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Pope Francis receives IFCA Congress participants

Apr 27 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received participants in the Congress of the International Forum-Catholic Action on Thursday morning in the Synod Hall at the Vatican.

The Congress is focused on the theme: “Catholic Action in Mission with All and for Everyone”, and is marking the 150th anniversary of the organization’s founding.

The charism of Catholic Action is one of lay-led missionary discipleship: faithful to the Pope, rooted in the local Church, and active in service especially and particularly at the parish level.

Listen to our report

In his remarks to the participants, Pope Francis focused on renewing the mission of Catholic Action by recovering the original sense of the apostolate and applying that sense of self-understanding to the concrete conditions encountered in contemporary life.

Delivered in his native Spanish, and based on bullet-points, Pope Francis encouraged the participants to foster renewal by becoming prayerfully active, outgoing, docile to the Spirit, willing to sacrifice, and open to surprises.

Among the highlights of the special audience was the presentation to the Holy Father of several gifts, including an English-language psalter found aboard a boat carrying migrants to Lampedusa, thousands of whom drown during the course of the dangerous voyage.

The fate of the psalter’s owner is not known.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Christians are called to be witnesses of obedience

Apr 27 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday reflected on the fact that being Christian is not a social status.Speaking during the homily at the Mass in the Casa Santa Marta the Pope said Christians must be witnesses of obedience to God, like Jesus was.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Recalling the reading of the day Pope Francis quoted Peter’s words before the Sanhedrin when he  said “You must obey God rather than men." 

Peter and the Apostles had been freed from prison by an Angel, and forbidden to teach in Jesus’s name 

And yet the high priest said “You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man's blood upon us”.

In order to better understand this event the Pope also referred to the Book of Acts regarding the early months of the Church  which describes a growing Christian community and many miracles. 

There was the faith of the people, he said, but there were also “wily” people trying to take advantage of the situation and “wanting to make a career for themselves” like Hananiah and Sapphira.  

The same kind of dynamics take place today, the Pope noted, and there are those who despise “God’s faithful people.”

Turning back to the reading of today, the Pope said that Peter, who out of fear had betrayed Jesus on Holy Thursday, this time courageously answered  the high priest saying that “we must obey God rather than men." 

This answer, he said, makes it clear that "a Christian is a witness of obedience" as Jesus was, when in the garden of Gethsemane, he addressed these words to the Father: “not my will but yours be done”.

"The Christian is a witness of obedience; if we are not on this path and growing in our witness we are not Christians. We must at least walk this way” he said.

The Pope pointed out that “Jesus is not the testimonial of an idea, of a philosophy, of a company, of a bank or of power: he is a testimonial of obedience”.

However, Francis explained, to become a “witness of obedience” we need the "grace of the Holy Spirit".

"Only the Spirit can make us witnesses of obedience. It’s not enough to listen to spiritual guides or to read books…. all that is fine but only the Spirit can change our heart and make us witnesses of obedience” he said.

The Pope said it is a grace we must ask for: “Father,  Lord Jesus, send me your Spirit so that I may become a witness of obedience, that is, a Christian.”

Francis also said that to be witnesses of obedience implies consequences, as narrated by the First reading; in fact, after Peter's response, the high priests wanted to put him to death:

"Persecutions were the consequences of this witness of obedience. When Jesus lists the Beatitudes he ends with the words ‘Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you’” he said.

And pointing out that the cross cannot be taken away from the life of a Christian, the Pope said “being a Christian has nothing to do with social status, it is not a lifestyle that makes one feel good; being a Christian means being a witness of obedience and the life of a Christian is full of insults and persecutions”.

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying that in order to be witnesses of obedience like Jesus, it is necessary to pray, to recognize that we are sinners with much “worldliness” in our hearts and to ask God for the grace of becoming witnesses of obedience" and to not be afraid when we are insulted and persecuted "because as the Lord said: the Spirit will tell us what to answer."

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope meets with Papal Foundation

Apr 27 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received members of the Papal Foundation on Thursday who are on their annual visit to the Vatican. The Holy Father thanked them for supporting many religious and charitable causes and encouraged them, as a vital part of their "commitment to the work of the Papal Foundation, to pray for the needs of the poor, the conversion of hearts, the spread of the Gospel, and the Church’s growth in holiness and missionary zeal."

Below please find the English translation of the Pope's address to members of the Papal Foundation.

