Vatican City, Apr 23, 2017 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Divine Mercy Sunday Pope Francis said mercy is essential in living the Christian life, because it not only allows us to understand ourselves and God better, but it also prompts us to recognize and help those in need.
“Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone of the life of faith, and concrete way with which we give visibility to the Resurrection of Jesus,” the Pope said April 23.
Mercy, he said, is understood as a true awareness of “the mystery” that the Church is living, particularly during the Easter season.
Not only is mercy understood in various ways such as through the senses, intuition and reason, but we can also become aware of it through an act of mercy that we personally experience, he said, adding that “this opens the door of the mind to better understand the mystery of God and of our personal existence.”
“It makes us understand that violence, resentment and revenge have no meaning, and the first victim is whoever lives these sentiments, because it deprives them of their own dignity,” he said.
Additionally, mercy also allows us to open the door of our hearts and draw close to those who are “alone and marginalized,” recognizing those in need and finding the right words to say to comfort them.
“Mercy warms the heart and makes it sensitive to the needs of our brothers with sharing and participation,” Francis said, explaining that in the end, mercy “commits everyone to being instruments of justice, reconciliation and peace.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his Sunday Regina Coeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. The Regina Coeli is traditionally prayed instead of the Angelus throughout the liturgical Easter season.
In his brief speech, the Pope noted now the Sunday after Easter in the past was referred to as “in albis,” meaning “in white,” as a reminder of the white garments worn by those who had come into the Church on Easter Sunday.
In the time after Easter, he said, Sunday takes on “an even more illuminating” aspect, especially considering the previous traditional custom in which the garment would be worn by the person for the entire week after their baptism until the following Sunday, when they began their new life in Christ and the Church.
Francis then pointed to how the Sunday after Easter was later designated as Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope Saint John Paul II during the Jubilee year 2000.
“It was a beautiful institution!” he said, noting that his own Extraordinary Jubilee for Mercy concluded just a few months ago, on the Nov. 20, 2016, Solemnity of Christ the King.
In wake of the Jubilee, Divine Mercy Sunday “invites us to take up with strength the grace that comes from the mercy of God,” he said, noting that in the day’s Gospel from John, Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room, and gives them the message: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.”
After saying this, Jesus then entrusts them with a special task, telling them “receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.”
“This is the meaning of the mercy that is presented to us on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus as forgiveness of sins,” Pope Francis said, explaining that the Risen Christ gave his Church as a first task “his same mission of bringing to all the concrete announcement of forgiveness.”
Francis said this commission is a visible sign of Christ’s mercy, which brings both peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord.
He closed his address praying that Mary, the Mother of Mercy, would “help us to believe and live all of this with joy,” and led pilgrims in praying the Regina Coeli.
The Pope then greeted pilgrims from various countries around the world, giving a special shout-out to Spain, where yesterday the priest Fr. Luis Antonio Rosa Ormières was proclaimed a Blessed, and to all youth who had been confirmed or are currently candidates for Confirmation.
He then thanked everyone who sent him messages wishing him a happy Easter before asking for prayers and giving his blessing.
Rome, Italy, Apr 22, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The devil’s hatred for Christ and for our redemption is the root cause of all persecution since the beginnings of the Church, Pope Francis said at a special liturgy that focused on modern martyrs.
“The memory of these heroic witnesses, old and new, confirms us in the knowledge that the Church is a Church of martyrs… they have received the grace of confessing Jesus until the end, until death,” the Pope said April 22.
He said that if we look well into history, the root cause of every persecution is “the hatred the prince of this world has toward those who have been saved and redeemed by Jesus with his death and with his Resurrection.”
Pointing to Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid! The world will hate you, but know that before you, it hated me,” from the Gospel passage read at the liturgy, Francis said the use of the word “hatred” is both strong and frightening.
“He, who is the master of love, who liked so much to speak of love, speaks of hatred,” he said, noting that Jesus “always wanted to call things by their name.”
Jesus has chosen and redeemed us as “a free gift of his love,” he said, adding that through this love, we have been saved from “the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world.”
“And the origin of hatred is this: that we are saved by Jesus, and the prince of this world doesn’t want it, he hates us and provokes persecution, which since the time of Jesus and the early Church continues until our days.”
Pope Francis offered his reflections during a special April 22 liturgy honoring the “new martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Rome’s Tiber Island. Overseen by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the basilica was founded at the end of the 10th century and contains a vast number of relics belonging to 20th century martyrs.
The collection was initially gathered after the Jubilee of 2000. A year ahead of the jubilee, Pope John Paul II established the “New Martyrs” commission to study and investigate modern cases of martyrdom in preparation for the event.
As a result, the commission gathered some 12,000 dossiers of martyrs and witnesses of the faith from around the world.
To commemorate the heroic witness of those who had given their lives for Christ, John Paul II in 2002 had a large icon made and placed in the basilica of St. Bartholomew, which sits on the main altar to this day.
In addition to the icon, various relics and items belonging to the martyrs have been placed in each of the basilica’s side chapels, and are divided by either specific points in history, such as the “new martyrs of Nazism,” or geographical locations, including Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe.
Benedict XVI visited the basilica in April 2008, making Pope Francis the third pontiff to set foot in the basilica, and to keep the papal tradition of honoring new martyrs.
In his homily, Pope Francis lamented the fact that “many Christian communities are objects of persecution!”
However, he noted that often in difficult moments, people call for “heroes.” The Church today also needs the heroic witness of martyrs and saints, he said, explaining that this includes “the saints of everyday life,” who move forward with coherency, but also those who “have the courage to accept the grace of being witnesses until the end, until death.”
“All of them are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who carry the Church forward,” he said. By demonstrating with their lives that Jesus is alive and risen, they also “attest with the coherency of their lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit that they have received this gift.”
Pope Francis then paused for a moment and deviated from his prepared text. He recalled an encounter he had with a Muslim man he met during his 2016 trip to Lesbos who, along with his three children, had fled his village after his wife, who was a Christian, was killed by extremists.
When the militants came to their home and asked what their religion was, the woman said she was Christian, and, when she refused to throw down a crucifix she that was hanging on the wall, she was killed in front of her family.
This woman, Francis said, is “another crown” that can be added to the rest of the martyrs honored in St. Bartholomew, because “she is looking at us from heaven.”
Pope Francis closed his homily saying the ability to remember the many modern-day martyrs inside a basilica filled with their relics is “a great gift,” because “the living heritage of the martyrs today gives us peace and unity.”
“These ones teach us that, with the strength of love, with meekness, one can fight against tyranny, violence and war and can realize peace with patience,” he said, and prayed, asking that each person present might be a worthy witness of the Gospel and the love of God.
Before giving his homily, Pope Francis heard the testimonies of three people who were relatives or friends of modern-day martyrs.
First was Karl Schneider, son of Paul Schneider, a pastor of the Reformed Church who was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939 because he defied Nazism as “irreconcilable with the words of the Bible.”
In his brief reflection, Schneider said his father had been “strongly opposed every temptation to politically influence the Church.”
“All of us, even today, make too many compromises,” he said, “but my father stayed faithful only to the Lord and to the faith. He was a pastor and a spiritual guide. Even in the concentration camp!”
Despite the torture and suffering his he endured, Schneider’s father shouted out from his cell, offering words of comfort and hope from the Bible to the other prisoners.
Recalling words spoken by his elderly mother before her death, Schneider said his mother said her husband “was chosen to announce the Gospel and this is my consolation.” As his son, Schneider said he “I feel this consolation until today.”
Next was Roselyne, sister of Fr. Jacques Hamal, the 85-year-old priest who was murdered by two young ISIS sympathizers in Rouen, France in July 2016.
Speaking to the congregation, Roselyne said that in his old age Fr. Hamal had been fragile, but “he was also strong. Strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and – I am certain – also for his killers.”
His death, she said, “is in line with the life of a priest, which was one of a life given: a life offered to the Lord, when he said ‘yes’ at the moment of his ordination, a life of service to the Gospel, a life given for the church and her people, above all the poorest.
She pointed to the “paradox” that while alive her brother never wanted to be “at the center,” but that after his death, “has given a testimony for the entire world, the greatness of which we cannot measure.”
After her brother died, Roselyne said the reaction of the community was strong. Rather than wanting revenge, there was a desire for “love and forgiveness,” she said, explaining that even Muslims who wanted to show solidarity with Christians came to visit the parish for Sunday Masses in a show of support.
Despite her loss, Roselyne said “it’s a great comfort to see how many new encounters, how much solidarity, how much love have been generated by the witness of Jacques,” and prayed that his sacrifice would “bring fruits, so that the men and women of our time can find the path to living together in peace.”
Finally, a man named Francisco Hernandez gave a brief reflection on his friend William Quijano, killed in El Salvador in 2009 because of his work with youth that sought to promote peace and draw them away from the violence of criminal gangs.
In his reflection, Hernandez said the only crime of his friend was that of “dreaming of a world of peace.”
