Browsing News Entries

Update: Friar lived out faith, hope, charity every day, says cardinal

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeff Kowalsky, courtesy Michigan Catholic

By Mike Stechschulte

DETROIT (CNS) -- A humble priest and porter, Blessed Solanus Casey thanked God daily for the gift of those who came to his door in his small corner of the world.

On Nov. 18, tens of thousands of those whom he touched gathered to thank God in return for the gift of the holy Capuchin's life.

"Others, above all the poor, were seen by him not as a weight or obstacle to his climb to perfection, but as a way to the light of the splendor of God," Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, told the tens of thousands of people gathered at Detroit's Ford Field for Blessed Solanus' beatification Mass.

A congregation of more than 60,000 -- young, old, clergy and laity, those of all races and ethnicities -- flooded into Ford Field for the Mass, with tens of thousands more watching live on TV or the internet.

Countless others visited the Solanus Casey Center and St. Bonaventure Monastery over the weekend to pray and leave prayer intentions at the tomb of a saintly friar known for miraculous healings, intercessions and a compassionate listening ear.

True to Blessed Solanus' spirituality, a special VIP section of the main floor was set aside for those with illness and disabilities.

Father Michael Sullivan, provincial minister of the Detroit-based Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, welcomed those in attendance, "especially those whom Father Solanus so loved -- the sick and the poor."

"We gather in gratitude for all of God's blessings and for all the ways in which God moves in our lives," Father Sullivan said. "What a witness was our beloved brother Solanus! He opened his heart to each person he met, he prayed with them, appreciated and loved them, and through him God moved powerfully again and again. Thanks be to God!"

Cardinal Amato was the main celebrant and homilist for the beatification Mass, joined by Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron; Cardinal Adam J. Maida, retired archbishop of Detroit; Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, himself a Capuchin Franciscan; Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, who is a Detroit native; and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, among others.

About 35 bishops, 400 priests and deacons and more than 200 Capuchins joined together in praise with 300 members of the Casey family, members of the Father Solanus Guild and thousands of faithful during the Mass.

The altar, placed at midfield, was created originally for St. John Paul II's visit to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987. To the right of the altar was a large painting of Blessed Solanus. It was unveiled to thunderous applause after the beatification rite, which took place at the beginning of the Mass.

The music was provided by a 25-member orchestra and a choir of 300 directed by Capuchin Franciscan Father Ed Foley. The singers were members of parish choirs from across the Detroit metro area. The Casey family's Irish roots were reflected in the Irish hymns chosen as part of the music for the liturgy.

Reflecting the diversity of the Catholic Church in which Blessed Solanus served, readings and prayers of the faithful were proclaimed in several languages, including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chaldean, Polish and Tagalog.

"His favorite sons were the poor, the sick, the emarginated and the homeless," Cardinal Amato said of Blessed Solanus, the Wisconsin-born priest with Irish roots and a whispery voice who served as a monastery doorkeeper in New York, Detroit and Huntington, Indiana, over his 60 years as a Capuchin friar.

"He always fasted in order to give them their own lunch. He spent hours upon hours patiently receiving, listening to, and counseling the ever-growing number of people who came to him," he added.

Once, the cardinal recounted, when the Capuchin Soup Kitchen -- which Blessed Solanus helped start during the Great Depression -- ran out of food, the friar simply prayed an Our Father, and a truckload of bread showed up.

"When the people saw this they began to cry with emotion. Father Solanus simply stated: 'See, God provides. No one will suffer want if we put our trust in Divine Providence," Cardinal Amato said.

"Witnesses affirmed that love, faith and trust were the three points that he always preached to people," Cardinal Amato continued. "Faith, hope and charity were for him the seal of the Trinity in our souls."

Born Nov. 25, 1870, to a family of 16 children, Blessed Solanus spent his early years as a lumberjack, street car operator and prison guard before entering the seminary. After witnessing a violent attack in Superior, Wisconsin, he resolved to devote his life to God.

Despite language barriers slowing his studies toward the priesthood, he was eventually ordained a "simplex priest," and spent the next 60 years greeting people at the monastery doors in New York, Indiana and Detroit, where he became a warm and familiar face to thousands seeking his counsel and prayers.

