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Pope greets participants in Vatican water conference

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has greeted participants in a Vatican conference on the value and values of water promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Wednesday, March 22, marks the 25th iteration of World Water Day, instituted by the United Nations in 1992.

The conference is entitled “Watershed: replenishing water values for a thirsty world”.

During his greetings to English speakers at the General Audience, Pope Francis gave a special welcome and encouraged participants in their work.

“I am happy that this meeting is taking place, for it represents yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance. I especially encourage your efforts in the area of education, through programmes directed to children and young people. Thank you for all that you do and may God bless you!”

Speakers at the one-day event include Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: 'current migration crisis greatest tragedy after WW2'

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.
  
Speaking on Wednesday to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope also continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

In his appeal, launched after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “24 hours for the Lord” initiative on 23rd and 24th of March with Churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey.

And speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

His words come just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. 

In his catechesis meanwhile, Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul which focusses on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement.

They are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours, he said, is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us.

He is also a God of encouragement, he continued, who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope.

What’s more, the Pope continued, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering.  But we do so, he concluded, with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.  

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope sends video message for World Youth Day 2017

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis sent a video message to young people on Tuesday to help them prepare for the XXXII World Youth Day, which is being celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017.

The theme of this year's WYD is “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49).

In the video, Pope Francis highlights several themes of his full message for WYD, inviting young people to embark on a path of spiritual preparation for the international celebration of World Youth Day in Panama on 22-27 January 2019.

Watch the full video:

Below please find the official English translation of the Pope's video message:

Dear young people,

With the memory vividly in our minds of our meeting together at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, we have set out towards the next goal that will be, God willing, Panama in 2019. These moments of encounter and conversation with you are very important to me. I want this journey to proceed in line with preparations for the next Synod of Bishops because it is dedicated to you, young people.

We are accompanied on this journey by Our Mother, the Virgin Mary. She encourages us with her faith, the same faith that she expressed in her song of praise. Mary said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). She knew how to give thanks to God who looked upon her littleness, and she recognised the great things that God was accomplishing in her life. So she set off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was old and needed her to be close by. Mary did not stay at home because she was not a young couch potato who looks for comfort and safety where nobody can bother them. She was moved by faith because faith is at the heart of Our Mother’s entire life story.

Dear young people, God is also watching over you and calling you, and when God does so, he is looking at all the love you are able to offer. Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history ‒ your history and that of many others. The Church and society need you. With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world.

As you follow this path, I encourage you to cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady. She is our Mother. Speak to her as you would to a Mother. Together with her, give thanks for the precious gift of faith that you have received from your elders, and entrust your whole life to her. She is a good Mother who listens to you and embraces you, who loves you and walks together with you. I assure you that if you do that, you will not regret it.

Have a good pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2019.

May God bless you all.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: May Joseph give us the ability to dream great things

(Vatican Radio) Saint Joseph gives young people “the ability to dream, to risk, and to undertake the difficult tasks that they have seen in dreams.” That was the message of Pope Francis during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

The day’s liturgy commemorated the Solemnity of St Joseph, which is normally celebrated on 19 March, but which is transferred when that date falls on a Sunday in Lent.  

In his homily, Pope Francis focused on the figure of St Joseph, the guardian of weaknesses, and of the “dream of God.”

Listen: 

The Gospel of the day tells how Joseph, in obedience to the angel who appeared to him in a dream, took Mary, who had conceived by the Holy Spirit, as his wife. Joseph, silent and obedient, is a man who carries with him the promises of “ancestry, heritage, paternity, sonship, stability”:

“And this man, this dreamer, is able to accept this duty, this grave duty. He has so much to say to us in this time of a strong sense of being orphaned. And so this man takes the promise of God and carries it onward in silence, with strength, he carries it onward so that God’s Will might be done.”

Saint Joseph, the Pope said, is a man “who can tell us many things, but who does not speak,” “the hidden man,” the man of silence, “who has the greatest authority in that moment without letting it be seen.” And the Pope emphasized that the things God confides to the heart of Joseph are “weak things”: promises – and a promise is weak. And then there is the birth of the child, the flight into Egypt, situations of weakness. Joseph takes to heart and carries forward “all these weaknesses” as weaknesses are carried forward: “with so much tenderness,” “with the tenderness with which one takes a child in one’s arms”:

“He is the man who doesn’t speak but obeys, the man of tenderness, the man capable of carrying forward the promises so that they might become solid, certain; the man who guarantees the stability of the Kingdom of God, the paternity of God, our sonship as children of God. I like to think of Joseph as the guardian of weaknesses, of our weaknesses too: he is able to give birth to so many beautiful things from our weaknesses, even from our sins.”

