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Report: Pope Francis could bring 50 migrants from Cyprus to Italy

Pope Francis greets a migrant at a welcoming hub near Cesena, Italy on Oct. 1, 2017. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis could reportedly help to bring up to 50 migrants to Italy as part of his trip to Cyprus and Greece this week.

Cypriot government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said that the Vatican wanted to arrange the transfer of migrants currently in Cyprus to Rome, Reuters reported on Nov. 26.

“This is a tangible expression of solidarity by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to people in need, affirming that the Vatican recognizes the problem that the Republic of Cyprus faces today because of the increased migratory flows and the need for a fair distribution among EU member states,” Pelekanos said, according to Reuters.

Pope Francis will depart for the Mediterranean island of Cyprus this Thursday for a five-day visit that will also take him to Greece. The trip is expected to highlight the plight of migrants seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.

The last time that Pope Francis visited Greece, in 2016, he brought three Syrian refugee families from the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos back with him to Rome.

Among the refugees relocated with the pope’s help was Majid Alshakarji, who escaped the Syrian civil war at the age of 15.

Five years later, Alshakarji is now studying at a university in Rome to become a dentist and volunteers with the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, helping to welcome new refugees to Italy.

“We have been allowed to have a new life in a new country … It is a beautiful experience,” he told CNA in 2020.

Sant’Egidio helped to organize the arrival of 70 Syrian refugees in Rome on Nov. 29.

The refugees, who had been living in refugee camps in Lebanon, came to Italy through the humanitarian corridors promoted by the Catholic movement in coordination with the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and the Italian government.

Pope Francis has repeatedly urged governments not to “lose sight of the human face of migration.”

Most recently, in a message on Nov. 29 marking the 70th anniversary of the International Organization for Migration, the pope decried the “double standard” that places economic interests over “the needs and dignity of the human person.”

“On the one hand, in the markets of upper-middle-income countries, migrant labor is in high demand and welcomed as a way to compensate for the lack of it. On the other, migrants are generally rejected and subject to resentful attitudes by many of their host communities,” he said.

“This tendency was particularly evident during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when many of the ‘essential’ workers were migrants, but they were not granted the benefits of the COVID-19 economic aid programs or even access to basic health care and immunization,” the pope added.

The pope’s message to the U.N. organization was read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a video message.

Pope Francis underlined that “we must never forget that these are not statistics, but real people whose lives are at stake.”

“Rooted in its centuries-long experience, the Catholic Church and its institutions will continue their mission of welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating people on the move,” he said.

Immaculate Conception: Pope Francis cancels public act of veneration again due to pandemic

Pope Francis prays before the statue of the Immaculate Conception in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna Dec. 8, 2020. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2021 / 04:37 am (CNA).

For the second year in a row, Pope Francis has canceled the Roman tradition of a public gathering at the Spanish Steps on Dec. 8 to venerate a statue of the Immaculate Conception due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Holy See press office announced on Nov. 27 that instead of the usual outdoor public ceremony, the pope will instead perform a private act of devotion to Our Lady to avoid the formation of a crowd and the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The pope will ask the Virgin Mary in prayer “to protect the Romans, the city in which they live, and the sick who need Her maternal protection everywhere in the world,” the statement said.

The announcement came after the Italian government unveiled further COVID-19 restrictions entering into force on Dec. 6.

Under the new restrictions, unvaccinated people in Italy will be unable to dine indoors at restaurants, go to the gym, visit museums and other tourist sites, or attend weddings or other public ceremonies until at least Jan. 15.

Last year, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to pray alone at the Immaculate Conception statue in the Piazza di Spagna at 7 a.m. on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary after the traditional public gathering was canceled.

The pope laid a bouquet of white roses at the base of the nearly 40-foot high column which holds the statue of the Immaculate Conception near the Spanish Steps.

Statue of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza di Spagna Dec. 8, 2019. .  Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Statue of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza di Spagna Dec. 8, 2019. . Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

The statue was dedicated on Dec. 8, 1857, three years after Pope Pius IX promulgated a decree defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Since 1953, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue on the feast day. Pius XII was the first to do so, walking nearly two miles from the Vatican.