“William never ceased teaching peace, but rather, his commitment has broken the chain of violence,” he said, recalling how Quijano had always insisted that ending violence begins with the youth, and so dedicated himself to working with children.
Hernandez said his friend “never spoke of repression or revenge against the gangs, but insisted on the need for a change in mentality.”
“In every existential periphery, William bore witness to his hope in a different world, founding himself on the Gospel and the most human virtues, on the centrality of closeness,” he said, adding: “this is the greatest gift of that the small life of William Alfredo Quijano Zetino, my friend.”
Vatican City, Apr 20, 2017 / 08:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a letter to the president of Brazil, apologizing for his inability to visit in 2017 and encouraging the leader's attention to the country's social issues.
“Since in his letter President Temer made reference to his efforts to confront the social problems of the country, the Pope underlined that aspect and encouraged him to work for the promotion of the country's poorest people,” the Vatican press office said April 4, confirming a letter the Pope sent a few days before.
President Michael Temer invited Pope Francis to visit Brazil for the 300th anniversary of a Marian apparition known as Our Lady of Aparecida.
The story behind the apparition involves a clay statue of Mary Immaculate that was caught by three fishermen in October 1717 in preparation for a feast dedicated to royalty passing through the town.
Guarantinqueta, a small city along the Paraiba River, was expecting to receive the Count of Assumar on his travels to a gold mining site in Vila Rica.
The feast required a vast amount of fish, but it was not the season for it and weather conditions proved to be a challenge. After a night of fishing, the men caught nothing.
Having prayed to our Lady of Immaculate Conception, the fishermen first brought up the body of the statue and then the head. After the statue was brought up, the men decided to pray with faith to “Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida” – which means Our Lady of the Appeared Conception. Their nets suddenly became very full, and the catch has been considered a miracle.
During an inauguration of a statue of Aparecida at the Vatican Gardens in 2016, Pope Francis said he did not know when he would be able to visit Aparecida in Brazil again “but at least I will have her very close, here.” The new statue was designed by a Brazilian artist and depicted Our Lady of Aparecida next to the three men with full nets of fish.
The Pope said Our Lady of Aparecida is close to the heart of the working class, “especially those who need work, education, those who are deprived of dignity.”
He encouraged President Temer's for the efforts made to resolve the county's social issues, reiterating Aparecida's closeness to the poor.
President Michael Temer was brought into office last August when his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached from office for an alleged abuse of power. Brazil's economy has been in its worst recession since the 1980s; inflation increased by 10.7 percent and unemployment increased to 9 percent in 2015. Prices for Brazilian oil, iron ore, and soya also dropped.
Since his induction into office, Temer has aimed to reduce the country's spending and the level of public debt.
Vatican City, Apr 20, 2017 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Time Magazine has released its 2017 list of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Pope Francis is among the leaders highlighted by the publication.
The nomination included a brief reflection on Pope Francis, written by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, who reflected on the Pope’s humility, saying that his powerful witness is what attracts so many people to his message.
Cardinal Cupich recalled that in his first interview after being elected to the pontificate, Pope Francis acknowledged himself as a sinner, and that when he hears confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica, he also goes to confession himself, “because one cannot accompany a suffering world without acknowledging one’s own faults.”
“The same goes for the church Francis leads,” the cardinal reflected. “Before being elected Pope, Francis gave a speech to his fellow Cardinals warning against becoming a ‘self-referential’ church, rather than one that goes out of itself to the margins of society to be with those who suffer.”
“That is where God is working in the world and where he calls us to be. This has rung especially true this year, as Francis has spoken out on the need to welcome refugees amid a global crisis,” he continued.
Other people on the Time Magazine list include U.S. President Donald Trump, actress Viola Davis, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, NBA star LeBron James, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fatima, Portugal, Apr 20, 2017 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The niece of Blessed Franciso and Jacinta Marto has voiced excitement for the coming canonization of her relatives, sharing stories of the time of the Fatima apparitions and personal memories of what it was like growing up in a family that had saints among its members.
“My family, my grandparents, my parents, all of us always accepted it as a gift from God,” Jacinta Pereiro Marto told CNA in an interview.
“God chose my uncle and aunt because this is what he wanted, so much that my grandfather used to say that the Virgin wanted to come to Fatima and she chose his children, but that we didn't deserve anything,” she said.
Because of this attitude instilled in the family by her grandfather – father to Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto – “we always lived very simply because God chose, and he chooses who he wants. We don't deserve anything.”
Marto, 74, is the daughter of Joao Marto, the brother of Fatima visionaries Bl. Francisco and Jacinta, and she shares the exact same name as her saintly aunt.
Just two years older than Francisco, Joao was the closest in age to the two out of the many Marto siblings.
Bl. Francisco and Jacinta this year will become the youngest non-martyrs in the history of the Church to be canonized after witnessing apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as the Our Lady of Fatima, alongside their elder cousin Lucia dos Santos in 1917.
In her interview with CNA, Marto said that she had “the joy” of being born in the same family home as Francisco and Jacinta, and to grow up there, since her father Joao continued to live in the house with his elderly parents.
“They always instilled in me a great love for God and for the Virgin, a life of simplicity, of belief and of religiosity,” she said, speaking of her grandparents.
Their home remains the property of the family, but is now open for visitors and pilgrims to see where the visionaries grew up. Across the street, Marto runs a souvenir shop and a small museum-of-sorts containing original photos and artifacts belonging to the family, including shawls used by Jacinta, the rosary Francisco prayed with before dying, and the bed he passed away in.
Marto said that it is thanks to her grandmother Olimpia Marto, mother of Franciso and Jacinta, that she received the same name as her aunt. Olimpia had wanted a grandchild that shared the exact same name as her saintly daughter, and was told by Joao's wife that the next girl they had would get the name.
So when Marto was born, her grandmother, who was also asked to be her godmother, chose to call her Jacinta.
“I feel very happy to be Jacinta,” Marto said, explaining that “I feel a very strong presence and a great protection from my uncle and aunt. I think that Jacinta and my uncle are protecting me.”
“I am no one, I sin like the whole world,” she said, “but I believe they are protecting me, I feel that they and Our Lady protect me.”
Recalling memories shared by her father, Marto said Joao had been present with Francisco and Jacinta at the apparition of Mary in Valinhos, which took place in August, “but he didn't see anything.”
“It was only Francisco, Jacinta, Lucia and my father, but he said that even though he opened his eyes and looked, he saw nothing,” she said.
Around the time Mary was to appear, Jacinta wasn't there at first, she said, explaining that when Lucia asked him to go find her, Joao “didn’t want to, because he wanted to see.” He eventually went to find Jacinta, and when she arrived Mary appeared, but even though he waited with them, Joao couldn't see anything.
Two months later when the “miracle of the sun” took place Oct. 13, 1917, Marto said her father, who was only 11 at the time, stayed behind that day because rumors were spreading, likely from other children, that “if the miracle of the sun didn't happen the whole family would die.”
In order to help the people believe in the authenticity of the apparitions, Lucia had asked Our Lady during the apparition of July 13, 1917, to perform a miracle so people would see that they were true.
However, on that occasion Mary responded by saying that should the children continue to come each month until October, the miracle would occur. So on Oct. 13, the last apparition of Mary to the children, 30-100,000 people gathered to witness the miracle.
News reports and witnesses from the time said the miracle took place when the formerly cloudy sky parted and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disk in the sky. Multicolored lights flashed across the landscape and those present before the sun then spun toward earth and then zig-zagged back to its normal position in the sky. Additionally, clothes and mud previously wet from the rain had dried.
But while many members of their family were present for the miracle, Marto said her father “stayed at home (because) he was afraid to die” if the miracle didn't happen, as the rumors had stated.
At just 11 years old, Marto said her father didn't understand everything that was going on, but that after Francisco and Jacinta died, “my father said that he cried a lot, a lot. Because he saw that everything they said was happening.”
Speaking of her grandparents, Marto said her grandfather Manuel, father of Francisco and Jacinta, didn’t initially understand some of what was happening either, but had always believed his children were telling the truth.
Jacinta was the first one to tell her parents about seeing Mary after coming home from the first apparition, Marto said, explaining that when people began to say the children had made everything up, her grandfather would respond saying: “My children are not liars. I taught them, so if they say they saw, I think they saw.”
After the first appearance Manuel accompanied his children to the following apparitions, and although he didn’t see anything, “he said that he heard a sound, like a bee inside a jar.”
He was also present for the miracle of the sun, Marto said, explaining that “if he believed before, he continued to believe” after.
Marto said that for her, this belief was extraordinary, because “my grandparents weren't at the beatification, none of it. When their children died they were known, but not with the fame of sanctity.”
“So they thought their children were a little different from the others, but they didn't know how it was going to be. It was a question every day,” she said, but noted that her grandfather in particular “always believed.”
Referring to news of the acceptance of a second miracle allowing for the canonization of her uncle and aunt, Marto said she feels “a big joy” knowing they will be proclaimed saints. The two will be canonized May 13, during Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Portugal.
