Browsing News Entries

Vatican encourages youth participation in pre-synod meeting via Facebook

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2018 / 12:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the pre-synod gathering on youth approaches, Vatican organizers are inviting young people around the globe to join in the discussion through Facebook groups in six different languages.

The 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment will take place this October, but a pre-synod meeting with 315 young people from around the world will take place in Rome from March 19-24.

“With this path the Church wishes to listen to the voices, feelings, faith and even the doubts and critiques of the youth,” Pope Francis said in announcing the pre-synod event.

The goal is to hear from youth worldwide about their lives, situations and challenges, in order to prepare for the gathering of bishops on the topic this fall.

For those unable to attend the pre-synod meeting, Facebook groups have been set up in six languages for Catholics to share their views. The Facebook groups, which were opened about a month ago, will close on March 16.

All young adults ages 16-29 are invited to virtually participate in the pre-synod meeting. After being accepted into the Facebook group, people will have an opportunity to answers questions which will be summarized and presented to the Holy Father.

To participate, members must have an individual profile, not a page representing an organization, group, or cause. The answers to the questions must also be limited to 200 words or a one-minute video sent to WhatsApp at (+39 342 601 5596).

One question discusses “the vocational sense of life,” asking, “Is there a clear understanding in younger generations of their having a personal call and specific mission in the world?”

On Monday, the pre-synod meeting in Rome will begin with a question-and-answer session with Pope Francis. Then participants will break into groups to discuss a variety of themes, like volunteer work, technology, and politics.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions will be gathered into one comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

The March event will also include opportunities for prayer, such as praying the Way of the Cross while touring the Roman catacombs of San Callisto, as well as entertainment. Palm Sunday Mass will conclude the week, celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

The focus of the event is divided into three parts: youth in the world, vocational discernment, and pastoral action.

Youth in the world will focus on defining who the younger generations are and what the culture is around them. The gathering will also discuss the choices the youth have made.

Second, the pre-synod meeting will consider how young adults respond to faith and vocations. It will analyze different vocational paths, the gifts of discernment, and how the Church may best accompany young adults.

Third, it hopes to encourage an inclusive pastoral environment where young people are responsibly involved in the community. It will explore possible tools and places, physical and digital, to aid the faith life of young people.

“This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth,” said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a young Burundi woman living in Italy who will be a participant to the pre-synod gathering.

“It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take.”


Pope Francis to visit towns where Padre Pio lived and died

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis will make a short trip to the Italian towns of Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, the places where St. Padre Pio was born and lived his life, and where his work continues today in the form of the hospital he founded.

Pope Francis’ brief March 17 visit marks the year of the 50th anniversary of St. Padre Pio’s death, and the 100th year of the appearance of the saint’s visible stigmata.

Two highlights of the Pope’s visit will be his stops to pray at the tomb of Padre Pio and to see the young patients of the pediatric oncology ward of Padre Pio’s hospital, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Giulio Siena, who is the communications director of the hospital and a member of the planning committee for Francis’ visit, told CNA that meeting with the children at the hospital was the Pope’s main request.

Francis’ “first thought was for the children – for the children with tumors, with cancer, with leukemia,” Siena said. “He said: ‘I want to greet the children, then there is Mass.’”

After the papal helicopter lands in San Giovanni Rotondo, Francis will be driven by car to the hospital, where he will greet and bless the sick gathered outside. From there he will meet privately with the hospital’s young patients.

“To lift up who is suffering, to listen to the cry of innocent pain, this [is what] the Holy Father will do visiting the children of our oncology pediatrics,” said Archbishop Michele Castoro, the president of the hospital.

“The sensibility of the Pope for the existential peripheries, his dream of a church as a ‘field hospital,’ a church that cares and binds wounds, is found in the work of Padre Pio,” he wrote in La Casa, the magazine of the hospital’s foundation.

Castoro said the hospital anxiously awaits the words of the Holy Father, which have always tasted of the “candor and perennial newness of the Gospel, the strength and power of the Name of Jesus.”

As Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, he is the president of the hospital, one of just two belonging to the Vatican. The Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza was given to the Holy See by Padre Pio in 1957, soon after its launch.

