Vatican City, Dec 14, 2018 / 10:17 am ().- This Christmas it is particularly important to support refugees and migrants, Pope Francis said Friday, ahead of the Vatican Christmas Concert fundraiser in support of young refugee education.
“Christmas is always new because it invites us to be reborn in faith, to open ourselves to hope, to rekindle charity,” Pope Francis said in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace Dec. 14.
“This year, in particular, calls us to reflect on the situation of many men, women and children of our time - migrants, displaced persons, and refugees - marching to escape wars, miseries caused by social injustice and climate change,” the pope continued.
Pope Francis stressed his particular concern for the “little ones” among migrants, who face dangerous situations and “long marches on foot” when they should be “sitting among the school desks, like their peers.”
“They too need training to be able to work tomorrow and participate as citizens, aware of the common good,” he commented.
The Holy Father expressed gratitude for the work of two papal charities that support young refugees in Iraq and Uganda. “Missioni Don Bosco” in Uganda and “Scholas Occurrentes” in Iraq will both receive proceeds from the Vatican Christmas Concert taking place in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall Dec.14.
“Missioni Don Bosco” is an Italian Catholic charity supporting the education of disadvantaged youth in developing countries. Their Salesian missionaries in Uganda aid refugee families from South Sudan. One of their educational projects in the Palabek refugee camp provides vocational training to 1,500 students, who also receive one meal a day.
The Pontifical Foundation’s “Scholas Occurrentes” was founded by Bergoglio while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires as an initiative to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter through technology, arts and sports.
On Friday, Pope Francis met with young Iraqi refugees supported by “Scholas Occurrentes,” and the artists performing in the Christmas concert, and shared his message on the importance of education and solidarity.
The pope drew a direct link between the Christmas story and the needs of child refugees today. “When the violent anger of Herod struck the territory of Bethlehem, the Holy Family of Nazareth experienced the anguish of persecution, and guided by God, took refuge in Egypt,” he said.
“The little Jesus reminds us that half of the refugees of today, in the world, are children, innocent victims of human injustices,” he continued.
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2018 / 09:55 am ().- Pope Francis told a Catholic media group Thursday to be avenues of God’s peace, sharing the stories of the poor, the least, and the voiceless.
“In your profession you can be ‘living channels’ of spirituality before God and before all your listeners and viewers,” the pope told collaborators of the Italy-based Catholic broadcasting network Telepace.
“I renew, then, the invitation to ‘promote a journalism of peace,”” he said, quoting his 2018 message for World Communications Day. “A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they the majority in our world – who have no voice.”
Francis addressed the group Dec. 13, for their 40th anniversary, in the Vatican's Clementine Hall. Since 1990, at the request of St. John Paul II, the network has broadcast Vatican events such as the general audience, the Angelus, and papal Masses.
Praising the network, the pope said he wanted to urge three commitments in journalism – the first, to be “antennas of spirituality.” The TV antenna has a beautiful symbolism, he said, because of its “dual function of emitting and receiving a signal.”
Broadcast journalism should be a voice for the voiceless, he stressed; above all for the poor, the least, and the excluded. “Never forget them, the poor next door!” he said, praising the network’s program about inmates on death row in Texas. This “is the spirituality of charity!” he said.
Urging journalists to consider how they can teach the Gospel to the young, he stated that he would like the media to “pay more attention to young people, not only by telling their failures but also their dreams and their hopes!”
Doing this, he said, is a matter of being witnesses of God’s Word.
He also warned the media against letting their storytelling ever devolve into gossip, which undermines human community and sows “envy, jealousy, and lust for power.”
“It is important, therefore, to communicate responsibly, also thinking about how much bad you can do with language, with chatter, with rumors,” he said.
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2018 / 05:39 am ().- The Vatican announced Thursday that Pope Francis will travel to Bulgaria and Macedonia May 5-7, 2019, with a stop in Mother Teresa’s hometown of Skopje.
The pope will spend the bulk of the trip in the Bulgarian cities of Sofia and Rakovski before visiting Skopje, Macedonia, the birthplace of Mother Teresa, on May 7.