However, she stressed that the news “is not only for the family, it’s for Portugal and the whole world. Because Our Lady came for the world, and they were a message for the world.”
“I sometimes ask myself how two children that were seven and nine years old managed to capture and respond to the message of God. They had a message and assumed this message,” she said, noting that Francisco was all about “praising God, adoring God, worshiping God.”
Jacinta, however, was primarily concerned with conversion, and wanted that “everyone return to God, that everyone convert, that everyone went to heaven.”
“She lived this in anguish,” Marto said, explaining that she often asked herself: “we who have all these means of communication, we know what is happening in the world, all the suffering in the world, we see it on television…and what do we do?”
At just 7-years-old Jacinta had visions of wars, famines and persecutions, and as a result she “assumed the responsibility” of offering and making sacrifices so that everyone could be saved.
“And us? What are we doing?” she said, stressing that with television and social media it's not necessary to have a vision of the suffering and tragedy in the world, but “we are part of this humanity and we are a bit responsible for everyone. Sometimes we don’t think well about this.”
Marto said that for her, she believes the core of the Our Lady of Fatima's message is that she came “that we might return to God. That we don’t forget that God loves us, but that we have to praise him and must give thanks to him.”
In addition to this, “we must pray for each other,” she said, explaining that in her instructions to the children, Mary “didn’t ask many things that we can’t do.”
Pointing to the rosary, she said that according to Lucia, Mary asked that people pray it because “it's an easy prayer,” and can be recited at church, in the car or while walking.
If someone isn't able to pray the rosary, Marto suggested at least trying to pray one Hail Mary and Our Father a day, to honor Mary and give thanks to God “for being our friend.”
“God loves us very much and at times sends us his mother to refresh us a bit in order continue,” she said, explaining that “God wants us to be a bit better every day. Because we are always sinners, we are not perfect, but try to be a bit better every day.”
Marto said that she hopes to be present for Pope Francis' visit to Fatima for the centenary of the apparitions in May. Having attended the beatification of her uncle and aunt in 2000, she said she also hopes to be present for the May 13 canonization of the visionaries.
She received communion from Bl. Pope Paul VI when he became the first Pope to visit Fatima in 1967, and was also present for the visit of St. John Paul II in 1982, but was farther away.
Although she wasn't able to attend Mass when Benedict XVI came in 2010, she hopes to have a good seat at Mass with Francis, and “to be close to him.”
Vatican City, Apr 20, 2017 / 03:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his trip to Portugal for the centenary of the Fatima Marian apparitions next month, Pope Francis will canonize visionaries Francisco and Jacinta Marto, making them the youngest non-martyrs to ever be declared saints.
The children will be canonized during Pope Francis' May 13 Mass in Fatima. The decision for the date was made during a April 20 consistory of cardinals, which also voted on the dates of four other canonizations, in addition to that of Francisco and Jacinta, that will take place this year.
Some martyrs who will soon be saints are diocesan priests Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, and layman Matteo Moreira, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil in 1645; and three teenagers – Cristóbal, Antonio, and Juan – killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529, who will be canonized October 15.
Bl. Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, and Faustino Míguez, a Piarist priest who founded the Calasanziano Institute of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherd, will also be canonized October 15.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is the man who was largely responsible for advancing the visionaries’ cause, paving the way for them to become the first canonized children who were not martyred.
Previously, the Portuguese cardinal told CNA, children were not beatified, due to the belief “that children didn’t yet have the ability to practice Christian heroic virtue like adults.”
But that all changed when the cause for Francisco and Jacinta Marto arrived on his desk.
Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, became the youngest non-martyr children in the history of the Church to be beatified when on May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Pope John Paul II proclaimed them "Blessed," officially showing that young children can become Saints.
The brother and sister, who tended to their family’s sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.
During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to pray the Rosary and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. The children did this and were known to pray often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their sacrifices and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.
When Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu in October 1918, Mary appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.
Bed-ridden, Francisco requested and received his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 4, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness and was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital, where she underwent an operation for an abscess in her chest. However, her health did not improve and she died Feb. 20, 1920.
Francisco and Jacinta “practiced Christian virtue in a heroic way,” Cardinal Martins said, explaining that among other things, one of the most obvious moments in which this virtue was apparent for him was when the three shepherd children were arrested and intimidated by their mayor on August 13, 1917.
Government stability in Portugal was rocky following the revolution and coup d’état that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and subsequent establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910.
A new liberal constitution separating Church and state was drafted under the influence of Freemasonry, which sought to omit the faith – which for many was the backbone of Portuguese culture and society – from public life.
It was in this context that, after catching wind of the Virgin Mary’s appearance to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, district Mayor Artur de Oliveira Santos had the children arrested on the day Mary was to appear to them, and threatened to boil them in hot oil unless they would confess to inventing the apparitions.
At one point in the conversation at the jailhouse, Jacinta was taken out of the room, leaving Francisco and Lucia alone. The two were told that Jacinta had been burned with hot oil, and that if they didn’t lie, the same would happen to them.
However, instead of caving to the pressure, the children said: “you can do whatever you want, but we cannot tell a lie. Do whatever you want to us, burn us with oil, but we cannot tell a lie.”
“This was the virtue of these children,” Cardinal Martins said, noting that to accept death rather than tell a lie is “more heroic than many adults.”
“There’s a lot to say on the heroicness of children,” he said, adding that “because of this I brought their cause forward.”
Cardinal Martins was also the one to bring Lucia’s cause to the Vatican following her death in 2005. The visionary had spent the remainder of her life after the apparitions as a Carmelite nun.
Typically the must be a five-year waiting period after a person dies before their cause can be brought forward. However, after only three years Martins ask that the remaining two be dismissed, and his request was granted.
Although the diocesan phase of the cause has already been finished, Cardinal Martins – who knew the visionary personally – said Lucia’s process will take much longer than that of Francisco and Jacinta not only due to her long life, but also because of the vast number of letters and other material from her writings and correspondence that needs to be examined.
The cardinal, who will be present in Fatima with the Pope during his May 12-13 visit for the centenary of the apparitions, said he views the occasion as the conclusion of a process that began with him changing a norm regarding the view of children "and their heroic virtue.”
This process is important, he said, because it means there could be other children who practiced heroic virtue that can now be canonized, so “it’s certainly something important.”
“It needs to be seen that (children) are truly capable of practicing heroic virtue,” not only in Fatima, but “in the Christian life,” he said.
Although canonizations, apart from a few exceptions, are typically held in Rome, it was only recently that beatifications began to be held outside of Rome, in the local Church which promoted the new Blessed's cause.
This change was made by Cardinal Martins in September 2005, after receiving the approval of Benedict XVI.
In the past, a beatification Mass in Rome would be presided over by the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints during the morning, with the Pope coming down to the basilica to pray to the new Blessed in the afternoon. Cardinal Martins said he decided to change this because the beatification and the canonization “are two different realities.”
“While the canonizations had a more universal dimension of the Church, the beatifications have a more local dimension, where they (the Blessed) came from,” he said, noting that this is reflected even in the words spoken during the rites for each Mass.
“Because of this, I made a distinction: the beatification in their (the Blessed’s) own church, in their diocese, and the canonizations in Rome.”
The result was “a fantastic revolution,” he said, explaining that while maybe 2-3,000 people would participate in the beatification ceremonies in Rome, hundreds of thousands started to come for the local beatification Masses of new Blessed in their home dioceses.
The cardinal said that “it’s beautiful” to see people – many times including friends and family members of new Blessed – join in honoring their countryman, asking for their intercession, and seeking to follow their example.
He believes the custom will remain like this, adding that it is beautiful particularly from the standpoint of evangelization.
“The new Blessed says to their brothers, many of whom they knew, ‘I am one of you, one like you, so you must follow my path and live the Gospel in depth’,” the cardinal said, explaining that this is “a formidable act of evangelization, and with everyone happy about the new Blessed, they’ll immediately do what they say!”
Cardinal Martins said the decision was also prompted by the emphasis placed on local Churches during the Second Vatican Council.
“I thought, one of the most effective ways to highlight the importance of local Churches is to conduct in the local diocese the beatification of one of their sons,” he said.
Vatican City, Apr 19, 2017 / 06:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Church jumps into the Easter season, Pope Francis on Wednesday offered a reflection on Christ’s Resurrection and the start of Christianity, saying it’s not about us and what we do, but what the Lord has done for us.
“(Christianity) is not so much our search for God, but rather God's search for us. How beautiful to think that Christianity, essentially, is this!”
Jesus, the Pope said April 19, “has taken us, has seized us, has conquered us in order to not leave us anymore.”
In his catechesis for his first general audience of the Easter season, Francis spoke about the “grace” and “surprise” found in our Christian faith, saying we need hearts able to wonder, because hearts that are closed-off cannot understand the truth of what Christianity is.
Even though we are sinners and might look at our lives realizing how many times we have failed to live out our good intentions, we can follow the example of the men and women in the Gospel on Easter morning, he said.
