Dec 9 2017
By Seàn-Patrick Lovett
Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini is an Italian-born saint who dedicated her life to helping thousands of Italian immigrants living in the United States during the late 19th century. She died in Chicago exactly one hundred years ago.
On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis met members of the religious congregation she founded, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The congregation is present today on 6 continents and in 15 countries around the world.
Click below to hear the report by Seàn-Patrick Lovett
During his discourse in Italian, the Pope recalled the holiness of their Foundress and praised her tireless work with migrants and the poor. He held her up as an example for today, adding that the reality of migrants has evolved and is now “more current than ever”. Migrants, said the Pope, “need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied”. They need God, he said, “encountered in love that is freely given”. We must do as Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini does, concluded Pope Francis: “be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person”.
Here is our English translation of the Pope’s address
It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you, representatives of the Cabrini Family, who wish in this way to conclude the celebrations for the centenary of the birth of St Frances Xavier Cabrini. On December 17, 1917, this holy woman, who had crossed the ocean twenty-four times to assist migrants in the Americas, and who, untiringly, had gone as far as the Andes and Argentina, died suddenly in Chicago, and departed on her final journey.
Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini the Missionary
St Cabrini was a true missionary. She had grown up keeping before her the example of St. Francis Xavier, the pioneer of evangelization in the East. In his heart he had China and in that distant land he hoped to bring the proclamation of the Gospel. He did not think of the thousands and thousands of emigrants who, because of hunger, lack of work and the absence of a future, embarked with their scant belongings to reach America, driven by the dream of a better life. As we know - and as she said - it was the vision of Pope Leo XIII who, jokingly, made her change course: "Not to the east, Cabrini, but to the West!". The young Mother Cabrini, who had just founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, needed to see where God was sending her on mission. Not to where she wanted to go, but to where He had prepared the way for her, the path of service and holiness. Here is the example of a true vocation: to forget oneself in order to surrender oneself fully to the love of God.
Migrants then and now
After so many years, the reality of migrants, to whom St Frances Xavier Cabrini dedicated her entire life, has evolved and is more current than ever. New faces of men, women and children, marked by so many forms of poverty and violence, appear before our eyes, hoping to find outstretched hands and welcoming hearts, like those of Mother Cabrini, along their way. In particular, you are offered the responsibility of being faithful to the mission of your Holy Foundress. Her charisma is of extraordinary actuality, because migrants certainly need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied; they need God, encountered in the freely given love of a woman who, with her consecrated heart, is your sister and mother.
“I can do all things in Him who gives me strength”
May the Lord renew always in you the attentive and merciful gaze towards the poor who live in our cities and our countries. Mother Cabrini had the courage to look into the eyes of the orphaned children entrusted to her, the unemployed youth who were tempted to commit crimes, the men and women exploited for the humblest jobs; and therefore today we are here to thank God for her holiness. In each of those brothers and sisters, she recognized the face of Christ and was able to put to good use the talents that the Lord had entrusted to her. She had a strong sense of apostolic action; and if she had such great energy to accomplish extraordinary work in a few years, it was only because of her union with Christ, following the model of St. Paul, from whom she took her motto: "I can do all things in Him who gives me strength".
Grasping the moment of grace
Mother Cabrini lived the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Step by step, hers was an existence wholly intended to console and make the Sacred Heart known and loved. And this made her able to look at the hearts of those who approached her and to assist them in a coherent way. This important anniversary is a powerful reminder to us all of the need for a faith that knows how to grasp the moment of grace that is lived. As difficult as it may seem, she tells us that we must do as she does: be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person.(from Vatican Radio)
Dec 8 2017
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis left the Vatican on Friday afternoon, headed for Rome’s central Piazza di Spagna in order to pay homage to the statue of the Immaculate Conception there.
Listen to Seán-Patrick Lovett's report:
Surrounded by crowds of pilgrims, tourists and local Roman residents, the Pope recited a specially-composed Prayer to Our Lady in which he asked her, among other things, to help us “rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance and to recognize ourselves for what we really are: small and poor sinners” – but always Mary’s children.
