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Christ doesn’t promise freedom from difficulties, Pope says

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2017 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that following Christ does not mean our lives will be free from all earthly troubles.

“There is no Christian mission in the name of tranquility,” the Pope said, speaking to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square on June 25. “Difficulties and tribulations are part and parcel of evangelization.”

Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel, in which Jesus instructs his followers not to be afraid.

“Jesus’ mission did not guarantee the disciples success, nor did it shield them from failure or suffering,” the Holy Father said.

But Christ did promise them that he would always be with them as they faced the trials that were ahead.

The same is true for us today, the Pope said. We should expect suffering and even persecution if we follow in the path of the crucified Christ, but at the same time, we can take comfort in knowing that “God does not abandon his children during the storm.”

Sometimes this storm comes not in the form of active persecution, but in indifference, through “people who do not want to be awakened from a worldly numbness, who ignore the truth of the Gospel message and build their own ephemeral truth.”

Regardless of the form that trials may take, we should persevere in faithfulness, he said, also reminding those gathered in the square to pray for those facing serious persecution. 

“Jesus does not leave us alone because we are precious to Him.”

Following the Angelus, the Pope offered prayers for landslide victims in southwestern China. He also offered a message to members of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church on the 150th anniversary of the canonization of St. Josaphat, as well as to Lithuanians celebrating Blessed Theofilius Matulonius. 

The tale of Fr. Brochero: Gaucho priest, devil's worst nightmare

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2017 / 02:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- If Jose Brochero doesn't sound like a Gaucho name, nothing does.

Last year, Pope Francis canonized Saint Brochero, a fellow countryman from Argentina also known as the “Gaucho priest.”

He was beatified in Sept. 2013 by Pope Francis, who said Fr. Brochero was a priest who truly “smelled of his sheep.” He was canonized Oct. 16, 2016.

Saint Brochero was born Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero in Argentina in 1840, the fourth of ten children to Ignacio Brochero and Petrona Davila.

St. Brochero entered seminary at the age of 16, and was ordained a priest at the age of 26 for the Archdiocese of Cordoba.

As a priest, after teaching philosophy at a seminary for a few years, Fr. Brochero was assigned to the large diocese of St. Albert – 1,675 square miles with 10,000 far-flung parishioners in the rural, Great Highlands region of Argentina.

Not deterred by altitude, distance or bad weather, Fr. Brochero was known for riding throughout the countryside of his parish on the back of a mule to bring his people the sacraments, always wearing a poncho and sombrero in the style of a gaucho, or Argentinian cowboy.

On muleback, he carried an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mass kit and a prayer book on his travels so that he was always prepared to offer the sacraments. He established a House of Exercises where his people could participate in spiritual exercises, and helped found a school for girls.

He is also credited with building post and telegraph stations, for building nearly 125 miles of roads, and for helping plan the railroad in the area.

“Woe if the devil is going to rob a soul from me,” he is held to have said, capturing his determined spirit to be close to his people no matter what.

Fr. Brochero was known for being particularly close to the poor and the sick, and helped care for those who contracted cholera during the epidemic in 1867. Eventually, he contracted leprosy from a leper in his parish, causing him to eventually become blind and deaf and to relinquish his parish duties, spending his last few years living with his sisters at home.

Fr. Brochero died on Jan. 26, 1914. His last words were: “Now I have everything ready for the journey.”

A few days after his death, the Catholic newspaper of Cordoba wrote: “It is known that Father Brochero contracted the sickness that took him to his tomb, because he visited at length and embraced an abandoned leper of the area.”  

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI approved a healing miracle attributed to Fr. Brochero, in which 13-year-old Nicolas Flores, who was in a vegetative state after a car accident, was cured through the intercession of the gaucho priest.

 

An earlier version of this article was published on CNA July 14, 2016.

First Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13

10 For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him."
11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 O LORD of hosts, who triest the righteous, who seest the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause.
13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35

7 For it is for thy sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.
8 I have become a stranger to my brethren, an alien to my mother's sons.
9 For zeal for thy house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult thee have fallen on me.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of thy steadfast love answer me. With thy faithful help
16 Answer me, O LORD, for thy steadfast love is good; according to thy abundant mercy, turn to me.
32 Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the LORD hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves therein.