“We can do as those people spoken of in the Gospel: go to the tomb of Christ, see the large upturned stone and reflect that God is building for me, for all of us, an unforeseen future.”
And more, we can all go into the tomb of our hearts, he said, and see how God is able to transform death into life.
“Here is happiness, here is joy and life where everyone thought there was only sadness, defeat and darkness,” Francis said, adding that “God raises his most beautiful flowers in the midst of the most arid stones.”
Pope Francis then reflected on the start of Christianity following Christ’s death and resurrection, emphasizing that these events aren’t just an “ideology” or a “philosophical” belief, but real events witnessed by Jesus’ disciples.
These, he said, are the facts: “he died, was buried, is risen and has appeared. That is, Jesus is alive! This is the core of the Christian message.”
If facts had been different and Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, but only died for us, we would perhaps have an example of heroism or supreme dedication, but it could not be the source of our faith, he said.
Instead, our faith is born out of Christ’s resurrection, the Pope said, noting that this is true even for the faith of St. Paul, who was no “altar boy,” but actually persecuted Christians and the Church.
“And the persecutor becomes an apostle because?” he asked, explaining that the reason is because he saw the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
“This is the foundation of Paul's faith, like the faith of the other Apostles, like the faith of the Church, of our faith,” he said. “Because I have seen Jesus alive! I have seen the risen Jesus Christ!”
Francis closed his audience saying that Christianity comes not from death, but from God’s love for us in defeating our “bitter enemy.”
“God is bigger than anything, and you only need one lit candle to overcome the darkest of nights,” he said. “Paul cries, echoing the prophets: ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”
“In these days of Easter, let us carry this cry in our hearts, and if they ask us for the reason for our smile and our patient sharing, then we can respond that Jesus is still here, he continues to live in the midst of us. Jesus is alive!”
Vatican City, Apr 19, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Existing in some form since several hundred years before Christ, the Latin language seems like an unlikely subject to still be generating brand new research, especially among young scholars.
Nevertheless, the theme this year of the Vatican’s humanities-themed contest, the Prize of the Pontifical Academies, is all about Latin. And the final winner – awarded 20,000 euros (more than $21,400) – will be chosen by Pope Francis.
So why does the Catholic Church care so much about promoting the Latin language? For quite a few reasons it turns out.
“In the Vatican some of the more important documents issued by the Pope and the Holy See are officially written in Latin,” Fr. Roberto Spataro, secretary of the Pontifical Academy for Latin, told CNA. The Church’s standard version of the Bible, called the Vulgate, is also in Latin.
Apart from this very practical reason, he said, through Latin we are also able to be in touch with the vast heritage of the Church throughout the ages and “discover that this very language has long been the medium of dialogue between faith and reason.”
The 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Academy for Latin, or Pontificia Acadamia Latinitatis, which was founded by Benedict XVI in 2012 through the motu proprio Latina Lingua.
“Pope Benedict … wanted to inspire the universal Church lest it forget Latin is the key of an immense treasure of wisdom and knowledge,” Fr. Spataro said.
This is the Church’s most recent document affirming the importance of the study and preservation of Latin, but by no means is it the only one.
In 1962, St. John XXIII issued the apostolic constitution Veterum Sapientia, in which he “solemnly stated” that Latin has three distinctive characteristics making this ancient language the “rightful language for the Roman Catholic Church,” Fr. Spataro said.
Just as the Church is by nature ‘catholic’, or ‘universal,’ the Latin language is also international, not belonging to one country or place; and because it is no longer a living language, it is also immutable.
This “makes it perfect for dogmatic and liturgical assessments as such intellectual activity requires a lucid language that leaves no ambiguity in expression,” he explained.
And finally, “it is beautiful and elegant, and the Church is always a lover of arts and culture.”
Organized every year by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies is on two themes: Methodological proposals for teaching Latin today, and the reception of ancient Christian Latin between the medieval and modern eras.
The first topic “is reserved to institutions (academies, schools, associations, foundations, research groups etc.) that are engaged in formative activity among the youth,” the Prize’s press release states.
The second is for scholars between the ages of 25 and 40 who have produced doctoral theses or publications on the theme in the last five years. The deadline for candidates and institutions to submit applications is May 12.
“After a thorough and detailed discussion among the members of the Academy, these two areas are chosen because they are seemingly inspiring,” Fr. Spataro said. “Many researchers are studying the influence of Classical and Christian Latin throughout the centuries.”
“Moreover, new and successful methodologies to teach Latin have been adopted in the last years over all the world,” he continued, “especially the so-called ‘natural method’ according to which Latin should be taught as a spoken language.”
Latin’s role in the Church’s liturgy is another important aspect of the language.
Fr. Spataro highlighted one point in particular: that the original editions of the liturgical books of the Roman rite are all written in Latin.
This is to ensure the “necessary unity in the Church’s official prayer. As a matter of fact, modern translations of these liturgical texts are based on the original Latin one,” he pointed out, so it is important that the Church has scholars to read and interpret them.
Fr. Spataro also pointed out that the number of groups who celebrate the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, or the Traditional Latin Mass, has seen continuous growth since Benedict XVI made it clear in 2007 that it had never been abrogated.
In this form of the Mass, Latin is used almost exclusively.
“This language, with its rhythm and melodic expression, contributes to create a fascinating atmosphere of sacredness and mystery and helps the celebrants and the participants to grasp the ungraspable, which is God himself,” Fr. Spataro reflected.
In addition to his work for the Pontifical Academy for Latin, Fr. Spataro is also part of the Pontificium Institutem Altioris Latinitatis at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.
The institute, established by Blessed Paul VI in 1964, “is for the profound studies on Latin which in some way or another shapes the face of our Church today,” he said.
“It is our greatest hope to introduce such wonderful language and tradition to the world,” he continued. He hopes there will be “more and more students, both lay and clergy from all around the world, of different countries and cultural backgrounds, to come to study with us!”
Vatican City, Apr 19, 2017 / 05:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, the Vatican announced the appointment of Msgr. Thomas Robert Zinkula as the new leader of the Davenport diocese in Iowa, and Fr. John P. Dolan as a new auxiliary bishop for San Diego.
In an April 19 statement published the same day as the Vatican’s official announcement, outgoing Davenport Bishop Martin J. Amos – who is retiring after having reached the normal age limit of 75 – said he welcomes the appointment of Msgr. Zinkula with “joy and great pleasure.”
He described the appointment as an answer to the prayer the diocese has been reciting for the past 4 months, requesting “a pastor who will please you by his holiness and will show us your watchful care.”
Born April 19, 1957 in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Msgr. Zinkula has a hefty and diverse academic background.
After graduating from Mount Vernon High School, he eventually received a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, Economic and Business from Cornell College in 1979. He later graduated from the University of Iowa in 1983 with a degree in Law, working for several years as a civil lawyer.
He then entered seminary, studying at the Theological College of The Catholic University of America in Washington before later obtaining a licentiate in Canon Law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada in 1998.
Zinkula was ordained a priest in May 26, 1990, for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, serving in various capacities including Parochial Vicar of Saint Columbkille Parish from 1990-1993 and Saint Joseph the Worker Parish from 1993-1996.
The bishop-elect then served as pastor of Saint Joseph parish in Rickardsville and administrator of the parishes of Saint Francis of Assisi in Balltown and Saints Peter and Paul in Sherill from 1998-2002.
He was also a judge for the archdiocesan tribunal from 1998-2000, after which he held the position of Judicial Vicar for the diocese until 2010. At the same time, Zinkula also served as pastor of Holy Ghost Parish and Holy Trinity Parish in Dubuque – positions he held until 2011.
The next post he held was Episcopal Vicar for the Region of Cedar Rapids, which he stayed in until being named Rector of the Saint Pius X seminary in Dubuque in 2014. He received the title of “Monsignor” from Benedict XVI in 2012.
Bishop Amos will continue to serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese until Msgr. Zinkula officially takes possession of the diocese June 22 at Saint John Vianney Church in Bettendorf.
As for San Diego’s new auxiliary, bishop-elect John Dolan was born June 8, 1962, in the diocese he will serve.
He completed his studies in philosophy at the Saint Francis seminary and the University of San Diego in 1985. His theological studies, however, were done at the Saint Patrick seminary in Menlo Park, and completed in 1989.
Fr. Dolan was ordained a priest for the San Diego diocese July 1, 1989, and afterward served as Parochial Vicar for the parishes of Saint Michael in San Diego and Santa Sophia in Spring Valley.
In 1992, he was named Director of Priestly Vocations, a position he held for two years. In 1996, he was named pastor of Saint Mary Star of the Sea parish in Oceanside.
He then served as pastor for several other parishes around the diocese until his 2016 appointment as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and pastor of Saint John Parish in San Diego. In addition to English, the new bishop-elect also speaks Spanish.
Vatican City, Apr 18, 2017 / 07:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just two months after Pope Francis faced intense backlash for his reforms when critical posters were plastered around Rome, a new set went up around the city over Easter, this time praising the Pope for his commitment to mercy and inclusion.