The Pope’s visit to the memorial column dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, included the traditional blessing of a garland of flowers which Roman firemen placed on the statue of Our Lady which dominates the summit of the ancient marble column.
Visit to Basilica of Mary Major
On his way to Piazza di Spagna this year, Pope Francis also stopped to visit the Basilica of St Mary Major where he laid a floral wreath below the icon of Salus Populi Romani, depicting Our Lady and the Christ Child. This is the same image the Pope always prays at both before and after his apostolic journeys abroad.
Before returning to the Vatican later in the afternoon, Pope Francis paid a private visit to the Rome Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.
It was here, 175 years ago, that a French Jew by the name of Alphonse Ratisbonne, experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. At that moment, in the words of the Pope, “from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, he became a Christian”.
Even more so, following his conversion, Alphonse became a Jesuit priest and missionary and ended up cofounding his own religious Congregation dedicated to Our Lady of Sion.(from Vatican Radio)
Dec 8 2017
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made his annual visit to Rome's Spanish Square on Friday to pray at the foot of the column and statue of the Immaculate Conception.
A litany of present-day viruses and their corresponding antibodies: this was at the heart of Pope Francis’ prayer, offered to Our Lady on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when he visited Rome’s Piazza di Spagna on Friday afternoon.
Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
The Pope recited the prayer before the column and statue of Mary, dedicated in 1857 to mark the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which had been defined by Pope Pius IX three years earlier. The dogma teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the moment of her conception, by a special grace of God, was preserved from all stain of original sin.
Mary accompanies us on our journey
The text of the prayer begins by thanking Our Lady for accompanying different categories of humanity of their respective journeys: families, religious, workers, the sick, the elderly, the poor, and those who have immigrated to Rome “from places where there is war and hunger”.
Viruses of our time
The Pope then goes on to identify a series of what he calls “viruses of our times”, which range from indifference to fear of the foreigner, from hypocrisy to the exploitation of others. These must be combatted, said Pope Francis, with the “antibodies that come from the Gospel”.
Here is the full translated text of the prayer:
For the fifth time I come to your feet as Bishop of Rome,
to pay you homage on behalf of all the inhabitants of this city.
We want to thank you for the constant care
with which you accompany us on our journey,
the journey of families, parishes, religious communities;
the journey of those who daily, and sometimes with difficulty,
pass through Rome on their way to work;
the journey of the sick, the elderly, the poor,
the journey of so many people who immigrated here from places where there is war and hunger.
Thank you, because as soon as we turn our thoughts,
or a fleeting glance, towards you,
or recite a quick Hail Mary,
we feel your maternal presence, tender and strong.
O Mother, help this city develop the "antibodies" it needs
to combat some of the viruses of our times:
the indifference that says: "It’s not my business";
the unsociable behavior that despises the common good;
the fear of the foreigner and those who are different from us;
the conformism that disguises itself as transgression;
the hypocrisy that accuses others while doing the same things;
the resignation to environmental and ethical degradation;
the exploitation of so many men and women.
Help us to reject these and other viruses
with the antibodies that come from the Gospel.
Let us make it a good habit
to read a passage from the Gospel every day
and, following your example, to keep the Word of God in our hearts,
so that, like a good seed, it may fruit in our lives.
175 years ago, not far from here,
in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte,
you touched the heart of Alphonse Ratisbonne, who at that moment,
from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, became a Christian.
You revealed yourself to him as a Mother of grace and mercy.
Grant that we too, especially in times of trial and temptation,
may fix our gaze on your open hands,
hands that allow the Lord's graces to fall upon the earth.
Help us to rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance,
and to recognize ourselves for what we really are:
small and poor sinners, but always your children.
So, let us place our hand in yours
And allow ourselves to be led back to Jesus, our Brother and Savior,
and to our Heavenly Father, who never tires of waiting for us
and forgiving us when we return to Him.
Thank you, Mother, for always listening to us!
Bless the Church that is in Rome.
Bless this City and the whole world.