I am pleased to greet the members of The Papal Foundation on this, your annual visit to Rome.  Our meeting today is pervaded by the joy of the Easter season, as the Church celebrates the Lord’s victory over death and his gift of new life in the Holy Spirit.  It is my hope that your pilgrimage to the Eternal City will strengthen you in faith and hope, and in your commitment to promote the Church’s mission by supporting so many religious and charitable causes close to the heart of the Pope.

            Today’s world, so often torn by violence, greed and indifference, greatly needs our witness to the Gospel message of hope in the redemptive and reconciling power of God’s love.  I am grateful for your desire to assist the Church’s efforts to proclaim that message of hope to the ends of the earth and to work for the spiritual and material advancement of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, especially in developing countries.  Each of us, as a living member of Christ’s body, is called to foster the unity and peace that is the Father’s will, in Christ, for our human family and all its members.  I ask you, as a vital part of your commitment to the work of the Papal Foundation, to pray for the needs of the poor, the conversion of hearts, the spread of the Gospel, and the Church’s growth in holiness and missionary zeal.  And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me!

            Dear friends, with these words of encouragement, and with great affection, I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church.  To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abiding joy and peace in the Lord.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis at audience: our faith an anchor in heaven

Apr 26 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, during which he continued his catechetical reflections on the theme of Christian hope, focusing specifically on the final words of comfort and consolation the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew records Our Lord speaking to the  disciples immediately before ascending into heaven and taking His place at the right hand of the Father.

“‘I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Mt 28:20)’” began Pope Francis in his main catechesis, quoting the very last words of Matthew’s Gospel. “These last words of the Gospel of Matthew,” he went on to say, “recall the prophetic proclamation we find at its beginning: ‘[T]hey shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us, (Mt 1:23; cf. Is. 7:14)’”

Then, departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said, “God will be with us, every day, until the end of the world.”

Click below to hear our report

Returning to his prepared remarks, the Holy Father explained, “Jesus will walk with us every day until the end of the world. “The whole gospel is encapsulated in these two quotations, words that convey the mystery of God, whose name, whose identity is being-with: He is not an isolated God, He is God-with-us, especially with us, that is, with the human creature.”

Again departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said, “[T]he closeness of God, the love of God, the journey of God with us, is also called the ‘Providence of God’: He provides for our lives.”

In a final major departure from his prepared text, Pope Francis reflected on a suggestive nautical image: that of the anchor.

“[T]he anchor,” said Pope Francis, “is the instrument that navigators throw on the beach – and then they grab onto the anchor line to pull the ship to shore. Our faith is the anchor [we have] in heaven: we have our lives anchored in heaven. What must we do? Grab hold of the line – it’s always there – and let us go forward, for we are certain our life has something like an anchor in heaven, on that shore to which we’ll come one day.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis gives TED talk: 'We build future together'

Apr 26 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has broken new ground in the way he communicates his message when the first-ever papal TED Talk went on line.

TED is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading ideas in the form of short talks. What began in 1984 as a conference covering Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED), today provides talks from a wide range of different speakers – except popes. Until today.

Listen to Seàn-Patrick Lovett's report:

Those of us following TED’s annual Conference in Vancouver had been promised a surprise “world figure” who would deliver his 18-minute message on the conference theme, “The Future You”, alongside tennis superstar, Serena Williams, entrepreneur, Elon Musk, and chess champion, Garry Kasparov.

But no one expected to see the Pope’s face appear on the screen.

“I very much like this title – ‘The Future You’”, began Pope Francis, “because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a ‘you’…The future is made of you’s…because life flows through our relations with others”.

Speaking in his typically personal and informal style, the Pope reminded us of how “everything is connected” and of how “life is about interactions”. “None of us is an autonomous and independent ‘I’”, he said. “We can only build the future by standing together, including everyone”.

His second message regarded “educating people to a true solidarity” in order to overcome the “culture of waste” that puts products at the centre of techno-economic systems, instead of people. “The other has a face”, he said. “The ‘you’ is…a person to take care of”.

The Pope illustrated his point by quoting Mother Teresa and the parable of the Good Samaritan, before going on to talk about Hope – which he described as “a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree”. “A single individual is enough for hope to exist”, he said. “And that individual can be you”.

Pope Francis’ third and final message was dedicated to what he called “the revolution of tenderness”. Tenderness means “being on the same level as the other”, he said. It is not weakness, but strength: “the path of solidarity…of humility”. And through humility, even power becomes a service and a force for good.

The Pope concluded by affirming that the future of humankind is not in the hands of politicians or big companies but, most of all, in the hands of those people “who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’”.