While Mother Teresa is commonly associated with Calcutta, India -- the city included in her heavenly title of Saint Teresa of Calcutta -- she spent the first 17 years of her life as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia before receiving her call to a vocation as a missionary sister in 1928.
The Mother Teresa Memorial House in Skopje, the saint’s former home-turned-museum, has welcomed visitors who desired to learn about St. Teresa and venerate one of her relics since 2009.
Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Bulgaria after St. Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2002.
The motto for Pope Francis’ Bulgarian trip is “Pacem in Terris,” recalling St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical of the same name. Before becoming pope, St. John XXIII was the first apostolic visitor and then apostolic delegate to Bulgaria from 1925 to 1931.
Church leaders in both Bulgaria and Macedonia invited Pope Francis to visit their respective countries, the Dec. 13 Vatican message stated.
According to the U.S. State Department, Bulgaria’s Catholics make up only 0.8 percent of its population. Seventy-six percent of Bulgarians are Eastern Orthodox Christian, mostly in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The second largest religious group in the country are Muslims at 10 percent of the population.
In Macedonia, an estimated 65 percent of the population is Orthodox Christian and 33 percent is Muslim.
The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will also visit Panama, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco in 2019 before his trip to Bulgaria and Macedonia.
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2018 / 10:37 am ().- Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe Wednesday, reflecting on how Mary continues to evangelize Latin America through her ubiquitous image.
As Our Lady of Guadalupe accompanied Saint Juan Diego on Tepeyac, she continues to encounter people through “an image or stamp, a candle or a medal, a rosary or a Hail Mary,” Pope Francis said in his homily Dec. 12 in St. Peter's Basilica.
Through her image, Mary “enters in a home, in a prison cell, in the ward of a hospital, in a nursing home, in a school, in a rehabilitation clinic to say: ‘Am I not here, that I am your mother?’” he continued in Spanish.
The pope’s homily centered on Mary as a “teacher of the Gospel” through her Magnificat.
“Mary teaches us that, in the art of mission and hope, so many words and programs are not necessary. Her method is very simple: she walked and sang,” Francis said.
In the school of Mary, he said, we “nourish our hearts” with the “multicultural wealth of Latin America, where we can “listen to that humble heart that beats in our villages” with “the sacredness of life.”
Here, the “sense of God and his transcendence,” as well as “respect for creation, the bonds of solidarity, and the joy of the art of living well” are preserved, he continued.
As her image traveled the continent, Our Lady of Guadalupe is “not only remembered as indigenous, Spanish, Hispanic or African-American. She is simply Latin American,” Francis said.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn, appeared to St. Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531, during a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples.
Mary took the appearance of a pregnant native woman, wore clothing in the style of the indigenous community, and spoke to Juan Diego in a native language, Nahuatl.
She asked Juan Diego to appeal to the bishop to build a church on the site of the apparition, stating she wanted a place where she could reveal to the people the compassion of her son. Initially turned away by the bishop, Diego returned to site asking Our Lady for a sign to prove the authenticity of her message.
She instructed him to gather the Castilian roses that he found blooming on the hillside, despite the fact that it was winter, and present them to the Spanish bishop. Juan Diego filled his cloak – known as a tilma – with the flowers. When he presented them to the bishop, he found that an image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted upon his tilma.
Nearly 500 years later, Diego’s tilma with the miraculous image is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and visited by millions of pilgrims each year.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a “mother of a fertile and generous land in which all, in one way or another, can find ourselves playing a leading role in the construction of the Holy Temple of the family of God,” Francis said.
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2018 / 08:33 am ().- The Vatican said Wednesday that while there are no immediate plans to add new members to the C9, Pope Francis has released the three eldest cardinals from the duties of the advisory group.
Papal spokesman Greg Burke told journalists in a briefing Dec. 12 that the pope sent letters to Cardinal George Pell, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo at the end of October to thank them for their service to the Council of Cardinals over the last five years.