Amen.(from Vatican Radio)
Dec 8 2017
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis reflected on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception at his Angelus address on Friday, December 8th, as the Church celebrates the Marian Solemnity.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
Ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis said the words of the angel Gabriel in the Gospel of Luke contain the key to understanding the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The Pope said Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace”, even before pronouncing her name.
In this way, he said, God “reveals the new name, which God has given her and which befits her more than the one given by her parents.”
The Holy Father said “full of grace” means that “Mary is full of the presence of God”.
“And if she is entirely pervaded by God, there is no place in her for sin. This is extraordinary,” he said, “because unfortunately the whole world is contaminated by evil.”
Mary alone, he continued, is the “ever-green oasis” of humanity. She is “the only uncontaminated person, immaculately created to welcome fully – with her ‘yes’ – God who came into the world”.
Pope Francis went on to say that, when we call Mary “full of grace”, we are paying her “the greatest compliment, which is the same offered her by God.”
Because Mary is without sin, he said, she is immune to ageing, since “sin makes one old, not age”, and worthy of the name tota pulchra, or “all fair” or “completely beautiful”.
“Since her youth depends not on age, her beauty consists not on external appearances. Mary, as the day’s Gospel shows, does not excel in appearance. She is from a simple family; she lived humbly in Nazareth, an almost unknown place.”
Finally, Pope Francis reflected on the secret of the “beautiful life” lived by Mary, “full of grace”.
“In many paintings [of the Annunciation] Mary is depicted as seated before an angel with a little book. This book is the Scriptures. So Mary often listened to God and reflected with Him. The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, He took on flesh in her womb.”
The Holy Father invited all to ask for the grace “to remain young by saying ‘no’ to sin and to live a beautiful life by saying ‘yes’ to God.(from Vatican Radio)
Dec 7 2017
“The Nativity Scene is the suggestive place where we contemplate Jesus, who having assumed our wretchedness, invites us to do likewise through our acts of mercy.” Pope Francis made the reflection on Thursday while thanking all those who donated this year’s Nativity Scene on the theme of works of mercy and the 28 meter tall Christmas tree set up in the centre of St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The Pope wished that the birth of the Lord be an occasion for all to be attentive to the needs of the poor and all those who like Jesus don't’ find anyone to welcome them.
Listen to our report:
The Pope met some 4000 people of various donor delegations at the Vatican’s audience hall. They represented the southern Italian Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine that donated the Nativity Scene, Poland’s Warmia Archdiocese and Elk Diocese that donated the red fir tree and children undergoing cancer treatment in various Italian hospitals who made the various decorations.
Commenting on the Christmas tree, the Pope said it is a sign of the faith of the Polish people and the expression of their fidelity to the see of Peter. Thanking the children he said they have conveyed to Jesus their dreams and desires through their decorations which, he said, will be admired by pilgrims from all over the world.
Message of Crib, Christmas tree
The Pope said that each year the Christmas Crib and the Christmas tree become a symbol of the compassion of the heavenly Father, and his participation and closeness with humanity that feels it is not abandoned in the night of the times but is visited and accompanied amidst its difficulties.
The tree pointing up, he said, urges us to stretch out "towards the highest gifts", and rise above the mist that clouds, to feel how beautiful and joyous it is to be immersed in the light of Christ. In the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God, manifested in that of the Child Jesus.
St. Peter's Christmas Crib and Christmas tree were to be inaugurated later on Thursday.(from Vatican Radio)
Jan 17 2018
Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The 45th annual March for Life will take place in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend. Many of the marchers will be students from Catholic universities, who will, in some cases, skip class to march for an end to abortion.
Here are some of the schools that will be well-represented at Friday’s march:
Nearby Christendom College, cancels all scheduled classes on the day of the March for Life, so that all students and faculty are able to attend. Christendom is located in Front Royal, Virginia, about an 80 minute drive from the National Mall. Christendom students have attended each March for Life since the school’s founding in 1977.
Franciscan University of Steubenville, which also cancels day classes on the day of the March, will send roughly a quarter of its student body--about 500 students--to the March for Life this year. In a press release, the school said that they will be sending eight busses on the five-hour journey to DC, with additional students and alumni making the trek on their own.
