The Pope has named four women, three religious sisters and one laywomen, to serve as consultors to the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, an important Vatican department. According to Sister Nathalie Becquardt, xav., one of the women named, the move reflects Pope Francis' desire to be more inclusive and provide greater leadership roles for women in the church. The other women named are Sister Alessandra Smerilli, F.M.A,. Sister Maria Luisa Berzosa, F.I. and Professor Cecilia Costa.
Seeing the Spirit at work in the world
Join VISION Vocation Guide in Panama City, Jan. 22-25, in the Vocation Fair
Parque Omar, Section A, booths 23, 24, 25.
Walk through our "Steps to Discernment" display and enter to win a fitbit!
Other World World Youth Day events
Fiat International Festival for Youth and Young Adults, hosted by the U.S.A.
Sponsored byKnights of Columbus, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Fellowship of Catholic University Students
Wed., Jan. 23, 2019, 2 p.m. - midnight
Centro de Convenciones Amador (Figali Convention Center)
Recognizing the context of the Church this year (including the crisis, the Synod, the Encuentro, the National Dialogue, etc.), the conversation will center on “What is the role of young people at this moment in the life of the Church?”
Featuring music, witness talks, prayer, dialogue. Learn more here.
Pope Francis said that a life which isn't shared with others "belongs in the museum," according to Inés San Martín reporting for Crux. In a Google hangout with youth from around the world, the Pope urged young people not to succumb to an "elitist education" but to be agents of a "human globalization."
“To educate is not to know things," said Francis, but to be "capable of using the three languages, that of the hands, the heart and the mind. Education is to include.”
The Catholic New World recently profiled Deacon Pablo Perez of Chicago. Perez is the assistant director of the Kolbe House, a ministry that trains male and female volunteers to visit inmates in Chicago-area jails. They offer bilingual Bible studies, Mass, and Communion services to those in jail. Kolbe House also ministers to families of the incarcerated, families of victims, and those released from jail or prison.
Perez was once a member of a gang and overdosed on drugs. He credits God with helping him get his life back and uses his story to help minister to inmates, saying, “He [God] did it with me. He could do it with you."
Jail ministry was not what Perez originally saw himself doing, but he could not escape God's plan for him. He says, “...I saw the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the church in jail. Part of me stays in the jail now, because their suffering has become my suffering.”
CNN reports that Pope Francis called for an end to the death penalty, asking Catholic leaders to recognize the Year of Mercy by placing a moratorium on the practice for a year.
In St. Peter's Square, he said, "I make an appeal to the conscience of all rulers, so that we can achieve an international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty, and I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: that no sentence is executed in this Holy Year of Mercy."
The pope's remarks come as an international conference on "A World Without the Death Penalty" begins in Rome on Monday. Ministers of justice from more than 30 countries will attend to discuss the issue.
Pope Francis hopes the conference will help efforts to end capital punishment. "The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty," he said.
According to The Global Sisters Report, when Pope Francis visits San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, he will read from scripture and pray in the languages of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal, two ethnic Mayan groups, and he will address issues of inequality, indigenous rights, and migration, in what is Mexico’s poorest state.
Sister Manuela Hernández Núñez, a nun with Misioneros Crecares Diocesanas, says the pope's outreach to indigenous people is important since many have left the Catholic Church in recent years.
Sister Nora Gonzalez, a Tzotzil and a member of the order Hermanas de la Caridad de la Presenacion de la Santisima Virgen, adds, "If the people listen to him, maybe they will change and return to church because he has made it clear he is open to anyone. If they hear his call, their faith will get stronger. Right now there are many divisions and differences of opinion. Right now, I think everybody fights over everything. I believe the main message of the pope will be compassion and peace and coming together of both men and women of all faiths."
Sister Núñez is inspired by the pope’s inclusiveness and hopes that his visit will help inspire others to come back to the church. "His visit will be a confirmation of faith," she says. "In that way, we will get stronger."
According to the Catholic News Agency, Pope Francis began his trip to Mexico by urging Mexican leaders to help the nation’s young people. He said, “A people with a youthful population is a people able to renew and transform itself; it is an invitation to look to the future with hope and, in turn, it challenges us in a positive way here and now.”