Because: “We all need each other”.

Listen to the English-dubbed version of the Pope's TED talk:

(from Vatican Radio)

CNA Daily News

Pope thanks charity organization for generous service to the Church

Apr 27 2017

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2017 / 07:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis met with members of the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, telling them that in a world full of desperation, their charitable assistance helps the Church spread a message of hope to those most in need.

“Today’s world, so often torn by violence, greed and indifference, greatly needs our witness to the Gospel message of hope in the redemptive and reconciling power of God’s love,” he said April 27.

He voiced his gratitude to the organization “for your desire to assist the Church’s efforts to proclaim that message of hope to the ends of the earth and to work for the spiritual and material advancement of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, especially in developing countries.”

Pope Francis met with members of the Philadelphia-based charitable organization Thursday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. They are gathered in Rome April 26-29 for their annual pilgrimage, during which they present the Pope with their annual contribution to his charities.

The Papal Foundation was established by U.S. Catholics in 1988 under St. John Paul II, to whom it offered its first donation of financial support in April 1990.

Since then, the organization, according to their website, has provided more than $111 million in grants and scholarships, the funds of which go toward building up the Church, educating and preparing leaders, and caring for vulnerable people, both young and old, throughout the world.

The primary purpose of the organization is to provide financial support for the Pope’s charities, with the commitment “to walk in union with the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church as we bring the love of Christ to a world in need.”

In 2015, the Papal Foundation awarded almost $15 million in grants and scholarships to various projects around the world, including to churches, seminaries, schools, hospitals, convents and monasteries, and in the areas of humanitarian aid, communications, and education.

Last year the foundation donated a whopping $10 million to support the Pope’s numerous global charitable initiatives.

In his speech, Pope Francis said he was happy to greet the group on their visit, particularly in the joy of the Easter season, when the Church “celebrates the Lord’s victory over death and his gift of new life in the Holy Spirit.”

“It is my hope that your pilgrimage to the Eternal City will strengthen you in faith and hope, and in your commitment to promote the Church’s mission by supporting so many religious and charitable causes close to the heart of the Pope,” he said.

“Each of us, as a living member of Christ’s body, is called to foster the unity and peace that is the Father’s will, in Christ, for our human family and all its members,” he continued.

Francis then said a “vital” part of their commitment to the work of the foundation is to pray for “the needs of the poor, the conversion of hearts, the spread of the Gospel, and the Church’s growth in holiness and missionary zeal.”

He also asked them to not forget to pray for him.

“Dear friends, with these words of encouragement, and with great affection, I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church,” he concluded. “To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abiding joy and peace in the Lord.”

Court ruling could yank funds for non-Catholics at Catholic schools in Canada

Apr 27 2017

Regina, Canada, Apr 27, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Non-Catholic students at Catholic schools in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan will not receive taxpayer funding, a judge ruled last week.

The Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association criticized the April 20 ruling, saying Catholic school divisions have “the right to decide to admit non-Catholic students” and to determine the extent to which their admission allows them to have “a truly authentic faith-based Catholic school system.”

“Our faith is a journey that includes inquiry of non-Catholics and growth of existing members. This requires inclusion and a welcoming spirit,” the school boards association said in a letter responding to the decision.

The association charged that the complaint threatens parents’ choices and limits the choices of non-Catholic parents.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Layh ruled that any provincial government funding would violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the state’s duty of religious neutrality, and equality rights.

The ruling will take effect in July 2018.

The decision concerned a lawsuit between the Good Spirit School Division and the Christ the Teacher Catholic Separate School Division, the Canadian site Global News reports.

The lawsuit challenged the creation of a separate school division in 2003 in the village of Theodore, 130 miles northeast of Regina, before the village’s public school closed.

Some parents of non-Catholic students decided to send their children to the local Catholic school instead of busing them to a public school in another town.

A local public school division filed a legal complaint against the Catholic school division and the provincial government in 2005. The complaint charged that the funding was unconstitutional and wrongly put the Catholic school in the role of a public school. Funding of non-Catholic students at the Catholic school constituted discrimination against public schools, the complaint said.

The complaint also charged that the creation of the new school division was not qualified. It charged that the division was created to prevent the public school from closing.

Tom Fortosky, the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association president, said the association was “obviously disappointed” by the decision and was evaluating its response.

“This has already been a 12-year journey instigated by the public boards, and we don’t have much of an appetite to spend more on legal defense,” he said April 20. “However, we have an obligation to stand up for the constitutional rights of separate school divisions, so we are giving serious consideration to an appeal.”

