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Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico: Pope to find deep roots of faith

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis departs for Mexico on Friday, for a week-long visit to the country and the people under the sign of mercy and peace. Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick is in Mexico ahead of the Holy Father’s arrival, and spoke with the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. “Many people think that the Pope will come [with] solutions to their problems,” said Archbishop Pierre, “obviously, the Pope does not come for that.” The Apostolic Nuncio went on to say, “I think it is just a question of respect for the people – the people are responsible.” Click below to hear the extended conversation of Vatican Radio's special envoy in Mexico, Veronica Scarisbrick, with the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre Asked about the role of the Church in Mexican history, culture and society, Archbishop Pierre said, “The Pope knows that the faith has a long history in the life of the Mexican people, and has inspired their way of life: the Church is part of the nation, and this comes from the very beginning,” even and especially through the often difficult relationship between the Church and the governing authorities. “The Church has always been present in the soul and the culture of the people,” he said. “The Church has always been, even during the time of persecution, I would say, at the center of the life of the people – and this is what is important.”  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope asks for prayers for his meeting with Russian Patrirach

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for his forthcoming meeting with his “dear brother”,  the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Head of the Russian Orthodox Church. That meeting is scheduled to take place on Friday, February 12 at Cuba’s international airport as the Pope travels to Mexico for an apostolic journey. The Pope’s appeal came at the end of his General Audience in St Peter’s Square. He also asked for prayers for his six-day journey which will take him from South to North of the Latin American Nation.     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to Capuchins: awareness of sin key to mercy

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis was the principal celebrant at a Mass offered for the worldwide Capuchin community on Tuesday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass was offered in connection with the presence in Rome and at St. Peter’s of the relics of two great Capuchin saints , who were renowned in their earthly lives as priest-confessors: St. Pius of Pietralcina (or St. Padre Pio as he is popularly known) and St. Leopold of Mandic. “I speak to you as a brother,” said Pope Francis to the Capuchins present, “and through you I would like to speak to all confessors, especially in the Year of Mercy: the confessional is for pardon – and [even] if you cannot give absolution – let me say hypothetically – please, do not beat up on the penitent; one who comes [to the confessional], comes seeking comfort, pardon, peace in his soul; let him find a father who embraces him and says, ‘God loves you,’ and makes the penitent feel that God really does.” The Holy Father went on to express a desire to see confessors everywhere with broad minds and open hearts, who never tire of being vehicles of divine pardon, and who understand the suffering of penitents because they know themselves to be sinners and the first to be in need of God’s saving mercy. “Either you perform the office of Jesus, who forgives, giving His [whole] life in prayer – so many hours there [in the confessional], seated as were those two [Sts. Pius and Leopold] there,” said Pope Francis, “or, you perform the office of the devil who condemns, who accuses – I do not know – I can tell you nothing else.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis asks for prayers for the sick

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the sick in the run-up to the World Day of the Sick. Speaking to the pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope invited them to pray for the sick and make their love felt to them. He recalled that the “World Day of the Sick” takes place on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes and that this XXIVth edition will culminate in a celebration in Nazareth. The Pope mentioned the fact that in his message for this World Day Sick he reflected on the irreplaceable role of Mary at the Wedding in Cana and said that Mary’s concern and attention reflects the tenderness of God and the immense mercy of Jesus. May that same tenderness – he said – be present in the life of so many people who are close to the sick and help them to be attentive to all of their needs, even the most imperceptible ones, because they look at them with eyes full of love.    (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Missionaries of Mercy a "living sign" of God's forgiveness