The University of Notre Dame likely is the winner of the sheer numbers game. The school says it is preparing to bring over 1,000 people from the greater Notre Dame community--including students from nearby St. Mary’s College and Holy Cross College, graduate students, and faculty--to Washington, D.C. for the March. In 2017, there were about 700 Notre Dame students at the March.
North Dakota’s University of Mary, which led the marchers at the 2017 March for Life, also will send a contingent of students on the two-day drive from Bismarck to the nation’s capital. In 2016, the group from North Dakota was trapped in the snow for over 16 hours, which resulted in a “snow Mass” that went viral on the internet. About 145 students, faculty, and staff will attend this year’s march.
On the other end of the travel spectrum is the Catholic University of America, whose students will only have to take a short metro ride to go to the March for Life. CUA plays host to the Vigil for Life Mass on the eve of the March for Life, and thousands of people descend upon its campus each year in the lead-up to the March. In order to successfully handle the influx of pilgrims, the school has a pro-life hospitality ministry, staffed by student volunteers.
Jan 16 2018
Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 16, 2018, as “religious freedom day.” This date was chosen as it is the 223rd anniversary of Virginia’s enactment of the Statute for Religious Freedom.
In his proclamation, Trump said that “Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation,” and that the day was intended to celebrate the religious diversity in America. Trump spoke of how the nation's forefathers came to what is now the US “seeking refuge from religious persecution” and believing that “freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.”
He noted that in 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which said that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” This bill would inspire the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
Trump touched on his efforts to preserve religious freedom in the United States, and said that it was “unfortunate” that past policies had infringed on this right. The president said that he attempted to address this issue with an executive order early in his presidency, and that “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”
The president said that the United States is the “paramount champion” for religious freedom worldwide, and that the U.S. will keep fighting against extremism, acts of terror, and violence against people due to their religious beliefs.
He condemned the “genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” against religious minorities in the region, such as the Yazidi, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Additionally, Trump said that “we will be undeterred” in efforts to put into place policies that promote religious freedom worldwide and to ensure that people are not persecuted for their beliefs.
“Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right,” said Trump.
Jan 16 2018
Arlington, Va., Jan 16, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, the first permanent Catholic parish in Virginia, has a new name and a new designation for the new year. It was announced Sunday that the Holy See had decreed the building to be a minor basilica, and the church will now be known as “The Basilica of Saint Mary.”
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington announced during the 8:30 a.m. Mass Jan. 14 that he had recently received a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which decreed that the building would be a minor basilica. The parishioners broke into applause at the news.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is located in Alexandria, Va., fewer than 10 miles south of Arlington.
“Within our Catholic Church, this is indeed a great news, and it’s a very thorough process,” Burbidge said. Burbidge joked that the pastor of St. Mary’s, Fr. Edward Hathaway, inquired about the process to pursue the title “about three minutes” after he was named Bishop of Arlington last year.
“We are overjoyed and humbled by the recognition of St. Mary’s as one of the major churches in the world,” said Fr. Hathaway.
The designation of the building as a basilica means that the parish “has a special relationship with the Holy See,” and Burbidge emphasized that this was a “great honor” for the church. St. Mary’s was chosen due to its importance in the community, its history as a parish, and its significance in the history of the United States.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is the 84th basilica in the United States, and the first in the Diocese of Arlington. Throughout the world there are just under 1,800 minor basilicas, and there are four major basilicas in Rome.
The parish was founded in 1795, a time when Catholicism was heavily restricted in Virginia, with Catholics barred from voting or holding public office. The first donor to the church was George Washington, who was not Catholic; though his close aide, Col. John Fitzgerald, was. The president gave the parish the equivalent of $1,200 today.
The church moved to its current location in 1810, and the current building was dedicated in 1827. The site of the original church is now the parish's cemetery.
