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Pope Francis: Angelus catechesis on humility, generosity

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the final Sunday in the month of August and the twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In remarks to the pilgrims and tourists gathered in the Square ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel reading of the day, taken from the Gospel according to St. Luke (14:1, 7-14), in which Jesus dines as the guest of a leading Pharisee, and teaches a hard truth about pride and the Kingdom of God and issues a challenge to all present to focus their thoughts and order their actions to the promise of the Resurrection.

As often happens, Jesus taught the Gospel lesson through parables, the first of which regarded the behavior of guests at a banquet:

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, “Give your place to this man,” and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

The Second, equally famous lesson regarded the attitude and behavior of the one, who gives the banquet:

When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.  

Remarking the lessons, Pope Francis offered words of praise for the many people who have heeded the call and offer their assistance at shelters and soup kitchens, feeding the hungry and performing many other works of mercy.

“Let us ask the Virgin Mary – who was humble all her life – to lead us every day on the way of humility,” he said, “so that we are capable of making our own gestures of welcome toward and solidarity with the marginalized, seeking nothing in return, so that we might become worthy of the divine reward.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis heralds upcoming Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called attention on Sunday to the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to be celebrated this coming Thursday, September 1stA major global ecumenical stewardship initiative, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation began in 1989 under the leadership of the Orthodox Church.

Pope Francis established the Day for the Catholic Church by a letter dated August 6th, 2015, and addressed to Cardinals Peter Turkson and Kurt Koch, respectively the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

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In the letter, Pope Francis says, “The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

Speaking to the faithful following the traditional Angelus prayer on the final Sunday in August, Pope Francis looked forward to the event, saying, “This coming Thursday, September 1st, we will mark the World Day of Prayer for the care of creation, together with our Orthodox brothers and with other Churches,” describing the event as, “an opportunity to strengthen the common commitment to safeguard life, respecting the environment and nature.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Angelus appeal for quake victims in central Italy

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered words of encouragement to the people of the quake-damaged border area in central Italy where the regions of Latium, Umbria and the Marches meet, renewing his appeal for prayerful and concrete solidarity, and expressing the desire to visit the stricken places as soon as possible.

Addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square following the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said, “Dear Brothers and Sisters, I wish to renew my spiritual closeness to the inhabitants of Latium, the Marches and Umbria, hard hit by the earthquake in these past days.”

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The Holy Father went on to make specific mention of the towns, which suffered the most grievous loss of life and the most extensive damage. “I think in particular the people of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto, Norcia: again I say to those dear people that the Church shares their suffering and their worries.”

“She prays for the dead and for the survivors,” Pope Francis continued. “The solicitude with which [civil] authorities, police, civil protection and volunteers are operating, shows how important solidarity is in order to overcome such painful trials,” he added.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope concluded, “I hope to come to see you as soon as possible, to bring you in person the comfort of the Faith, the embrace of a father and a brother, and the support of Christian hope.”

Immediately following these words, the Holy Father led all the gathered faithful in praying a Hail Mary for the victims, their families, and for everyone affected by the deadly quake.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to Church in Americas: bring the balm of Christ's presence

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Video Message to the Church in the Americas, to mark the Jubilee of the Americas, organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Latin America (CELAM) and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Scheduled to take place in Bogota, Colombia, from the 27th to the 30th of August, the theme of the continental Jubilee celebration is taken from Pope Francis’ homily at Mass on May 2nd, 2015, at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he had gone to visit as part of preparations for the canonization of St. Junipero Serra: “May a powerful gust of holiness sweep through all the Americas during the coming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy!”

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For the full text of Pope Francis' Mesage, click here

Along with the bishops, priests, religious men and women, and laity of the 22 Latin American and Caribbean countries, delegates from Canada and the United States and representatives of the Holy See are taking part in the Jubilee celebration, which seeks to turn the “Spirit of mercy” that animates this Jubilee Year into genuine and concrete help especially for all those who, in the words of Pope Francis, live on the “existential peripheries” of life.