“Thank you Pope Francis! For your true Christian engagement with love and mercy, as demanded by Jesus so often in our Holy Bible.”
This was the phrase written on some 300 posters that were hung April 14 around Rome’s city center and near the Vatican, and which will remain until April 22.
Sponsored by The Global Tolerance Initiative, the posters referred to a website called “Love is Tolerance,” which explained that Pope Francis had been named by the organization as their “Global Champion of Tolerance Easter 2017.”
Written in both Italian and English, the posters call on all cardinals, priests and bishops to follow with love the “wise advice” of the Pope, and to “read our Holy Bible with open eyes, hearts and minds.”
The posters conclude with an appeal for everyone to “pray for you and the Church with a ‘thinking heart and loving mind.’”
In addition to the text, the posters also feature three black-and-white images of Pope Francis taken during the Pope’s historic visit to the Holy Land in June 2014, including one of him in a helicopter and one of his pectoral cross.
The overwhelmingly positive tone of these posters stands in stark contrast to the unsigned posters that appeared in Rome Feb. 4, criticizing Pope Francis for several recent decisions made as part of his ongoing process of reform.
Depicting a sour-faced Pope Francis, the posters read: “Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals…but where’s your mercy?”
Whereas the February posters were quickly covered by “abusive posting” signs and removed by the city of Rome, the posters praising the Pope have the city’s official stamp of approval, allowing them to stay up from April 14-22.
On the website, The Global Tolerance Initiative said that in addition to the 300 posters that went up around the city, another 700 have been handed out to priests, bishops, students, media and activists in Rome as part of a larger project intended to draw attention both to well-known individuals and the “unsung, hidden champions from different cultures.”
The photos of the Pope are part of the “Champions and the Art of Tolerance Project” by Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann – in cooperation with Esra Rotthoff and the recently deceased Tom Lemke – and depict the three photos together in the style of a three-paneled art piece, called a triptych.
Besides Pope Francis, other honorees on the site include the Dalai Lama, teenage Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, and Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jordan.
The organization is calling the Pope Francis Easter posters “street art action,” intended to celebrate “a Pope of love, tolerance and mercy,” Hoffman said, according to the news site Globalo.
“We represent the majority of people, not only Catholics, who admire Pope Francis for his crystal clear vision of Christianity with a lovely smiling face of deep humanity,” Hoffman said.
Whether a Christian or not, Hoffman said “he is our Lighthouse of Hope Easter 2017.”
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has been a strong promoter of both ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, speaking frequently about the need to treat others – no matter their differences – with openness and mercy.
Easter was no exception. In his Regina Coeli address on Easter Monday, Francis preached about how Christ’s resurrection brought hope and life into the world, and how we are called to live that out in how we act toward our brothers and sisters around the world.
“In the midst of events that afflict the world,” he said April 17, “in the midst of worldliness that is distant from God,” we are called to show solidarity, welcoming and peace to people.
These are only human signs that we can give, he continued, but “inspired and sustained by faith in the Risen Lord,” we can gain effectiveness “well beyond our capacity.”
Vatican City, Apr 18, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday thanked Assisi's bishop for creating a shrine dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi's divestiture, when he renounced his family's wealth, embracing poverty as he stripped himself of his fine clothes.
Recalling his October 2013 to Assisi and the Room of Renunciation in the archbishop's residence, the Pope said that “in that room were so many eloquent testimonies to the scandalous reality of a world still so marked by the gap between an immense number of indigents, often deprived of basic necessities, and the miniscule portion of the rich who hold the greatest part of wealth and who think they can determine the destiny of humanity.”
Pope Francis' Oct. 16 letter to Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino commended him for his decision to establish a shrine to St. Francis' renunciation, which will be inaugurated May 20. It will be in Santa Maria Maggiore, the city's original cathedral, and include access to the Room of Renunciation in the archbishop's residence.
In his renunciation, St. Francis “stripped himself, to the point of nudity, of all earthly goods, to give himself entirely to God and to the brethren,” the Pope recalled. “Renouncing all earthly goods, he unchained himself from the enchantment of the god-money which had ensnared his family.”
“Certainly the young convert did not intend to disrespect his father, but he remembered that one who is baptized must put love for Christ above all other affections,” Pope Francis wrote.
“Unfortunately, 2,000 years after the announcement of the gospel and eight centuries from the testimony of Francis, we face a phenomenon of 'global inequality' and an 'economy that kills'.”
He said, “the new Assisiani sanctuary was born as a prophecy of a society more just and in solidarity, and reminds the Church of its duty to live, in the footsteps of Francis, stripping itself of worldliness and investing itself with the values of the Gospel.”
For Pope Francis “today it is more necessary than ever that the words of Christ characterize the way and the style of the Church. If in so many traditionally Christian regions of the world there is a shift away from the faith, and we are therefore called to a new evangelization, the secret of our preaching is not so much in the force of our words, but in the charm of our testimony, sustained by grace.”
Recalling that St. Francis was told by Christ to repair his house, and that the Church is always in need of such repair – for “it is holy in the gifts it receives from above, but is formed by sinners, and therefore is always in need of penitence and renewal” – Pope Francis asked, “how can it renew itself, if not by looking to its 'naked' Lord?”
“Christ is the original model of 'renunciation',” he said. “In the Child of Bethlehem the divine glory is concealed, as it were. It will be even more veiled on Golgotha.”
“From Christmas to Easter, the way of Christ is entirely a mystery of 'renunciation'. Omnipotence, in some way, is eclipsed, so that the glory of the Word made flesh is expressed above all in love and in mercy. Renunciation is a mystery of love! It does not mean disdain for the realities of the world. And how could it? The world is entirely from the hands of God … The renunciation teaches us to make use of them in a way marked by sobriety and solidarity, within a hierarchy of values which give to love the first place. One has to renounce, in substance, not so much things in themselves, but rather the egoism which encases us in our interests and our own goods, which prevents us from discovering the beauty of the other and the joy opening our heart.”
The Pope said that “an authentic Christian path leads not to sadness, but to joy. In a world marked by so much 'individualistic sadness', the Sanctuary of the Renunciation is meant to nourish in the Church and in society evangelical joy, simplicity, and solidarity.”
Vatican City, Apr 17, 2017 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At his birthday party on Monday, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told his guests that “My heart is full of gratitude for the 90 years which the good God has given me.”
The April 17 gathering at the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery was held in observance of Benedict's 90th birthday, which fell on Easter Sunday, the day prior.
Some 50 guests from his homeland of Bavaria were present, including his elder brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger.
Today #BenedictXVI celebrated his 90th #birthday with a big Bavarian-style festa, and a pint via @oss_romano pic.twitter.com/CfzjT2Lb18
— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) April 17, 2017
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI celebrated his 90th birthday with Bavarian beer and pretzels today! ???? Although his actual birthday was yesterday, the celebration was postponed until today to observe Easter Sunday. Happy birthday, Benedict XVI! ????: L'Osservatore Romano #happybirthday #celebrate #cheers
A post shared by Catholic News Agency (@catholicnewsagency) on Apr 17, 2017 at 2:25pm PDT
Vatican City, Apr 17, 2017 / 05:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Easter Monday, Pope Francis stressed that Christ’s resurrection calls each of us to bring the message of Easter – a message of hope and life – to the world.
“There is life!” the Pope said April 17. Now, following the Resurrection, “we will be resurrection men and women, men and women of life.”
We are called to show solidarity, welcoming, and peace to people “in the midst of events that afflict the world – there are many today – in the midst of worldliness that is distant from God,” he said.
These are only human signs that we can give, he continued, but “inspired and sustained by faith in the Risen Lord,” we can gain effectiveness “well beyond our capacity.”
Pope Francis gave his message Easter Monday before leading pilgrims in the Regina Coeli prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter’s square.
It is customary for the Pope to lead this traditional Marian prayer on the Monday following Easter Sunday, also sometimes called the “Monday of the Angel” for the angel which announced Christ’s resurrection to the women at the tomb.
During the fifty days of Easter, the Regina Coeli will replace the usual recitation of the Angelus on Sundays.
In the message of the Angel to the women on Easter morning, “Go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead,’” we hear our directions as well, Pope Francis said. The angel invites us as well to “act quickly” and to go “proclaim to the men and women of our time this message of joy and hope.”
This message is hopeful because on the dawn of the third day, Jesus was risen from the dead, therefore “the last word is not death, but life! And this is our certainty. The last word is not the grave, is not death, it is life!”
And our Mother Mary can help us to live this out, Francis said.
“The Virgin Mary, silent witness of the death and resurrection of her son Jesus, helps us to be clear signs of the risen Christ among the events of the world.”
“Those who are in distress and difficulties,” he explained, can “find in us so many brothers and sisters who offer them support and consolation.”
“And this is so because Christ is alive and active in history through his Holy Spirit, redeems our miseries, reaches every human heart and gives hope to anyone who is oppressed and suffering,” he said.
