeping for his people who turn away from the truth.

And he recalled Jesus who, on the one hand reprimanded his people severely calling them an “evil and adulterous generation” and on the other, weeping for Jerusalem.

“A true prophet is he who is capable of weeping for his people but at the same time of saying strong things in a direct way” he said.

Giving hope

And developing his theme further, Pope Francis described a true prophet as someone who is also capable of giving hope: “Opening the doors of hearts, healing roots, reinforcing the sense of belonging to the people of God in order to go forward.

“A prophet knows when to scold but knows also how to throw open the doors to hope. A true prophet puts himself on the line” he said.

The Church needs prophets

Recalling Stephen who is put to death under Saul’s eyes in order to be coherent with the truth, the Pope quoted from one of the first Fathers of the Church saying: “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”.

“The Church needs prophets. What's more: it needs each of us to be prophets, not critics… this is something else” he said.

He who just criticizes and is never happy with anything is not a prophet, Francis explained, a prophet is he who prays, looks to God, looks at his people and when the people err, he weeps.

“May this service of prophecy never be lacking in the Church, Francis concluded, in order to be able to always go forward”.

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Pope at Mass: ‘Follow Jesus Out of Faith, Not Self-Interest’

Pope 041618April 16, 2018 (Vatican News) Pope Francis at Mass on Monday warned against following Jesus out of self-interest in his miracles rather than through faith in his word. He invited us to refresh our memory of the wonderful things God has done in our lives, so as to respond with love.

Self-interest of the crowd

The Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel (John 6:22-29), in which the crowd wanted to make Jesus a king after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Jesus, he said, rebuffed them, saying “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”

Pope Francis pointed out the two elements of Jesus’ response. On the one hand, he said, they were seeking Jesus in order to feel his Word in their hearts, that is, out of faith. On the other, they were merely curious to see his miracles. The Holy Father said these were good people but their faith was a little too curious and self-seeking.

Stephen’s faith in Jesus

Pope Francis then spoke about another example of faith in Jesus, that of Stephen in the First Reading (Acts 6:8-15). He spoke so clearly, the Pope said, that his interlocutors in the Sanhedrin could not resist his wisdom.

“He followed Jesus without weighing the consequences: ‘this works for me; that doesn’t’… He was not self-interested. He loved. So he followed Jesus sure in his faith. They laid a trap of slander, and they led him into it. So he was stoned to death, giving witness to Jesus.”

Faith or self-interest?

Pope Francis invited us to consider how we follow Jesus. He advised us to refresh our memory of how Jesus has acted in our lives.

“We will find so many great things that Jesus has freely given us, because he loves each one of us. Once I have considered the things Jesus has done for me, I can ask the second question: ‘What should I do for Jesus?’ With these two questions, perhaps we can purify our faith of any self-interest. When I see all that Jesus has given me, my heart generously says: ‘Yes, Lord, I shall give all. I won’t make these mistakes and commit these sins again. I’ll change my life in this way…’ [This is] the road to conversion by love: ‘You’ve given me so much love, so I shall give you my love’.”

Finally, Pope Francis said these two questions can help us to purify our faith of self-interest.

“This is a good test to see how we follow Jesus: ‘Am I self-interested or not?’… ‘What has Jesus done for me in my life out of love?’ And seeing this, ‘what should I do for Jesus?’ ‘How do I respond to his love?’ That’s how we can purify our faith from all self-interest. May the Lord help us along this path.”

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