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday evening met with the Missionaries of Mercy, who are priests given special faculties to absolve even sins reserved to the Holy See. The Missionaries of Mercy are being commissioned by the Holy Father during the Ash Wednesday Mass to be “a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness,” and will be preaching mercy and hearing confessions in dioceses around the world during the Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis, meeting with the Missionaries the day before their commissioning, told them they are a “sign of special importance” which characterizes the Jubilee of Mercy, and offered some brief reflections to give practical help in their task. Listen: “First of all, I would like to remind you that in this ministry you are called to express the maternal nature of the Church,” Pope Francis said. “The Church is a Mother because she always creates new children in faith; the Church is a Mother because she nourishes this faith; and the Church is a Mother because she offers the forgiveness of God, regenerating to a new life, the fruit of conversion,” he continued. The Holy Father also told the priests they must know how to “look into the desire of the heart of the penitent,” which through grace is the beginning of conversion. “The heart turns to God acknowledging the evil which has been done, but with the hope of obtaining pardon,” Pope Francis said. “This desire is reinforced when the person decides in his heart to change his life and does not want to sin again. It is the moment when we trust  the mercy of God, and you have complete confidence you will be understood, forgiven and supported by Him.” The final point brought up by the Pope was one he said “was often not spoken about,” but is a crucial subject: Shame. “It is not easy to accuse yourself before another man, knowing that he represents God, and confess your sin,” he said. “A person feels shame both for what he has done, and for having to confess it to another person.” He called on confessors to have “an attitude of respect and encouragement” when encountering a person’s shame. “Do not forget: in front of us there is no sin, just the repentant sinner,” – Pope Francis said – “A person who feels the desire to be accepted and forgiven… Therefore, we are not called to judge, with a sense of superiority, as if we were immune from sin; on the contrary, we are called to act as Shem and Japheth, the sons of Noah, who took a blanket and put it over their father and hid his shame.” He said the confessor is to “cover the sinner with a blanket of mercy,” so they can recover their dignity. “It is, therefore, not with the club of judgment that we will bring back the lost sheep to the fold, but with the holiness of life which is the principle of renewal and reform in the Church,” Pope Francis said. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: new appointments to Vatican Communications Secretariat

Pope: new appointments to Vatican Communications Secretariat (Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has appointed Dr. Nataša Govekar, professor at the "Theology Atelier Card . T. Špidlík"  of the Aletti Center in Rome as the new Director of the Department of Pastoral Theology of the recently established Vatican Secretariat for Communications.   The Holy Father has also named as Director of the Technology Department of the Communications Secretariat Francesco Masci, hitherto responsible for the Technical Department of the Vatican Internet Service. From Slovenia to Rome Nataša Govekar was born in 1975 at Šempeter pri Gorici, Slovenia. She studied Theology and Slovene at the University of Ljubljana. She received her Doctorate in Missiology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, writing her doctoral thesis on ‘The Transmission Of Faith Through Images.' The Centro Aletti was founded in 1993 by St. John Paul II in order to encourage research on the meaning of faith and art in the eastern Catholic tradition, and to provide a bridge between the Churches of east and west. The center, attached to the mission of the Society of Jesus at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, fosters intellectual research and spirituality.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Card.Koch: Pope's comments opened door for encounter with Russian Orthodox leader

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis flies to the Cuban capital on Friday for an unprecedented meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. The private conversation between the two leaders will take place at Havana airport and is expected to last for a couple of hours, after which Pope Francis will continue onto Mexico City at the start of his pastoral visit to that Latin American nation. The Pope and the Patriarch will also sign a common declaration on issues of shared concern, such as the problem of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the challenges of secularization, the protection of life, and other areas where Catholics and Orthodox can cooperate more closely together. The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch will be accompanying Pope Francis in Havana for this historic encounter. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the conditions that made this long awaited meeting possible…. Listen:  The cardinal recalls Pope Francis’ words on the flight back from Istanbul to Rome (in November 2014) in which he said he would meet the Russian Patriarch wherever and whenever he wanted. “I think this comment has opened the door and the Patriarch is very happy to meet the Holy Father now,” he says. Asked about resistance to this meeting from within the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, the cardinal describes the Patriarch’s decision as “very courageous” since he knows that others do not share his ecumenical vision. Cardinal Koch says reactions from other patriarchs across the Orthodox world have been “very grateful” for this meeting and he adds he’s hopeful the encounter can “be a path also for deepening dialogue” between the different Orthodox Churches ahead of their pan-Orthodox Council in Crete this summer. The Cardinal says the meeting in Havana will also focus on the “difficult situation” in Ukraine where that dialogue is complicated by the presence of the Greek Catholic Church and by divisions between the three different Orthodox Patriarchates. Asked about the political implications of this meeting and the close relations between President Putin and the Russian Orthodox leadership, the cardinal says the Cuban encounter is a “religious, spiritual meeting” but at the same time it is clear that these political themes “will also be present” during the conversation. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis meets with Prime Minister of Iraq