After the hospital visit, Pope Francis will visit the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a large church built in the late 1950s to supplement the smaller original chapel of the Capuchin friars, in which Padre Pio spent hours hearing confessions and preaching.

Padre Pio’s body lies in the crypt of the newer church, which was visited by Pope St. John Paul II in 1987 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

Francis will also venerate the Crucifix of the Stigmata. This is the crucifix which Padre Pio was praying before on Sept. 20, 1918, when he received the visible stigmata, bleeding wounds corresponding to the five wounds Christ received at his crucifixion.

Pope Francis will then celebrate Mass in the Church of Padre Pio, a more modern building completed in 2004, which can hold 6,500 Mass-goers.  

After Mass he will greet Archbishop Castoro, other authorities, and a group of local Catholics, before returning to Rome by helicopter.

Before he lands in San Giovanni Rotondo, the Pope will also stop at the birthplace of Padre Pio: the small town of Pietrelcina. There he will pray at the Chapel of St. Francis, which is in front of “the elm of the stigmata,” a tree which Padre Pio would pray beneath.

He will also meet with local Catholics, and deliver a speech in the square outside the town’s “Liturgical Hall.” He will then greet the community of Capuchin friars.


Vatican office altered photo of Benedict's comments on Francis

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2018 / 01:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican office has acknowledged blurring portions of a letter written by Benedict XVI regarding Pope Francis' philosophical and theological formation, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The Secretariat for Communications released the photo March 12 along with a press release announcing a “personal letter of Benedict XVI on his continuity with the pontificate of Pope Francis.”

Altered photo of a letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, released March 12 by Vatican Secretariat of Communications. Credit: Vatican Media


The AP's Nicole Winfield wrote March 14 that the Vatican has admitted “that it altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis. The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.”

Winfield added that “The Vatican admitted Thursday [sic] that it blurred the two final lines of the first page … The Vatican didn’t explain why it blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict’s tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.”

The full text of the letter was published March 13 by Sandro Magister, an Italian journalist who has long followed the Vatican.

The text shows that Benedict's letter, dated Feb. 7, was written to acknowledge receipt of the gift of a series of 11 volumes on “The Theology of Pope Francis,” and to respond to a request that the Pope Emeritus write a theological reflection on the books.

The series is published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishing house overseen by the Secretariat.

“I applaud this initiative which is intended to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice according to which Pope Francis would be only a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation, while I would be solely a theoretician of theology who could understand little of the concrete life of a Christian today,” Benedict wrote.

“The little volumes demonstrate, rightly so, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help in seeing the interior continuity between the two pontificates, albeit with all the differences of style and temperament.”

The Pope Emeritus then added, “Nonetheless, I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read. Unfortunately, even if only for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven little volumes in the near future, all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed. I am sure that you will understand, and I extend to you my cordial greeting.”

Though it was written in early February, the letter was not released by the Secretariat for Communications until mid-March when the book series was released, on the eve of the anniversary of Pope Francis' election as Bishop of Rome.

The secretariat's press release quoted portions of the letter praising the booklets, but did not include Benedict's admission that he has not read them in full.

The letter was presented at a press conference announcing the series of booklets on Pope Francis' theology.

The prefect of the communications secretariat, Monsignor Dario Viganò, read portions of Benedict's letter at the press conference, “including the lines that were blurred out”, the AP reports. The portion of the letter which was blurred out is the beginning of Benedict's explanation that he has not in fact read all the volumes which were sent him.

Msgr. Viganò, who was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan, has been prefect of the Secretariat for Communications since that office was established in June 2015.

The secretariat was formed as part of Pope Francis' reform of the Roman Curia, and is meant to consolidate the Vatican's media arms and to increase their presence among digital platforms.

The secretariat oversees all of the Vatican’s communications offices, including Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Center, the Holy See Press Office, Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Typography office, the Vatican's Photography Service, and Libreria Editrice Vaticana.


Pope: In praying the Our Father, do you know to whom you’re talking?

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2018 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of the recitation of the Our Father at Mass, asking if when we pray it, we understand whom we are praying to and the relationship we are called to have with him.

