From the Vatican

Pope:  Jesus’ ‘Therapy of Hope’

Pope 0524172017-05-24 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday focused once again on the theme of Christian Hope at his General Audience.

The Holy Father based his reflections on the Gospel account of the two disciples who met the Risen Lord on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:28-32):

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

This is the English-language summary of the Pope’s catechesis at the Wednesday General Audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on Christian hope, we now consider the Risen Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Unrecognized, the Lord walks with them and listens as they tell of how their hopes were shattered by the tragedy of the cross. Jesus then slowly opens their hearts to a new and greater hope by explaining how the Scriptures were fulfilled in the suffering and death of the Messiah. Only later, in the breaking of the bread, is he revealed as the Risen Lord, present in their midst. He then disappears and the disciples return to Jerusalem to bring back the good news. The Emmaus account shows us Jesus’ “therapy of hope”, based on a patient accompaniment that gradually opens us to trust in God’s promises. It also shows us the importance of the Eucharist, in which, like bread, Jesus “breaks” our lives and offers them to others. Like the disciples, we too are sent forth to encounter others, to hear their joys and sorrows, and to offer them words of life and hope based on God’s unfailing love, which accompanies us at every step of life’s journey.


Pope: ‘A Church Without Martyrs Breeds Distrust’

Pope 0523172017-05-23 (Vatican Radio) On the second anniversary of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed in 1980 by military squadrons linked to the Regime in San Salvador as he defended the poor, Pope Francis recalled Romero’s religious fervor and passion for justice while warning the faithful against a ‘lukewarm’ Church.

The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis exhorted believers to leave comfort to the side and embrace an energetic lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with joy.

He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day which tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi where they were followed by a slave girl with an oracular spirit who was shouting “These people are slaves of the Most High God”. This seemed like praise, the Pope said, but Paul became annoyed and cast out the spirit.  Paul understood, the Pope explained, that that was not the path to conversion of that city; it was not the Church of Christ. Everyone there accepted the doctrine, there were no conversions.

Similar situations, the Pope continued, have been repeated in the history of salvation: when the people of God are quiet, they do not take risks, but are servants of ‘worldliness’.

Then the Lord, he said, sent the prophets who – like Paul - were persecuted "because they made people uncomfortable."

“In the Church when someone cries out against the many ways of worldliness, they are given ‘the crooked eye’ as if something were wrong with them, and then they are distanced” he said.

Francis spoke of personal memories from his own homeland recalling many men and women, whom he said, were not supporters of an ideology but  “were good consecrated people” who spoke out saying “No, the Church of Jesus is like this....: they were branded as communists and persecuted” he said.

“Think of the Blessed Romero. What happened to him for having told the truth? And so many others in the history of the Church, even here in Europe. Why? Because the evil spirit prefers a tranquil, risk-free Church, a business-like Church, a comfortable and lukewarm Church” he said.

In chapter 16 of the Acts it is also said that the slaves of the slave were angry: they had lost their hope of earning money because the slave could no longer divine.

"The evil one, the Pope warned, always starts from the pocket. When the Church is lukewarm, quiet, organized, when there are no problems, look to where business is to be made" he said.

Pope Francis also focused his homily, on joy. In fact, he told of how Paul and Silas were dragged by the slaves to the magistrates who ordered them to be beaten and then thrown into jail. The jailer threw them into the innermost part of the jail where the two men broke into song. Towards midnight a tremendous earthquake flung all the gates of the prison open.  The jailer was about to take his life because he would have been killed if the prisoners had escaped but Paul urged him not to do so because, he said, “we are all here”. Then the jailer asked for explanations and converted. He washed their sores, was baptized, and “was filled with joy”.

This, the Pope said, is the path of our daily conversion: “to move from a worldly, tranquil, safe, Catholic” lukewarm yes, to the true proclamation of Jesus Christ; to the joy of ' Christ's announcement. We must move, he said, from a religion that looks too much to earnings, to faith and to the proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Lord'.

This, Francis continued, is the miracle performed by the Holy Spirit, and he invited the faithful to read Chapter 16 of the Acts in order to see how the Lord “together with his martyrs” makes the Church move forward.

The Pope concluded his homily saying that a Church without martyrs breeds distrust; a Church that doesn’t take risks breeds distrust; a Church that is afraid of proclaiming Jesus Christ and of chasing out demons, idols and the lord of money is not Christ’s Church.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace for renewed vigor in faith and conversion from a lukewarm way of life so we are able to make the joyful proclamation that Jesus is the Lord” he said. 