Rome’s firefighters are usually in attendance at the prayer, in honor of their role at the 1857 inauguration of the statue. The mayor of Rome and other officials also attend.

In addition to Pope Francis’ surprise visit to the statue last year, the pope also visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed before the icon of Salus Populi Romani, Mary Protection of the Roman People.

The pope also offered Mass in the basilica’s Chapel of Nativity, before returning to the Vatican.

Pope Francis is scheduled to preside over several public liturgies in December, including Mass at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 24 and the Urbi et Orbi blessing in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 25 at noon.

Pope Francis: Life’s essential ingredient is prayer

Pope Francis speaks during the Angelus prayer. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2021 / 06:52 am (CNA).

On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded Christians that an essential ingredient for living an alert and joyful life is prayer.

“Be awake, guard your heart,” the pope said in his message before the Angelus Nov. 28. “And let’s add an essential ingredient: the secret to being watchful is prayer.”

“In fact, Jesus says: ‘Keep awake at all times praying’ (Luke 21:36). It is prayer that keeps the lamp of the heart burning. Especially when we feel that enthusiasm is cooling, prayer rekindles it, because it brings us back to God, to the center of things,” he added.

The pope also emphasized that “prayer awakens the soul from sleep and focuses it on what matters, on the end of existence.”

“Even on the busiest days, let’s not neglect prayer,” he urged, recommending an easy prayer to say during Advent: “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

“Let’s repeat this prayer throughout the day, and the soul will remain alert,” he said.

From a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis delivered his weekly Angelus reflection on the day’s Gospel according to St. Luke, in which Jesus warns his disciples about the end of the world and his second coming.

“The Gospel of today’s liturgy, the first Sunday of Advent, that is, the first Sunday of preparation for Christmas, speaks to us of the coming of the Lord at the end of time,” the pope explained.

“Jesus announces desolating events and tribulations, but precisely at this point he invites us not to be afraid,” Francis continued. “Why? Because will everything be okay? No, but because he will come. Jesus will come back, Jesus will come, he promised it. He says thus: ‘Rise up and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is near.’”

The pope warned people not to become “sleepy Christians,” who let their hearts become lazy and “their spiritual life soften into mediocrity.”

“We need to be vigilant so as not to drag the days into routine, so as not to be burdened – says Jesus – by the troubles of life,” he stated.

Francis said the beginning of Advent is a good time to ask ourselves what is weighing down our hearts and burdening our spirits: “What are the mediocrities that paralyze me, the vices, what are the vices that crush me to the ground and prevent me from raising my head?”

We should also ask ourselves if we are attentive or indifferent to the burdens of our brothers and sisters, he added. “These questions are good for us, because they help guard the heart from acedia.”

Acedia, also called sloth, “is a great enemy of the spiritual life,” he said. “Acedia is that laziness that falls, slips into sadness, which takes away the enjoyment of life and the desire to act.”

According to Francis, this negative spirit “nails the soul down in numbness, robbing its joy.”

He said “precisely in the moments when everything seems over, the Lord comes to save us; await him with joy even in the heart of tribulations, in the crises of life and in the dramas of history. Wait for the Lord.”

“Let us pray to Our Lady: may she, who awaited the Lord with a vigilant heart, accompany us on the journey of Advent,” he stated.

After praying the Angelus in Latin, the pope noted the presence in St. Peter’s Square of a fraternal association of migrants and non-migrants with whom he met Nov. 27.

He reflected on how many lives are lost at the borders, and said he was sad to hear about the migrants, including children, who died recently in the English Channel, in the Mediterranean, and at the border of Belarus: “I have so much pain thinking about them.”

Francis also noted that migrants who are forced to return to their home countries sometimes face capture by human traffickers who sell them into slavery.

“To migrants who find themselves in these situations of crisis, I assure you of my prayers, and also of my heart: know that I am always close to you,” the pope stated.