Cardinal Amato garnered laughs when he acknowledged that Blessed Solanus had "one little defect in his life: In the judgment of his fellow friars, Father Solanus was a bad musician."

"For this reason, after his first failure in the community, with simplicity and humility, in order not to disturb his neighbor, on Sunday evening he went to the chapel with his violin and played Irish religious songs in front of the tabernacle. The Lord listened to him patiently because our blessed was lacking in music, but not in virtue," Cardinal Amato said with a smile.

By virtue of his beatification, Blessed Solanus can now be publicly venerated in Detroit and in Capuchin houses worldwide. Beatification is the last step before sainthood, which would allow Blessed Solanus to be venerated by the worldwide church. His feast will be celebrated July 30, the vigil of the anniversary of the friar's death in 1957.

Among the hundreds, if not thousands, of healings attributed to Blessed Solanus during and after his lifetime, Pope Francis recognized the authenticity of a miracle necessary for the friar to be elevated from venerable to blessed after a review by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes was completed earlier this year.

The miracle involved the healing -- unexplained by medicine or science -- of a woman with an incurable genetic skin disease, Paula Medina Zarate of Panama. She was only recently identified publicly and she was at the Mass. As it began, she walked up to the altar with a reliquary holding a relic of Blessed Solanus -- a small piece of bone taken from the friar's arm.

Zarate was visiting friends in Detroit and stopped at Father Casey's tomb to pray for others' intentions. After her prayers, she felt the strong urging to ask for the friar's intercession for herself, too, and received an instant and visible healing.

The miraculous nature of her cure in 2012 was verified by doctors in her home country, in Detroit and in Rome, all of whom confirmed there was no scientific explanation. Father Casey himself died of a skin disease July 31, 1957.

During the presentation of the gifts, baskets of food were brought to the altar along with bread and wine, symbolizing Blessed Solanus' ministry to the hungry through the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and the Capuchins' continuing ministry today.

After Communion, the congregation was invited to sing "God, Be Praised for Humble Service," a hymn commissioned in honor of Blessed Solanus written by Benedictine Sister Delores Dufner.

In thanking Cardinal Amato and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints "for your devoted attention to the cause of Father Solanus' beatification," Archbishop Vigneron garnered loud cheers when he assured the cardinal that "the field hospital of mercy is open here in Detroit."

"Your Eminence, when next you speak with our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis, please let him know that we are grateful beyond measure that he has judged our beloved Father. Solanus worthy of the rank of blessed," Archbishop Vigneron said. "Assure His Holiness of our filial affection and loyalty and tell him that we are committed anew to imitate Blessed Solanus by witnessing to the good news of Christ's mercy."

- - -

Stechschulte is managing editor of The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit.


- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Youth urged to remember they're 'beloved children of God, called by name'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion

By Natalie Hoefer

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The sound of more than 20,000 teens screaming and singing along with racuous music of Christian hip-hop band TobyMac was loud.

The sound of the same number of youths in silent prayer was deafening.

These external and internal forms of praise formed bookends to the opening general session of the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 16 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

After two hours of music, entertainment -- including cultural dancing by the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement -- and an entrance procession of banners from each diocese present, the participants were greeted by Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

Although each person came "from many dioceses, many states ' and with many titles," he said, "we are first and foremost children of God. And that God who knows us desires to be known by us. ' God wanted us to know him ... through a personal relationship with a human being, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

"We are beloved children of God, called by name, claimed by Christ," he continued, referring to the conference theme of "Called." "We begin this NCYC weekend by embracing that reality of who we are."

Chris Stefanick, an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and founder of Real Life Catholic, used humor and life experience to speak about the reality of who we are and of God's love for each person.

He spoke of the "love story" upon which the Catholic faith is founded.

"When you remove the love story, what are you left with?" he asked. "Rules that we have to follow. Rituals that we're not sure why we keep them alive but they take a lot of time. Doctrines that have nothing to do with your life. That's how the world has come to see Catholicism. ' The world has forgotten the love story, and so often we've forgotten the love story."

