Vatican news

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Vatican City, Feb 24, 2020 / 03:34 am (CNA).- There is an urgent need for personal conversion, without which the temptations of Satan, and the presence of evil, create a “hell here on earth,” Pope Francis said Monday in his 2020 Lenten message.

    “Christian joy flows from listening to, and accepting, the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus,” he said. “Whoever believes this message rejects the lie that our life is ours to do with as we will.”

    Rather, the pope said, life is born of the love of God our Father.

    “If we listen instead to the tempting voice of the ‘father of lies,’ we risk sinking into the abyss of absurdity, and experiencing hell here on earth, as all too many tragic events in the personal and collective human experience sadly bear witness,” he stated.

    Pope Francis’ Lenten message was published Feb. 24. It was signed Oct. 7, 2019, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  

    With the season of Lent, the Lord gives Catholics again a time of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection, “the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life,” he said, urging Catholics to not take this time of conversion for granted.

    “This new opportunity ought to awaken in us a sense of gratitude and stir us from our sloth,” he argued. “Despite the sometimes tragic presence of evil in our lives, and in the life of the Church and the world, this opportunity to change our course expresses God’s unwavering will not to interrupt his dialogue of salvation with us.”

    In his message for Lent 2020, which will begin Feb. 26, Francis spoke about the “urgency of conversion,” and quoted his 2019 apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit.

    “Keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, let yourself be saved over and over again. And when you go to confess your sins, believe firmly in his mercy which frees you of your guilt.  Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love, and let yourself be cleansed by it. In this way, you can be reborn ever anew.”

    During Lent, a penitential period preceding the Church’s celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ, Catholics are called to a renewed practice of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer.

    Pope Francis recalled that prayer is “more than a duty,” but that it is “an expression of our need to respond to God’s love which always precedes and sustains us.”

    Christians pray with the knowledge they are unworthy, but still loved by God, he said.

    Francis also spoke about the paschal mystery and putting it at the center of one’s life, which he said means to have compassion for Christ crucified as represented in “the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence.”

    Christ’s wounds are also represented in “environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry,” he stated.

    About almsgiving, the pope said sharing one’s worldly goods helps to make the world a better place.

    “Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness,” he said.

    Francis said apart from giving alms, Christians must also consider the structure of economic life, which is why he has convened in March a meeting with young men and women from around the world to bring about “a more just and inclusive economy.”

    “The Economy of Francesco,” which will be attended by around 2,000 economists and entrepreneurs under the age of 35, will be held in Assisi March 26-28.

    Pope Francis pointed to the crucified Jesus, who was sinless yet took on “the weight of our sins.”

    “May we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him,” he urged.

    “I ask Mary Most Holy to pray that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s call to be reconciled to himself, to fix our gaze on the paschal mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with him.”

  2. Denver, Colo., Feb 24, 2020 / 12:06 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Denver offered his impressions of a Feb. 10 meeting between some U.S. bishops and Pope Francis, at which the bishops’ discussion with the pope included some questions about the ministry of Fr. James Martin, and about a 2019 meeting between the pontiff and the priest.

    Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told CNA it was a “privilege” to meet with the pope and his fellow bishops of the U.S. bishops’ conference Region XIII, adding that “the meeting was a grace.”

    “The Holy Father spoke very openly and freely with us regarding many topics,” Aquila said, acknowledging that the meeting “has now become a source of some controversy.”

    Last week CNA reported that during the Feb. 10 meeting, Pope Francis discussed his Sept. 30 Vatican visit with Fr. James Martin, an American Jesuit who is well-known for speaking and writing about the Church’s ministry to people who identify themselves as LGBT.

    Bishops who met with the pope this month told CNA that Pope Francis expressed frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists.

    Since it was reported by CNA, those facts have been confirmed by additional bishops who were in the meeting: Archbishop John Wester and Bishop Steven Biegler.

    In a Feb. 21 column published by the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop John Wester added that the bishops’ discussion with the pope also addressed other aspects of Martin’s ministry, including questions about a recent speech Martin delivered to presidents of Catholic universities, “and his work in general with the LGBT community.”

    Regarding the Sept. 30 meeting, some bishops told CNA that the pope’s frustration about the media’s framing of the event was evident in “both his words and his face,” while Wester wrote that, from his view, he did not think the pope had been “angry, upset or annoyed.”

    For his part, Aquila told CNA that Pope Francis expressed his personal frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists in a way that was clear, Aquila said, especially for “those who understand Italian.”

    Pope Francis spoke in Italian during the meeting with U.S. bishops, and a translator offered English translations for bishops who required it.

    Among accounts of the meeting from bishops who attended it, a difference of understanding has emerged regarding another point in the discussion of Martin’s ministry. Some bishops told CNA last week that the pope had said to their group that Martin had received some correction about the way the Sept. 30 visit was framed. But according to Wester, the pope did not say that Martin was given a correction.