In his Message, Pope Francis says, “All of us are aware, all of us know that we live in a society that is hurting: no one doubts this.  We live in a society that is bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ends up being paid by the most vulnerable. But it is precisely to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends us and urges us to bring the balm of His presence.”

The schedule of events over the three-day celebration includes a penitential liturgy including time for personal confessions, a reflection on the legacy of holiness found in the American saints, a full day dedicated to Works of Mercy on the American continent, and a public conversation on mercy as the soul of a culture of encounter.

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican Sec of State hopes for improved diplomatic relations with China

(Vatican Radio)  Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed his ‘hopes and expectations for new developments and a new season in relations between the Apostolic See and China’ in a speech on Saturday at the diocesan seminary in Pordenone, Italy.

The speech – laden with the history of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See – focused on the figure of Cardinal Celso Costantini as a bridge builder.

Born in Castions di Zoppola in 1876 and an honorary citizen of Pordenone and Aquileia, Cardinal Costantini was named the first Apostolic Delegate to China in 1922 until 1933 by Pope Pius XI.

Cardinal Parolin said “Celso Costantini successfully completed a mission of extraordinary importance: he created a ‘bridge’ between Holy See and China, to which Pope Francis pays the utmost attention and, I am sure, also the people and government of China”.

A diary written by Cardinal Celso Costantini, entitled The Secrets of a Vatican Cardinal: Celso Costantini's Wartime Diaries, 1938-1947, was kept secret before being published in 2010 and tells some of the story of his assignment in China.

Below is a Vatican Radio English translation of the conclusion portion of Cardinal Parolin’s speech:

In light of these brief reflections on the events surrounding Cardinal Celso Costantini in relation to the vast ‘continent’ that is China, one becomes aware of his singular capacity to ‘build bridges’, that is, his capacities of knowledge, of respect, of encounter, and of dialogue between worlds, very distant, at least in appearance.

Today, as ever, many are the hopes and expectations for new developments and a new season of relations between the Apostolic See and China for the benefit not only of Catholics in the land of Confucius but for the entire country, which boasts of one of the greatest civilizations on Earth. I would dare to say [these relations] would be beneficial even for an ordered, peaceful, and fruitful cohabitation of peoples and nations in a world, like our own, torn by many tensions and conflicts. I consider it important to forcefully underline this idea:  New hopes and good relations with China – including diplomatic ties, if God so wishes! – are neither an end in themselves nor a desire to reach some kind of ‘worldly’ success. They are thought out and pursued – not without fear and trembling because it involves the Church which belongs to God – I repeat, they are pursued only in the measure in which they are ‘ordered’ toward the good of Chinese Catholics, to the good of the entire Chinese people, and to the harmony of the whole society, in favor of world peace.

Pope Francis, as his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XIV before him, knows well the baggage of suffering, of misunderstandings, often of silent martyrdom which the Catholic community in China carries on its shoulders: it is the weight of history! But he also knows, along with external and internal difficulties, how alive is the yearning for full communion with the Successor of Peter, how many advances have been made, how many efforts are made to witness to the love of God and the love of neighbor, especially to the people weakest and most in need, which is the synthesis of all Christianity. [Pope Francis] also knows and encourages, especially in this Jubilee of Mercy, mutual forgiveness, reconciliation between brothers and sisters who have been divided, and the struggle to grow in understanding, collaboration, and love!

We are all called to accompany with caring closeness, respect, humility, and above all prayer this path of the Church in China. It involves writing a new page of history, looking ahead with trust in Divine Providence and healthy realism to insure a future in which Chinese Catholics can feel profoundly Catholic – ever more visibly anchored on the solid rock, which, by the will of Jesus, is Peter – and fully Chinese, without having to deny or diminish all that is true, noble, pure, lovable, honorable (cf. Phil 4,8) of that which their history and their culture has produced and continues to produce. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that nothing is truly human if it does not find an echo in the heart of the disciples of Christ! (cf. GS n.1).

