Pope: ‘Jesus is always with people but never seeking popularity’

(Vatican Radio)  If we keep our eyes constantly fixed on Jesus, we will discover with surprise that it is he who looks lovingly upon each of us. That was Pope Francis’ message on Tuesday at his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

Jesus does not seek popularity, but is always among people

The author of Hebrews exhorts us to run in the faith “with perseverance, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” In the Gospel, Jesus looks at us and sees us. Pope Francis explained that he is close to us, he “is always in the crowd”:

  • “He didn’t walk around with guards to protect him, so that the people could not touch him. No, no! He stayed there and people surrounded him. And there were more people around every time Jesus went out. Statisticians might have been inclined to publish: ‘Rabbi Jesus’ popularity is falling’. But he sought something else: he sought people. And the people sought him. The people had their gaze fixed on him and he had his fixed on them. ‘Yes, yes, on the people, on the multitude’ – ‘No, on each individual!’. This is the peculiarity of Jesus’ gaze: He does not standardize people; He looks at each person.”

Jesus sees both great and small things

The Gospel of Mark narrates two miracles: Jesus heals a woman suffering from hemorrhaging for 12 years who, though pressed by the crowd, was able to touch his cloak. And he realizes that he was touched. Then, he raises the twelve year-old daughter of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He understands that the girl is hungry and tells her parents to give her something to eat:

  • “The gaze of Jesus falls on both the big and the small. That’s how Jesus sees us all: He sees all things, but looks at each of us. He sees our big problems, our greatest joys, and also looks at the little things about us. Because he is close. Jesus is not afraid of the big things, but also takes account of the small ones. That’s how Jesus looks at us.”

The surprise of encountering Jesus

If we run “with perseverance, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”, Pope Francis said, “we will be ‘completely astonished’, just as happened to the people after the raising of Jairus’ daughter”:

  • “I go forward, looking at Jesus. I walk ahead, keeping my gaze fixed on Jesus, and what do I find? That he has his gaze fixed on me! And that makes me feel this great astonishment. This is the astonishment of the encounter with Jesus. But let us not be afraid! We are not afraid, just as that woman was not afraid to touch Jesus’ mantle. Let us not be afraid! Let us run down this road with our gaze ever fixed on Jesus. And we will have a beautiful surprise: He will fill us with awe. Jesus himself has his gaze fixed on me.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Cardinal Parolin visits Madagascar

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, is currently visiting Madagascar from 26 January to 1 February. The Cardinal is in that country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Madagascar.

On the first day of his visit, the Secretary of State met with President Hery Rajaonarimampianina at the Presidential Palace. The Head of State was flanked by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Cardinal Parolin was accompanied by the Apostolic Nuncio and some of the country’s Bishops. Also present was Cardinal Maurice Piat, the Bishop of Port-Louis in Mauritius.

Leaders of other Christian denominations joined the reception that followed the meeting.

President Rajaonarimampianina expressed appreciation for the visit, recalling the good relations between the Holy See and Madagascar, over the last 50 years. He spoke in glowing terms of his visit to Pope Francis in June 2014.

The President recognised the important role that the Catholic Church plays with its institutions contributing to the social development of all citizens in Madagascar, particularly in the education and health sector. Rajaonarimampianina hoped that the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic relations would serve to strengthen ties between the Holy See and Madagascar.

For his part, Cardinal Parolin conveyed the affectionate greetings of Pope Francis to the people of Madagascar. The Cardinal Secretary of State expressed his sincere gratitude for the extraordinarily warm welcome that was reserved for him in Madagascar. Building on the reason for his visit, he expressed the readiness of the Holy See to continue the fruitful collaboration with Madagascar.

The Holy See prelate encouraged the local Church in Madagascar to continue contributing to the spiritual and social well-being of all citizens. He hoped that his visit would help support an agreement towards the full legal recognition of institutions of the Church.

Later, the Cardinal Secretary of State was decorated with the Grand Officer of the National Order of Madagascar award.