Second Reading: Romans 5:12-15

12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned --
13 sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33

26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
27 What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops.
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will.
30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven;
33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Francis urges Serrans to 'keep moving forward' promoting vocations

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2017 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis offered encouragement Friday to members of Serra International, which promotes religious vocations, urging them to persevere in their “beautiful vocation of being laity who are friends to priests” and to “(k)eep moving forward!”

Pope Francis said June 23 that friendship “is central to the experience of faith.”

Serra International is a lay apostolate dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and does this by both prayer and assistance to discerners.

Serra’s conference is taking place from June 22-25 in Rome under the theme Siempre Adelante, “keep moving forward.” Friday’s papal audience was open to all attendees after a Mass in St. Peter’s.

Reflecting on friendship, Francis said that “the word ‘friend’ has become a bit overused.”

“But, when Jesus speaks of ‘friends,’ he points to a hard truth: true friendship involves an encounter that draws me so near to the other person that I give something of my very self. Jesus says to his disciples: ‘No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you’. He thus establishes a new relationship between man and God, one that transcends the law and is grounded in trust and love.”

Friends accompany us, he said. “They stand at our side, gently and tenderly, along our journey; they listen to us closely, and can see beyond mere words.”

He linked this Christian idea of friendship to Serra’s work in promoting vocations and helping priests. They are “(f)riends who share the wonder of a vocation, the courage of a definitive decision, the joy and fatigue of ministry. Friends who can offer priests support and regard their generous efforts and human failings with understanding and tender love.”

He compared their work to the home of Mary and Martha in the gospel, which Christ frequently visited and where he “was able to find rest and refreshment.”

He then offered his reflections for the convention’s theme of Siempre Adelante.

“Like you, I believe that this is a synonym for the Christian vocation,” he said. He compared the phrase to Christ's call to his disciples to go forward in their ministerial journey, and he cautioned against giving into fear on this journey.

“Of course, we cannot make progress unless we take a risk,” he said. “We do not advance toward the goal if, as the Gospel says, we are afraid to lose our lives. No ship would ever set out into the deep if it feared leaving the safety of the harbour.”

“On the other hand,” he said,” when Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God’s surprises.”

He referenced the example of St. Junipero Serra, whom he canonized in Washington, D.C. in 2015, who, despite a limp, proceeded on his pilgrimage. He also warned against “museum Christians” who fear change.

“It is better to go forward limping, and even at times to fall, while always trusting in the mercy of God,” he said.

He concluded his speech by instructing them to not be afraid of changing the structures of their organization, humbly renouncing old roles and practices in favor of living their vocation.

“So you too, siempre Adelante! With courage, creativity, and boldness,” he said.

“The Church and priestly vocations need you. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Mother of priests, be with you every step of the way And I ask you, please, pray for me!”

Pope Francis meets Dutch king and queen, returns long-lost stick

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2017 / 07:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis met with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, as part of the visit returning to them a long-lost royal stick of a 16th century Dutch king.

An important diplomatic portion of the audience June 22, was the Vatican's return of the stick of William I, Prince of Orange, which until recently had remained lost in the Jesuit Catalan archives.

 

  The story of the long-lost stick of the Netherlands involves wars, a Spanish general, and Jesuits. Given by the Dutch Royalty to a commander in the army, he carried it into the Battle of Mookerheyde in 1574. Luigi of Nassau waved the stick in the battle. After its loss, it passed through the hands of a Spanish general to Catalan Jesuits, who stored it in their archives, and the stick was largely forgotten. On Thursday, #PopeFrancis returned the stick to the King and Queen of the Netherlands during their visit to the Vatican. #royalstick #Catholic #Vatican (????L'Osservatore Romano)

A post shared by Catholic News Agency (@catholicnewsagency) on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:55am PDT

 

The stick, which resembles a sort of scepter or baton, and depicts the coat of arms of William of Orange, was given by the 16th century Dutch royal to a Dutch commander in the Battle of Mookerheyde in 1574.

The stick was waved by William's brother, Luigi of Nassau, during the battle.