It should be realistically accepted that there is no shortage of problems to be resolved between the Holy See and China and that they can generate, often by their complexity, differing positions and orientations. However, such problems are not completely unlike those positively dealt with 70 years ago. Cardinal Celso Costantini, therefore, remains a source of inspiration and a model of extreme actuality. In this sense, I thank you also because this conference, prepared for you, gave me the occasion to better study the figure and work [of Cardinal Costantini], just as others in this diocese have done and are doing.

On the path which remains to be walked, we commend ourselves with immense trust to Our Lady, invoked under the title “Help of Christians, Auxilium christianorum”. Cardinal Costantini in 1924 crowned her image in Sheshan, near Shanghai.

On 22 May 2016, in light of the liturgical feast of Our Lady venerated in Sheshan, Pope Francis yearned for, in the current Year of Mercy, “an authentic culture of encounter and harmony of all of society, that harmony which the Chinese spirit loves so much” [1]. This spirit finds full consonance in the Bishops of Rome who have always demonstrated maximum consideration, enormous commitment, and unbounded love for the Chinese people.

[1] All’Angelus il Papa ricorda che ogni uomo è un essere in relazione. Orizzonte trinitario. E invita a pregare per il vertice di Istanbul e per la Cina, in L’Osservatore Romano, 23-24 maggio 2016, 7. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope thanks Ventimiglia diocese for care of migrants, refugees

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to the bishop of the northern Italian city of Ventimiglia, where scores of migrants and refugees have congregated in the hopes of crossing the nearby border into France.

Listen to Ann Schneible's report:

The Pope’s message, which was published on the diocesan website, comes in response to a letter from Bishop Antonio Suetta of Ventimiglia – San Remo, which recounted the situation on the ground.

In the Holy Father’s letter, which was signed 17 August, he expressed his spiritual closeness with “affection and prayer” to the bishop, the entire diocese, and all those who “strive to meet the needs of these people who are escaping war and violence, in search of hope and a peaceful future.”

“I wish so much to thank you for the efforts which this diocesan community is deploying with admirable evangelical charity, establishing human, logistical, and economic resources to support these, our brothers and sisters, who are living an immense tragedy.”

Pope Francis encouraged the bishop, along with the priests, consecrated persons, pastoral workers, and other Church entities to continue with their “generous commitment to welcome and solidarity,” thereby becoming “ever more a ‘Church in exit,’ the joyful herald of the Gospel of mercy and a witness to hope.”

The Pope concluded his message by reiterating his “sincere appreciation” for the fervor of the diocesan community, and assuring them of his prayers, while bestowing on them his apostolic blessing.

(from Vatican Radio)

Catholic communities organize activities to battle racism

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Bernard Hebda will lead a public prayer service at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at St. Peter Claver, 375 Oxford St. N., St. Paul. On Sept. 11, St. Bridget in Minneapolis is hosting an ecumenical prayer and worship service with Minneapolis' New Creation Church. "Come Together: Seeking God's Peace" will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at St. Bridget's campus, 3811 Emerson Ave. N., Minneapolis.

Suspect sought in murders of nuns who worked at Mississippi clinic

Police continued to search for the killer of two women religious who spent years caring for poor people as nurse practitioners in central Mississippi.

Federal judge blocks directive on transgender access to school bathrooms

A U.S. District Court judge in Texas has temporarily blocked a directive by the Obama administration on transgender access to bathrooms in public schools, and the injunction applies nationwide.

Victims seek $80M from archdiocese in Reorganization plan

Three months after the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed a plan for Reorganization in its bankruptcy proceedings, the committee representing sexual abuse claimants filed its own plan Aug. 22 that seeks approximately $80 million in compensation from the archdiocese.