“How many times there are people who say, ‘Our Father,’ but do not know what they say!” the Pope said March 14.

“Do you feel that when you say ‘Father,’ that he is the Father, your Father, the Father of humanity, the Father of Jesus Christ?” he asked. “Do you have a relationship with this Father?”

When we pray this prayer, we are connecting with a loving Father, he continued, explaining that it is the Holy Spirit which gives us this connection with him, the feeling of being God’s child.

What better prayer can there be for giving us sacramental Communion with God, he asked, than the one taught by his son, Jesus?

Pope Francis continued his general audience catechesis on the part of the Mass called the Rite of Communion, which begins with the recitation of the ‘Our Father,’ followed by the sign of peace, the breaking of the host by the priest, and the invocation of the “Agnus Dei,” or “Lamb of God.”

In particular, the Pope noted the appropriateness of the Lord’s Prayer as a preparation for receiving Holy Communion, because in the prayer we pledge our forgiveness of others and ask God to forgive our own sins.

This request opens our hearts to God, but “also disposes us to fraternal love,” he said, noting that this is not always an easy thing to say.

“It's not easy to forgive those who have hurt us. It’s a grace to say: Forgive me as I have forgiven [others]... it’s a grace...” the Pope said. “The Lord gives us peace, he also gives us the grace to forgive.”

“The peace of Christ cannot take root in a heart incapable of living fraternity and of repairing it after having wounded it,” he said.

In the prayer we also ask God to “deliver us from evil,” which is another cause of separation between us and God, and us and our brothers and sisters, he continued. Each of these “are very suitable requests to prepare us for Holy Communion.”

He also pointed to the line where we ask God to “give us our daily bread,” which is something “we need to live as children of God.”

After the ‘Our Father,’ we exchange the sign of peace with those around us, a concrete sign expressing “ecclesial communion and mutual love,” Francis said, quoting from the Roman Missal.

He also emphasized that this peace is Christ’s gift to us – a different peace from that offered by the world, it helps the Church to grow in unity and peace “according to his will.”

Next in the Mass, the priest breaks the host, which has already been consecrated and transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and places it in the chalice. This is accompanied by our prayer to the “Lamb of God.”

“In the Eucharistic Bread, broken for the life of the world, the prayerful assembly recognizes the true Lamb of God, that is Christ the Redeemer, and begs him: ‘Have mercy on us… give us peace,’” the Pope said.

“‘Have mercy on us,’ ‘give us peace,’” he continued, “are invocations that, from the prayer of the Our Father to the breaking of the Bread, help us to dispose our mind to participate in the Eucharistic banquet, a source of communion with God and with our brothers.”

He concluded by asking everyone to pray the Our Father together, each “in their own language.”

In his speech, the Pope did not mention the line of the Our Father which says in English, “lead us not into temptation.”

In an interview he gave in December 2017, Francis said that he believes the Italian translation of this line, which says, “non ci indurre in tentazione,” is incorrect, because God does not actively lead us into temptation.

He also praised in the interview a new translation of this line by the French bishops’ conference, which says “et ne nous laisse pas entrer in tentation” – “let us not enter into temptation.” It replaces the previous translation “ne nous soumets pas à la tentation” – “do not submit us to temptation.”

Catholic leaders reflect on Pope Francis' 5-year anniversary

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- March 13, 2018 marks the 5-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election as Bishop of Rome. In recognition of the anniversary, CNA asked Catholic leaders around the US for their reflections on the past five years and their thoughts on what the coming years might hold. Here is what they said:

Prayers and congratulations to Pope Francis on the 5th anniversary of his election to the throne of St. Peter. Pope Francis, by his words and his deeds, is calling us to a deeper friendship with Jesus and to a renewed commitment to missionary discipleship. His profound love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church, and his filial devotion to her, reminds us of the importance we all have to cultivate a deeper love and fidelity to Holy Mother Church. Ad multos annos.
-Bishop James Conley of Lincoln

Over the past five years, we have all been blessed by the focus and attention Pope Francis has given to the crucial issues of our time such as refugees and migrants, and stewarding our resources in Laudato Si. His call, to focus on the poor and to go out into the world, has been truly motivational. Long may his voice continue to speak out for the poor and oppressed in our world.
-Sean Callahan, president and CEO, Catholic Relief Services