Francis sent the letters following a request in October from the council – which advises the pope on matters of Church governance and reform – for a review of the work, structure, and composition of the advisory group, especially in light of the advanced age of some members.
However, the Vatican stated that, “considering the phase of the Council’s work, the appointment of new members is not expected at the moment.”
Over the course of the meetings, Bishop Marco Mellino, who last October was made adjunct secretary of the Council of Cardinals, presented the most recent draft of the new apostolic constitution of the Roman Curia.
Burke said that canon lawyers are still examining the constitution, which is provisionally titled Predicate evangelium.
The other main topics of discussion during the Dec. 10-12 meetings were the February 2019 meeting of bishops on child protection and how to reduce the Holy See’s operating costs.
Asked if, for transparency, the Holy See would be releasing any budgetary information and numbers, Burke said, “yes,” though he does not know when that will take place.
Toward lowering costs, the Vatican will take several actions, including more strongly enforcing a hiring freeze that has been in place since 2014. There are currently no plans to reduce personnel, though a reshuffle and re-outlining of job responsibilities is expected, as well as the possibility of offering early retirement.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, coordinator of the Council for the Economy, addressed the importance of making long-term plans for the reduction of costs, and proposed the development of multi-year budgets for the Council of the Economy to use in five- and 10-year projections.
Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications, Dr. Paolo Ruffini, presented the progress of the reforms of the communications department, and the next steps for implementing Pope Francis’ 2015 motu proprio, which established the then-Secretariat, now Dicastery for Communication.
Ruffini emphasized the importance of the different media outlets (TV, radio, web, and social media) of Vatican Media and their cooperation.
He also explained the value of Vatican Media being present in many different languages.
The cardinals also heard from Professor Vincenzo Bonomo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University and an advisor to Vatican City State, on the new laws governing Vatican City, which were published Dec. 6.
Present at the latest round of meetings were council members Cardinals Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Reinhard Marx, Sean O’Malley, Giuseppe Bertello, and Oswald Gracias.
Only Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, was not in attendance, since he was in Morocco, representing the Holy See at the UN Global Compact for Migration.
As usual, Pope Francis was present for all sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he held the weekly general audience.
Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – also known as the “C9” – serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution which governs the Roman Curia.
The next gathering of the council will take place Feb. 18-20, 2019.
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2018 / 04:00 am ().- Pope Francis gave an Advent reminder Wednesday that faith should not be just a “decorative” addition to daily life by pointing to how the ‘Our Father’ prayer embodies the essence of life itself.
“Prayer - Jesus teaches us - does not begin in human existence after the stomach is full: rather it lurks wherever there is a man, any man, who is hungry, who cries, who struggles, who suffers and wonders ‘why,’” Pope Francis said in the Paul VI hall Dec. 12.
The ‘Our Father’ prayer’s request for “daily bread,” the pope explained, exemplifies God’s desire to meet man in his concrete reality, in his basic needs.
“Our first prayer, in a sense, was the wail that accompanied the first breath. In that newborn cry, the destiny of our whole life was announced: our continual hunger, our continual thirst, our search for happiness,” he continued.
Pope Francis pointed to the Biblical example of Bartimaeus in Mark’s Gospel - a blind man who begged at the gates of Jericho - whose loud cries for mercy were met by Jesus’ healing.
“Around him he had so many good people who told him to keep quiet, not to disturb the Master with his annoying shouts. But he, demanded with holy insistence, that his miserable condition could finally meet Jesus,” Francis said.
Prayer “frees us from the desperation of those who do not believe in a way out of so many unbearable situations,” he added.
The pope’s teaching on the ‘Our Father’ is a continuation of catechesis he began in the first week of Advent on “the seven questions” found in the “short but bold prayer” full of “filial trust.”
“The Lord Jesus gives us the grace of total trust in God as a compassionate Father who loves us and always remains at our side,” Pope Francis said in Spanish as he greeted pilgrims from Spain and Latin America.
The Paul VI Hall was filled with cheers and waves as the pope mentioned the day’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“May Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrate today, help us to surrender ourselves to the providential love of God and to place all our hope in Him,” Francis prayed.