Joseph is the guardian of weaknesses so that they might become firm in faith. But he received this duty in a dream: he is a man “able to dream,” Pope Francis said. And so he is also “the guardian of the dream of God”: God’s dream “of saving all of us,” of redemption, was entrusted to him. “How great was this carpenter!” the Pope exclaimed. He was silent, but he worked, he guarded, he carried forward the weaknesses, and he was capable of dreaming. And so he is a figure who has a message for all:

“Today I want to ask, grant to all of us the ability to dream, that when we dream great things, beautiful things, we might draw near to the dream of God, the things God dreams about us. [I ask] that he might give to young people – because he was young – the capacity to dream, to risk, to undertake the difficult tasks they have seen in dreams. And [I ask] him to give to all of us the faithfulness that tends to grow when we have a just attitude – Joseph was just – [the faithfulness that] grows in silence, with few words; that grows in tenderness that guards our own weaknesses and those of others.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Angelus: Lent is an opportunity to draw near to Christ

(Vatican Radio) “Perhaps we have not yet encountered Jesus personally,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Sunday. “Perhaps we have not recognized Him as our Saviour.”

The Holy Father was commenting on the day’s Gospel, which relates the “dialogue” between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Because of the great respect Jesus shows her — despite her being a Samaritan, and despite her disordered life — she is open to the words of Christ, when He speaks to her about the true faith. She recognizes Him as a prophet, and intuits that He could be the Messiah, and Jesus tells her plainly that He is, in fact, the Messiah — something that happens very rarely in the Gospels, the Pope said.

“Dear brothers,” Pope Francis continued, “the water that gives eternal life was poured out in our hearts on the day of our Baptism;” on that day, “God transformed us and filled us with His grace.” However, the Pope said, we sometimes forget about the grace of our Baptism, or treat it merely as a piece of biographical data. When that happens we go looking for “wells” filled with water that cannot quench our thirst. “And so this Gospel is for us!” the Pope said, “not just for the Samaritan woman.”

Lent, he said, is a good opportunity for us “to draw near” to Jesus, “to encounter Him in prayer in a heart-to-heart dialogue… to see His face in the face of a brother or a sister who is suffering.” In this way, the Pope said, “we can renew within ourselves the grace of Baptism, quenching our thirst at the font of the Word of God and of the Holy Spirit; and thereby discovering, too, the joy of becoming artisans of reconciliation and instruments of peace in our daily lives. “

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: three characteristics of a good confessor

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with participants at an annual course on the internal forum, organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary.In his words to the group, the Pope spoke about the formation of good confessors, focusing on three characteristics which should guide their work.

Listen to our report:

Firstly, Pope Francis said, a good confessor is a true friend of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and a person dedicated to prayer. A Ministry of Reconciliation "bound up in prayer", he said, is a credible reflection of God's mercy and will “avoid the harshness and misunderstandings” that are sometimes associated with the Sacrament. Prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin, he said.

Pope Francis told participants that they cannot forgive through the Sacrament without the awareness of first having been forgiven themselves. He urged them to pray for humility and “the gift of a wounded heart” so that they are able to understand other people's wounds and heal them with the oil of mercy.

Secondly, the Pope said the good confessor is a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church through a lack of discernment, he added. Discernment, he insisted,  enables a confessor to distinguish and not "tar all with the same brush" despite the many different and delicate situations people bring to the confessional.

Pope Francis said that if a confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances, confirmed through a ”healthy collaboration” with specialists in human sciences, he must not hesitate to refer the issue to an exorcist, chosen with “great care and great prudence”.

Finally, Pope Francis concluded, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization and thus of formation. In the brief dialogue that is woven with the penitent, he said the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister. He stressed that confession is a real pastoral priority and he urged them never to limit the availability of the Sacrament to anyone who comes asking for it.

Please find below the English translation of Pope Francis’ address

Dear brothers,

I am pleased to meet you in this first audience with you after the Jubilee of Mercy, on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum. I address warm greetings to the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, and thank him for his kind remarks. I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and the staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of the ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the Papal Basilicas in Rome, and all of you, participants in this course.

In reality, I admit, this Penitentiary is the type of Tribunal I truly like! It is a “tribunal of mercy”, to which we turn to obtain that indispensable medicine that is divine mercy.

Your course on the internal forum, which contributes to the formation of good confessors, is more useful than ever, and I would say even necessary in our times. Certainly, one does not become a good confessor thanks to a course, no: that of the confessional is a long education, that lasts a lifetime. But who is a “good confessor”? How does one become a good confessor?

I would like to indicate, in this respect, three aspects.

1. The “good confessor” is, first of all, a true friend of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without this friendship, it will be difficult to develop that fatherliness so necessary in the ministry of Reconciliation. Being friends of Jesus means first of all cultivating prayer: both personal prayer with the Lord, incessantly asking for the gift of pastoral charity, and the specific prayer for the exercise of the task of the confessor and for the faithful, brothers and sisters who come to us in search of God’s mercy.