I am delighted that Pope Francis has signaled loud and clear to the world the Catholic Church's option for the poor and the immigrant. I hope the coming years will also reveal a noticeable movement forward on incorporating more women into church leadership and helping especially the poorer to achieve marital stability and permanence.
-Helen Alvare, chair, Catholic Women’s Forum

I thank God every day for the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. I hope that in the next five years of Francis's papacy we keep in mind that the unity of the Church is entrusted to the pastoral care of the pope and the bishops in communion with him.
-John Garvey, president, The Catholic University of America

If I could sum up the first 5 years of Pope Francis' vision for the Church, I would do it with one word 'integrity' - Better integrating the mind with the heart, better integrating humanity with our mission to be stewards of creation. My hope for the next five years is the fulfillment of this desire. A Magisterium united to the laity and a Church shepherding God's creation through the Joy of the Gospel. I am grateful to Pope Francis for giving the Church and the world the Year of Mercy. I believe the Church continues to unpack the graces from that momentous season. May the words of the 266th vicar of Christ continue to resound throughout the whole world: God is always waiting for us. He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope - always!
– Martha Reichert, president, ENDOW

“I offer prayerful best wishes to Pope Francis as he marks the 5th anniversary of his Petrine ministry. I’ve admired and respected his keen focus on service to the poor since we first met as young bishops delegated to the 1997 Special Assembly for the Americas … He’s repeatedly challenged us to bear witness to Christ through concrete action—by serving the poor, by helping immigrants, by preserving families, and by protecting the sanctity of life. It’s the kind of challenge we can and should answer with a hearty yes each day. May God bless Pope Francis and may the Holy Spirit grant him wisdom as shepherd of the Universal Church.”
-Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia [excerpted from a public statement]

Defending the faith is pastoral, CDF prefect says

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2018 / 02:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Promoting and defending Catholic teaching is itself a pastoral practice, said Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“There is clearly a pastoral dimension,” the archbishop said in a Vatican News interview published March 10. “We have the task of promoting and defending the faith, preaching the faith. This is an eminently pastoral role. It involves promoting the Catholic faith so that it is increasingly known and, when there are problems, defending this faith as well.”

“Many times I heard Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation, say that ‘we must defend the faith of simple believers, not the faith of theologians.’ They already have their ways of knowing how things are! It seems to me that this is a very valid and correct intuition,” Archbishop Ladaria said.

Pope Francis has described the congregation’s work as having a “pastoral face.”

For Archbishop Ladaria, the congregation has an “eminently pastoral role” in disciplinary matters that can affect many people. While this does not mean avoiding closely studying dossiers, the goal of such work is the salvation of souls.

“This is always the primary purpose of all our work,” the archbishop said.

The Spanish-born Jesuit has headed the congregation since last year, when he replaced Cardinal Müller. Benedict XVI named him as the congregation’s secretary in 2008. In 2004, St. John Paul II had named him Secretary-General of the International Theological Commission.

As a Jesuit, he said, he has some commonalities with Pope Francis in similar formation or shared acquaintances that help his work with the Pope. However, had only met him once before the 2013 conclave during a visit of Argentina’s bishops to the Vatican.

“Whether he’s a Jesuit or not makes no difference to me: the Pope is the Pope.”

Archbishop Ladaria said he holds his position as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as “a simple question of obedience.”

“Pope Francis called me and told me his decision, and I said: ‘Holy Father, if that’s what you have decided, I accept and say no more.’ So that’s the first thing.”

“Of course it is a responsibility and I must say that the first few days I did not sleep too well... But slowly you get used to the idea and see that it is possible, especially knowing this is what the Pope wants. So it’s better not to think too much about it: the whole thing is done and dusted!”

The Pope’s reform of the Roman Curia has not yet resulted in any directives to the CDF, Ladaria said.

“When we do, we will accept them willingly and cooperate accordingly, as always,” he said. “Our collaboration with Pope Francis will be total, of course, but we have received no concrete indications as yet. When we do, we will accept them happily.”