Now that St. Mary’s has been recognized as a minor basilica, it will be outfitted with an umbraculum, a canopy of yellow and red silk; a tintinnabulum, a bell mounted on a pole which is used when the Pope visits a basilica; and the display of the papal symbol of the keys of St. Peter.
As a basilica, St. Mary's has a new seal, which includes the umbraculum and the papal keys. It has adopted the motto Omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam, or “All with Peter to Jesus through Mary.”
Three signs indicate that a church has been designated as a basilica: an ombrellino (umbrella), tintinnabulum (bell to alert the Pope’s arrival) and the display of the Papal Symbol on church furnishings. More about @stmaryoldtown, now #StMaryBasilica! https://t.co/UtGIeZWGTt pic.twitter.com/Bw6ZOWV5Ir
— Diocese of Arlington (@arlingtonchurch) January 15, 2018
Dr. Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America and a parishioner of St. Mary’s, appeared on EWTN’s “Morning Glory” radio program on Tuesday to discuss what this means for his home parish.
According to Pecknold, the historical significance of a basilica is that it is where an emperor would sit. Nowadays, given the relative lack of emperors, the designation of a basilica is more of a symbol of a church’s connection to Rome.
“It shows our special connection to the See of St. Peter,” said Pecknold. He said the process began about a year ago, and that the Vatican moved remarkably fast in making its decision.
“It was exactly a year from the beginning of our application to the end – of a great result,” said Pecknold. “We were absolutely thrilled that the Vatican worked so quickly. I think our case was strong,” he added.
The Basilica of Saint Mary will celebrate its 220th anniversary in 2020.
Jan 16 2018
Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 02:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis reminded the Chilean bishops of the importance of living out their priestly fatherhood united in mission with their people in his final address on Tuesday, the first full day of his apostolic trip to Chile and Peru.
“Stay close to your priests, like Saint Joseph, with a fatherhood that helps them to grow and to develop the charisms that the Holy Spirit has wished to pour out,” the Pope said Jan. 16 in the sacristy of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral.
He began his address by greeting Archbishop Bernardino Piñera Carvallo, who at 102 is the oldest bishop in the world. He is Archbishop Emeritus of La Serena and has been retired since 1990. Piñera was ordained a priest in 1947. He was consecrated a bishop in 1958, and attended the Second Vatican Council. The Pope called him a “marvellous living memory.”
In his address, Pope Francis stressed the importance of unity, especially at a time when secular individualism leaves many feeling isolated and alone: “One of the problems facing our societies today is the sense of being orphaned, the feeling of not belonging to anyone. This ‘post-modern’ feeling can seep into us and into our clergy. We begin to think that we belong to no one; we forget that we are part of God’s holy and faithful people.”
Pope Francis warned the bishops that they are not immune to this individualistic postmodern temptation, particularly in the form of clericalism, the narrow view of the Church as only “an elite of consecrated men and women, priests and bishops.”
“The mission belongs to the entire Church, and not to the individual priest or bishop,” said Pope Francis, stressing that clericalism poses the risk of stifling “the initiatives that the Spirit may be awakening in our midst.”
The Pope emphasized that seminaries must prepare future priests to avoid clericalism and for the challenges of postmodern secularism, saying, “Tomorrow’s priests must be trained with a view to the future, since their ministry will be carried out in a secularized world. This in turn demands that we pastors discern how best to prepare them for carrying out their mission in these concrete circumstances and not in our 'ideal worlds or situations'.”
The mission of today's seminarians is to be “carried out in fraternal unity with the whole People of God,” he said. “Side by side, supporting and encouraging the laity in a climate of discernment and synodality, two of the essential features of the priest of tomorrow. Let us say no to clericalism and to ideal worlds that are only part of our thinking, but touch the life of no one.”
He added that the bishops must “beg and implore” from the Holy Spirit “the gift of dreaming and working for a missionary and prophetic option capable of transforming everything, so that our customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and ecclesial structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of Chile rather than for ecclesiastical self-preservation. Let us not be afraid to strip ourselves of everything that separates us from the missionary mandate.”
With this address to bishops, Pope Francis ended the public portion of the first full day of his Jan. 15-22 apostolic trip to Chile and Peru.