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2018 / 08:52 am ().- The two religious sisters accused of embezzling from a California Catholic school face a criminal investigation, and will not be defended by their religious community.
“The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has filed a criminal complaint with the Torrance, California Police Department against Sisters Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang for misappropriation of funds,” the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet confirmed in a statement released Tuesday.
“As a religious community we will not defend the actions of our Sisters. What happened is wrong. Our Sisters take full responsibility for the choices they made and are subject to the law.”
Krueper and Chang stand accused of diverting funds from St. James School, where both worked until this year, into personal accounts. They reportedly took nearly $500,000 over more than a decade, and were caught during an audit begun earlier this year. Krueper had been principal at the school and Chang a teacher; both are recently retired.
The sisters are suspected of using the money for gambling, trips to Las Vegas, and other personal expenses. Krueper has a P.O. Box and a prior address in Las Vegas, according to The Beach Reporter.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA Monday that it intended to file a criminal complaint in the matter, reversing Nov. 28 announcement that the matter would be handled internally. The archdiocese has not indicated why they changed their position.
In their Dec. 11 statement, the Sisters of St. Joseph said they are unable to confirm the precise amount taken until an investigation is complete.
“We intend to make restitution to St. James School as soon as a total is known,” the Sisters of St. Joseph said. “Justice demands this of us.”
The order also said that “canonical restrictions” have been imposed on Kreuper and Chang.
“The two Sisters are removed from their residence and placed in a religious house under the supervision of community leadership. They are also removed from all public ministry.”
A spokesperson for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet told CNA that the congregation's indication that it will not defend Krueper and Chang's action refers to “morally” defending the sisters. When asked, the spokesperson did not rule out the possibility that the congregation would assist in whatever legal expenses the sisters could incur.
The sisters have reportedly expressed remorse for their actions. Their religious congregation did the same.
“The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are concerned and saddened by this situation and regret any pain this has caused many in our Church, especially the families connected to St. James School. We hold the sorrow of our Sisters’ actions deep in our community hearts.”
Law enforcement officials have not yet indicated when charges could be filed against the sisters.
This story is developing and has been updated.
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2018 / 12:01 pm ().- Everyone should, according to his or her specific gifts, fight to protect the fundamental rights of individuals, Pope Francis said Monday in a message to an international gathering on the topic.
“Each person is therefore called to contribute with courage and determination, in the specificity of their role, to the respect of the fundamental rights of every person,” the pope wrote Dec. 10.
“Especially [the rights] of those [who are] ‘invisible:’ of many who are hungry and thirsty, who are naked, sick, a stranger or imprisoned, who live on the margins of society or are discarded.”
“This need for justice and solidarity,” he pointed out, “has a special significance for us Christians, because the Gospel itself invites us to turn our gaze to the least of our brothers and sisters, to be moved to compassion and to concretely commit ourselves to alleviate their suffering.”
Pope Francis’ message was sent to the international conference “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations,” taking place in Rome Dec. 10-11 at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Held on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conference included a keynote by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, given Dec. 10, and panels by international experts in the field of human rights.
Also present at the conference were members of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps and representatives of the United Nations, Council of Europe, the bishops’ Justice and Peace commission, the academic world, and civil society.
“I wish, on this occasion,” the pope wrote, “to address a heartfelt appeal to those with institutional responsibilities, asking them to place human rights at the center of all policies, including those of development cooperation, even when this means going against the current.”
On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “an in-depth reflection on the foundation and respect for human rights in the contemporary world seems opportune,” he said, adding that he hopes it will herald in a “renewed commitment to the defense of human dignity, with special attention to the most vulnerable members of the community.”
He noted that contemporary society continues to fall short of upholding and protecting the equal dignity of all human beings as it should, with many injustices continuing in the world today, including that of great disparity in wealth, with one part of society living “in opulence” and another “disowned, despised, or trampled.”