After it was lost, it came into the hands of a Spanish general and eventually a Jesuit general, until being returned Thursday, through the Vatican, to Willem-Alexander, current King of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange.

According to a press release from the National Military Museum of the Netherlands, the delivery of the stick represents "a testimony of reconciliation, and of the current union between the two countries and religions."

"It is also a symbol of the long journey that the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, have passed from the past of rivalry, war and repression to a present of mutual respect and promotion of peace and human rights."

The baton will be displayed to the public in the National Military Museum in Soesterberg, Netherlands from April 27 to the end of October 2018.

According to a June 22 Vatican communique, in the audience the three cordially discussed topics “of shared interest,” including protection of the environment, the fight against poverty and how the Holy See and Catholic Church are contributing in these areas.

Particular attention, it stated, was paid to “the phenomenon of migration, underlining the importance of peaceful co-existence between different cultures, and joint commitment to promoting peace and global security, with special reference to various areas of conflict.”

They also shared reflections on the prospects of the European project. The private portion of the audience, which included both the King and the Queen, lasted 35 minutes.

Queen Máxima, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, greeted Pope Francis in “porteño,” a dialect of Spanish spoken by people from the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina.

“How are you? Delighted to see you again,” she said.

During the visit Pope Francis gifted the royal couple a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, in the classic image of the saint dividing his cloak to give to a poor man.

He also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia,” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” as well as a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.

For their part, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima gave the Pope a gift of Dutch flowers, white and yellow tulips from their country.

Giving the gifts, they told Pope Francis that tulips aren't only for Easter, but could be planted in the Vatican.

Afterward, the two met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

The Royal couple are in the midst of a state visit to the Italian Republic, taking place June 21-23.

Before their meeting with the Pope, the King and Queen visited the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, the national church of the Netherlands in Rome. Located next to the Vatican, it was built in 1140 in the place where pilgrims from the Netherlands met back in the 8th century.

According to church statistics, Catholics currently make up 23 percent of the population of 17 million in the Netherlands.

Meeting with NFL hall-of-famers, Pope Francis promotes teamwork

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis addressed members of the National Football League Hall of Fame on Wednesday, encouraging them to promote the values of sportsmen not only on the field but also within their communities.

“Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values – in the religious sense, we can say virtues – that have guided your own commitment on the field,” said the Pope, meeting with the hall-of-famers on June 21.

“Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community.”

He addressed the need for role models in the world, especially for youth, teaching them to live out their “God-given gifts and talents,” showing how to bring out the best in each person and leading the way to a better future.

“They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family.”

Established in 1963, the American Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, the same city where the NFL was created about 40 years earlier. It contains 310 members, 7 of whom will be formally inducted in August.

Present at the group meeting with Pope Francis was Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and six other hall of fame inductees: Chris Doleman, Franco Harris, Floyd Little, Ronnie Lott Curtis Martin, and Jim Taylor.

They presented him with a signed helmet and jersey with “Papa Francesco” written on the back.

In welcoming joke, the Pope noted his own love for soccer, which in much of the world is called “football.”

“I am an avid follower of ‘football’, but where I come from, the game is played very differently,” he said.

Pope Francis is a member of the Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, located in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. The club, nicknamed the Saints of Boedo, was founded in 1908 by a group of young men, including a priest.

Being a fan of sports himself, the Pope has reflected on the virtues of sportsmanship before.

Last October, at a Vatican conference called “Sport at the Service of Humanity,” he said the values fostered by sports not only promote health and recreation, but also the ability to play on a team, and to humbly win or lose.

At the end of his address to the NFL Hall of Fame delegation, Pope Francis expressed hope that their visit to Rome will increase their gratitude for these gifts and enable them to share it with the rest of the world.

 

Pope Francis sends aid to a troubled South Sudan

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 11:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Vatican stated last month the postponement of Pope Francis’ proposed trip to South Sudan, they announced Wednesday that the Pope will instead send aid to the people suffering from worsening conditions.

The Vatican announced June 21 that Pope Francis will be aiding projects in the areas of education, healthcare, and agriculture, called the “Pope for South Sudan” Initiative.

The program will be coordinated through the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, and by Caritas International.