(Vatican Radio) Before the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haydar al-Abadi. The meeting took place in the studio of the Paul VI Audience Hall. Afterwards, the Prime Minister met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. A statement from the Holy See Press Office called the talks “cordial,” adding that reference was made to the good state of bilateral relations between Iraq and the Holy See, the life of the Church in the country, as well as the situation of Christians and ethnic and religious minorities living in Iraq, with particular reference to the importance of their presence and the need to protect their rights. The statement also said they discussed the role of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities to promote tolerance and peace. In this context, they focused on the importance of the ongoing reconciliation process between various social components of the country, and also the national and regional humanitarian situation. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to shine light on Mexico’s margins

Only a groundbreaking two-hour meeting with the Russian Orthodox patriarch in a Havana airport on his way to Mexico could detract from one of Pope Francis’ most significant apostolic voyages yet. Mexico is not just the world’s second-largest Catholic nation, one of the key countries of Latin America and the hinge between North and South; it is also encapsulates within its borders the grueling challenges facing the developing world — and the chance of salvation through a new opening to God’s mercy. Arriving at the start of Lent as “a missionary of mercy and peace” — the visit’s official title — Pope Francis aims to open up new possibilities and reasons for hope at a time when the country’s violence, corruption and inequality present many excuses for despair. But he also wants to use the visit to call for global solutions to what are increasingly global problems, as he made clear in answer to questions put to him by Mexicans in a Jan. 22 TV interview organized by the Mexican news agency Notimex. “Violence, corruption, war, children who can’t go to school because their countries are in conflict, trafficking, arms manufacturers who sell weapons so that the wars continue — this is more or less the climate we live in the world today,” he said, adding that the Mexican people were living their own “little piece” of that “war.” Mexico’s past Pope Francis, who has twice visited Mexico as a Jesuit (1970) and archbishop (1998), has made clear that he would not be going were it not for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose appearance in 1531, shortly after the Spanish conquest, to a native Mexican sparked the largest mass conversion in Christian history. The dark-skinned Virgin’s compassion and maternal closeness to the people — “am I not your mother?” she asked Juan Diego — is a perfect icon for Pope Francis’ call for a more maternal, merciful and missionary Church, one that identifies with the poor and their needs. In Francis’ mind, she also represents both the reason and the antidote for Mexico’s problems. Precisely because of the appearance of “ La Morenita ,” he told Televisa’s Valentina Alazraki last year, the devil has responded angrily and placed terrible temptations in Mexico’s path. Message to Mexicans On Feb. 8, the Vatican released a video greeting from Pope Francis to the people of Mexico. Here is an excerpt: “With not long to go before my visit to Mexico, I am happy, I feel great joy. In my prayers, I always have a thought for all Mexicans. I carry them in my heart. Now I will be able to visit them and tread the soil of this blessed land, so beloved by God and so close to the Virgin Mary. “... I want to come as a missionary of mercy and peace; I want to meet with you so we can confess our faith in God together and share a fundamental truth in our lives: that is that God loves us very much, He loves us with an infinite love which goes well beyond our merits. I want to be as close to you as possible, especially to those of you who are suffering, I want to embrace you and tell you that Jesus loves you very much, that He is always at your side.” “The Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of the drug cartels, is not the Mexico that our Mother wants,” he said in the Notimex broadcast, adding that he wanted to urge people to struggle every day against organized crime, corruption, violence and people-trafficking by sowing “gentleness, understanding, peace.” The idea that the pope might help solve Mexico’s deep-seated problems is one that has been embraced, amazingly, by its traditionally religion-phobic government. After a long process of ridding the Constitution of its draconian anti-clericalism, and legislating for religious freedom in its legislation, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto says it is looking forward to the papal visit helping to renew Mexican values. On Feb. 13, Peña Nieto is scheduled to welcome Pope Francis to the presidential palace — the first time a pope has entered a building synonymous with Mexico’s ...