“Pray and act,” he added. “I thank all the institutions of both the Catholic Church and elsewhere, especially the national Caritas and all those who are committed to alleviating their suffering.”

Francis made an appeal to those in a position to help find a solution to the problems which lead to the death and exploitation of immigration and refugees, “so that understanding and dialogue finally prevail over any kind of exploitation and direct the will and efforts towards solutions that respect the humanity of these people.”

“Let us think of migrants, of their suffering, and pray in silence,” he said, pausing for prayer.

Pope Francis to visit Greece and Cyprus ‘in the name of the Gospel’

The official logo of Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus on Dec. 2-4, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2021 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis released a video message on Saturday about bringing the joy of the Gospel to Greece and Cyprus, where he will travel Dec. 2-6.

“I am preparing to come as a pilgrim to your magnificent lands, blessed by history, culture and the Gospel,” the pope said in the message published Nov. 27.

“I come with joy, precisely in the name of the Gospel, in the footsteps of the first great missionaries, especially the Apostles Paul and Barnabas,” he added. “It is good to return to the origins and it is important for the Church to rediscover the joy of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis asked for prayers as he prepares for the five-day journey to the cities of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus; and Athens, the Greek capital; as well as the Greek island of Lesbos.

He will first travel to Cyprus, where on Dec. 2 he will meet Catholic clergy and lay people at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace. He will also visit the president and other political authorities.

On Dec. 3, the pope will visit His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, and meet the Orthodox Holy Synod of bishops. The same day, he will celebrate Mass and hold an ecumenical prayer service with migrants.

In Athens on Dec. 4, Francis will meet Greece’s political leaders, Catholic clergy, a group of Jesuits, and another Orthodox leader: His Beatitude Ieronymos II, archbishop of Athens and All Greece.

Before offering Mass in Athens on Dec. 5, the pope will fly to the island of Lesbos, where he will visit refugees at a reception and identification center in Mytilene.

His trip will conclude with a gathering of young Catholics, before flying back to Rome on Dec. 6.

It will be Pope Francis’ second visit to Lesbos, also known as Lesvos, home to the infamous Moria refugee camp that was damaged in a fire last year.

In his message ahead of the trip, the pope reflected on the Mediterranean Sea, which has both welcomed many people at its ports, but also become the unintentional cemetery of the many migrants and refugees who died while trying to reach a new life in Europe.

“As a pilgrim to the wellsprings of humanity, I will go to Lesvos again, convinced that the sources of common life will only flourish again in fraternity and integration: together. There is no other way and with this vision I go to you,” he stated.

Francis said he is looking forward to meeting all the people of Cyprus and Greece, not only Catholics, and highlighted his meetings with the two Orthodox leaders as fostering “an apostolic fraternity that I desire a lot.”

“As a brother in the faith, I will have the grace to be received by you and to meet you in the name of the Lord of Peace,” he said.

Both Cyprus and Greece have populations that are majority Greek Orthodox. Around 72% of people in Cyprus are Christians and 25% of the population is Muslim, according to the Pew Research Center.

Cyprus has about 11,000 Catholics, according to its national statistical service, and Greece is home to about 50,000 Catholics (0.5% of the population).

Addressing the countries’ small Catholic populations, Pope Francis said: “I come to you, dear Catholic sisters and brothers, gathered in those lands in small flocks which the Father loves so tenderly and to which Jesus the Good Shepherd repeats: ‘Fear not, little flock’ (Luke 12:32). I come with affection to bring you the encouragement of the whole Catholic Church.”

The countries of Cyprus and Greece are also linked through the Apostle Paul, who traveled to both areas. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.

Pope Francis names Vatican diplomat next papal envoy to Medjugorje

St. James the Greater Church in Medjugorje / level75 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday appointed a longtime Vatican diplomat to be his papal envoy to Medjugorje, following the death of Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser in August.

Hoser had overseen the pastoral situation in Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since 2017. He died in Warsaw at age 78 after a long illness.

Pope Francis on Nov. 27 named Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, 75, special apostolic visitor to the parish community of Medjugorje for an indefinite period.