From Madagascar, Cardinal Parolin is scheduled to travel to Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo with a brief stop-over in Nairobi, Kenya.

(Email: engafrica@vatiradio.va)

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope meets bishops of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo in ad limina visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday met with the bishops of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who are in Rome for their “ad limina apostolorum” visit.

The President of the International Bishops’ Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius, to which the bishops belong, spoke to Vatican Radio ahead of the ad limina visit.

Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue

Bishop Ladislav Nemét SVD of Zrenjanin, Serbia said ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is an important aspect of the Bishops’ Conference.

“As for Serbia, collaboration and ecumenical relations between the Holy See and the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church is very good… In Kosovo, interreligious dialogue is more meaningful, because Catholics live among Muslims. In Montenegro and Macedonia it is difficult for the Catholic Church to maintain relations with the official Orthodox Church and even with two Orthodox churches, which are growing with large state aid.”

Four different countries

Bishop Nemét said the Conference has made a recent proposal to the Holy See to divide the international group into national conferences.

He said the reason for the request is “because of the enormous differences between these countries”.

“We have four countries with differing legislation: only in Serbia do we have the right to teach religion in elementary and secondary schools. As for Montenegro, the government has signed a Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See. However, there are no similar accords with the other countries.”

Top priorities

Bishop Nemét said that, despite the request to divide the International Conference, a top priority is to “maintain a spirit of collaboration between the four countries”.

The second priority, he said, is to “reinforce our presence in these four diverse societies: reconciliation is still far off between Croatians and Serbians, between Albanians and Serbians…”

He concluded that these are areas of “great problems and challenges, and we can truly make a positive contribution, also according to the intentions of the Holy Father, who does much for peace in the world.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis expresses condolences following Quebec attack

(Vatican Radio) On Monday morning, following the usual Mass at the Pope’s residence in the Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father met with Cardinal Gérald Cyprien LaCroix, assuring the Archbishop of Quebec City of his prayers for the victims of the attack on a mosque there on Sunday night.

Pope Francis stressed the importance of for all, Christians and Muslims, to be united in prayer. Following his meeting with the Pope, Cardinal Lacroix returned immediately to Canada.

The Holy Father also formally expressed his condolences for the victims of the terrorist attack in a telegram addressed to Cardinal Lacroix, and signed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The full text of the telegram, written in French, is provided below in an English translation:

Telegram concerning the attack on a mosque in Quebec City:

Most Eminent Cardinal Gérald Cyprien LaCroix

Having learned of the attack which occurred in Quebec in a prayer room of the Islamic Cultural Centre, which claimed many victims, His Holiness Pope Francis entrusts to the mercy of God the persons who lost their lives and he associates himself through prayer with the pain of their relatives. He expresses his profound sympathy for the wounded and their families, and to all who contributed to their aid, asking the Lord to bring them comfort and consolation in the ordeal. The Holy Father again strongly condemns the violence that engenders such suffering; and, imploring God for the gift of mutual respect and peace, he invokes upon the sorely tried families, and upon all persons touched by this tragedy, as well as upon all Quebecers, the benefits of the divine Blessing.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope meets bishops of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo in ad limina visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday met with the bishops of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who are in Rome for their “ad limina apostolorum” visit.

The President of the International Bishops’ Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius, to which the bishops belong, spoke to Vatican Radio ahead of the ad limina visit.

Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue

Bishop Ladislav Nemét SVD of Zrenjanin, Serbia said ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is an important aspect of the Bishops’ Conference.

“As for Serbia, collaboration and ecumenical relations between the Holy See and the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church is very good… In Kosovo, interreligious dialogue is more meaningful, because Catholics live among Muslims. In Montenegro and Macedonia it is difficult for the Catholic Church to maintain relations with the official Orthodox Church and even with two Orthodox churches, which are growing with large state aid.”

Four different countries

Bishop Nemét said the Conference has made a recent proposal to the Holy See to divide the international group into national conferences.