Pope Francis sends first "Keep Lent" message to Pompeii

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday morning sent an audio-message to the young people of the Prelature of the Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii. It is the first contribution in the “Keep Lent” initiative of the Shrine’s youth ministry office, which will provide a daily Gospel reading and commentary from leading clergymen and lay catechists through social media throughout the penitential season. Listen to Christopher Wells' report: In his message, Pope Francis reflects on the Gospel reading from the Ash Wednesday Mass, in which Jesus warns against practicing good works so others may see them. “When we do something good, sometimes we are tempted to seek praise and to be rewarded: that’s human glory,” Pope Francis said. “But it’s a false reward because it makes us focus on what others think of us.” The Holy Father said Jesus asks us to do good for the sake of good. “He asks us to feel we are under the watchful gaze of our Heavenly Father at all times and to live in relationship with Him – not in relationship with the opinion of others,” the Pope said. “Let us do what we can, in prayer, in sacrifice, and in acts of charity, humbly before God. This way we will be worthy of God the Father’s reward,” he concluded. A Vatican Radio English translation of the full text of Pope Francis’ audio-message is below. Dear young people, Jesus said to his disciples: “Be careful not to practice your good works before men to be seen by them”… “When you give to the poor do not sound a trumpet before you”… “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”. The Word of God gives us the right perspective in which to live Lent well. When we do something good, sometimes we are tempted to seek praise and to be rewarded: that’s human glory. But it’s a false reward because it makes us focus on what others think of us. Jesus asks us to do good for the sake of good. He asks us to feel we are under the watchful gaze of our Heavenly Father at all times and to live in relationship with Him – not in relationship with the opinion of others. Living in the presence of the Father gives us a much deeper joy than worldly glory can give us. May our attitude this Lent be one of living in secret where the Father sees us, loves us and waits for us. Naturally, exterior things are important too, but we must always choose to live in the presence of God. Let us do what we can, in prayer, in sacrifice, and in acts of charity, humbly before God. This way we will be worthy of God the Father’s reward. I wish you a blessed Lent. May Our Lady of Pompeii accompany you and, please, pray for me. (from Vatican Radio)...

G-9 meeting: Decentralization and the new dicasteries

(Vatican Radio) The latest meeting of the Council of Cardinals, Pope Francis’ closest advisers, ended on Tuesday. During their meetings, the cardinals discussed the theme of ‘synodality’ and Pope Francis’ call at last year’s Synod of Bishops for the Church to move towards “a healthy decentralization.”  The other main item on the agenda was a discussion and approval of the cardinals’ final proposals concerning the two new dicasteries that are being set up within the Roman Curia.  Pope Francis attended all three sessions, held on Monday morning and afternoon and on Tuesday morning. Often called the G-9, the Council of Cardinals is a group of cardinals chosen by the Pope to advise him on governing the Church and reforming the Roman Curia. It meets at regular intervals.  At a briefing following the end of this meeting, Father Federico Lombardi, the Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, summarized the main issues discussed.  Father Lombardi said the first session of the G-9 discussed the issues raised during the Pope’s keynote speech at the Synod of Bishops on October 17th 2015. This speech reflected on the theme of synodality within the Church and spoke of the need “to proceed towards a healthy decentralization” and Father Lombardi said this call by the Pope remains an importance reference point for the ongoing work of reforming the Curia.  The next item on the G-9’s agenda was the reading and the approval of the cardinals’ final proposals concerning the two new dicasteries that are being set up as part of the reforms of the Curia. The two new dicasteries are “Laity, Family and Life” and “Justice, Peace and Migration” and the cardinals’ proposals were approved and then handed over to the Pope who will take the final decision. Father Lombardi said the G-9 cardinals are still in the throes of discussing planned reforms for two other dicasteries: the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for Divine Worship. He defined this as still “a work in progress.” Turning next to the work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, Father Lombardi said the Commission’s head, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, gave an update on the commission’s activities and the proposals he has put forward for the safeguarding of children. Cardinal O’Malley said questions of a juridical and disciplinary nature will be the object of further studies by experts in this field. As is normal at the G-9 meetings, Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the new Secretariat for the Economy updated the cardinals on the reforms being carried out concerning the economic affairs of the Holy See and the Roman Curia.  In conclusion, the G-9 cardinals received documentation on the so-called vade mecum or reference manual drawn up by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota for putting into practice the reforms of the canonical process concerning the validity of marriages. The vade mecum will be sent to dioceses around the world.  Listen to this report on the above by Susy Hodges:   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to open Lenten pastoral effort on social media