He listed, in particular, “the unborn children who are denied the right to come into the world,” “those who do not have access to the indispensable means for a dignified life,” those without access to education or just work, those forced into slavery or inhuman conditions, those subjected to torture “or who are denied the opportunity to redeem themselves,” and the victims of “forced disappearance” and their families.
“My thoughts,” he said, “also go to all those who live in a climate dominated by suspicion and contempt, which are the subject of acts of intolerance, discrimination and violence because of their racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation.”
Pope Francis also recalled those who suffer violations of their fundamental rights due to armed conflicts “while unscrupulous merchants of death are enriched at the price of their brothers’ and sisters’ blood.”
“In the face of these serious phenomena, we are all called upon [to help],” he said.
Vatican City, Dec 9, 2018 / 06:46 am ().- Advent is a time of waiting and expectation, Pope Francis said Sunday, but this season also requires a “journey of conversion.”
“To prepare the way for the Lord who comes, it is necessary to take into account the demands of conversion,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Dec. 9.
Conversion requires changing your attitude, Francis explained. “It leads to humbly recognizing our mistakes, our infidelities, and defaults.”
The pope focused on the invitation of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed a baptism of repentance as a voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
“The Baptist invited the people of his time to conversion with force, vigor, and severity,” Francis said. “Yet he knew how to listen, he knew how to perform gestures of tenderness, gestures of forgiveness towards the multitude of men and women who came to him to confess their sins and be baptized.”
“Even today, the disciples of Jesus are called to be his humble, but courageous witnesses to rekindle hope,” the pope said.
The pope suggested that each person asks, “How can I change something in my attitude to prepare the way for the Lord?”
One necessary step is “making concrete gestures of reconciliation with our brothers, asking for forgiveness of our faults,” he explained. “The Lord helps us in this, if we have good will.”
Christians are called to help people understand that “despite everything, the kingdom of God continues to be built day by day with the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
“May the Virgin Mary help us to prepare the way of the Lord day by day, beginning with ourselves,” Pope Francis prayed.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2018 / 08:43 am ().- On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to imitate Mary’s deep trust and openness to God when faced with serious problems.
“Today we look at the beauty of Our Lady, who was born and lived without sin, always docile and transparent with God. This does not mean that life was easy for her. Living with God does not magically solve problems,” Francis told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8.
Pope Francis highlighted Mary’s radical trust at the moment of the Annunciation found in her response to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
“Why not start your days like this? It would be nice to say every morning: ‘Here I am, Lord, today your will be done in me,” Pope Francis said, noting that the Angelus prayer provides an opportunity to repeat Mary’s words.
After the Annunciation, the angel departed and Mary’s “problems began immediately,” he said.
Mary knew that “she would become the Mother of God, but the angel had not explained it to others,” Francis explained. “Think of her irregular situation according to the law, the torment of St. Joseph, the skipped life plans, what the people would say …”
“The angel leaves the Virgin alone in a difficult situation … And she trusts,” he said. “We ask the Immaculate to have the grace to live like this.”
The pope expressed joy at the beatification of the Bishop Peter Claverie and 18 martyred companions, who were proclaimed blessed in Algeria on the feast day.
“Their courageous testimony is a source of hope for the Algerian Catholic community and a seed of dialogue for the whole of society,” Francis said.
Pope Francis later prayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, venerating the Byzantine icon, “Salus Populi Romani,” inside.
The Holy Father then offered a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the Column of the Immaculate Conception in the piazza below Rome’s Spanish Steps.
Standing beneath the nineteenth-century Marian monument, Pope Francis entrusted all priests, religious, and Catholic families to the care of the Immaculate Mother.
“O Mother of Jesus, one last thing I ask you, in this time of Advent, thinking of the days when you and Joseph were anxious about the imminent birth of your child, worried because there was a census and you had to leave your country, Nazareth, and go to Bethlehem,” Pope Francis prayed.
“You know what it means to bring life into your lap and feel indifference, rejection, and sometimes contempt. This is why I ask you to stay close to the families that are living today in Rome, in Italy, in the whole world live in similar situations, so that they are not abandoned.”