Pope Francis: Open Your Heart to the Holy Spirit

Prayer 0522172017-05-22 It is only the Holy Spirit who can teach us to say: “Jesus is the Lord.” That was the focus of Pope Francis’ reflections during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Monday. The Holy Father emphasized that we must open our hearts in order to hear the Holy Spirit, and thus be able to bear witness to Christ.

“Be calm, I will not leave you orphans; I will send you an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to defend you before the Father.” Pope Francis based his homily on the long discourse of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper. The Pope dwelt especially on the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who accompanies us and “gives us the assurance of being saved by Jesus.”

The Holy Spirit, the gift of Jesus, is the travelling companion of the Church

It is only the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, who teaches us to say, “Jesus is the Lord”:

“Without the Holy Spirit, none of us is able to say it, to perceive it, to live it. Jesus, in other places in this long discourse, said of Him [the Holy Spirit]: ‘He will lead you into all truth,’ He will accompany you towards the full truth. ‘He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you; He will teach you all things.’ That is, the Holy Spirit is the travelling companion of every Christian, and also the travelling companion of the Church. And this is the gift that Jesus gives us.”

We must open our hearts to the Holy Spirit; otherwise, He cannot enter in

The Holy Spirit, he continued, is “a gift, the great gift of Jesus,” Who does not lead us astray. But where does the Spirit dwell, the Pope asked. He looked to the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, where we see the figure of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, someone who “knew how to do things.” The Lord opened her heart, so that she might follow the Word of God:

“The Lord opened her heart so that the Holy Spirit could enter, and she became a disciple. It is precisely within our hearts that we carry the Holy Spirit. The Church calls the Spirit ‘the sweet guest of the heart’: He is there. But He cannot enter a closed heart. ‘Ah, but where can one buy the keys to open the heart?’ No! That too is a gift. It is a gift of God: ‘Lord, open my heart so that the Spirit can enter it, and I can understand that Jesus is the Lord.’”

This, the Pope said, is a prayer that we should say every day: “Lord, open my heart so that I can understand what You have taught us; so that I can remember Your words; so that I can follow Your words; so that I can come to the fullness of the truth.”

Let us ask ourselves if our hearts are truly open to the Spirit

Our hearts must be open, then, so that the Holy Spirit can enter, and so that we can hear the Spirit. Pope Francis said the readings of the Mass suggest two questions we can ask ourselves:

“The first: Do I ask the Lord for the grace that my heart might be opened? The second question: Do I seek to hear the Holy Spirit, His inspirations, the things He tells my heart that I might advance in the Christian life, and that I too might bear witness that Jesus is the Lord? Think about these two things today: Is my heart open? Do I make an effort to listen to the Holy Spirit, to what He tells me? And so we advance in the Christian life, and we too bear witness to Jesus Christ.”


Pope Appeals for Peace

Pope 05211721/05/2017 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for peace in the Central African Republic following intense armed clashes there. He made the call following the Regina Caeli in St Peter's Square.

The Holy Father said it pained him to hear about the violence in CAR especially after visiting the country in November 2015.

He went on to say that the fighting had claimed many victims, displaced people and threatened the peace process.

“I am close to the people and to the bishops”, the Pope added, “and to all those who work for the good of the people and for peaceful coexistence.”

Pope Francis prayed for the deceased and the wounded and he renewed his appeal calling for an end to the violence. He also expressed the hope that good will and dialogue would prevail into order to bring peace and development to the country.

During his Regina Caeli address the Holy Father looked to Asia saying, “on May 24, let us all join spiritually with the Catholic faithful in China on the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary "Help of Christians," venerated at the Sheshan Shrine in Shanghai.

To Chinese Catholics, said the Pope, “we look to our Mother Mary to help us discern God's will regarding the concrete path of the Church in China and may he support us in his generosity of love. Mary encourages us to offer our personal contribution to communion among believers and to the harmony of the whole of society. He continued, “let us not forget to bear witness to the faith with prayer and love, keeping us open always to encounter and dialogue.”


Pope Highlights Effects of Unemployment on Families

Pope 0520172017-05-20 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday highlighted the serious problem of unemployment. His words came during a meeting with participants attending an International Conference of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation which has been taking place in Rome this week.

The Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation is a lay-led non-profit-organisation whose purpose it is to promote Catholic Social Doctrine. And is was on Saturday that Pope Francis met with those attending an international conference in the Vatican where he highlighted the fight against poverty and what he called the “grave problem” of unemployment.

Addressing those gathered, the Holy Father commended the foundation for their 2017 statement which notes “that the fight against poverty demands a better understanding of the reality of poverty as a human and not merely an economic phenomenon.

He also highlighted that “promoting integral human development demands dialogue and engagement with people’s needs and aspirations, listening to the poor and their daily experience of “multidimensional, overlapping deprivations”, and devising specific responses to concrete situations.

The Pope said that what was needed was community and business enterprises where the poor “are the principal actors and beneficiaries.”

Another issue which was highlighted by Pope Francis was that of unemployment noting that the conference had paid particular attention to the critical issue of job creation in the context of the ongoing new technological revolution.

How can we not be concerned, the Pope said, “about the grave problem of unemployment among the young and among adults that have not the means to “upgrade” themselves?  It is a problem, he added, “that has reached truly dramatic proportions in both developed and developing countries, and needs to be addressed, not least out of a sense of intergenerational justice and responsibility for the future.”

The Holy Father also recalled that the effects of unemployment on families was a concern expressed by the recent Synod assemblies on the family, which noted, “that uncertainty about work situations often contributes to family pressures and problems, and has an effect on the family’s ability to participate fruitfully in the life of society.”

Concluding his discourse the Pope encouraged the Foundation to bring the light of the Gospel and “the richness of the Church’s social teaching to these pressing issues by contributing to informed discussion, dialogue and research, but also by committing themselves for that change of attitudes, opinions and lifestyles which is essential for building a world of greater justice, freedom and harmony.”


Pope: ‘We Must Ask the Lord For the Gifts of Love and Joy'

Pope 0518172017-05-18 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reminded believers that Jesus' love is infinite and true, unlike worldly passions that seek power and vanity.

The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta during which he pointed out that the Christian mission is to give joy and that God’s love is at the core of a true Christian’s life.

 "As the Father loves me, so I also love you" said Pope Francis quoting from the Gospel reading of the day to highlight the fact that the Lord’s love is infinite.

He said the Lord asks us to stay close to Him and to observe His Commandments: “the Ten Commandments of course are the foundation, but we are also called to follow all the things that Jesus has taught us, the commandments of daily life that represent a Christian lifestyle.

There are “passions” that distance us from the true love of Jesus

Jesus’s commandments, the Pope said, cover a very wide spectrum, but the core is one: “the love of the Father for Him, and His love for us”.

“There are other loves. The world itself offers many other loves: love of money for example, vanity, boastfulness, pride, love of power which can even lead to unjust actions to achieve more power…” he said.

These loves, he continued, have nothing to do with the love of Jesus or of the Father. In fact these loves distance us from Jesus’s love.

God’s love is infinite

And emphasizing the fact that the Lord’s love cannot be measured, Pope Francis said that unlike some worldly loves it is neither lukewarm nor tainted by “interest.” 

The Pope said that if we follow the “commandments that Jesus has given us” we will remain in Jesus’ love and in the infinite love of the Father “which is the same thing”.

Perhaps the Pope said “we may ask: why do you remind us of this? Because the Lord’s joy is in you and your joy must be complete.” So, he said, “Jesus teaches us the way of love, of having an open heart, of loving without measure, putting other kinds of love aside”.

A Christian’s mission is to obey God and to give joy to others

“Love and joy are gifts we must ask the Lord for” he said and he told the story of a priest who was recently appointed a bishop.

“He went to see his father, he said, to give him the news. His old father was a simple man, a humble worker who had never been to college, but he had the wisdom of life. He had two recommendations for his son: 'Obey and give joy to the people.'”

We Christians, the Pope concluded - lay people, priests, consecrated, bishops - must give joy to the people; on the path to infinite love our Christian mission is to give people joy”.


Pope: Mary Magdalene, Apostle of Hope

Pope 0517172017-05-17 (Vatican Radio) At the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope continued his catechesis on Christian Hope, speaking this week on “Mary Magdalene, Apostle of Hope.”

He was reflecting on the reading from the Gospel of St John, chapter 20:15-18a.