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is the inaugural contributor to a Lenten pastoral effort of the Prelature of the Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii . “ Keep Lent ” is an initiative of the Prelature’s youth ministry office, which reports several thousand subscribers already from throughout all of Italy and from around the world, including the United States. The initiative begins on Ash Wednesday , and is based on social media: it will provide a daily Gospel reading and commentary from leading clergymen and lay catechists. In his 2016 Lenten Message to all the faithful, Pope Francis said, “The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks,” and encouraged Catholics to lead the way in making good use of God’s gifts in cooperation with the best of human ingenuity. “In a broken, fragmented and polarized world,” said Pope Francis , “to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pontifical Commission on Minors concludes Plenary

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has released a communiqué at the end of its week-long Plenary Assembly at the Vatican. Dated February 8, 2016, the statement details the focal points and proposals that emerged from the six Working Groups of the session, including a request for Pope Francis to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them, the finalization of a Universal Day of Prayer, and a penitential liturgy. The communiqué goes on to list upcoming activities of the Commission and partner organizations, including workshops on the legal aspects of the Protection of Minors with a view to to establishing greater transparency around canonical trials, and the development of a website to facilitate sharing of best practices for the protection of minors around the world. Below, please find the full text, in its official English version, of the communiqué from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors  *************************************** News Release Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors 8 February 2016 TO BE RELEASED IMMEDIATELY The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has had seven full days of meetings in Rome. Meetings of the six Working Groups focused on updates for current projects, and developing and drafting proposals. Outside collaborators who assisted the Working Groups included the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and an expert in Penal Canon Law. Draft proposals were presented to the Plenary Assembly for further discussion and decision about policies to propose to the Holy Father. Policies endeavor to recognize the diversity of information and guidance currently available to the Church around the world. Examples of proposals being finalized for Pope Francis’ consideration include: a request for him to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them; the finalization of a Universal Day of Prayer and a penitential liturgy. Workshops on the legal aspects of the Protection of Minors to establish more transparency around canonical trials, with participation of external collaborators, are planned for later in the year and a report and recommendations will be provided at the next Plenary Assembly. A website is also being developed to share Best Practice for the Protection of Minors around the world. In order to fulfill the mission of the Holy Father’s Chirograph for the Institution of the Commission to promote local responsibility, Commission members are actively in contact with numerous Bishops Conferences, and members of the Commission have presented to Religious Conferences and Congregations on safeguarding minors.  Over the past year or so, Commission members have met with Bishops and child protection authorities in: Philippines, Austria, Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Poland, Central America (in Costa Rica), United States National Safe Environment (SECs) and Victims Assistance Coordinators (VACs). As an outcome of the workshop conducted by members of the Commission last August in the Philippines, the Philippine Bishops’ Conference created a child safeguarding office and Pastoral Exhortation on the pastoral care and protection of minors. A meeting is planned in March in Ghana with Secretaries General of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and a second meeting with child protection practitioners drawn from the Association of Member  Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in Tanzania. Commission members are also attending the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference in Rome and the United States National Safe Environment and Victims Assistance Coordinators 2016.  In 2017 the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has requested a workshop with Commission members. The Commission likewise welcomes the recent announcement that in a week’s time the first course offering a diploma in the Safeguarding of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University will start with 19 participants from four continents: Africa, Europe, America and Asia. The September 2016 meeting of the Commission will have a strategic focus on safeguarding minors in Catholic schools, and will invite contributions from experts in Latin America, England and Wales. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.” (from Vatican Radio)...

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