He had earlier met also with Chile’s civil leaders, whom he asked forgiveness on behalf of the Church for the sexual abuse scandals among the country's clerics; female prisoners; priests and religious; and the country's bishops.
The Pope will spend two more days in Chile visiting Santiago, Temuco, and Iquique before he heads off to Peru.
Jan 16 2018
Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 02:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Tuesday that even amid the pain which results from sinfulness, the Church can still serve the world if she acknowledges the reality of her woundedness and puts Christ and his mercy at the center of all things.
"We are not asked to ignore or hide our wounds. A Church with wounds can understand the wounds of today's world and make them her own, suffering with them, accompanying them and seeking to heal them," the Pope said Jan. 16 at the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in Santiago, Chile.
"A wounded Church does not make herself the center of things, does not believe that she is perfect, but puts at the center the one who can heal those wounds, whose name is Jesus Christ."
Pope Francis spoke during an encounter with priests, deacons, religious men and women, consecrated, and seminarians, where he was welcomed by Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago. The meeting took place as part of the Pope's Jan. 15-22 apostolic visit to Chile and Peru.
Cardinal Ezzati reflected that “presbyteral and consecrated life in Chile have and do endure difficult times of turbulence,” and that while many have been faithful, “the weeds of evil have also grown, and their consequence of scandal and desertion.” He thanked Pope Francis for “your words which denounce sin and lukewarmness and, at the same time, your continuous calls to live the beauty of the election and the apostolic dedication of the consecrated vocation.”
Pope Francis said that it doesn't help to try to hide wounds and sins: "whether we like it or not, we are called to face reality as it is – our own personal reality and the reality of our communities and societies."
Even St. Peter had to acknowledge that he "was a sinner like everyone else, as needy as the others, as frail as anyone else,” Francis emphasized. “As disciples, as a Church, we can have the same experience: there are moments when we have to face not our success but our weakness.”
What made St. Peter an apostle? What makes us apostles? he asked. One thing alone: that we have received the mercy of Christ.
Francis outlined three moments in the Gospels where we can learn from St. Peter, even as imperfect and sinful people, to bring Christ to the world. These three moments the Pope called Peter disheartened, Peter shown mercy, and Peter transfigured.
Before the resurrection, but following Christ's passion, St. Peter and the other apostles were “dismayed and confused,” Francis said. “These are the hours of dismay and confusion in the life of the disciple,” he said.
He pointed to the child sexual abuse scandal that has occurred within Chile as a "time of upheaval," saying he is attentive to what priests, consecrated, and religious are doing "to respond to this great and painful evil."
It is particularly painful, he said, "because of the harm and sufferings of the victims and their families, who saw the trust they had placed in the Church’s ministers betrayed. Painful too for the suffering of ecclesial communities, but also painful for you, brothers and sisters, who, after working so hard, have seen the harm that has led to suspicion and questioning; in some or many of you this has been a source of doubt, fear or a lack of confidence.”
"I know that at times you have been insulted in the metro or walking on the street, and that by going around in clerical attire in many places you pay a heavy price. For this reason, I suggest that we ask God to grant us the clear-sightedness to call reality by its name, the strength to seek forgiveness and the ability to listen to what he tells us,” he stated.
The Church in both Chile and Peru has faced major fallout from sexual abuse scandals in recent years, which have damaged the Church’s image and created a strong distrust of the hierarchy.
The major case in Chile is that of Fr. Fernando Karadima, who once led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in 2011 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
He then addressed the changes Chilean society has seen since his youth: “New and different cultural expressions are being born which do not fit into our familiar patterns.”
“We can yield to the temptation of becoming closed, isolating ourselves and defending our ways of seeing things, which then turn out as nothing more than fine monologues,” he said. “We can be tempted to think that everything is wrong, and in place of 'good news', the only thing we profess is apathy and disappointment. As a result, we shut our eyes to the pastoral challenges, thinking that the Spirit has nothing to say about them. In this way, we forget that the Gospel is a journey of conversion, not just for 'others' but for ourselves as well.”