Cavalli has been apostolic nuncio to the Netherlands since 2015. He is from the northern Italian diocese of Bergamo and entered the diplomatic service of the Vatican in 1996.

His first post was apostolic delegate to Angola, where he later served as apostolic nuncio. He has also been apostolic nuncio to São Tomé and Príncipe, Chile, Colombia, Malta, and Libya.

Pope Francis first appointed a papal envoy to Medjugorje in 2017, with the directive to oversee pastoral needs at the site of the alleged Marian apparitions.

In the Netherlands, Cavalli helped resolve issues around another alleged apparition, associated with the Marian title of “Lady of All Nations.”

The apparition is alleged to have occured 56 times to Ida Peerdeman in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1959. In 1956, the local bishop ruled that there was no evidence the alleged apparitions and revelations were supernatural in origin. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) confirmed this position the following year and in 1972 and 1974.

In 2002, Bishop Jozef Marianus Punt broke with the decision of his predecessor and declared the apparitions to have a supernatural origin, sparking a debate about whether he had the authority to overturn a decision which had been affirmed by the CDF.

In 2020, the Vatican re-affirmed its 1974 ruling about the apparitions’ authenticity, and in January, the Vatican’s doctrinal office urged Catholics not to promote “the alleged apparitions and revelations” associated with the Marian title of “Lady of All Nations,” according to Bishop Johannes Hendriks.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim the visions are not credible.

The purported apparitions originally began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the alleged visionaries, the apparitions conveyed a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

In January 2014, a Vatican commission ended a nearly four-year-long investigation into the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the Medjugorje apparitions and submitted a document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis granted Catholics permission to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje in 2019, though the Church has not yet given a verdict on the authenticity of the apparitions.

Pope Francis meets French President Emmanuel Macron at the Vatican

Pope Francis meets French President Emmanuel Macron at the Vatican, Nov. 26, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2021 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis received President Emmanuel Macron at the Vatican for an hour on Friday as France prepares to take on the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The French president met privately with the pope on Nov. 26 before heading into discussions with officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State on “France’s commitment in Lebanon, the Middle East, and Africa,” according to a brief statement from the Vatican.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“In the course of the talks, a number of international issues were discussed, including environmental protection in the light of the outcome of the recent COP26 [climate summit] in Glasgow. There was also an exchange of views on the prospects for the forthcoming French Presidency of the European Union,” the Holy See press office said.

While in Rome, Macron also had a meeting with a delegation from the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio at the Palazzo Farnese on the eve of his papal audience.

The Catholic movement proposed collaboration during the French EU presidency on an international event to promote the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

Sant’Egidio also advocated for its humanitarian corridors for people fleeing the Syrian, Libyan, and Afghan crises and reported that Macron had assured it that France “will continue its efforts in this direction.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Macron’s papal audience took place as French Catholics continue to reel from an independent report published last month estimating that hundreds of thousands of children were abused in the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years.

A French government official had said that the pope had also scheduled a meeting with the Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE), which produced the report, but a French news agency in Rome, I.Media, reported that the meeting is being delayed.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Macron arrived at the Vatican’s San Damaso Courtyard shortly after 11 a.m. on Friday after signing a new treaty with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi earlier that day.

“[As] founding countries of the EU ... we defend a more integrated, more democratic, more sovereign Europe,″ Macron said at the press conference, according to AFP.

The Italian prime minister highlighted how the treaty will strengthen cooperation in the area of defense.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“To be sovereign, Europe needs to know how to defend its borders. We need to create a real defense,″ Draghi told journalists.