That story, he said, "begins very simply with the words '(I) believe in one God.'"

So many youths today chose not to believe, he said, including an atheist who once told him that belief that God created the universe "is as stupid as a kid coming down on Christmas morning and, seeing presents under the tree, thinks, 'There are presents, therefore there must be a Santa..'"

"You say there's no God?" Stefanick asked. "That's like a flea not believing in the dog. That's like a kid coming down on Christmas morning and seeing presents under the tree and saying, 'Oh look! Presents! They must have exploded themselves here!' ' Just so, the universe did not put itself here, and the more we learn about the universe, the more it shouts to us about the existence of God."

And because God's love created us, he said, no other form of love will satisfy.

"We feel so small in this world," he told the crowd that came from as far away as Hawaii and Alaska. "We feel so insignificant in this universe.

"I think God looks down from heaven and says, 'You are huge next to all this.' As big as a mountain is, can it know someone? As big as an ocean is, can it make a choice? As big as a galaxy is, can it choose to love? No, but you can. ... You're a huge deal!"

But because of human rejection of God, Stefanick continued, sin and brokenness entered the world. To applause and shouts of "Amen!" he modified the words of John 3:16 to note that therefore, "'God so loved you that he gave his only Son.' Whoa. '"

This love story -- which continues in the sacraments, Stefanick noted --"doesn't just show you who God is. It shows you who you are."

'

" 'Who am I?' 'I'm precious.' 'What am I worth?' 'I'm worth dying for,' " he said in a solo dialogue. "' Sin is not your name-Jesus gives you your name. And what is your name? 'Beloved.' I don't matter because of who I am-I matter because of whose I am. I'm not somebody, I'm somebody's. I'm precious and I'm worth dying for. This is the best news ever."

He encouraged the crowd to use their will to "say 'yes' to the love that created space and time and perpetually invites us to himself."

Father Joseph Espaillat, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, who was one of the evening's emcees, led the more than 20,000 present through a period of silent prayer to close. He suggested using the word "pray" as an acronym to guide their prayer -- "P" for praising God, "R" for repenting of sins, "A" for asking God for needs rather than wants, and "Y" for yielding to his will

It was this prayer time more than any of the evening's other events that most affected Abby White of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky.

"I thought it was really powerful," she said of the quiet time. "I like saying that you're sorry to God. It's been awhile since I've been to confession, and I really want to go to confession this weekend. I felt like that [prayer time] empowered me to want to go."

While Abby has attended NCYC before, Garrett Randel of Seneca, Kansas, was exuberant with the joy of one experiencing the event for the first time.

"I thought it was really cool," he said of the opening session. "The speaker was really inspiring. I thought it was one of the best experiences I've had in my Catholic faith."

Caitlin Dusenbury of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, couldn't agree more. The NCYC first-timer's eyes lit up and a smile brightened her face when she spoke of her experience that evening.

"I really like it so far," she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. "It's impacted me a lot. I've never seen so many Catholics together.

"The highlight for me was Chris speaking. 'It's not who you are, but whose you are' -- that quote stuck with me."

- - -

Hoefer is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope Francis calls Benedict's teaching 'precious heritage'

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The theological work and papal teaching of retired Pope Benedict XVI "continue to be a living and precious heritage for the church," Pope Francis said.

The pope met Nov. 18 with the winners of the 2017 Ratzinger Prize, named for the retired pope to honor those who make significant contributions to theology and culture.

The three winners had met the day before with Pope Benedict in his residence in the Vatican gardens.

Pope Francis told the group that Pope Benedict's "prayer and his discreet and encouraging presence accompany us on our common journey."

The Ratzinger Prize is awarded each year by the Vatican-based Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, and Pope Francis urged the foundation to pay tribute to the retired pope not only by promoting the study of his writings, but to continue the spirit of his work by "entering into new fields in which modern culture asks for dialogue with the faith."

"The human spirit always has an urgent and vital need for this dialogue," the pope said. And faith needs dialogue as well to ensure that it does not become abstract, but "incarnates in time."