Because he is unable to travel to South Sudan in person, Pope Francis “wanted to express the tangible presence and closeness of the Church with the afflicted people,” Cardinal Turkson told journalists.

“It is an initiative that is to foster, support and encourage the work of the various religious congregations and international aid organizations that are present on the territory and tirelessly work to help the population and to promote the process of development and peace,” he said.

The projects of the Pope’s aid includes support for two hospitals: Wau Hospital in the Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, and Nzara Hospital in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio.

Both hospitals have fewer than 130 beds between all of the departments, though the Wau Hospital treats around 300 patients a day on average, hospitalizing around 40,000 per year.

The aid will go toward support for medical and nursing staff, medicine and its transportation from Uganda to the hospital and management costs of the facilities.

Among the priorities of the Nzara hospital are the prevention and treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, and AIDS, as well as healthcare for children under the age of five.

Under education, the Pope's initiative will help support an association of religious congregations called “Solidarity with South Sudan” which is working to train teachers, nurses, midwives, local farmers, and community leaders.

Since 2010 they have offered a two-year full-time program for obtaining a primary school teacher diploma at their center in Yambio, recognized by the Ministry of Education of South Sudan. Since opening, they have welcomed 3,500 students.

Francis also sends 200,000 euros ($223,000) to support agriculture in the country. The aid will be directed toward giving families the tools and seeds to grow their own crops where it is possible, thus feeding themselves and their families and providing a sustainable source of food.

In comments to CNA, Cardinal Turkson emphasized that this initiative should not be presented in any way as the only and first time the Holy Father is showing interest in the situation in South Sudan.

Cardinal Turkson himself has already made two visits there on behalf of the Pope, and this is just "the latest gesture," he said.

"The Holy Father stays very close to the situation in South Sudan to try to a help, to be paternal to the situation over there and to try to afford the help that he can."

Since December 2013 there has been ongoing civil war in South Sudan, interrupted by tenuous peace.

Parts of South Sudan were declared to be under conditions of famine in February. The classification was lifted Wednesday following an increase in aid, according to a UN-backed report. It warns, however, that the situation remains desperate as the number of people at risk for starvation continues to increase.

Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas International, told CNA that in February they said 100,000 people were going to die of hunger, but now they think that number might be 1 million.

“The situation is worsening day-by-day and we tend to forget what the situation is because it's not new,” he said. “Now, the people of South Sudan are dying of hunger, of famine. Because there is no food and we cannot bring food to them because of security. So it's the worst thing that can happen.”

The Pope’s aid is not just important for the concrete help it gives, he said, but because it also again raises the attention of the international community to the plight in South Sudan.

“To save lives needs money,” he continued. “The UN have launched an appeal which is only half funded, so the other half has to be found. It's a lot of money, but we cannot just sit and look at people dying, so there's a real need for increasing humanitarian aid.”

The Vatican's aid to South Sudan was also welcomed by Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops' international charity agency.

Sean Callahan, the president of CRS, stated that “what is most important, is Pope Francis telling world not to give up on South Sudan, that we all must step up our commitment to help.”

Callahan recently visited South Sudan, and said, “I can tell you from my visit that there is hope. I saw that when people had peace, they got to work, planting their crops, building homes and roads, building the new nation.”

CRS has led a US government-funded program in the country which focuses on supporting infrastructure development by providing food rations to villagers building roads, schools, dykes, and waterways. The aid agency is urging Congress to continue funding such aid programs, as the Trump administration has proposed cutting or eliminating such programs.

“We’ve seen those programs work and make a huge difference in the lives of people in South Sudan,” Callahan stated. “Now is not the time to turn our backs. There’s still hope and we can still get things done.”

Cardinal Turkson added that South Sudan needs the intervention of the international community to help end the conflict and bring about peace, the only thing which will truly end the humanitarian crisis.

“Pope Francis is a universal shepherd who crosses borders,” Cardinal Turkson said in the press conference. “He feels the pressing need to raise awareness of the international community about this silent drama, calling for greater and renewed efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

“The Holy Father does not forget the unheard and silent victims of this bloody and inhuman conflict, he does not forget all those people who are forced to flee their native country because of the abuse of power, injustice and war – he brings them all in his prayers and in his heart,” he said.