Pope Francis and Macron met privately in the pope’s library before exchanging gifts. A video released by the Vatican showed that when the president asked the 84-year-old pope how he was doing, Francis replied: “I’m still alive,” according to Reuters.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The French president gave the pope a historic first edition of the biography of St. Ignatius of Loyola by Giovanni Pietro Maffei published in 1585, as well as a modern biography of the Jesuit founder by François Sureau, a member of the Académie Française.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Macron’s Vatican meeting took place a little over a month after French Prime Minister Jean Castex’s Oct. 18 meeting with Pope Francis, in which Castex gifted the pope a jersey signed by Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, along with an 1836 edition of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Following his meeting with the pope, Macron also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Earlier this year, Macron visited Iraq for a trip that followed a similar itinerary to Pope Francis’ Iraqi visit, including a meeting with Iraqi Christians at a Catholic church in Mosul that was heavily damaged by the Islamic State.

The French president also met in Baghdad with Iraqi Nobel Prize laureate Nadia Murad, two days after she met with the pope at the Vatican.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Macron echoed Pope Francis’ call for debt relief for the world’s poorest countries.

Macron previously visited the Vatican in 2018 for a conversation that touched on Europe’s migrant crisis.

Pope Francis creates commission to assess reform of marriage nullity process in Italy

Pope Francis addresses the Italian bishops’ conference in Rome, Nov. 22, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis created a commission on Friday to assess how the Catholic Church in Italy is implementing the reform of the marriage nullity process he introduced in 2015.

The pope established the pontifical commission with an apostolic letter issued motu proprio (“on his own impulse”) on Nov. 26.

He explained that he was taking the step to “directly support the Churches that are in Italy in receiving the reform of the canonical process for the cases of declaration of nullity of marriage, giving new impetus to the application of the motu proprio Mitis Iudex.”

A declaration of nullity — often referred to as an “annulment” — is a ruling by a tribunal that a marriage did not meet the conditions required to make it valid according to Church law.

Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Gentle Judge, our Lord Jesus”), issued in 2015, made changes to canon law intended to streamline the process by which Church tribunals assess requests for declarations of the nullity of marriages. The text also emphasized the local bishop’s role in the process.

The pope said that the commission’s task will be “to ascertain and verify the full and immediate application of the reform of the process of matrimonial nullity.”

The commission will be chaired by Msgr. Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the court of higher instance at the Apostolic See.

Pope Francis asked the new commission to suggest “whatever is considered opportune and necessary to support and help the fruitful continuation of the reform.” It will conclude by drawing up a “detailed report” on the situation in Italy.

Referring to the 2014 family synod, the pope said that the new step was necessary to enable Italy’s Churches to “show themselves to the faithful as generous mothers in a matter closely linked to the salvation of souls, as was requested by the majority of my Brothers in the Episcopate at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.”

The motu proprio appeared days after the pope held a private meeting with the Italian bishops in Rome. Sources said that the pope announced the commission’s creation during the closed-door meeting with the bishops, gathered for their plenary assembly.

According to one source, the pope said that he wanted to “help the bishops to act as judges,” referring to the emphasis in Mitis Iudex that the bishop is “the judge of those faithful entrusted to his care.”

Pope Francis made a similar point in his address to officials of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota for the inauguration of the judicial year in January.

He said: “I take this opportunity to exhort every bishop — constituted by Christ the Father, Shepherd and Judge in his own Church — to be increasingly open to the challenge of this issue.”

“It is a matter of tenaciously pursuing and completing a necessary ecclesiological and pastoral path, aimed at not leaving to the sole intervention of civil authorities the faithful who suffer due to judgments not accepted but endured.”

In the speech, the pope acknowledged that the reform, “especially the brief process, has encountered, and still encounters, a lot of resistance.”

He said: “I must confess that after its promulgation I received many letters, I don’t know how many, but a lot. Almost all of them were lawyers who were losing their clients. And there is the problem of money. In Spain they say: ‘Por la plata baila el mono’: the monkey dances for money. The saying is clear.”

“And sadly, this too: in some dioceses I have encountered resistance from some judicial vicars who, perhaps, lost some power with this reform, because he realized that the judge was not he, but the bishop.”

The pope signaled his concern over the implementation of the reforms in Italy as early as 2016, when he established a bilateral working group on the reform, composed of experts from the Vatican and the Italian bishops’ conference.