With youth making up more than half the population of Mexico, the pontiff said there is a responsibility to create a future for men and women “who are upright, honest, and capable of working for the common good.”
The pope spoke at the National Palace to Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto, the country's diplomatic corps, and civil and social authorities.
The pope emphasized the church’s willingness to assist the Mexican government with caring for its citizens, saying, “The Mexican government can count on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, which has accompanied the life of this nation and which renews its commitment and willingness to serve the great causes of mankind: the building of the civilization of love.”
According to The Huffington Post, Pope Francis is publishing a book of his responses to letters from children. The book, Dear Pope Francis, will be out March 1 from Loyola Press in Chicago. The pope selected 30 letters and responded to each, often complimenting the artwork of the children.
Father Antonio Spadaro, who, like Pope Francis, is a Jesuit and is also the director of the Rome-based journal La Civilta Cattolica, was instrumental in the project, working with Tom McGrath, a vice president at the Jesuit-founded Loyola Press, to co-edit the book.
About 250 letters to the pope from kids aged 6 to 13 were received in 14 languages and from 26 countries around the world.
“He loved the project right from the beginning,” McGrath said. “He has this great affection for children, who have a great affection for him. He was surprised at the depth of the questions.”
The responses were neither edited nor condensed. McGrath said, “These are the pope’s exact words. At one point he mentioned, 'These are tough.’ He realized that he owed the kids a deeper answer than right off the top of his head.”
The book will be released in the United States in English and Spanish, and as part of an international Jesuit project, it will also be published in Brazil, Indonesia, Slovenia, Mexico, and India.
According to The Huffington Post, Pope Francis made his first visit to a synagogue and condemned violence in the name of religion on Sunday. The temple, Rome’s main synagogue, has now hosted three popes including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
The visit marked the commemoration of improved relations between Catholics and Jews. The pope used this opportunity to call for improved relations between all religions and to discourage extremism that results in conflict and violence.
"The violence of man against man is in contradiction with any religion worthy of this name, in particular the three great monotheistic religions [Judaism, Christianity, and Islam]," he said. "Conflicts, wars, violence, and injustices open deep wounds in humanity that call on us to strengthen our commitment to peace and justice. Neither violence nor death will ever have the last word before God."
The pope was accompanied by Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, and Yahya Pallavicini, an Italian Islamic leader involved in coordinating interfaith dialogues.
There were also a handful of Italian Hollocaust survivors at the ceremony. Pope Francis rose to give them a standing ovation and said, "The Shoah teaches us that we need the maximum vigilance in order to intervene quickly in defense of human dignity and peace."
In closing, the Pope called for the "rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity" and repeated an appeal for Catholics to "say 'no' to every form of anti-Semitism. Jews and Christians must, therefore, feel like brothers united by the same God and by a rich common spiritual heritage."
The Catholic Herald reports that Pope Francis made an unannounced visit to care centers for the elderly in Rome as part of his personal observation of the Holy Year of Mercy. The Vatican used #MercyFriday to announce the pope’s visit.
The pope plans to perform a work of mercy, personally and privately, on one Friday each month, although this began quite publically in December when he visited and celebrated Mass at a shelter. This time around, the Vatican chose to keep it a surprise and did not inform journalists nor the residents of the care centers ahead of time.
The Vatican statement said, “Pope Francis wanted to highlight—in opposition to the ‘throwaway culture’ —the great importance and preciousness of the elderly and grandparents as well as the value and dignity of life in every situation.”
According to National Catholic Reporter, Pope Francis was awarded the European Charlemagne Prize for 2016 in recognition of his work toward global peace and cultural understanding. He is the second pontiff to receive the award, which is given by the German city of Aachen. The award, which dates back to 1950, honors “the most valuable contribution in the services of Western European understanding and work for the community.”
One of the reasons Pope Francis received this award was his address during his visit to France in November 2014. During this speech he called for “abandon[ing] the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values, and faith.”
While Pope Francis will be unable to travel to Germany to accept the award, the committee will send a representative to present the award in person to the pope. He joins the ranks of Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, and Pope John Paul II, who have also received this award.