“Our Mother, help us to believe strongly in the resurrection of Jesus: Jesus is risen, he is alive here, among us, and this is a wonderful mystery of salvation with the ability to transform hearts and lives,” he prayed.
“And intercede in a particular way for the Christian communities persecuted and oppressed as they are today, in many parts of the world, called to a difficult and courageous witness.”
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lengthy interview with EWTN's German television branch, Benedict XVI's closest aide describes how the retired pontiff is doing as he turns the milestone age of 90, giving a rare look into what life is like for the Pope Emeritus.
Archbishop Gänswein has been Benedict's personal secretary since 2003, while the latter was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He has remained close at Benedict's side throughout his papacy, resignation and his life of retirement.
In anticipation of Benedict XVI's 90th birthday, which this year falls on Easter Sunday, April 16, Gänswein gave a lengthy interview to EWTN.TV in German, sharing insights into how the Pope Emeritus plans to celebrate his birthday and highlights and personal memories of his pontificate.
Among other things, the archbishop recalls how Benedict handled his election, the frequently negative media-firestorm that enveloped much of his pontificate, his hope for what people take from his papacy as well as how he spends his days in retirement.
Please read below for the full interview with Archbishop Gänswein, conducted by the head of EWTN.TV Martin Rothweiler, and translated from the original German by EWTN’s Silvia Kritzenberger:
EWTN.TV: The question everyone's interested in is, of course: How is Pope Benedict? The Psalm says: “Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years.” That happens to be psalm 90. And now on the 16th of April, Pope Benedict will celebrate his 90th birthday! How is he?
Gänswein: Yes, indeed, on Easter Sunday he will turn 90! Considering his age, he is remarkably well. He is also in good spirits, very clear in his head and still has a good sense of humor. What bothers him are his legs, so he uses a walker for help, and he gets along very well. And this walker guarantees him freedom of movement and autonomy. So, for a 90-year old, he is doing pretty well – even though, from time to time, he complains of this or that minor ailment.
EWTN.TV: How will he celebrate his birthday?
Gänswein: On Easter Sunday, priority will of course be given to liturgy. On Easter Monday, in the afternoon, we will hold a small celebration. He wanted something not too exhausting, appropriate to his strengths. He didn't want to have a big celebration. That was never an option for him. A small delegation from Bavaria will come, the Mountain troops will come... The Bavarian Prime Minister will come to the monastery, and there we will hold a small birthday party in true Bavarian style!
EWTN.TV: Have you any idea if Pope Francis will come to see him?
Gänswein: That is quite likely. He will surely do so.
EWTN.TV: No one knows Pope Benedict better than you – apart from his brother Georg Ratzinger. How did you get to know Pope Benedict?
Gänswein: Actually, through literature. Back in the day, when I was just about to finish gymnasium, my parish priest gave me Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity, urging me: “You absolutely have to read this! That's the future!” I said: “Okay, but have you read it?” “No,” he replied, “but you have to read it!” And I did. Later, when I started to study theology in Freiburg, and then in Rome, and then again back in Freiburg, I had practically read everything the then-professor and cardinal had written. But it was only 21, or maybe 22 years ago, that I finally met him in person here in Rome, when I was asked to become a collaborator of the Roman Curia … More concretely, I met him in the Teutonic College, that is, in the chapel, where Cardinal Ratzinger used to celebrate Mass for the German pilgrims every Thursday, joining us for breakfast. That was how the first personal contact with Cardinal Ratzinger came about, and since then we never lost that contact.
EWTN.TV: At some point, he decided to call you to his side. Why did his choice fall on you?
Gänswein: Well, you must know that I didn't come directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; my first employment was at the Congregation for Divine Worship. But when, in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a German priest left after a certain period of time in order to go back to Germany, Ratzinger asked me to come. “I think you are suitable for the post, and I would like you to come,” he said to me. “If you agree, I would like to speak with the respective authorities.” And he did. That was how it came about that, in 1996, I entered the staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post I held until 2003. Afterwards, he made me his Personal Secretary – which I still am, to this very day.
EWTN.TV: What was your first impression of him? What did you think when he called you to work closely with him?
Gänswein: My first thought was: Have I done something wrong? Don't I have a clean record? So I examined my conscience, but my conscience was clear. And then he said: “No, it is something that concerns your future. Something I think might be a good task for you. Consider it carefully!” Of course, I was very pleased that he thought I was capable of working in his entourage. It is indeed a very demanding task, one that requires all your strength.
EWTN.TV: Which personality traits and characteristics did you discover in him?
Gänswein: The same I had already discovered in his writings: a sharp intellect, a clear diction. And then, in his personal relations, a great clemency, quite the contrary of what he has always been associated with and still is, of what has always been said about him, when he was described as a “Panzerkardinal” (army tank Cardinal), someone rough – which he is not. On the contrary, he is very confident when dealing with others, but also when he has to deal with problems, when he has to solve problems, and, above all, in the presentation of the faith, the defense of the faith. But what moved me most, was to see how this man managed to proclaim our faith with simple, but profound words, against all odds and despite all hostilities.
EWTN.TV: What were the main issues on his agenda when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?
Gänswein: When I joined the Congregation, he was dealing with the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, and then with Dominus Jesus, documents which date back to years when I was already part of the Congregation. Later, of course, it was also about religious dialogue – a subject he revisited and deepened also after he'd become Pope. And then the big issue of faith and reason. A whole chain of subjects, so to say, I could witness in person. And it was all highly interesting, and a great challenge, too.
EWTN.TV: It was Pope John Paul II who nominated Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What kind of relationship did they have? What kind of relationship did Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, have with the Pope who was, as we now know, a holy man?
Gänswein: Cardinal Ratzinger, that is to say, Pope Benedict, had contributed with a relatively long essay to a small, but beautiful little book that was published on the occasion of the canonization of John Paul II. An essay, in which he describes his relationship with the holy Pope John Paul II – after all, they had worked closely together for 23 years – and the great admiration he has for him. He spoke of him very often. It is of course a great gift, an immense grace, to work for so long, and so intensely, side by side with a man like John Paul II, facing also many a storm together! And the then Cardinal Ratzinger had to take many blows for John Paul II, since the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clearly cannot be everybody's darling: He has to offer his back, so that he can take the blows that are actually meant for the Pope.
EWTN.TV: How strong was his influence on the pontificate of John Paul II?
Gänswein: I am convinced of the fact that the pontificate of John Paul II was strongly influenced and supported not only by the person of the then Prefect of the Congregation of Faith, but also by his thoughts and his actions.
EWTN.TV: Pope Benedict once said that he had learned and understood much of John Paul II when he watched him celebrate Mass; when he saw how he prayed, how very united he was with God, far beyond his philosophical and mental capacities. What do you think when you watch Pope Benedict celebrate Mass, when you might be present while he is praying?
Gänswein: In fact, that is something I see every day, but especially since the moment I became secretary to Pope Benedict. Before, I was already his secretary, but we didn’t live together. It did happen that we celebrated Mass together, of course. But from the very moment of his election, it was no longer a work communion, but also a communion of life. And the daily Mass has become part of this life, then and today. It is moving to watch Pope Benedict during Mass simply abandon himself to what is happening, even now, in his old days, with all the physical handicaps that come with it; to see how intensely he enters the depths of prayer, but also afterwards, during the thanksgiving in front of the tabernacle, in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament. As far as I am concerned, it makes me enter the depths of prayer. That is highly motivating, and I am very thankful that I was given the chance to have an experience like this.
EWTN.TV: 2005 is the year that marked the end of the long and public suffering and death of John Paul II. How does Pope Benedict XVI remember this moment today? After all, with his resignation, he has chosen to let his own pontificate end in a different way...How does he remember the suffering and the death of John Paul II?
Gänswein: I remember very clearly what he said to me when he made me his secretary. He said: “We two are interim arrangements. I will soon retire, and you will accompany me until that moment comes.” That was in 2003. Time passed by...and then came 2005. The interim arrangement lasts and lasts. And he was really looking forward to having some time off in order to be able to finish writing his book about Jesus. But then things turned out differently. And, well, I think that after the death of Pope John Paul II he had other plans, hoping that the new Pope would let him take his leave, entering his well-deserved retirement. But once again, things turned out differently: he became Pope himself, and the Lord took him up on his promise once again. He had plans, but there was another who had different plans for him.
EWTN.TV: Did he expect – or fear – that in any way?
Gänswein: He certainly did not expect it – but, at a certain point, he might have feared it. In this context, I always remember his first press conference (as Pope), where he described the 19th of April, the day of his election when, in the late afternoon, the ballot was so clear that it became obvious that he would be elected. Well, the image he used, the one of the guillotine, was a very strong one, and full of tension. And later, in Munich, referring to the image of the bear of St. Corbinian, he said that the bear was actually supposed to accompany the then-bishop Corbinian to Rome, and then return to where he had come from, whereas he, unlike the bear in the legend, couldn't go back, but has remained in Rome to this very day.
EWTN.TV: How was your first encounter, after he had become Pope? What did he say to you?