Italy has a strong tradition of regional tribunals, established after Pius XI’s 1938 motu proprio Qua cura. Mitis Iudex repealed or derogated elements of Qua cura, prompting Italian bishops to ask for clarification.

The Roman Rota issued a vademecum to Italian dioceses, requiring that diocesan tribunals be established “as soon as possible.”

Coupled with the request for smaller tribunals, the pope asked in Mitis Iudex that processes be free of charge. But Italian bishops worried that replacing the country’s 15 regional tribunals with more than 220 diocesan tribunals would be economically unviable.

The new motu proprio underlined that, although canon law allows a diocesan bishop to have access to other courts, “this faculty must be understood as an exception and, therefore, every bishop who does not yet have his own ecclesiastical tribunal must seek to found one or at least strive to make this possible.”

It added that “the reforming impetus of the canonical matrimonial process — characterized by the proximity, speed and gratuitousness of the procedures — necessarily passes through a conversion of structures and persons.”

Pope Francis: Prayer is ‘the most important means of communication’

Pope Francis meets members of the Pauline Family in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Nov. 25, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis urged members of the Pauline Family on Thursday to remember that prayer is “the most important means of communication.”

The papal audience in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the group’s founder, Bl. James Alberione, who sought to spread the Gospel through modern media.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Fifty years after his birth into heaven, the celebrations for your founder offer you the opportunity to recognize even better the prophetic value of his witness,” the pope said.

“Following his example and through his intercession, you too choose the media as your ‘pulpit,’ so that, as he himself said, you may make Jesus Christ known to the people of our time by the means of our time.”

“I thank you for your commitment and, above all, pray. Do not forget prayer. It is the most important means of communication: communicate there,” the pope said, pointing heavenwards.

He added: “If I communicate with the whole world and not with the Lord, it does not work. Work and prayer, so that God’s holy people may feed more and more on the Word of God.”

Pope Francis recalled his predecessor Paul VI’s description of Alberione when he conferred an award on him in 1969.

The Italian pope said: “There he is: humble, silent, tireless, always vigilant, recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to action; always intent on scrutinizing the ‘signs of the times,’ that is, the most creative ways to reach souls.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Paul VI visited Alberione shortly before the priest’s death on Nov. 26, 1971, kneeling by his bedside, praying and offering his blessing.

The 50th anniversary of Alberione’s death is being marked by events throughout November in Rome.

The Pauline Family is composed of five religious congregations, four secular institutes, and a lay association.

Pope Francis praised the organization’s many apostolates. But he also encouraged its members to keep in face-to-face contact with people.

“Technological development has indeed led the entire ecclesial community to take on the modern tools of communication as elements of ordinary pastoral care,” he said.

“Nevertheless, your presence is still necessary today — indeed, I would say increasingly so — animated by your own charism and enriched by the experience of working ‘in the field.’ This is decisive.”

Pope Francis to disabled people: The Church needs you

Pope Francis embraces a man in a wheelchair at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on June 10, 2015. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

In his message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church needs the participation of everyone, and the disabled must not be excluded from the sacraments.

“As we celebrate your International Day, I would like to speak directly to all of you who live with any condition of disability, to tell you that the Church loves you and needs each of you for the fulfillment of her mission at the service of the Gospel,” the pope said on Nov. 25.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be celebrated on Dec. 3. Pope Francis’ message marking the day was released in print, as well as in video form with translations in American Sign Language and Italian Sign Language.

Quoting his 2013 exhortation Evangelii gaudium, he said: “The worst form of discrimination ... is the lack of spiritual care.”

“Sometimes, as certain of you have unfortunately experienced, this has taken the form of denying access to the sacraments,” he said in his message.

“The Church’s magisterium is very clear in this area, and recently the Directory for Catechesis stated explicitly that ‘no one can deny the sacraments to persons with disabilities.’”

The theme of Pope Francis’ message for the day is friendship with Jesus, which he said is “an undeserved gift” that all have received and that can help those experiencing discrimination.

Friendship with Christ “redeems us and enables us to perceive differences as a treasure. For Jesus does not call us servants, women and men of lesser dignity, but friends: confidants worthy of knowing all that he has received from the Father,” he said.