Updated: Benedict XVI says there is 'inner continuity' between himself, Pope Francis

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2018 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a personal letter reportedly sent to the head of the Secretariat for Communications, Benedict XVI said that he sees continuity between himself and his successor, Pope Francis.

The letter, according to a press release from the Secretariat March 12, was sent to Msgr. Dario Vigano on the occasion of the release of a series of books called “La Teologia di Papa Francesco” (“The Theology of Pope Francis”) published by the Vatican’s publishing house.

The books “show rightly that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation and, therefore, help to show the inner continuity between the two pontificates, even with all of the differences of style and temperament,” Benedict wrote.

“I applaud this initiative that wishes to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice that Pope Francis is only a practical man lacking in particular theological or philosophical formation,” he continued, “while I am only a theorist of theology that has understood little of the concrete life of a Christian today.”

Excerpts from the letter were included in the Secretariat’s press release, though it was not available in its entirety.

The eleven-book series was written by international theologians and edited by Fr. Roberto Repole, president of the Italian Theological Association.

There are currently agreements for the books to be published in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Polish and Romanian.

Update: The full text of Benedict XVI's letter has since been published at Settimo Cielo, and translated into English by Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register. Please find below Pentin's translation:


Rev. Mons. Dario Edoardo Viganò
Prefect, Secretariat for Communication
Vatican City

February 9, 2018

Rev. Monsignor,

Thank you for your kind letter of 12 January and the attached gift of the eleven small volumes edited by Roberto Repole.

I applaud this initiative that wants to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice in which Pope Francis is just a practical man without particular theological or philosophical formation, while I have been only a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete life of a Christian today.

The small volumes show, rightly, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences of style and temperament.

However, I don’t feel like writing a short and dense theological passage on them because throughout my life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books I had read really well. Unfortunately, if only for physical reasons, I am unable to read the eleven volumes in the near future, especially as other commitments await me that I have already made.

I am sure you will understand and cordially greet you.


Benedict XVI

Pope Francis sends condolences for death of controversial German cardinal

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2018 / 12:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis sent condolences for the death of Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the retired archbishop of Mainz, Germany, who died March 11.  

Expressing his condolences for the death of the prominent cardinal in a letter to Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz March 12, Francis said he learned of Cardinal Lehmann’s death “with pain,” and is praying for him “who the Lord has called to himself after a serious illness and suffering.”

Cardinal Lehmann, who served as the bishop of Mainz for nearly 33 years, died in his home on the morning of March 11 at the age of 81. He retired in 2016, and in September 2017 suffered a stroke which left his health in serious decline.

His funeral Mass will take place March 21 at the Mainz Cathedral.

Cardinal Lehmann served as president of the German bishops’ conference for 20 years. Pope Francis said that in this long period of activity he “helped shape the life of the Church and of society.”

“He always had a heart open to the questions and challenges of the times, and to offering answers and orientations starting from the message of Christ, to accompany people along their path, seeking what unites…” he continued.

Lehmann was born on May 16, 1936 and ordained a priest for the diocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany in 1963. He was appointed bishop of Mainz in 1983 and served until his retirement in 2016. He was made a cardinal by St. Pope John Paul II in 2001.

While bishop of Mainz, he became a member of the circle for dialogue between representatives of the German bishops’ conference and the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

From March 1986-1988 he also became a member, and later president, of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue between the World Lutheran Federation and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Lehmann was at the center of numerous controversies involving the Vatican.

During his tenure as president of the German bishops’ conference he clashed with Pope John Paul II over abortion. After years of political conflict, first-trimester abortion became permissible in Germany in 1995, as long as a woman received counseling first from a state-approved counselor.

Lehmann supported the Church's participation in that counseling through church counseling centers, despite objections from Pope John Paul II. In 1998, the pope banned the Church’s participation in the state’s counseling system.

In 1993, Lehmann was also one of three German bishops, alongside Walter Kasper and Oskar Saier, who issued a pastoral letter arguing that there should be room to allow divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive communion “in particular situations.”

The bishops also proposed that the decision to receive the Eucharist should be left to the individual's judgment, in discussion with a priest.