He said the reason for the request is “because of the enormous differences between these countries”.

“We have four countries with differing legislation: only in Serbia do we have the right to teach religion in elementary and secondary schools. As for Montenegro, the government has signed a Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See. However, there are no similar accords with the other countries.”

Top priorities

Bishop Nemét said that, despite the request to divide the International Conference, a top priority is to “maintain a spirit of collaboration between the four countries”.

The second priority, he said, is to “reinforce our presence in these four diverse societies: reconciliation is still far off between Croatians and Serbians, between Albanians and Serbians…”

He concluded that these are areas of “great problems and challenges, and we can truly make a positive contribution, also according to the intentions of the Holy Father, who does much for peace in the world.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope: small, persecuted Churches, the strength of the Church

(Vatican Radio) The greatest strength of the Church today is in the little, persecuted Churches. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta. At the heart of the Pope’s homily were the martyrs: “Today there are more than in the first ages” – but the media says nothing about them, he continued, because it’s not news. Pope Francis invited us to remember those who suffer martyrdom.

“Without memory there is no hope,” the Pope said, basing his homily on the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. The first Reading of the Mass is an exhortation to remember the whole history of the people of the Lord. The liturgy in these days focuses on the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, which speaks of memory – and first of all, a “memory of docility,” the memory of the docility of so many people, beginning with Abraham, who was obedient, who went out from his own land without knowing where he was going. In particular, the section of Hebrews 11 read in today’s Mass dealt with other memories: the memory of the great works of the Lord, accomplished by Gideon, Barak, Samson, David; “so many people,” the Pope said, “who have done great things in the history of Israel.

Today there are more martyrs than in the first ages: the media says nothing because they’re not newsworthy

There is also a third group we remember: the martyrs, “those who have suffered and given their lives, as Jesus did,” who “were stoned, tortured, killed by the sword.” The Church, in fact, is “this people of God,” “sinful but docile,” which “does great things and also bears witness to Jesus Christ, to the point of martyrdom”:

“The martyrs are those that carry the Church forward, they are those who support the Church, who have supported her [in the past] and [who] support her today. And today there are more than in the first centuries. The media doesn’t speak of them because they’re not newsworthy, but so many Christians in the world today are blessed because [they are] persecuted, insulted, incarcerated. There are so many imprisoned solely for carrying a cross or for confessing Jesus Christ! This is the glory of the Church, and our support, and also our humiliation: we who have so much, everything seems so easy for us, and if we are lacking something we complain. But let us think of these our brothers and sisters who today, in numbers greater than in the first ages, are suffering martyrdom!”

“I cannot forget,” Pope Francis continued, “the testimony of that priest and that sister in the Cathedral of Tirana [Albania]: years and years of imprisonment, forced labour, humiliations,” for whom human rights did not exist.

The greatest strength of the Church is the small, persecuted Churches

Then the Pope recalled that the greatest strength of the Church of today is in the “little Churches” that are persecuted:

“And we too – it’s also true and just – we are satisfied when we see a great ecclesial act, which has great success, Christians who demonstrate… and this is beautiful! Is this strength? Yes, it’s strength. But the greatest strength of the Church today is in the little Churches, tiny, with few people, persecuted, with their Bishops in prison. This is our glory today, this is our glory and our strength.”

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians

“A Church without martyrs – I would dare to say – is a church without Jesus,” the Pope said in conclusion. He then invited those present to pray “for our martyrs, who suffer so much… for those Churches that are not free to express themselves: they are our hope.” And the Pope recalled that in the first ages of the Church, an ancient writer said “the blood of Christians, the blood of the martyrs, is the seed of Christians”:

“They, with their martyrdom, their witness, with their suffering, even giving their life, offering their life, sow Christians for the future and in other Churches. Let us offer this Mass for our martyrs, for those who are now suffering, for the Churches that suffer, who do not have liberty. And let us thank the Lord for being present with the strength of the Holy Spirit in these our brothers and sisters who today are bearing witness to Him.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope prays for quake struck populations and leprosy victims

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday reiterated his closeness to the earthquake struck populations of Central Italy who are still suffering the consequences of the quake as well as the effects of extremely difficult weather conditions.