Antonietta Pantone, 31, a Rome resident who uses a wheelchair, told journalists it was clear to her from the pope’s message that he considers it important that people with disabilities be part of the Church and not leave the Church.

She shared her personal journey of faith, which included finding a community in the Christian disability group Fede e Luce.

Pope Francis meets with Foi et Lumière members on Oct. 2, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA
Pope Francis meets with Foi et Lumière members on Oct. 2, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA

Fede e Luce is the Italian branch of the French association Foi et Lumière (known as Faith and Light in the English-speaking world), which began 50 years ago with a pilgrimage for people with disabilities to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. The movement has now expanded to five continents.

“I always say: In the eyes of God, we are all equal,” Pantone said, noting that in her journey of faith, friendship has been fundamental.

Friendship with others “demonstrates the closeness of God,” she said.

Pantone also explained how losing physical contact with friends because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been very hard for her and other disabled people, especially her friends who live in residences and not with family.

In his message, Pope Francis addressed the difficulty of the coronavirus outbreak for the disabled.

“I think, for example, of your being forced to stay at home for long periods of time; the difficulty experienced by many students with disabilities in accessing aids to distance learning; the lengthy interruption of social care services in a good number of countries; and many other hardships that you have had to face,” he wrote.

He mentioned in particular those who live in residential facilities, separated from loved ones. “In those places, the virus hit hard and, despite the dedication of caretakers, it has taken all too many lives,” he said.

He also emphasized the importance of confronting these challenges by finding consolation in prayer and friendship with Jesus.

“I would like to speak personally to each of you, and I ask that, if necessary, your family members or those closest to you read my words to you, or convey my appeal,” he said. “I ask you to pray. The Lord listens attentively to the prayers of those who trust in him.”

“Prayer is a mission, a mission accessible to everyone, and I would like to entrust that mission in a particular way to you. There is no one so frail that he or she cannot pray, worship the Lord, give glory to his holy Name, and intercede for the salvation of the world. In the sight of the Almighty, we come to realize that we are all equal,” he stressed.

Pope Francis also noted the continued presence of discrimination, ignorance, and prejudice at all levels of society, assuring people with disabilities that through baptism they are “a full-fledged member of the Church community, so that all of us, without exclusion or discrimination, can say: “I am Church!’”

“The Church is truly your home!” he said.

At a Nov. 25 press conference, Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello said that the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life is trying to do more to improve pastoral care for those with disabilities.

“This message, in recognizing that people with disabilities have their place in the holy faithful People of God, is a great invitation, for us in the dicastery, but above all for parish, diocesan and associative realities to take new paths with pastoral creativity,” Awi Mello said.

Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, speaks at a Vatican press conference, May 18, 2021. Gianluca Teseo/CNA.
Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, speaks at a Vatican press conference, May 18, 2021. Gianluca Teseo/CNA.

“It is a door that opens to think of pastoral care no longer for, but with…”

On Dec. 6, the dicastery will launch a video campaign with the hashtag #IamChurch. In five videos, Catholics with disabilities from different parts of the world will share about their experiences in the Church.

Pantone, who participated in one of the Vatican’s videos, told CNA that she would like to see the Catholic Church do more to develop courses that allow people with all kinds of disabilities to participate in parish life, such as formation courses to become a catechism teacher.

“I still had some ways to study [to become a catechist],” she said, “but it depends on the type of disability, so if another disabled person wants to be a catechist, the Church should give him all the appropriate tools.”

Pantone said that the Church can do a lot for the disabled, but the recently begun Synodal Journey “is already a step forward which the world of disability sees positively.”

Pope Francis said in his message that “having Jesus as a friend is an immense consolation. It can turn each of us into a grateful and joyful disciple, one capable of showing that our frailties are no obstacle to living and proclaiming the Gospel.”

“In fact, a trusting and personal friendship with Jesus can serve as the spiritual key to accepting the limitations that all of us have, and thus to be at peace with them,” he said.