Gänswein: We had our first encounter in the Sistine Chapel, right under the Last Judgement. The cardinals had approached him and sworn obedience to him. And since I had been allowed to be present at the Conclave – Ratzinger, being the Deacon of the Cardinals, had the right to take a priest with him, and his choice had fallen on me – I was the last in the queue. There were others before me, I was the last. And in this very moment...I remember it so well…I can still see him, for the first time all dressed in white: white pileolus, white cassock, white hair – and all white in the face! Practically a whole small cloud of white...He sat there, and in this moment I granted the Holy Father my unconditional availability, promising him that I would always gladly do whatever he might ask of me; that he would always be able to count on me, that I would back him, and that I would gladly do so.
EWTN.TV: What were the joys of this pontificate? Usually, the burden of the Petrine ministry is what first comes to mind. But are there also moments, events, when you could feel the joy Pope Benedict experienced in carrying out his ministry?
Gänswein: There were, without any doubt, moments in which he felt utter joy, and also manifested it. I think, for example, of various encounters, not only during his travels. Encounters with the Successor of Peter are always special encounters; even here, during the General Audiences or the Private Audiences – and, in another, very special way, when he acts as officiant, that is, during the celebration of the Holy Mass or other liturgical celebrations. There were indeed moments full of joy, fulfilled with joy. And afterwards, he never failed to remark on it. It made him really happy.
EWTN.TV: Are there any events you remember particularly well, especially in connection with Pope Benedict’s visits to Germany, which we all remember vividly, for example the first World Youth Day?
Gänswein: Yes, well, the first encounter hadn't been brought about by Pope Benedict himself, but by John Paul II. And so, in 2005, as we all know, it was Benedict’s turn to travel to Cologne. It was surely something great, something really moving. It was the first time in his life he met such an immense crowd of young people, who were all waiting for him! How will it go? Will the ice break, will the ice melt? Or will it take some time? And how will we get along with one another? But there was no ice at all! It simply worked, right from the start! And I think, he himself was more surprised by it than the young people he met.
EWTN.TV: What are the key messages of his Pontificate? His first encyclical letter was Deus Caritas est, “God Is Love.” The second one was dedicated to hope; his third encyclical, the one on faith, was passed on to his successor who completed it. Don't you think that especially Deus Caritas est, so full of tenderness and poetic language, was something many didn't expect?
Gänswein: Yes, one has to say, he published three encyclical letters. And we must not omit Caritas in veritate, which is very important. In fact, the one about the third theological virtue, faith, fides, was then published under his successor: Lumen fidei. But these four encyclicals clearly contain a fundamental message that has moved him his whole life long; a message he wanted to bequeath to men, to the Church.
Another constant of Pope Benedict is a very important word, a very important element: joy, “la gioia,” in Italian. He always spoke of the joy of faith, not of the burden, the hardship, the weight of faith, but of the joy that comes with it. And he said that this joy is an important fruit of faith – and also the one thing that gives men wings; that this is how faith gives human life wings: wings which, otherwise without faith, man would never have.
Another important thing for him is – obviously – liturgy, that is to say the direct encounter with God. Liturgy does not represent something theatrical – it means to be called into a relationship with the living God. And then, in theology, we have the person of Jesus Christ: not a historical “something,” a historical person long lost in the past. No, through the scriptures and liturgy, Jesus Christ comes into this world, here and now, and above all: he also comes into my own life. These are the pearls Pope Benedict has bestowed upon us. And we should treat these pearls very carefully, just as we do with precious jewelry.
EWTN.TV: This joy of faith is something Benedict never lost, despite often even heavy media criticism. He never really was the media's darling, at least not as far as the German media are concerned. How did he account for that?
Gänswein: Well, I have to say, to me that is still a mystery. Whoever defends the truth of faith – to say it with Saint Paul – be it convenient or not, cannot always trigger joy. That is clear. Some essential things just aren't for sale, and then there's always a hail of criticism. But he has never answered to provocation, nor let himself be intimidated by criticism. Wherever the substance of the faith is at stake, he had no doubts, and always reacted explicitly, without any inner conflict whatsoever.
On other points, I have to say, there was a mixture of incomprehension, and also aggression, aggressiveness, that became like a clustered ball that consistently hit at the person of the Pope. The incomprehension of many, and especially the media, is still a mystery to me, something I have to take note of, but cannot sort out. I simply have no answer to it.
EWTN.TV: Pope Benedict was never shy about talking to journalists. In the introduction you wrote to the book Über den Wolken mit Papst Benedikt XVI. (Above the Clouds with Pope Benedict XVI), published to mark his 90th birthday – above the clouds, because it contains interviews often given during Papal flights – you state that these conversations reveal his particular cordiality, his often not understood or underestimated humanity...
Gänswein: Pope Benedict has never shunned away from personal contact with the media, with the journalists. And one great gift was that everything he says is well-worded, ready for printing. He was never shy about answering questions, even questions that were embarrassing – well, not embarrassing, but difficult. And that made it even more incomprehensible that it was exactly this corner from where the arrows came, where the fire was set – and for no clear reason at all. He, too, took notice of it. Of course, there were also things which offended, hurt him. Especially when it was clear to see that there was no reason at all, when you couldn't help asking yourself: why this snappish remark, this acrimonious presentation? Things like that would hurt anyone, that's only normal. But, on the other side, we also know that our measure is not the applause we get; our measure is inner righteousness, the example of the Gospel. That thought has always comforted him; it was the line of reasoning he has always pursued, until the end.
EWTN.TV: But was he also aware of the value of the media in the process of evangelization? After all, he has awarded the Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice to Mother Angelica, founder of our television network, which means he must really appreciate her! How did he judge the role of the media in the concrete work of evangelization?
Gänswein: The media are an important means; a means that will become ever more important, especially in our time. He has never failed to recognize the value of the media, of the work done by the media and those who are behind it. Because media work is done by people, not by “something.” Behind every camera, every written word, every book, there is a person, there are people he appreciated, whose work he appreciated, regardless of what sometimes had been used or said against him.
EWTN.TV: One cannot think of Pope Benedict without rekindling the memory of his resignation. That is not about to change, and will continue to be a subject that stirs people's interest. So I would like to ask you again: Did you see it coming? Was it clear to him that he would go down that road one day?
Gänswein: Well, as far as I'm concerned, I didn't see it coming. If and since when he started to nurture this thought, is something I don't know. The only thing I know is that he told me about it when the decision was already made. But I definitely didn't see it coming – and that made the shock for me even greater.
EWTN.TV: In his latest memoirs – I refer to the interview-book Last conversations with Peter Seewald – Benedict XVI makes it very clear that external pressure or adversities would never have made him resign. So this cannot have been the case…
Gänswein: That's right.
EWTN.TV: …So this is the final word that puts an end to the discussion on possible motives...
Gänswein: In another book – the penultimate project carried out with Peter Seewald in Castel Gandolfo – he had already answered the question whether or not a Pope could resign, in the affirmative. I don't know in how far he had, already then, considered resignation, stepping back from his office, an option for himself. When you start to have thoughts like that, you do it for a reason. And he has named these reasons very openly…and very honestly, too, one has to say: the waning of his forces, spiritual and physical. The Church needs a strong navigator, and he didn't have the feeling that he could be that strong navigator. That's why he wanted to put the faculty bestowed upon him by Jesus back into His hands, so that the College of Cardinals could elect his successor. So obviously, the pontificate of Benedict XVI will also go down in history because of his resignation, that is clear, inevitable...
EWTN.TV: I found it really moving to watch him deliver his last speech to the priests of the diocese of Rome, the one on the Second Vatican Council. In that moment, I couldn't help asking myself: Why does this man resign? There was clearly a spiritual force! It was an extemporaneous speech in which he exposed one more time his whole legacy, so to say, on the Second Vatican Council, expressing his wish it might one day be fulfilled...
Gänswein: In fact, that was in the Audience Hall. There was this traditional encounter, established many years ago, where the Pope, every Thursday after Ash Wednesday, met with the clergy of Rome, the clergy of his diocese. There were questions and answers, or even other forms of encounter. And in 2013, he was asked to talk about the Second Vatican Council, which he did. He delivered an extemporaneous speech in which he described, one more time and from his point of view, the whole situation and development of the Council, giving also his evaluation. It is something that will remain; something very important for the comprehension of the Second Vatican Council and Ratzinger's interpretation of it. As far as I know, up to this day there is no other theologian who has defended the documents of the Second Vatican Council on so many levels, and so intensely and cogently as he did. And that is very important also for the inner life of the Church and the people of God!
EWTN.TV: And I think it is safe to say that he contributed to the shaping of the Council...
Gänswein: In fact, being the consultor, the advisor of Cardinal Frings, he did have a part in it. Many of the theological contributions of the Cardinal of Cologne had actually been written by Professor Ratzinger. There are lots of documents where you can clearly see that. And there are also dissertations on this subject which investigate into the possible influence of the then-Professor Ratzinger.