The Pope stated, “Whether we like it or not, we are called to face reality as it is – our own personal reality and the reality of our communities and societies.”
Turning to “Peter shown mercy,” he discussed St. Peter's encounter with the risen Christ: “It is time for Peter to have to confront a part of himself. The part of him that many times he didn’t want to see. He experienced his limitation, his frailty and his sinfulness. Peter, the temperamental, impulsive leader and saviour, self-sufficient and over-confident in himself and in his possibilities, had to acknowledge his weakness and sin. He was a sinner like everyone else, as needy as the others, as frail as anyone else … It is a crucial moment in Peter’s life.”
“As disciples, as Church, we can have the same experience: there are moments when we have to face not our success but our weakness,” the Pope said.
When Christ takes St. Peter aside to ask him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” he is trying to save him, the Pope said, “from the danger of remaining closed in on his sin, constantly dwelling with remorse on his frailty, the danger of giving up.”
Christ wants to free St. Peter “from seeing his opponents as enemies and being upset by opposition and criticism. He wants to free him from being downcast and, above all, negative. By his question, Jesus asks Peter to listen to his heart and to learn how to discern.”
The Lord “questioned Peter about love and kept asking until Peter could give him a realistic response: 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you'. In this way, Jesus confirms him in his mission.”
The reception of mercy is what confirmed St. Peter as an apostle, Pope Francis said. “We are not superheroes who stoop down from the heights to encounter mere mortals. Rather, we are sent as men and women conscious of having been forgiven. That is the source of our joy … A consecrated man or woman sees his or her wounds as signs of the resurrection; who sees in the wounds of this world the power of the resurrection; who, like Jesus, does not meet his brothers and sisters with reproach and condemnation,” he said.
Reflecting on how the risen Christ appeared with his wounds, which indeed “enabled Thomas to profess his faith,” the Pope said, “We are not asked to ignore or hide our wounds. A Church with wounds can understand the wounds of today’s world and make them her own, suffering with them, accompanying them and seeking to heal them. A wounded Church does not make herself the centre of things, does not believe that she is perfect, but puts at the centre the one who can heal those wounds, whose name is Jesus Christ.”
“The knowledge that we are wounded sets us free. Yes, it sets us free from becoming self-referential and thinking ourselves superior” and from a “promethean tendency,” he stated.
“In Jesus, our wounds are risen. They inspire solidarity; they help us to tear down the walls that enclose us in elitism and they impel us to build bridges and to encounter all those yearning for that merciful love which Christ alone can give.”
Pope Francis reflected: “I am concerned when I see communities more worried about their image, about occupying spaces, about appearances and publicity, than about going out to touch the suffering of our faithful people.”
He then quoted the words of St. Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit of the mid-20th century who was involved in Catholic Action: “All those methods will fail that are imposed by uniformity, that try to bring us to God by making us forget about our brothers and sisters, that make us close our eyes to the universe rather than teaching us to open them and raise all things to the Creator of all, that make us selfish and close us in on ourselves.”
The Pope explained that “God’s people neither expect nor need us to be superheroes. They expect pastors, consecrated persons, who know what it is to be compassionate, who can give a helping hand, who can spend time with those who have fallen and, like Jesus, help them to break out of that endless remorse that poisons the soul.”
Pope Francis finally turned to “Peter transfigured.”
St. Peter experienced the “wound of sin” but “learned from Jesus that his wounds could be a path of resurrection.”
But “to know both Peter disheartened and Peter transfigured is an invitation to pass from being a Church of the unhappy and disheartened to a Church that serves all those people who are unhappy and disheartened in our midst.”
“To renew prophecy is to renew our commitment not to expect an ideal world, an ideal community, or an ideal disciple in order to be able to live and evangelize, but rather to make it possible for every disheartened person to encounter Jesus,” he said. “One does not love ideal situations or ideal communities; one loves persons.”
A “frank, sorrowful and prayerful recognition of our limitations” makes us able to return to Christ, Pope Francis said.
“How good it is for all of us to let Jesus renew our hearts.”