This is the English-language summary of Pope Francis’ catechesis for the General Audience on Wednesday, 17 May 2017:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis on Christian hope, we now reflect on Mary Magdalen as an apostle of the hope brought by the Gospel.  Saint John tells us on Easter morning Mary had gone to the tomb of Jesus; she saw that it was empty, and returned to tell this news to Peter and the other disciples.  Returning to the tomb, yet still not understanding what had happened, Mary encounters the Risen Lord, but does not recognize him until he calls her by name.  This first appearance of Jesus after rising from the dead is thus something intensely personal.  We know that just as he did with Mary Magdalen, so too Jesus calls each of us by name and fills us with joy at his presence.  Our encounter with him brings freedom and opens up new vistas of life; it transforms our world and brings undying hope.  The risen Lord tells Mary not to cling to him, but to go and tell the good news of his resurrection to the others.  Mary Magdalen thus becomes the apostle of Christian hope.  By her prayers, may we be encounter anew the risen Lord, who calls us by name, turns our sorrow into joy, and sends us forth to proclaim by our lives that he is truly risen.


I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Ireland, Swaziland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America.  In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father.  May the Lord bless you all!


Pope: Jesus' Peace is Real, Not the World’s Anesthetized Peace

Pope 0516172017-05-16 True peace is not man-made but a gift of the Holy Spirit.  "A peace without a cross is not the peace of Jesus" for it is only the Lord who can give us peace amidst tribulations.  This was the central message of the homily of Pope Francis at Mass, Tuesday morning, in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.

Developing his homily on the words of Jesus at the Supper in John’s Gospel, "I leave you peace, my peace I give you,” the Holy Father focused on the meaning of the peace given by the Lord.  The day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, he noted, speaks of the many tribulations that Paul and Barnabas experienced in their journeys to proclaim the Gospel. "Is this the peace that Jesus gives us?" the Pope asked, and immediately answered saying Jesus emphasizes that the peace He gives is not the one given by the world.

The world wants anesthetized peace to prevent us from seeing the Cross

"The peace that the world offers us," the Pope said, "is a peace without tribulations. It offers us an artificial peace "reduced to "tranquility".  It is a peace "that is only concerned about one’s affairs and one’s security, lacking in nothing,” a bit like the peace of the rich Dives in the parable of Lazarus, a tranquility that “shuts” oneself  without seeing "beyond":

"The world teaches us the way to anesthetized peace: it anesthetizes us from seeing another reality of life: the Cross.  This is why Paul says that one must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven on the road with many tribulations. But is it possible to obtain peace amidst tribulation?  From our side, no; we are unable to make peace that is tranquility, a psychological peace, our peace, because tribulations are there, whether pain, illness or death.  But the peace that Jesus gives is a gift: it is a gift of the Holy Spirit; and this peace lasts through tribulations and beyond.  It's not a sort of stoicism of the ‘fakir’. No. it’s something else.”

God's peace cannot be bought, without Cross is not real peace

According to Pope Francis, God's peace is “a gift that keeps us going." After granting peace to His disciples, Jesus suffers in the Garden of Olives and there "He offers everything to the will of the Father and suffers, but He does not lack God’s consolation".  In fact, the Gospel, says that "an angel appeared to him from heaven to console him":

"God's peace is real peace, that enters the reality of life, that does not deny life; that is life. There is suffering, there are the sick people, there are many bad things, there are wars ... but that peace within, which is a gift, is not lost, but goes ahead bearing the Cross and suffering.  Peace without the Cross is not the peace of Jesus: it is a peace that can be bought, that can make. But it does not last; it comes to an end. "

Let’s ask for the grace of inner peace, a gift of the Holy Spirit

When I get angry, the Pope said, "I lose peace." When my heart is "troubled," "it is because I am not open to the peace of Jesus,” because I am unable to "bear life as it comes, with its crosses and sorrows that accompany it.”  Rather, we must be able to ask for the grace to ask the Lord for his peace:

"'We must enter the Kingdom of God through many tribulations'. The grace of peace – of not losing that inner peace. Regarding this a saint said, 'The life of the Christian is a journey between the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God' (St. Augustine). May the Lord make us understand well what this peace is which He gives us with the Holy Spirit."


Regina Coeli: Pope Reflects on Pilgrimage to Fatima

Pope 051417(Vatican Radio) “Let us greet the Virgin of Fatima!”