"Joseph Ratzinger continues to be a master and friendly interlocutor for all those who exercise the gift of reason to respond to the human vocation of searching for truth," he said.

"Co-workers of the truth," the motto the retired pope chose in 1977 as his episcopal motto, "expresses well the whole sense of his work and his ministry," the pope said.

Pope Francis said he was happy the three winners for 2017 come from different Christian traditions and he was pleased to approve the expansion of the prize to include the arts because it "corresponds well to the vision of Benedict XVI, who so often spoke in a touching way about beauty as a privileged path for opening us up to transcendence and an encounter with God."

The prize winners were German Lutheran theologian Theodor Dieter, German Catholic theologian Father Karl-Heinz Menke and the Estonian composer Arvo Part, an Orthodox Christian.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope criticizes police brutality, denounces dangerous drivers

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Putting the brakes on dangerous and distracted driving, Pope Francis criticized using mobile phones when at the wheel and treating roads like racetracks.

While praising the work and sacrifice of police officers dealing with transit and highway patrol, he also cautioned them against turning the just use of force into brutality.

"Wisdom and self-control are needed, especially when the police officer is viewed with mistrust or seen almost as an enemy, instead of as a guardian of the common good," he said.

The pope made his remarks in a speech Nov. 20 to staff and managers of the central administration of the Italian police in charge of traffic and highway patrol and of the railways.

Whenever officers must check or constrain someone, "it's important to rely on a use of force that never degenerates into violence," he said, particularly in places where the police are looked upon with distrust, which unfortunately is widespread and, in some cases, pits society against the state.

Mercy is essential, he said; mercy is not weakness nor does it mean renouncing all use of force.

"Instead, it means being able to not equate the culprits with the crime they commit, ending up causing damage and creating a feeling of revenge; it also means making an effort to understand the needs and motives of the people that you encounter in your work," he said.

The pope asked the officers and their supervisors to "use mercy in the countless situations of weakness and pain that you confront daily" not just with victims of crime or accidents, but with the poor and vulnerable, too.

With so many people depending on increased mobility, the pope said traffic officers have a lot to do, especially when driving and commuting has become "increasingly complex and unruly."

Not only do roads and safety measures lack needed improvements and investments, officers must deal with the "poor sense of responsibility by many drivers, who often seem not to realize the even serious consequences of being distracted -- for example, with the improper use of cellphones -- or being reckless."

He said these behaviors were caused by people being in too much of a hurry or competitive, which turns "other drivers into hurdles or adversaries to overtake, transforming roads into 'Formula One' racetracks and traffic lights into the starting line for a grand prize."

Increased sanctions will not be enough, he said. Education and a greater awareness of responsibility and a civic duty toward one's fellow travelers are needed.

The pope encouraged the officers to carry out their duty and mission "with honor and a deep sense of duty" in serving others.

While often they are not appreciated enough, the officers are "on the front lines" in fighting that which harms others, creates chaos and feeds unlawfulness that hinders progress and happiness, he said.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican investigating abuse at pre-seminary

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican announced it had launched a new investigation into reports about sexual abuse in a pre-seminary for young adolescents run by the Diocese of Como, Italy, but located inside the Vatican.

Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement Nov. 18 saying that beginning in 2013 when "some reports, anonymous and not," were made, staff of the St. Pius X Pre-Seminary and the bishop of Como both conducted investigations.

"Adequate confirmation was not found" regarding the allegations, which involved students and not staff. Some of the students already had left the pre-seminary when the first investigations were carried out, the statement said.

However, "in consideration of new elements that recently emerged, a new investigation is underway to shed full light on what really happened," the statement said.

In early November, the Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose books based on leaked Vatican documents were at the heart of two Vatican trials, published a new book, "Original Sin." The book included allegations about sexual abuse at the pre-seminary where boys in middle school and high school live. They serve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and attend a Catholic school in Rome while considering applying to a seminary when they are older.

The allegation in Nuzzi's book about one student abusing another was followed by an investigation by the Italian television program "Le Iene."