Following the promulgation of the letter, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called the bishops to attend a series of meetings at the Vatican.

The CDF also issued a corrective letter in October 1994, reaffirming Church teaching that the divorced-and-civilly-remarried may not receive Holy Communion “as long as this situation persists,” unless the couple decides to live in continence.

In  2015 Lehmann was identified as having belonged to a group of progressive reformer cardinals, who are said to promoted alternative candidates at the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, and are rumored to have promoted the election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis.   

It was dubbed the “St. Gallen Group,” after the host of their discussions, the Bishop of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Ivo Furer.

The group is said to have also included Cardinals Godfried Danneels, Walter Kasper, Ad van Luyn, and Achille Silvestrini, as well as the now-deceased Cardinals Basil Hume, Jose da Cruz Policarpo, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Carlo Martini, and Lubomyr Husar.  

It met primarily between 1995 and 2006, discussing various topics, including papal primacy.

The group's meetings were first revealed in an authorized biography of Cardinal Danneels. At the book's launch in Brussels in Sept. 2015, Danneels said the group called themselves “the mafia.”

In 2005 Lehmann participated in the papal conclave that elected Benedict XVI, and in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.


Good Friday collection will aid Christians in Middle East

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2018 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Vatican’s annual Good Friday Collection approaches, the head of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches has encouraged people to take pilgrimages to the Holy Land, in addition to supporting the local Christian communities through prayer and monetary assistance.

“All of us are invited to resume pilgrimage to the Holy Land, because of the knowledge,
and the living experience of the places of our redemption,” Cardinal Leonardo Sandri wrote in a letter published March 12.

“Walking in the steps of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the disciples, helps us to deepen our faith and also to understand the context in which Christians live in the Holy Land,” he said, noting that pilgrimages are also a source of income for thousands of families.

As it did last year, the Good Friday Collection will benefit people in the Holy Land, as well as Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, and Iraq.

In a letter accompanying the announcement, Cardinal Sandri explained the importance of prayer and monetary support for the Holy Land, stating that unless we take on the “spirit of Christ, who ‘emptied himself’” unto death on a cross, “the outcry of our brother [will remain] unheard and the faces of thousands of less fortunate people remain unnoticed.”
Among these people are the thousands of families who have fled the war in Syria and Iraq, Sandri continued, especially children and young people, “who appeal to our generosity in order to resume their scholastic life and dream of a better future.”

He said that Lent especially is a good time to help others through works of charity, and contributing to the Good Friday Collection is one way to show solidarity and accompany our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty.

Unfortunately, from the countries of the Middle East, “the outcry of thousands of persons who are deprived of everything, at times even of their own human dignity, continues to reach us,” he said.

These cries break our hearts and invite us to embrace them “through Christian charity, a sure source of hope.”

The Good Friday Collection has been an annual tradition since its institution by Blessed Paul VI.

According to Blessed Paul VI, the collection was created “not only for the Holy Places but above all for those pastoral, charitable, educational, and social works which the Church supports in the Holy Land for the welfare of their Christian brethren and of the local communities.”

In 2017, the collection received approximately $7.2 million in benefit of the Church in the Middle East. The funds went toward education expenses for priests, seminarians, religious, and youth; support for local Churches; emergency relief; and the reconstruction of Iraq’s Nineveh Plain.

Pope Francis: Our fearful world needs audacious love

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2018 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a world that has grown afraid, Pope Francis reflected on the importance of mercy and love, praising the work of the Community of St. Egidio and reminding Christians that they must share the gift that God has given them.

“Christians, by their very vocation, are brothers and sisters to every person, especially the poor, even though a person may be their enemy,” the Pope told a March 11 gathering of the Community of St. Egidio in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

“Never say ‘I have nothing to do with this.’ Merciful eyes commit us to living the creative audaciousness of love, and there is so much need of it!” he continued. “We are everyone’s brothers and sisters, and for this reason we are prophets of a new world; and the Church is a sign of the unity of the human race, among nations, families and cultures.”