In a meeting with the Association of Catholic School Parents, Pope Francis encouraged strong ties between families and schools, according to Vatican Radio.
The pope spoke directly to parents in his address, emphasizing the importance of “building bridges” between schools, families, country, and other organizations in order to promote harmony. He said parents have a responsibility to advocate for their children’s education and make sure Catholic schools live up to their values. He added that Catholics must be accepting of everyone and not elitist in selecting education recipients.
“I pray to the Lord,” Francis said, “that a Catholic school does not take for granted the meaning of this adjective!”
The Christian Post reports that hundreds of Catholic high school and college students met in Washington, D.C., last week and urged Congress to stand with Pope Francis and his message on climate change, immigration, and human rights in Central America.
The students also heard from Sister Simone Campbell, S.S.S., a Sister of Social Servie and Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby group. “Faith through justice," said Campbell, "takes care of our earth, takes care of our people, takes care of our politics. So you all, use this moment to build bridges and transform our nation and give people hope.”
Over the weekend, the students met with members of Congress and discussed policy. At the end of the conference, the Ignatian Solidarity Network hosted a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill, the largest Catholic advocacy day of the year.
While Pope Francis is certainly no stranger to technology, he has urged people to stop texting and tweeting during family time. The Los Angeles Times recently covered the pope’s remarks about cell phones and screens at the dinner table.
"A family that almost never eats together, or that never speaks at the table but looks at the television or the smartphone, is hardly a family," Francis said. Family togetherness is very important, especially for young children, he said, calling it a "beautiful virtue."
This past week, to an audience in St. Peter’s Square, he encouraged everyone to put down technology and spend more time discussing experiences of the day with one another.
According to The Huffington Post, Pope Francis met with about 100 prisoners in Philadelphia on his final day in the United States. The pope spoke at Curran-Fromhold correctional facility and called for rehabilitation “which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community.”
He encouraged society to “create new opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctional authorities, and for society as a whole."
The pope said that punishment is often just and necessary but should never exclude hope. He said it is “painful when we see prison systems, which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society."
USA Today recently profiled Father Bob Simon, who built a replica of the Vatican out of Legos.
Father Simon, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Moscow, Pennsylvania, first attempted the project in grade school, but it “didn’t look anything like the real thing,” he said. Ever since, he had wanted to build a more realistic model of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square, and when Pope Francis’ visit to the United States was announced, it seemed like the right time to try again.
In September 2014, he began the building process. It took about 10 months and nearly half a million Legos, but the end result was good enough to be featured in a display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. According to Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of the Franklin Institute, the replica and other Lego creations have brought “record crowds” in this summer.
The replica features a figure of the pope waving to a crowd along with figures of nuns with iPhones. Even a figure of Elvis is included. Father Simon said, "St. Peter's Square is one of those places where people from all over the world come together."
He compared the repetitive process of building the replica to praying the rosary. "While your hands are busy, your mind and heart are elsewhere," he said. "It frees up the mind."
Pope Francis focused on the Christian call to service during his first Mass in Cuba this week, according to The Catholic News Agency. “Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it,” he said.
Francis addressed thousands of people gathered for Mass in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, or Revolution Square. He is the third pope to visit Cuba, preceded by Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
During his homily, Francis said, “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people."
He concluded, “Let us not forget the Good News we have heard today: the importance of a people, a nation, and the importance of individuals, which is always based on how they seek to serve their vulnerable brothers and sisters. Here we encounter one of the fruits of a true humanity.”
Pope Francis will soon make his first trip to Africa, according to The Huffington Post. In late November, the pope will visit Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic at the invitation of the heads of state and local bishops in each country.
While this trip poses security risks, many feel the pope’s presence in the region is important given the religious extremism and violence that has plagued it.
Upon completion of the trip, the pope will have visited all continents except Oceania within his first three years as pope.