In the program, a young Polish man, identified only as 21-year-old Kamil, said he arrived at the pre-seminary at age 13, wanting to be an altar server for the pope. He said he was thinking only vaguely of becoming a priest one day.

Kamil claimed another student, one given responsibility by the rector for determining the liturgical roles of all the students at papal Masses, regularly sexually abused his roommate.

Kamil said the older student would come into their room at night, get into bed with his roommate and abuse him. The alleged abuser was ordained to the priesthood last summer, "Le Iene" reported.

In the program, the roommate is referred to as Marco, who is now 24 years old. He confirmed the allegations Kamil made.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope addresses Italian road and railway police

While commending Italy’s police force for ensuring the safety and security of those travelling by road and train, Pope Francis on Monday called on them to also inculcate humanity, uprightness ‎and “mercy”.  ‎  The Pope met some 100 top leaders and officials of Italy’s road police that celebrating its 70th anniversary and railway police that is marking its 110 years. 

Click below to listen:

 

Road safety

Talking about road safety, Pope Francis told the group it is necessary to deal with the low level of responsibility on the part of many drivers, who often do not even realize the serious consequences of their inattention (for example, with improper use of cell phones) or their disregard.  He said this is caused by a hurried and competitive lifestyle that regards other drivers as obstacles or opponents ‎to overcome, turning roads into "Formula One" tracks and the traffic lights as the starting line of a Grand Prix race.  In such a context, the Pope said, sanctions are not just enough to increase security, but there is a need for an ‎educative action, which creates greater awareness of one’s responsibilities for those traveling ‎alongside. ‎

Beyond professionalism

The Pope told the police men and women that the fruit of their experience on the road and the railway will help in raising awareness and increase civic sense. Their professionalism not only depends on their skills but also on their “profound uprightness” which never takes ‎advantage of the powers they possess, thus helping develop a “high degree of humanity.”  The Pope said that in surveillance and prevention, it is important to ensure never to let the use of force degenerate into ‎violence, especially when a policeman is regarded with suspicion or almost as an enemy instead of a guardian of the common good.

Mercy

In fulfilling their functions, the Holy Father suggested the police have a “sort of mercy”, which he said is not synonymous with ‎weakness.  Neither does it mean renunciation of the use of force.  It means not identifying the ‎offender with the offence he has committed, that ends up creating harm and generating revenge.  Their work requires them to use mercy even in the countless situations of weakness and pain that they face daily, ‎not only in various types of accidents but also in meeting needy or disadvantaged people.

Good vs evil

The Pope also asked the road and railway police to recognize the presence of the clash between good and evil in the world and within us, and to do everything possible to fight egoism, injustice and  ‎indifference and whatever offends man, creates ‎disorder and foments illegality, hindering the happiness and growth of people. 

(from Vatican Radio)

'Invest in love,' pope says on first World Day of the Poor

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People have a basic choice in the way they live: either striving to build up treasures on earth or giving to others in order to gain heaven, Pope Francis said.

"What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes," the pope said in his homily Nov. 19, the first World Day of the Poor.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 poor people attended the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica as special guests, the Vatican said. While almost all of them live in Europe, they include migrants and refugees from all over the world.

Among the altar servers were young men who are either poor, migrants or homeless. The first reader at the Mass, Tony Battah, is a refugee from Syria. Those presenting the gifts at the offertory were led by the Zambardi family from Turin, whom the Vatican described as living in a "precarious condition" and whose 1-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis.

In addition to the bread and wine that were consecrated at the Mass, the offertory included a large basket of bread and rolls that were blessed to be shared at the lunch the pope was offering after Mass. Some 1,500 poor people joined the pope in the Vatican's audience hall for the meal, while the other special guests were served at the Pontifical North American College -- the U.S. seminary in Rome -- and other seminaries and Catholic-run soup kitchens nearby.

Preaching about the Gospel "parable of the talents" (Mt 25:14-30), Pope Francis said the servant in the story who buried his master's money was rebuked not because he did something wrong, but because he failed to do something good with what he was given.