The St. Egidio Community was founded in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi in a secondary school in Rome. It provides various forms of social outreach to the impoverished, homeless, refugees and immigrants, elderly, disabled, and young people. It is also active in peace efforts. The community also invites people to participate in a deeper life of prayer.

Pope Francis visited the community for its their fiftieth anniversary celebrations. In his remarks, he reflected on the Parable of the Talents, noting that the servant who buried his talent justified his action out of fear.

“This man was unable to invest the talent in the future, because he allowed himself to be counseled by fear,” the Pope said, adding “The world today is often inhabited by fear. It is an ancient disease: the call not to be afraid often recurs in the Bible.”

“Our time experiences great fear as it faces the vast dimensions of globalization. And fear often turns against people who are foreign, different, poor, as if they were enemies,” he said. “So then we defend ourselves from these people, and we believe we are preserving what we have and what we are. The atmosphere of fear can infect also those Christians who hide the gift they have received, like the servant in the parable: they do not invest it in the future, they do not share it with others, they preserve it for themselves.”

“When we are alone, we are easily the victims of fear. But your path directs you to look at the future together: not alone, not by yourselves. Together with the Church,” he told the community.

The state of the world was a focus for the pontiff.

“The future of the world seems uncertain. Look at how many open wars there are!” he said. “I am aware that you pray and work for peace. Let us think of the sorrows of the Syrian people, whose refugees you have welcomed in Europe through the ‘humanitarian corridors’. How is it possible, after the tragedies of the twentieth century, to fall back into the same foolish scheme? But the Word of the Lord is light in the darkness, and it gives hope for peace; it helps us not to be afraid even before the power of evil.”

According to Pope Francis, the St. Egidio movement has greatly benefited from the  Second Vatican Council’s impulse to community life and to being the People of God. He said the community is a “daughter of the council.” Their community’s talent consists of “prayer, poor and peace.”

“You joyfully receive it anew today,” Pope Francis added. “You did not wish to make this day a mere celebration of the past, but rather and above all a joyful expression of responsibility for the future.” He said there is a “true revolution” of compassion and tenderness and in cultivating friendship in place of the “spirits of animosity and indifference”

He cited a phrase from the Psalms: “Your word is lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

“The Word of God has protected you in the past from the temptations of ideology, and today it delivers you from the intimidation of fear. For this reason I exhort you to love the Bible, and spend increasingly more time with it,” he said. “Everyone shall find in it the source of mercy for the poor, and for those who are wounded by life and war.”

He noted that since the community’s founding, the world’s economy and communications have become globalized and, in a sense, unified.

“But for many people, especially the poor, new walls have been raised. Diversity is an occasion for animosity and conflict; a globalization of solidarity and of the spirit still awaits to be built,” the Pope continued. “The future of the global world is living together: this ideal calls for the commitment to build bridges, to keep dialogue open, to continue and meet with one another.”

This is both an organizational and individual imperative, said the Pope.

“Everyone is called to change his or her heart, acquiring merciful eyes to look at the others, turning into artisans of peace and prophets of mercy,” he said, invoking the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Samaritan was a foreigner and had no specific responsibilities to the half-dead man on the roadside but “he behaved like a brother, because his eyes were merciful.”

The Pope said the community’s anniversary should be “a time when our faith is challenged to turn into a new audaciousness for the Gospel.”

“Audaciousness is not the courage of a day, it is the patience of a daily mission in the city and in the world,” he said. “A mission to patiently weave together again the human fabric of the peripheries that violence and impoverishment have torn apart; a mission to communicate the Gospel through personal friendship; to show how life truly becomes human when it is lived beside the poor; a mission to create a society that considers no one a foreigner. It is the mission to cross borders and walls, to join together.”

Pope Francis encouraged the community to continue on their path, standing at the side of “the children of the peripheries,” the elderly, and the refugees of war and hunger.

“The poor are your treasure!” he said.

Knowing that they belong to Christ is the Community of St. Egidio’s key to face the future, he said.

“Always belong to Christ in prayer, in caring for his little brothers and sisters, in seeking peace, for he is our peace. He will walk with you, he will protect you and guide you!” the Pope exhorted.

Pope Francis told the community he will pray for them, and asked their prayers in return.