Speaking after the Angelus Prayer to some 25,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope appealed to political authorities saying “May these brothers and sisters of ours never lack solidarity and  the constant support of the Institutions.”

“And please: may no kind of burocracy stand in the way, causing delays and ulterior suffering” he said.  

The Pope also recalled World Leprosy Day with an appeal to beat the disease but also to fight the discrimination it generates.

Referring to the observance, marked annually on the last Sunday of January, he pointed out that  although leprosy is in decline, it is still much feared and it invariably strikes the poorest and the most marginalized persons.

“I send my encouragement to those who work to assist the victims of leprosy and assure them of my prayers” he said.  

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope: humility and trust in God are essential Christian virtues

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday dedicated his catechesis to the Gospel reading of the day  reflecting on the Beatitudes recounted in the Sermon on the Mount.

He was addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the  Angelus prayer.

The Gospel of Matthew, Francis said, is the keystone of the New Testament. It tells of how Jesus manifested God’s will to show man the path to happiness.

He said this message was already contained in the words of the prophets who highlighted God’s liberating closeness to the poor and the oppressed.

But Jesus, he said, points to a different path which exhorts us all to trust in God as Christian happiness is to be found in the promise of salvation.  

Focusing on the first Beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, Pope Francis said he who is poor in spirit does not rebel, but knows how to be humble, obedient, and available to the grace of God. 

And he pointed out that the happiness of the poor in spirit has two dimensions: first of all in respect to material goods that should be used with moderation:

Being weighed down by the need for voracious consumption that leads one to believe “the more I have, the more I want” is something, the Pope said, that kills the soul. The man or woman who has this attitude, he explained, will never be happy.

Poverty of spirit, he continued, is revealed in the way a Christian praises and acknowledges the love with which the Lord created us and the world. In the way he puts his trust in God.

“He who is poor in spirit is the Christian who does not trust in material riches, who is not obstinate in conveying his own opinions, but listens with respect and willingly defers to the decisions of others” he said.

“If there were more people who are poor in spirit in our communities there would be fewer divisions, disagreements and controversies! Humility, like charity, it is an essential virtue for living together in Christian communities”.

Poverty, in the evangelical sense, the Pope said, is the path to the Kingdom of Heaven, a path that favors sharing rather than possession. 

“You can walk the path of love – the Pope concluded – only if you have an open heart” following the example of Our Lady, the prime model of the poor in spirit, and totally docile to the will of the Lord.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Grand Master of Sovereign Order of Malta resigns from office

(Vatican Radio) The Sovereign Order of Malta’s Sovereign Council on Saturday accepted the resignation of Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing.

A press release says that Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein assumes the office of Lieutenant ad interim, and  Albrecht Boeselager resumes his office as Grand Chancellor

Please find the Sovereign Order of Malta’s official press release below:

The Sovereign Council, the government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, met this afternoon in the Magistral Palace in Rome. On the agenda was the resignation from Office of Grand Master presented by Fra’ Matthew Festing, in accordance with article 16 of the Constitution of the Order of Malta. The Sovereign Council accepted his resignation from office. 
Conforming to the Constitution, the Pope has been notified of the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing, which will be communicated to the 106 Heads of State with whom the Order has diplomatic relations. 
In accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution, the Grand Commander, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, has assumed the office of Lieutenant ad interim and will remain the Order of Malta’s head until the election of the successor of the Grand Master. 
The Sovereign Council thanked Fra’ Matthew Festing for his great commitment during his nine years in office. Subsequently, the Sovereign Council presided over by the Lieutenant ad interim annulled the decrees establishing the disciplinary procedures against Albrecht Boeselager and the suspension of his membership in the Order. Albrecht Boeselager resumes his office as Grand Chancellor immediately. 
In a letter sent yesterday, 27 January 2017, to Fra’ Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein and the members of the Sovereign Council, Pope Francis reaffirmed the special relationship between the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Apostolic See. 
The Pope affirmed that the Lieutenant ad interim assumes responsibility over the Order’s government, in particular regarding relationships with other States. Pope Francis noted precisely that his Special Delegate will be operating on “the spiritual renewal of the Order, specifically of pag. 2 its professed members.” 
The Sovereign Order of Malta ensures its full collaboration with the Special Delegate whom the Holy Father intends to appoint. The Sovereign Order of Malta is most grateful to Pope Francis and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for their interest in and care for the Order. The Order appreciates that the Holy Father’s decisions were all carefully taken with regard to and respect for the Order, with a determination to strengthen its sovereignty. 
The Lieutenant ad interim together with the Sovereign Council will soon convoke the Council Complete of State for the election of the successor of the Grand Master, according to Art. 23 of the Constitution.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis greets Plenary of Congregation for Consecrated Life

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday said the Church is facing a “hemorrhaging” of members of religious orders which is weakening consecrated life, and at the same time, the Church herself.

The Pope was speaking to the Plenary Session of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which was discussing the theme “Fidelity and Abandonment,” which explored why people leave their vocation.

The Holy Father said although some leave for good reasons, because after discernment, they discover they do not have a vocation; but noted others leave years after making their final profession, and asks “What happened?”

“There are many factors which affect fidelity [to one’s vocation] in this era of change, which is not only a changing era, in which it is difficult to assume responsibilities which are serious and definitive,” Pope Francis said.

The Holy Father said the primary factor is a “provisional” culture, which leads to living an “à la carte” life which is “a slave to fashion.”

“This culture induces the need to always have ‘side doors’ open to other possibilities; it feeds consumerism and forgets the beauty of a simple and austere life, and in many cases causes an existential void,” – Pope Francis said – “It has also produces a powerful practical relativism, according to which everything is judged in terms of a self-realization which is often extraneous to the values of the Gospel.”

The Holy Father added “we live in a society where economic rules replace those of morality; laws that dictate and impose their own frames of reference at the expense of the values of life; a society where the dictatorship of money and profit proposes a vision of existence in which those who do not render to it are discarded.”

The Pope then turned to the current “world of youth,” which he described as “complex, but at the same time rich and challenging.”

The Holy Father said “young people seek a genuine spiritual life,” but can be seduced by the logic of worldliness, “the search for success at any price, easy money and easy pleasure.” He said this must be countered by “infect[ing] them with the joy of the Gospel…this culture must be evangelized if we do not want young people to succumb.”

Pope Francis finally turned to the situation within institutes of consecrated life, warning against a “counter witness” to fidelity.

“Such situations, among others, are: Routine, fatigue, the weight of managing structures, internal divisions, the search for power, a worldly manner of governing institutions, a service of authority that sometimes becomes authoritarianism and other times is laissez-faire,” – the Pope explained – “If the consecrated life wants to maintain its prophetic mission and its fascination, continuing to be a school of faithfulness for those near and those far, it must maintain the freshness and novelty of the centrality of Jesus; its spiritual attractiveness and the strength of mission; and show the beauty of following Christ and radiate hope and joy.”

The Pope urged them to pay particular attention to living their fraternal life in community, “nourished by communal prayer, prayerful reading of the Word, active participation in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, fraternal dialogue and sincere communication among members, fraternal correction, mercy towards brothers or sisters who sin, and sharing responsibilities.”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by bringing up the importance of accompaniment, and the necessity of preparing qualified spiritual guides.

“It is hard to remain faithful walking alone or walking with the guidance of brothers and sisters who are not able to listen carefully and patiently, or who lack adequate experience of consecrated life,” – the Holy Father said – “We need brothers and sisters experienced in the ways of God… Many vocations are lost for lack of good leaders.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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