"All too often, we have the idea that we haven't done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just," the pope said. "But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans."

If in the eyes of the world, the poor they have little value, he said, "they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our 'passport to paradise.' For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God's word, which is addressed first to them."

Where the poor are concerned, the pope said, too many people are often guilty of a sin of omission or indifference.

Thinking it is "society's problem" to solve, looking the other way when passing a beggar or changing the channel when the news shows something disturbing are not Christian responses, he said.

"God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation," he said, "but whether we did some good."

People please God in a similar way to how they please anyone they love. They learn what that person likes and gives that to him or her, the pope said.

In the Gospels, he said, Jesus says that he wants to be loved in "the least of our brethren," including the hungry, the sick, the poor, the stranger and the prisoner.

"In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love," he said. True goodness and strength are shown "not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord."

Before joining his guests for lunch, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer with thousands of people in St. Peter's Square.

The previous day in Detroit, he told the people, Capuchin Father Solanus Casey was beatified. "A humble and faithful disciple of Christ, he was known for his untiring service to the poor. May his witness help priests, religious and laypeople live with joy the bond between the proclamation of the Gospel and love for the poor."

Pope Francis told the crowd that he hoped "the poor would be at the center of our communities not only at times like this, but always, because they are at the heart of the Gospel. In them, we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and calls us through their suffering and their needs."

Offering special prayers for people living in poverty because of war and conflict, the pope asked the international community to make special efforts to bring peace to those areas, especially the Middle East.

Pope Francis made a specific plea for stability in Lebanon, which is in the middle of a political crisis after its prime minister announced his resignation. He prayed the country would "continue to be a 'message' of respect and coexistence throughout the region and for the whole world."

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope on World Day of the Poor: they open for us the way to heaven

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday – the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first-ever World Day of the Poor – in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy Father announced the World Day of the Poor during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and entrusted its organization and promotion to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

There were some 4 thousand needy people in the congregation for the Mass, after which Pope Francis offered Sunday lunch in the Paul VI Hall.

Speaking off the cuff to guests at the luncheon, the Holy Father said, “We pray that the Lord bless us, bless this meal, bless those who have prepared it, bless us all, bless our hearts, our families, our desires, our lives and give us health and strength.” The Holy Father went on to ask God's blessing on all those eating and serving in soup kitchens throughout the city. “Rome,” he said, “is full of this [charity and good will] today.”

Click below to hear our report

The World Day of the Poor is to be marked annually, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the homily he prepared for the occasion and delivered in St. Peter’s Basilica following the Gospel reading, Pope Francis said, “In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love.” He went on to say, “When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell.”

Reminding the faithful that it is precisely in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9), and that there is therefore in each and every poor person, a “saving power” present, Pope Francis said, “[I]f in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“For us,” the Pope continued, “it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them.

“To love the poor,” Pope Francis said, “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material: and it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: homily for World Day of the Poor

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday – the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first-ever World Day of the Poor – in St. Peter’s Basilica. Below, please find the full text of his homily on the occasion, in its official English translation

***************************

We have the joy of breaking the bread of God’s word, and shortly, we will have the joy of breaking and receiving the Bread of the Eucharist, food for life’s journey. All of us, none excluded, need this, for all of us are beggars when it comes to what is essential: God’s love, which gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.

The Gospel parable speaks of gifts. It tells us that we have received talents from God, “according to ability of each” (Mt 25:15). Before all else, let us realize this: we do have talents; in God’s eyes, we are “talented”. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others. We are chosen and blessed by God, who wants to fill us with his gifts, more than any father or mother does with their own children. And God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission.

Indeed, as the loving and demanding Father that he is, he gives us responsibility. In the parable, we see that each servant is given talents to use wisely. But whereas the first two servants do what they are charged, the third does not make his talents bear fruit; he gives back only what he had received. “I was afraid – he says – and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (v. 25). As a result, he is harshly rebuked as “wicked and lazy” (v. 26). What made the Master displeased with him? To use a word that may sound a little old-fashioned but is still timely, I would say it was his omission. His evil was that of failing to do good. All too often, we have the idea that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just. But in this way we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground. But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans (cf. v. 14). It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments, like hired hands in the house of the Father (cf. Lk 15:17).