    “I vaguely remember some mention of people in leadership trying to clarify any misunderstandings about his ministry,” the archbishop wrote, while adding that he thought that reference had to do with another issue.

    Reflecting on the meeting, which spanned more than two hours and, for some bishops, relied on a translator, Aquila told CNA that “I think it is reasonable that some remarks from the Holy Father would have been interpreted in different ways by different bishops.”

    Wester, one of seven U.S. bishops to have endorsed “Building a Bridge,” Martin’s 2017 book on the Church and homosexuality, commented last week on the length of the meeting, and said it would be “difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said” during the conversation.

    From his perspective, Aquilla added that “all of us present at the meeting were making an effort to receive the pope in good faith,” even while bishops understood the pope on some points in differing ways.

    Aquila emphasized to CNA the fruitful and open discussions with Pope Francis and the bishops.

    “The most important part of the meeting was, of course, our unity with Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ on Earth,” the archbishop said.

     

  3. Bari, Italy, Feb 23, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Ask God for the grace to love your enemies, Pope Francis said Sunday in a homily in the Italian city of Bari.

    “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference,” Pope Francis said Feb. 23.

    “Ask God for the strength to love. Say to Him: ‘Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you.’ … We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian,” the pope said.

    Pope Francis offered Mass in Bari for the conclusion of the “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace" meeting of bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries, which took place Feb. 19-23. An estimated 40,000 people attended the pope’s Sunday Mass in Bari’s Piazza Libertà.

    In his homily, the pope said that Christ on the cross perfectly lived out God’s command to Moses in the Book of Leviticus chapter 19: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”

    “He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists,” Francis said. “If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way.”

    “Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do,” he said.

    Pope Francis said that “the worship of God” contradicts the “culture of hatred.” He said one can fight this culture of hatred by not giving into the “cult of complaint.”

    “How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love,” he said.

    “This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take,” Pope Francis said.

    The only kind of “Christian extremism” is “the extremism of love,” he said.

    Pope Francis said that there is no getting around the Lord’s command to “love your enemies” because Jesus is “direct and clear … His words are deliberate and precise.”

    The pope said that some people may think that they cannot “survive in this world” if they love and forgive in a world where “the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves.”

    “As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: ‘Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.’ God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness,” he said.

    He added: “Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity.”

    “Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures,” Pope Francis said. “Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.”

  4. Bari, Italy, Feb 23, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- War is madness, Pope Francis told bishops gathered in the Italian city of Bari Sunday in a speech that warned against populist sentiments and condemned countries that sell weapons that fund wars in the Middle East.

    “War can never be mistaken for normality or accepted as an inescapable way to regulate divergences and opposing interests. Never,” Pope Francis said Feb. 23 in Bari, Italy.

    “The international community has been content with military interventions, whereas it should have built institutions that can guarantee equal opportunities and enable citizens to assume their responsibility for the common good,” he said.

    The pope also denounced “the serious sin of hypocrisy” committed by “many countries,” who at international conferences and meetings “talk about peace and then sell weapons to countries that are at war.”

    Pope Francis addressed more than 50 bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries gathered in the coastal city of Bari for the “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace" meeting taking place Feb. 19-23.

    The Italian bishops conference who organized the five-day meeting have described it as a “synod” for bishops from North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe to discuss issues pertinent to the Mediterranean region.

    Pope Francis, who traveled by helicopter to participate in the last day of the meeting, used the opportunity to underline the importance of working toward peace through dialogue in the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups,” he said. “Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises.”

    “The preaching of the Gospel cannot be detached from commitment to the common good; it impels us to act tirelessly as peacemakers,” Pope Francis said.

    “For our part, brothers, let us speak out to demand that government leaders protect minorities and religious freedom. The persecution experienced above all – but not only – by Christian communities is a heart-rending fact that cannot leave us indifferent,” he said.

    The pope also spoke out on behalf of migrants and refugees, including the many who have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat in recent years.

    “What use is a society of constant technological progress, if it becomes increasingly indifferent to its members in need? In preaching the Gospel, we hand on a way of thinking that respects each person by our unremitting effort to make the Church a sign of special care for the vulnerable and the poor,” he said.

    “In the Mediterranean region, these include all who are fleeing war or who have left their homelands in search of a humanly dignified life. The number of these brothers and sisters – forced to abandon their loved ones and their lands, and to face conditions of extreme insecurity – has risen as a result of spreading conflicts and increasingly dramatic environmental and climatic conditions,” Francis added.

    The pope called on the bishops to see the “cemetery” of the Mediterranean Sea as “a place of future resurrection” for the entire region.

    “We can never resign ourselves to the fact that someone who seeks hope by way of the sea can die without receiving help, or that someone from afar can fall prey to sexual exploitation, be underpaid or recruited by gangs,” he said.

    Pope Francis said that a sense of fear of “what is instrumentally painted as an invasion” fuels the rejection of others.