A ministry of Reconciliation “bound in prayer” will be a credible response to God’s mercy, and will avoid the harshness and misunderstandings that at times can be generated even in the Sacramental encounter. A confessor who prays is well aware of being the first sinner and the first to be forgiven. One cannot forgive in the Sacrament without the awareness of having been forgiven first. Therefore, prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin.

In prayer it is necessary to implore the gift of a wounded heart, able to comprehend the wounds of others and to heal them with the oil of mercy, that which the good Samaritan poured on the wounds of the poor victim on whom no-one took pity (cf. Luke, 10:34).

In prayer we must ask for the precious gift of humility, so that it may appear increasingly clear that forgiveness is a free and supernatural gift of God, of which we are simple, if necessary, administrators, by the very will of Jesus; and He will certainly be glad if we make extensive use of His mercy.

In prayer, then, let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of discernment and compassion. The Spirit enables us to empathise with the sufferings of our sisters and brothers who enter the confessional, and to accompany them with prudent and mature discernment and with true compassion in their sufferings, caused by the poverty of sin.

2. The good confessor is, in second place, a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church by a lack of discernment! How much harm is done to souls by a way of acting that is not rooted in humbly listening to Holy Spirit and to God’s will. The confessor does not act according to his own will and does not teach his own doctrine. He is called always to do the will of God alone, in full communion with the Church, of whom he is the minister, that is, a servant.

Discernment allows us always to distinguish, rather than confuse, and to never “tar all with the same brush”. Discernment educates our outlook and our heart, enabling that delicacy of spirit that is so necessary before those who open up the shrine of their own conscience, to receive light, peace and mercy.

Discernment is necessary also because those who approach the confessional may come from the most desperate situations; they could also have spiritual disturbances, whose nature should be submitted to careful discernment, taking into account all the existential, ecclesial, natural and supernatural circumstances. When the confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances – that may be in large part psychic, and therefore must be confirmed by means of healthy collaboration with the human sciences – he must not hesitate to refer the issue to those who, in the diocese, are charged with this delicate and necessary ministry, namely, exorcists. But these must be chosen with great care and great prudence.

3. Finally, the confessional is also a true place of evangelisation. Indeed, there is no evangelisation more authentic than the encounter with the God of mercy, with the God Who is Mercy. Encountering mercy means encountering the true face of God, just as the Lord Jesus revealed Him to us.

The confessional is therefore a place of evangelisation and thus of formation. In the dialogue that is woven with the penitent – although brief – the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister; at times it becomes necessary to re-proclaim the most elementary truths of faith, the incandescent nucleus, the kerygma, without which the same experience of God’s love and His mercy would remain as if mute; at times it means indicating the foundations of moral life, always in relation to the truth, good and the will of God. It is a work of prompt and intelligent discernment, that can be of great benefit to the faithful.

The confessor, indeed, is called every day to venture to the “peripheries of evil and sin” – this is an ugly periphery! - and his work is a real pastoral priority. Confessing is a pastoral priority. Please, do not let there be those signs that say, “Confessions only on Monday and Wednesday at such-and-such a time”. One confesses whenever one is asked. And if you are there [in the confessional] praying, stay with the confessional open, which is the open heart of God.

Dear brothers, I bless you and I hope that you will be good confessors, immersed in the relationship with Christ, capable of discernment in the Holy Spirit and ready to seize the opportunity to evangelise.

Always pray for your brothers and sisters who seek the Sacrament of forgiveness. And please, pray for me too.

And I would not like to finish without something that came to mind when the Cardinal Prefect spoke. He spoke about keys, and about Our Lady, and I liked this, so I will tell you something … two things. It was very good for me when I was young to read the book of Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori on Our Lady: “The Glories of Mary”. Always, at the end of each chapter, there was a miracle of the Madonna, who entered into life and sorted things out. And the second thing. On Our Lady there is a legend, a tradition that they told me exists in the South of Italy: Our Lady of the Mandarins. It is a land where there are many mandarins, isn’t it? And they say that she is the patroness of thieves [laughter]. They say that thieves go to pray there. And the legend – they say – is that the thieves who pray to Our Lady of the Mandarins, when they die, they form a line in front of Saint Peter who has the keys, and opens and lets one pass, then he lets another one pass; and the Madonna, when she sees one of these, makes a sign for them to hide. Then, once everyone has passed by, Peter closes up and comes during the night, and the Madonna calls him from the window, and lets him enter through the window. It is a folk tale but it is beautiful: forgiving with the Mother next to you, forgiving with the Mother. Because this woman, this man who comes to the confessional, has a Mother in Heaven who opens the door and will help them at that moment to enter Heaven. Always the Madonna, because the Madonna helps us too in showing mercy. I thank the Cardinal for these two signs: the keys, and Our Lady. Many thanks.

I invite you – it is time – to pray the Angelus together. “Angelus Domini…”

Blessing

Don’t say that thieves go to Heaven! Don’t say this! [laughter]

(from Vatican Radio)