Following his pilgrimage to Fatima, Pope Francis said the Regina Coeli on Sunday, took on “a particular significance, imbued with memory and prophecy for those who view history with the eyes of faith.” Reflecting on his journey, the Pope said, “At Fatima I was immersed in the prayer of the faithful holy People, prayer that for one hundred years has flowed there like a river, for the maternal protection of Mary for the whole world.”

The Holy Father focused on the “recollected and contemplative climate” during his pilgrimage. “And at the center of everything,” he said, “was and is the Risen Lord, present in the midst of His People in the Word and in the Eucharist; present in the midst of the many sick people, who are the protagonists of the liturgical and pastoral life of Fatima, as of every Marian sanctuary.”

One of the highlights of Pope Francis pilgrimage was the Solemn Mass on Saturday, when he canonized two of the visionaries of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. With the canonization, the Pope said, “I wanted to propose to the whole Church their example of adhesion to Christ and to evangelical witness… And I also want to propose to the whole Church to have the heart of children.” He said their sanctity is not “a consequence of the apparitions, but of the fidelity and ardour with which they corresponded to the privilege they had received of being able to see the Virgin Mary.”

He pointed out that the visionaries, after having seen Mary, frequently said the Rosary, did penance, and offered sacrifices for an end to the war [World War I, which was raging at the time], and for the souls most in need of divine mercy. “In our day, too,” the Pope said, “there is great need of prayer and of penance to implore the grace of conversion,” and an end to the many wars and conflicts in the world today, “which disfigure the face of humanity.”

“Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the light that comes from Fatima,” Pope Francis said, before concluding his reflection with a prayer: “May the Immaculate Heart of Mary always be our refuge, our consolation, and the way that leads to Christ.”


Pope Francis in Fatima: A Vigil for Peace and Conversion

Pope 0513172017-05-13 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis led hundreds of thousands of pilgrim faithful in the recitation of the Holy Rosary on Friday evening in Fatima, Portugal, where the Holy Father is on pilgrimage to mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to three shepherd children there.

After the Rosary, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, celebrated Mass for the faithful.

Our own Chris Altieri is in Fatima with Pope Francis, and sent us this report.

The Pope and the pilgrims offered the Joyful Mysteries: the five decades were offered in different languages, beginning with Arabic and then proceeding to a decade in Spanish and Ukrainian, the third in Italian and Chinese, the fourth in English and French, and the fifth in German and Polish.

All throughout the devotion, Pope Francis was seated before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima beneath the canopy that covers the Little Chapel of the Apparitions, where earlier in the day he had left a golden rose in gift: a pilgrim among pilgrims.

It is difficult thing to imagine, and perhaps impossible to describe: hundreds of thousands of people gathered to pray in the several tongues of the earth, alternating between near perfect unison of praise and near perfect silence, aided by a choir of exceptional quality.

In a world that seems to crave noise and a kind of cookie-cutter nonconformity that is an orchestrated imitation of true liberty and authenticity, here on Friday evening there was a natural and easy concord that betold a deeper unity of spirit than mere art can achieve: people of many nations and tongues gathered together to implore the Queen of Heaven to intercede in our behalf and obtain from her divine Son the gift of peace on Earth.

This was a theme on which Cardinal Parolin focused with great intensity in his homily.

“A hundred years after the apparitions,” in which Our Lady instructed the shepherd children to tell the world to convert and pray for peace, Cardinal Parolin said, “it is true that, as Pope Francis has observed, ‘for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted, for all intents an acquired right to which not much thought is given, yet for all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream.  Millions of people still live in the midst of senseless conflicts.  Even in places once considered safe, a general sense of fear is felt.  We are frequently overwhelmed by images of death, by the pain of innocent men, women and children who plead for help and consolation, by the grief of those mourning the loss of a dear one due to hatred and violence, and by the drama of refugees fleeing war and migrants meeting tragic deaths’ (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 9 January 2017).”

“In the midst of great concern and uncertainty about the future,” asked Cardinal Parolin, “what does Fatima ask of us?  Perseverance in the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, shown daily by the recitation of the Rosary.  And what if, despite our prayers, wars continue?  Even though immediate results may not be evident, let us persevere in prayer.  Prayer is never useless.  Sooner or later, it will bear fruit.”

“Prayer,” said Cardinal Parolin, “is capital in the hands of God; he turns it to good account in his own times and ways, which are very different from our own.”

In Fatima, with Pope Francis, I’m Chris Altieri