Austen Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer: The Making of a Radical Pope, gave a lecture in August at Chicago's St. Ignatius College Prep in which he discussed the pope’s political role in the world, as well as the upcoming papal visit to the United States. Ivereigh, whose book has been praised by members of both political parties, started his lecture by stating that the most common problem that people run into with Pope Francis is that they overanalyze his agenda, often forgetting that it is his docility to the Holy Spirit that has captured the world’s attention.
Pope Francis’ political journey started with his grandmother, Rosa, who was his political inspiration and who encouraged him to become engaged with issues. Ivereigh believes that the pope was a bit torn between politics and religion and ultimately combined the two, giving the pope his unique charismatic blend.
When asked about what the pope will say to Congress, Ivereigh said he believes the pope will work to keep both sides in constant tension with one another, creating the space for dialogue and reform. While many will try to frame the pope's remarks as being for one side or the other, the author explained that the pope hates being pigeonholed. Ivereigh predicts that Francis’ main message will be that politicians should be close to the realities of the people they serve and make every effort to care for those on the margins of society. The author said this visit should be seen by Congress and the public as an invitation for the renewal of U.S. politics.
While in Chicago, Ivereigh was interviewed by The Catholic New World. Read more about his work and research on Pope Francis here.
According to the Catholic News Service, the World Meeting of Families (organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family) and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program have created a new mural for Pope Francis' visit to the city in September. Watch the video here.
|At the age of 81, Sister Maria Concetta Esu continues her lifelong work as a midwife in the Congo.|
Pope Francis recently blessed the hands of Sister Maria Concetta Esu, 81, who has delivered more than 34,000 babies while working as a midwife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"The task of a midwife brings me great joy because God gives life but he doesn't give birth," says Sister Esu in an article by Agence France Presse.
Sister Esu works in the clinic run by her order, the Daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni. About 40 babies are born in the clinic each month, and several parents have named their newborns Maria, after Sister Esu.
She was originally trained as a nurse in Italy and then studied tropical medicine in Belgium. She moved to the Congo in 1959, a year before the country’s independence.
Throughout the violence of wars and the rule of a dictator hostile to the Catholic Church, her mission became a haven of peace and assistance for many.
Currently, tension remains high in the country amid suspicions of political corruption, but Sister Esu says she has no plans to flee, explaining, "I want to stay here. I don't want to be a deserter. I've given my whole life here and I shall also give my bones."
|Pope Francis will visit Ecuador, Paraguay, and Bolivia to raise awareness of the struggles of the poor there..|
July 5-13 Pope Francis will be in South America visiting the continent's poorest nations: Ecuador, Paraguay, and Bolivia.
"Bolivia and Paraguay are the continent's poorest countries, writes Nicole Winfield for the Associated Press, with one in four Bolivians living on $2 a day, according to the World Bank. The countries are also small in population and weight compared to regional powerhouses like Chile and Argentina."
"Here you see a bit the pope's criteria: To go to visit even those countries that aren't geopolitically at the top rank of the world panorama," said the Vatican spokesman, the Father Federico Lombardi.
"Indigenous people will take center stage during much of Pope's visit," says Winfield "while Francis' own Jesuit order will be in the spotlight for its role in evangelizing the continent centuries ago and even today. Environmental concerns in the Amazon, border conflicts and the region's tortured history with authoritarian regimes also factor into the agenda."
Read more here.
|Pope Francis delivers his noon address on New Year's Day.|
At the start of the new year, Pope Francis encouraged people of all religious backgrounds and ethnicities to unite against injustices including slavery and human trafficking. This, the first mass of 2015, marked the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, with the theme “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters.”
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of working together: "All of us are called (by God) to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture, and religion, let us join our forces."
This papal goal for 2015 comes as no surprise to many. Pope Francis has recently asked both consumers and heads of state to be aware of how goods are produced and the negative effect of forced labor, and he has also championed the rights of workers.
After mass, he delivered the traditional New Year’s Day noon address, encouraging those seeking peace to continue their work. "Peace is always possible," he said, "but we have to seek it.”
|“This is a special time for celebrating, with all the Church, the gift of your vocation and for reviving your prophetic mission,” Pope Francis said of the Year of Consecrated Life. (photo credit: CNA)|
Msgr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Society of Apostolic Life, told Vatican Radio that the first Sunday of Advent was selected as the launch date because Advent represents "the time of hope par excellence." He said the congregation would like the entire year "to be lived with the hope that must always characterize consecrated life."