The unworthy servant, despite receiving a talent from the Master who loves to share and multiply his gifts, guarded it jealously; he was content to keep it safe. But someone concerned only to preserve and maintain the treasures of the past is not being faithful to God. Instead, the parable tells us, the one who adds new talents is truly “faithful” (vv. 21 and 23), because he sees things as God does; he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right “omission”.

Omission is also the great sin where the poor are concerned. Here it has a specific name: indifference. It is when we say, “That doesn’t regard me; it’s not my business; it’s society’s problem”. It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it. God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.

How, in practice can we please God? When we want to please someone dear to us, for example by giving a gift, we need first to know that person’s tastes, lest the gift prove more pleasing to the giver than to the recipient. When we want to offer something to the Lord, we can find his tastes in the Gospel. Immediately following the passage that we heard today, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you that, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These least of our brethren, whom he loves dearly, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned, the suffering who receive no help, the needy who are cast aside. On their faces we can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: “This is my body” (Mt 26:26).

In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love. When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell. God greatly appreciates the attitude described in today’s first reading that of the “good wife”, who “opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov 31:10.20). Here we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.

There, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). For this reason, in them, in their weakness, a “saving power” is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our “passport to paradise”. For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them. To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.

And it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes. Today we might ask ourselves: “What counts for me in life? Where am I making my investments?” In fleeting riches, with which the world is never satisfied, or in the wealth bestowed by God, who gives eternal life? This is the choice before us: to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven. Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give, for “those who store up treasures for themselves, do not grow rich in the sight of God” (Lk 12:21).

So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us. May the Lord, who has compassion for our poverty and needs, and bestows his talents upon us, grant us the wisdom to seek what really matters, and the courage to love, not in words but in deeds.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to Ratzinger Prize-winners: a symphony of truth

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the recipients of the 2017 Ratzinger Prize in Theology on Saturday morning. Catholic Professor Karl-Heinz Menke of the Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn, Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, and Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt, share the Prize this year, which Benedict XVI established in 2010 as the leading international award for research in Sacred Scripture, patristics, and fundamental theology.

Broadening horizons of the Ratzinger Prize

This year, therefore, marks the first time in which the Prize is given to someone not engaged in strictly theological endeavor.

When the prize-winners were announced in September, the President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, said, “Benedict XVI’s appreciation for the art of music and the highly religious inspiration behind the musical art of Pärt, justified the attribution of the prize also outside of the strictly theological field.”

Click below to hear our report

In remarks to the roughly 200 guests, including the prize-winners and officials of the Ratzinger Foundation on Saturday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said, “I welcomed with joy the idea of ​broadening the horizon of the [Ratzinger] Prize to include the arts, in addition to the theology and sciences, which are naturally associated with it.” He went on to say, “It is an enlargement that corresponds well with the vision of [Pope emeritus] Benedict XVI, who so often spoke to us in a touching manner, of beauty as a privileged way of opening ourselves to transcendence and to meeting God.”

Ecumenical focus

The Prize this year also had an ecumenical element.

In addition to Pärt’s Orthodoxy, the year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran movement in Christianity, and Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter one of the three recipients.  “The truth of Christ,” said Pope Francis, “is not for soloists, but is symphonic: it requires docile collaboration, harmonious sharing.” The Holy Father also said, “Seeking it, studying it, contemplating it, and transposing it in practice together, in charity, draws us strongly toward full union between us: truth becomes thus a living source of ever closer ties of love.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “[C]ongratulations, therefore, to the illustrious prize winners: Professor Theodor Dieter, Professor Karl-Heinz Menke and Maestro Arvo Pärt; and my encouragement to [the Ratzinger] Foundation,” so that, “we might continue to travel along new and broader ways to collaborate in research, dialogue and knowledge of the truth. – a truth that, as Pope Benedict has not tired of reminding us, is, in God, logos and agape, wisdom and love, incarnate in the person of Jesus.”

(from Vatican Radio)