    “The rhetoric of the clash of civilizations only serves to justify violence and fuel hatred,” he added.

    “Of course, hospitality and dignified integration are stages of a difficult process; however, it is unthinkable to be able to face it by raising walls. It frightens me when I listen to some speeches by some leaders of the new forms of populism, and it makes me hear speeches that sowed fear and then hatred in the 1930s of the last century,” Pope Francis said.

    “All too often, history has known conflicts and struggles based on the distorted notion that we are defending God by opposing anyone who does not share our set of beliefs,” he said. “Indeed, extremism and fundamentalism deny the dignity of the human person and his or her religious freedom, and thus lead to moral decline and the spread of an antagonistic view of human relationships.”

    To counter this, the pope said: “we need to develop a theology of acceptance and dialogue leading to a renewed understanding and proclamation of the teaching of Scripture.”

    Francis said that amid deep divisions in societies, Catholics are called to offer witness of unity.

    “Just as Jesus lived and worked in a context of differing cultures and beliefs, so we find ourselves in a multifaceted environment scarred by divisions and forms of inequality that lead to instability. Amid deep fault lines and economic, religious, confessional and political conflicts, we are called to offer our witness to unity and peace. We do so prompted by our faith and membership in the Church, seeking to understand the contribution that we, as disciples of the Lord, can make to all the men and women of the Mediterranean region,” he said.

    Pope Francis met the Mediterranean bishops in Bari’s Basilica of St. Nicholas, where he prayed in the crypt, venerating the relics of the saint.

    In his Angelus address in Bari, Pope Francis prayed particularly for the people of Syria who have suffered from many years of war.

    “While we are gathered here to pray and reflect on peace and the fate of the peoples facing the Mediterranean, on the other side of this sea, particularly in the northwest of Syria, a huge tragedy is taking place,” he said.

    Violence in northwestern Syrian province of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people, primarily women and children, since December. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peaceful negotiation and humanitarian protections during the Russian-backed Syrian government’s offensive Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held territory, which borders Turkey.

    The pope said Feb. 23 that the international community has been silent in the face of the tears of suffering children, and called on all actors involved to “put aside calculations and interests to safeguard the lives of civilians and many innocent children who pay the consequences.”

    Pope Francis told the Italian bishops that war is madness because “it is crazy to destroy houses, bridges, factories, hospitals, and to kill people and destroy resources rather than building human and economic relationships.”

    “There is no reasonable alternative to peace, because every attempt at exploitation or supremacy demeans both its author and its target. It shows a myopic grasp of reality, since it can offer no future to either of the two. War is thus the failure of every plan, human and divine,” the pope said.

  5. Vatican City, Feb 22, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Saturday the approval of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager and computer programmer, who died in 2006.

    The miracle involved the healing of a Brazilian child suffering from a rare congenital anatomic anomaly of the pancreas in 2013. The Medical Council of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes gave a positive opinion of the miracle last November.

    With Pope Francis’ approval of the miracle promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Feb. 21, Acutis can now be beatified.

    The beatification is expected to take place in Assisi. Acutis is currently buried in Assisi’s Church of St. Mary Major.

    Acutis, who died of leukemia at the age of 15, offered his suffering for the pope and for the Church. He was born in London on May 3, 1991 to Italian parents who soon returned to Milan. He was a pious child, attending daily Mass, frequently praying the rosary, and making weekly confessions.

    In May 2019, Acutis’ mother, Antonia Salzano, told CNA Newsroom: “Jesus was the center of his day.” She said that priests and nuns would tell her that they could tell that the Lord had a special plan for her son.

    “Carlo really had Jesus in his heart, really the pureness … When you are really pure of heart, you really touch people’s hearts,” she said.

    Exceptionally gifted in working with computers, Acutis developed a website which catalogued Eucharistic miracles. This website was the genesis of The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, an international exhibition which highlights such occurrences.

    Pope Francis also authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree regarding the approval of two other miracles.

    One miracle attributed to 18th century Indian martyr Blessed Lazarus, also called Devasahayam, who converted from Hinduism to the Catholic faith and was severely persecuted.

    The other approved miracle was through the intercession of Blessed Maria Francesca of Jesus, the missionary foundress of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of Loano, who died in Uruguay in 1904.

    Both Blessed Lazarus and Blessed Maria Francesca of Jesus can now be canonized as saints. Their canonization dates have yet to be announced.

    The Vatican decree also recognized the martyrdom of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Rutilio Grande García, and two lay companions, who were killed in El Salvador. Grande, a close friend of St. Oscar Romero, was shot by a right-wing death squad while traveling in a car on March 12, 1977.

    The heroic virtues of Servants of God Mario Hiriart Pulido, a Chilean engineer and lay member of the Secular Institute for the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary who died in Wisconsin in 1964, was also approved by the pope, along with the heroic virtues of three Italian priests: Fr. Emilio Venturini, Fr. Pirro Scavizzi, and Fr. Emilio Recchia.

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