Saskatchewan's head of government, Premier Brad Wall, has said the ruling “is not good news” for the province's students. “Consider the implications here … you could have massively overpopulated public schools and empty or near-empty separate schools. You could actually risk the viability of community schools because there's a number of people who will choose to send their students to the school closest to them.”

“We want to give parents as much choice as possible," Wall said April 24. “That's where we will stand on this issue and we're going to work to be able to preserve that stance.”

New study: Birth control pills reduce women's well-being

Apr 27 2017

Stockholm, Sweden, Apr 27, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new Swedish study has shown that women who are taking the contraceptive pill might be putting themselves at risk for decreasing their overall health and well-being.
 
Mood swings, energy level shifts, and a “significantly lower” quality of  life were the reported side effects of the contraceptive pill when the three-month study had concluded.
 
“Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill's effect on women's health,” said Professor Angelica Linden Hirschberg, one of the study’s leaders, according to the Karolinska Institute.
 
“The scientific base is very limited as regards the contraceptive pill’s effect on quality of life and depression and there is a great need for randomized studies where it is compared to placebos,” Dr. Hirschberg continued.
 
The study that explored the side effects of contraception was conducted by the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm School of Economics, and included 340 healthy women between the age of 18-35. Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal “Fertility and Sterility.”
 
A randomized group of women in the study were given a placebo pill, and the other group was given a common contraceptive pill with levonorgestrel and ethniylestradoil. Both groups of women and the leaders of the study were unaware of which pills the women were taking.
 
Compared to the placebo group, the women taking the pill reported back saying their self-control, vitality and moods were all impacted by the contraception, and noted that their quality of life plunged significantly.
 
“This possible degradation of quality of life should be paid attention to and taken into account in conjunctions with prescribing of contraceptive pills and when choosing a method of contraception,” stated Niklas Zethraeus, one of the study’s co-authors, according to the Independent.
 
While most women are aware that some side effects come will taking contraceptive pills, more and more studies are showing just how negative the impact can be.
 
Last year, a popular Danish study reported the adverse connection between hormonal birth control and depression, which linked women on the pill to a subsequent use of anti-depressants.
 
While this particular Swedish study did not pick up on any increase in depression, the researchers did note that contraception cannot be generalized and that different pills carry different side effects.
 
“All types of hormonal contraception have advantages and disadvantages. This possible effect on life quality adds to this knowledge and could be of particular importance for women who have experienced negative mood symptoms previously,” Dr. Hirschberg stated.
 
For the over 100 million users of contraceptive pills, the study’s researchers suggested that the negative life quality impact could be of “clinical importance” for women, and is something that women should be aware of.  

Pope donates rent for beach serving people with disabilities

Apr 27 2017

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has donated the rent for a private Italian beach that allows disabled people to enjoy the shore, the charity that manages the project announced this week.

The group Work of Love, a Catholic non-profit, has rented part of the Little Madonna beach located near Rome since 2012 in an effort to give disabled people better access to the beach. It is equipped with ramps, walkways and specialized beach chairs and water-friendly wheelchairs, and includes amenities such as a snack bar, changing rooms, and showers.

The beach is run by a group of volunteers and specialized FINP (Italian Swimming Federation Paralympic) staff and is open every day of the week during peak summer swimming season.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, told CNN Pope Francis gave the group an undisclosed sum to "support the project that helps disabled youth and in particular to cover the cost of the annual rent for the beach known as the Little Madonna."

The beach is the only one of its kind in the region, and was created to allow all people to enjoy the beach “without architectural and mental barriers,” the group states on their site.

In a statement, the charity said they received the donation with "enthusiasm and astonishment."

It is not the first time Pope Francis has sponsored trips to the beach. Last summer, Archbishop Krajewski told Vatican Insider that the Holy Father had been treating Rome’s homeless to beach trips followed by pizza parties, sometimes with the Pope himself serving up a slice.

He said the van would take about 10 people each day to go swimming on the Italian coast, nearly 20 miles from Rome. The archbishop drove the van, while passengers sang and listened to the radio. At the beach, each guest was offered a swimsuit and towel and afterwards was treated to pizza.

“We certainly are not saving the world with some of these initiatives, we are not solving the problems of the homeless in Rome, but at least we are restoring to them a little dignity,” Archbishop Krajewski said at the time.