Pope Francis issued a letter for the YCL that states the focus of the year: "look to the past with gratitude," "live the present with passion," and "embrace the future with hope."
In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio, Zambia’s Bishop Patrick Chisanga of the Mansa Diocese of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals, said the declaration of a Year of Consecrated Life should be used by religious to revisit their call to religious life. "It is an important moment of introspection. Every religious institution in Africa needs to re-examine and ask itself where they are as an institution, where they are coming from, and where they are going. In other words, in this moment in time, what is their place and role in the Church?" Bishop Chisanga asks.
He emphasized that the year is not exclusively for religious. “It is a year in which the Church as a whole reflects on the charisms of the religious in the context of new evangelization and in the context of the importance of the family in Africa and in the Church. We must never forget that the men and women in religious life come from families,” he said.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated Mass for the first Sunday of Advent at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl quoted Pope Francis on the role of religious men and women: “I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are there is always joy!” Cardinal Wuerl said, “The background against which we recognize the joy of religious life is of course the value or worth of consecrated commitment and its unique witness in the world. This vision is found in the Gospels and particularly in the longstanding appreciation of the extraordinary witness to the reality of God’s kingdom that is religious life.”
Upcoming events for the Year of Consecrated Life include:
Jan. 22-24, 2015 - Meeting of Catholic consecrated men and women and consecrated religious from other Christian traditions (to be held during the week of Christian unity).
Feb. 8, 2015 - Day of Open House with Religious.
|Pope Francis extends his hands to a child with autism.
Last Saturday, during the international conference on autism hosted by the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of hope for children and families affected by the condition.
The pope encouraged people around the world, especially governments and institutions, to break “‘the isolation, and in many cases also the stigma" associated with autism, which is characterized by varying levels of social impairment and communication difficulties.
The pope advocated for those suffering from autism and other spectrum disorders, saying, "It is necessary, the commitment of everyone, in order to promote encounters and solidarity, in a concrete action of support and renewed promotion of hope.”
The pope’s words touched everyone in the audience, especially families of those affected by autism.
"It was an explosion of emotions," said Maria Cristina Fiordi, a mother of a child with autism. "For us, we are parents of a child affected with autism, this meeting was very important. It was as an outstretched hand through a problem that is very often not considered in the right way."
Read more here.
In January, following the death of a 3-year-old boy after a Mafia ambush, Pope Francis began speaking out against organized crime. Then in June, the pope traveled to the place of the murder and “accused Mafia members of pursuing the ‘adoration of evil’” according to a report in Huffington Post, and even went so far as to excommunicate members of the mafia.
Next, Pope Francis will visit a mafia stronghold near Naples, in the town of Caserta, and many are wondering what this fierce anti-mafia stance will do for his papacy and his papal legacy.
Philip Willian, author of The Vatican at War, says, “The church has been divided over what sort of stance to take against organized crime. When the Pope puts his weight decisively behind the people fighting that battle, he gives them extra strength and encouragement.”
Since the Pope has started actively speaking out, other clerics have been more active in fighting the Mafia as well. A bishop in Calabria “put a 10 year moratorium on naming godfathers at baptisms in a bid to stop Mafia members from spreading their influence” and another bishop “ordered an end to religious processions after hundreds of people carrying a statue of the Madonna bowed in front of the house of a powerful godfather.”
The problem the Vatican and the church is facing is that Catholic rituals and practices are often “embedded in the secret rituals and practices of the Calabrian Mafia” and other rings of organized crime.
Enzo Ciconte, a top Mafia expert in Italy, says many mafia members “use religion simply as a means to gain social approval and advance their criminal operations. The actions of the pope could drive a wedge between the Mafia and those who are genuine believers.”
While many have stressed their concerns for the Pope and his safety, Ciconte also adds, “The Mafia is not stupid. It is not worth it for [them] to attack the pope. They will look for ways to pressure the faithful or will stop giving money to the church.”