EWTN.TV: Let's come back to the moment of his resignation, the very last hours. Whoever watched it on TV, was surely moved to see the helicopter departing for Castel Gandolfo. You, too, were visibly moved…And then, the final moment, when the doors in Castel Gandolfo closed. That was the moment when I – and I guess, many others – thought that we might never see Pope Benedict again. But then things turned out quite differently…
Gänswein: Yes, indeed, the farewell: the transfer to the heliport, the flight in the helicopter over the city of Rome to Castel Gandolfo, the arrival at the Papal Villa. And indeed, at 8 p.m. the closing of the doors. Before, Pope Benedict had delivered a short speech from the balcony, his farewell speech. And then? Well, the works in the monastery Mater Ecclesiae hadn't been finished yet, so the question was: where could he stay? And the decision was quickly taken: the best option would be Castel Gandolfo. There he will have everything he needs, since no one knows how long the works will last; so he can stay there as long as necessary.
And so two months later, he returned to Rome, and has been living in the monastery Mater Ecclesiae ever since. He himself had said that he would withdraw, going up to the mountain in order to pray. He didn't mean a withdrawal into private life, but into a life of prayer, meditation and contemplation, in order to serve the Church and his successor. His successor often told him that he shouldn't hide. He invites him often to important public liturgies, consistories like – I remember it well – the inauguration ceremony of the Holy Year on the 8th of December 2015.
He is present, even when no one sees him. But often he has been seen. He simply wants to be present, as much as possible, while remaining all the same invisible.
EWTN.TV: Many people wish to meet him, and he allows them to. Does he enjoy these encounters? I myself had the chance of a brief encounter with him. There are still many people who ask to see him.
Gänswein: Yes, there are many people who ask to meet him; and many are sad when this is not possible. But those who come, are all very happy, very glad. And the same goes for him. Every encounter is also a sign of affection, a sign, so to say, of approval. And human encounters always do us good.
EWTN.TV: Do some of these people also ask him for advice?
Gänswein: Definitely. I'm convinced of that. I'm never there, though; these encounters are private. Of course, he sometimes talks about it, we talk about those visits. There are indeed people who seek his advice on personal matters. And I'm convinced that the advice they receive is indeed good…
EWTN.TV: Does he still receive many letters? Who writes to him?
Gänswein: People he has known in the past. And also people I don't know, and he doesn't know, but who have clearly re-discovered him through literature. They express their gratitude, their happiness, but also their worries: people from all around the world. The people who write to him are very different; they do not belong to the same category, no: it's people of different ages, of different positions, from all walks of life, a complete mixture.
EWTN.TV: We have talked about “seeking advice:” Pope Francis, who is of a certain age himself, has always said that we should ask our grandparents for advice. Has Pope Francis ever asked Benedict for advice? What kind of relationship do they have?
Gänswein: Yes, indeed, in one of his interviews, Pope Francis is said to be happy about having a grandfather like Benedict – a “wise” grandfather: an adjective not to be omitted! And I am convinced that, as far as this is concerned, one thing or another will come up, or come out, from their contacts and encounters.
EWTN.TV: Your relationship with Benedict is a very close, very personal one. I don't know if it would be appropriate to talk about a relationship between father and son. Have you ever talked with him about your future?
EWTN.TV: It is known that you would love to engage in pastoral care, that you already do engage in pastoral care.
Gänswein: It was always like that: we didn't talk about it. Only the very moment he said that he would resign, he asked me to accept the office I still hold. It was his decision, and he hadn't talked with me about it beforehand. I was very skeptical, and remarked: “Holy Father, that might not be my thing. But if you think it is right for me, I will gladly and obediently accept it.” And he replied: “I do think so, and I ask you to accept.” That was the only time we talked about me and my future career.
EWTN.TV: What are the subjects you talk about? What are the issues that concern him in our world full of crises; what worries him about the situation of the Church?
Gänswein: Well, of course, Pope Benedict takes an interest in what happens in this world, in the Church. Every day, as the conclusion to the day, we watch the news on Italian TV. And he reads the newspapers, the Vatican press review. That is a large range of information. Often we also talk about actual issues that concern our world, about the latest developments here in the Vatican, and beyond the Vatican, or simply common memories regarding things happened in the past.
EWTN.TV: Is he very worried about the Church?
Gänswein: Of course, he has noted that the faith, the substance of the faith, is about to crumble, above all in his homeland, and that inevitably worries, troubles him. But he is not the kind of man – he never was and never will be – who will have the joy taken away from him! On the contrary: he brings his worries to his prayers, hoping that his prayers will help to put things right.
EWTN.TV: He brings them to his prayers and surely also to Holy Mass. On Sundays, he delivers homilies, and is also keeping notes. What happens to these notes?
Gänswein: Well, it is true that Pope Benedict comments on the Gospel. He does so every Sunday, and most of the time only in the presence of the (consecrated laywomen of) “Memores Domini” and myself. Sometimes there might also be a visitor, or – should I not be there – a fellow priest who will then concelebrate. His homilies are always extemporaneous. It is true, he has a sermon notebook, and he takes notes. And I have been asking myself the same question: what happens to these notes? Of course we will keep a record of them. I would like to ask him one day if he could take a look at the notes we have, in order to approve them. I don't know, though, if that day will ever come.
EWTN.TV: Pope Benedict is undoubtedly one of the greatest theologians...as far as of our century is concerned, he surely is! He has been referred to as the “Mozart of theology.” In your introduction to the already mentioned book Über den Wolken mit Papst Benedikt XVI (Above the Clouds with Pope Benedict XVI) you wrote: “Pope Benedict XVI is a Doctor of the Church. And he has been my teacher up to this day.” What have you learned from him, maybe even in the last weeks?
Gänswein: As I already said, my theological thinking started with the reading of Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity. The theological teacher who accompanied my theological studies, and the time that followed, has always been the theologian Ratzinger, and still is. Being given the chance to meet him in person, to learn from his personal example, is of course an additional gift, something unexpected, and I am very grateful for that. I know it is a grace – a grace for which I will thank the Lord every single day.
EWTN.TV: So what could be, in your opinion, the lesson Pope Benedict would like us to learn from his pontificate?
Gänswein: His great concern was that the faith could evaporate. And it is surely his greatest wish that every man be in direct relationship with God, the Lord, with Christ, and that we might dedicate to this relationship our time, strength and affection. Whoever does that, will prove the same sentiment Benedict has in mind when he talks about “joy.” I think the greatest gift would be, if men allowed his proposal or what moved him, to become part of their lives.
EWTN.TV: Our wish to you: could you please assure Pope Benedict also in the name of our viewers, of our thankfulness, our sentiments of appreciation, and convey him our heartfelt best wishes for his 90th birthday! And thank you so much for this conversation!
Gänswein: Thank you. I will gladly convey your wishes, and thank you for having me!
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2017 / 05:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis reminded Christians on Easter Sunday that the Resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith – and that even in the face of unexplainable tragedy and suffering in the world, we can declare, “Christ is risen!”
“This is not a fantasy. The Resurrection of Christ is not a party with many flowers,” he said during Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “This is beautiful, but it is not this, it is more; It is the mystery of the rejected stone that ends up being the foundation of our existence.”
“This throwaway culture,” he said, where we use something and then throw it away, “where what is not needed is rejected, the stone – Jesus – is discarded” but then becomes the source of eternal life.
The world has many misfortunes, such as disease, human trafficking, wars, destruction, revenge and hatred. We may be tempted to ask, “But where is the Lord?” he said. “Today, the Church continues to say: ‘Stop, Jesus is risen.’”
The Pope said that before God, we can each say: “I do not know how this goes, but I'm sure that Christ is risen, and I'd bet on that.”
“Brothers and sisters, this is what I wanted to tell you. Go home now, repeating in your heart: ‘Christ is risen,’” he concluded.
Following Mass, Pope Francis gave the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
He said how through his death and Resurrection, Christ the Shepherd has come to save his people – those “lost sheep” who through sin have wandered onto the wrong path and away from him.
“All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross,” he said.
In his prayer, the Pope listed by name some of the current conflict zones around the world, especially the Middle East, Africa, South America and Ukraine, and called for peace in those regions of ongoing violence.
In particular, he named an attack which took place on the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria April 15. A bomb blast on a crowded Syrian bus convoy killed at least 112 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said April 16.
“In these times, especially support the efforts of those who work actively to bring relief and comfort to the civilian population in Syria, the victims of a war that continues to sow horror and death.”
“Just yesterday the last despicable attack on fleeing refugees which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries,” he prayed.
The Pope also prayed for all those caught in forms of slavery and for all those forced to leave their home because of conflict, terrorism, famine or oppressive regimes.
“In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life,” he said.
Please see below for the full text of the Pope’s "Urbi et Orbi" message:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”
The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.
All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).
In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.
The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.
He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.
The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.
In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.
Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death. Just yesterday the last despicable attack on fleeing refugees which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.
May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.
May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence. May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.
May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.
The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe. May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.
Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together. With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!” May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days. Happy Easter!