Pope Francis tells new Lebanese PM: Lebanon is worth fighting to save

Pope Francis met Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Nov. 25. / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told Lebanon’s new prime minister on Thursday that the crisis-hit country is worth fighting to save.

The pope met privately with Prime Minister Najib Mikati for a 20-minute discussion at the Vatican on Nov. 25.

“Lebanon is a country, a message, and also a promise to fight for,” Pope Francis said after the two exchanged gifts in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, according to the Vatican.

Mikati presented the pope with a brick from the Melkite Catholic Church of the Savior, which was badly damaged by the Beirut port explosion in August 2020.

Pope Francis assured Mikati of his prayers for the efforts to help Lebanon get back on its feet. He recalled the Gospel passage, in which Jesus takes Jairus’ daughter by the hand and says to her: “Arise.”

Holy See Press Office
Holy See Press Office

“Lord God, take Lebanon by the hand and say, ‘Arise!’” the pope said.

The pope gave the prime minister a bronze casting depicting workers in a vineyard with the inscription, “May the fruit of the vine and the work of man become for us a cup of salvation.”

Holy See Press Office
Holy See Press Office

At the end of the meeting, Pope Francis asked the prime minister and his delegation to join him in a moment of silent prayer.

Mikati also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

“The meeting was an opportunity to reiterate how important it is to promote not only the notion of full citizenship for all Lebanese, but also peaceful coexistence, so that Lebanon continues to be a message of peace and brotherhood that rises from the Middle East,” a Vatican statement said.

The formation of a government in Lebanon after 13 months of political stalemate paves the way for a potential papal visit to the country.

Pope Francis previously said that he wanted to visit Lebanon once its leaders formed a government.

“His Holiness the pope will visit Lebanon but after a government is formed. And this is a message to the Lebanese, that we must form a government so that everyone can gather... to revive Lebanon with our friends,” Lebanese politician Saad Hariri said after a private meeting with the pope in April.

A Vatican official confirmed in June that the pope intended to visit Lebanon once it successfully formed a government, adding that the trip could take place next year.

Lebanon’s new prime minister faces the challenge of coming into power at a time when three-quarters of the population live in poverty and there are widespread shortages of medicine, fuel, and food.

The World Bank has described Lebanon’s financial situation as among the “most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-19th century.”

It estimates that country’s real GDP contracted by more than 20% in 2020, with surging inflation and high unemployment.

Lebanon’s currency has plummeted in 2021. By June, the Lebanese pound had lost 90% of its value since October 2019.

In recent months, the state has only been able to provide electricity for less than two hours a day.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the leader of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics, welcomed the formation of the new government when it was announced on Sept. 10.

He wished the government success in carrying out reforms and improving the living conditions for all Lebanese people.

The Lebanese cardinal had been calling on the country’s political leaders for months to overcome partisan interests and form a government to help the country amid its economic crisis.

Other Maronite and Melkite bishops also recently issued a call to both religious and civil leaders convene a Conference of National Reconciliation and Forgiveness under the auspices of the United Nations and the Arab League.

Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, eparch of the Maronites in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania, and Bishop Robert Rabbat, eparch of the Melkites in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania, issued a joint statement on Nov. 25 that said that they were seeking the full support of the Vatican for the conference initiative.

“Without reconciliation, there is no resurrection for the nation, and without forgiveness, there is no life and hope for a modern pluralistic society,” it said.

. Vatican Media.
. Vatican Media.

Speaking at a Vatican day of prayer for Lebanon this year, Pope Francis said: “In these woeful times, we want to affirm with all our strength that Lebanon is, and must remain, a project of peace. Its vocation is to be a land of tolerance and pluralism, an oasis of fraternity where different religions and confessions meet, where different communities live together, putting the common good before their individual interests.”

The pope hosted the day of prayer with Catholic and Orthodox leaders from the country on July 1.

“Here I would reiterate how essential it is that those in power choose finally and decisively to work for true peace and not for their own interests. Let there be an end to the few profiting from the sufferings of many. No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations,” the pope said.