Other initiatives carried out by Archbishop Krajewski on behalf of the Pope include a dormitory, barber services and showers for those in need. In 2015, the Pope invited a group of homeless people in Rome to the Sistine Chapel. In 2016, he invited 2,000 homeless people and migrants to the circus. Pope Francis also sent an electronic scooter to an elderly couple with disabilities, who had difficulty getting around. He has also given Christmas gifts to poor migrants and umbrellas to the homeless.

 

The story behind the Irish priest whose prayers could heal

Apr 26 2017

Dublin, Ireland, Apr 26, 2017 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Father John Sullivan was a prominent Irish Catholic convert who was known for his healing prayers, his consolation for the troubled, and his devotion to God.

Now he is set to be the first ever person to be beatified in Ireland.

The beatification will take place May 13 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dublin, where the Jesuit priest's body was interred. Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Congregations for the Causes of Saints will be involved in the ceremony. Church of Ireland leaders will also attend.

In a Feb. 18 homily at the church, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said Fr. Sullivan was “a man of learning” who was “always aware of his responsibility to care for those around him and especially the poor.”

Archbishop Martin reflected on the Gospel story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what was needed to attain eternal life. After telling the man to follow the Law of Moses and the Commandments, Jesus told him to sell all his goods and follow him.

“John Sullivan, faced with the same call, placed his life totally at the service of Jesus, renouncing wealth and worldly ambition and living the simplicity of life as a Jesuit,” Archbishop Martin said.

“His life would not just be marked by a rejection of outward wealth, but by a special concern for the poor and especially for the sick and the dying.”

The priest spent much of his life teaching at Clongowes Wood College in Ireland's County Kildare.

“By many accounts he was not a great teacher but the boys loved him,” according to Sullivan’s biography on the website of the Irish Jesuits, written by historian Thomas Morrisey, S.J.

He would often visit the sick, the dying, and people who were troubled.

Even while he lived, many people attributed their healings to his prayers, including the nephew of Irish Free State founder General Michael Collins. The three-year-old boy, who had the same name as his famous uncle, had infantile paralysis that bent his leg in intense pain. After lengthy prayers with the priest, he was healed.

Not long after Fr. Sullivan’s ordination, he visited the Royal Hospital for Incurables at Donnybrook, he visited a woman who was suffering from lupus. The condition had begun to affect her mind and she was being prepared for a move to a mental hospital. Father Sullivan stayed with her for a long time and prayed over her.

The next day she had returned to full mental health, a state which lasted until her death, and she was able to re-establish disrupted friendships.

People also attributed to him a gift for knowing the future, and a gift for ministering to those with scruples, obsessions or compulsions.

“When God forgives me my sins, he buries them beneath a large stone. It is desecration to root them up again,” he would say in response to such cases.

The priest was known for ascetic practices: sleeping on the floor instead of his bed, placing stones in his walking boots, eating the plainest food, and sleeping for only a few hours a night so that he could pray late into the night and early in the day.

Father Sullivan was born in 1861 on Dublin’s Eccles Street, not far from the church where he is buried. He was raised in the Protestant Church of Ireland.

His father, Edward Sullivan, was a successful barrister who became Lord Chancellor of Ireland. His mother, Elizabeth Bailey, was a devout Catholic from a prominent County Cork family.

He attended elite Protestant schools in Ireland before studying law in London. For a time, he stopped going to church. His father passed away when he was 24, providing a great shock to him.

By the early 1890s he appeared to have no clear religious views, but was moved by the Confessions of St. Augustine. He began to sit in on religious instruction classes and read a catechism and Butler’s Lives of the Saints.

In 1895 the U.K. government appointed him to a commission to investigate widespread massacres of Armenians in Asia Minor. He taught English in Greece and spent time at Mount Athos, a center of Orthodox Christian monasticism.

He was received into Catholic Church in 1896, at the age of 35. The event was a surprise to his family, and though it drew some criticism from some Protestants, Sullivan’s reputation was such that he was supported by both Protestant and Catholic friends.

He entered the Society of Jesus four years later.

Father Sullivan died Feb. 19, 1933, aged 71. His death prompted outpourings of appreciation and affection and his funeral turned into a procession through the streets of Dublin.

His vault at St. Francis Xavier Church has served as a place of prayer for many people, especially those seeking healing. The monthly Mass said for his canonization regularly draws over 200 people.

He was declared a Servant of God in 1960 under Pope John XXIII and declared Venerable by Pope Francis in November 2014.

A Dublin woman’s healing from cancer in 1954 after praying for his intercession was recognized as Father Sullivan’s first miracle by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 2016.

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