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Pope Francis: The desire for ‘eternal youth’ and ‘unlimited wellbeing’ is delusional conceit

Pope Francis at the general audience on Aug. 10, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 04:48 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that it is “delusional” to try to stop the natural passage of time in pursuit of “eternal youth” and “unlimited wellbeing.”

Speaking at his live-streamed general audience on Aug. 10, the pope pointed out that from the Christian perspective, the passing of time “is not a threat, it is a promise.”

“The conceit of stopping time — of wanting eternal youth, unlimited wellbeing, absolute power — is not only impossible, it is delusional,” Pope Francis said in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.

“Our existence on earth is the time of the initiation of life; it is life, but one that leads you toward a fuller life … a life which finds fulfillment only in God.”

The pope underlined that life on earth is best understood as a “novitiate,” a preparation for an eternal life in heaven that will be “superior to the time of our mortal life.”

“We are apprentices of life, who — amid a thousand difficulties — learn to appreciate God’s gift, honoring the responsibility of sharing it and making it bear fruit for everyone,” he said.

“We are imperfect from the very beginning, and we remain imperfect up to the end,” Francis added.

He explained that life is not meant to “be wrapped up in itself in an imaginary earthly perfection.” 

Life “is destined to go beyond, through the passage of death — because death is a passage. Indeed, … our destination is not here, it is beside the Lord, where he dwells forever,” the pope said.

With this reflection, Pope Francis concluded a cycle of catechesis on old age that he began in February. 

During this time, the 85-year-old pope has faced health problems that limited his mobility, particularly an injury to his right knee.

For his final catechesis on old age, the pope walked slowly using a cane as he made his way onto the stage of the audience hall. He later greeted the crowd from a wheelchair.

Pope Francis underscored that old age should be a time of “expectation” that brings one closer to life’s fulfillment in God. 

“In the fulfillment of God’s promise, the relationship is inverted: the space of God, which Jesus prepares for us with the utmost care, is superior to the time of our mortal life. Hence: old age brings closer the hope of this fulfillment,” Pope Francis said.

“Old age knows definitively, by now, the meaning of time and the limitations of the place in which we live our initiation. This is why old age is wise. God’s world is an infinite space, in which the passage of time no longer carries any weight,” he said.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Cuba, where a lightning strike at an oil facility set off multiple explosions of fuel storage tanks and caused a devastating fire. 

The pope also expressed his continued concern for Ukraine, where people are “still suffering from this cruel war,” and for migrants. 

In total, Pope Francis gave 16 reflections on the dignity of the elderly in his audiences this year. He has not yet said what will be the next topic for his weekly catecheses when he starts a new cycle next Wednesday morning.

“Old age is the phase in life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation to a final fulfillment. The elderly are a promise, a witness of promise. And the best is yet to come,” Pope Francis said.

Cardinal Tomko, oldest living cardinal, dead at 98

Cardinal Jozef Tomko in 2018 at a shrine on Mount Zvir, above the village of Litmanová, Slovakia. / Sirocan69 via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Rome Newsroom, Aug 8, 2022 / 04:53 am (CNA).

Cardinal Jozef Tomko died early Monday morning in Rome at the age of 98. At the time of his death, the Slovakian-born cardinal was the world’s oldest living member of the College of Cardinals.

Tomko died at 5:00 a.m. Aug. 8 in his apartment, where he was under the care of a dedicated nurse after hospitalization on June 25 for a cervical spine injury, according to Vatican News. He had returned home from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Aug. 6.

The Slovak bishops’ conference invited people to pray for Cardinal Tomko in a message announcing his death on Aug. 8.

The conference said more information about the cardinal’s funeral in Rome and his burial at St. Elizabeth Cathedral in Košice, Slovakia, will be announced soon.

Tomko was a member of the College of Cardinals for over 37 years after St. Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in the consistory of May 1985.

A confidant of John Paul II, Tomko had been secretary general of the Synod of Bishops for almost six years at the time he was created cardinal.

Two days later, on May 27, 1985, he was named prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He served in that position until his retirement in 2001 at the age of 77.

For the following six years, Tomko served as president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. In this position, he attended several international events as Vatican envoy.

Tomko was born in the small village of Udavské, Czechoslovakia, in the northeast part of what is now known as Slovakia.

After beginning his studies for the priesthood in Bratislava in 1943, he was sent to study at the Pontifical Lateran University and Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from which he received doctorates in theology, canon law, and social sciences.

He was ordained a priest in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome in 1949. As a priest, he continued his studies, did pastoral work, and later served as vice rector and rector of the Pontifical College Nepomucenum, a theological seminary for Czech men.

Tomko was also co-founder of the Slovak Institute of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Rome.

From 1962 he served as an assistant in the doctrinal office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He headed the same office from 1966. During that time, he was chosen as one of the special secretaries for the first synodal assembly of 1967.

He was appointed under-secretary of the Congregation for Bishops at the end of 1974.

After naming Tomko secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, John Paul II consecrated him a bishop in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel on Sept. 15, 1979.

In the 1980s, the Slovak prepared and oversaw three ordinary general synods, a particular synod of the bishops of the Netherlands, and an extraordinary synod on the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council.

Tomko was also active in the area of ecumenism on an international level. 

Pope Francis: Put your trust in God and his care for you

Pope Francis gives his weekly Angelus address Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2022 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Hold fast to trust in God and stay alert to his presence in your life, Pope Francis said during his weekly Angelus address on Sunday.

“Let us walk without fear, in the certainty that the Lord always accompanies us. And let us stay awake, lest it happen to us that we fall asleep while the Lord is passing by,” he said Aug. 7.

The pope spoke about letting go of worry and anxiety before reciting the Angelus, a Marian prayer, from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

“At times we feel imprisoned by a feeling of distrust and anxiety,” Francis said. “It is the fear of failure, of not being acknowledged and loved, the fear of not being able to realize our plans, of never being happy, and so on.”

Fear, he added, leads us to “struggle to find solutions, to find a space in which to thrive, to accumulate goods and wealth, to obtain security; and how do we end up? We end up living anxiously and constantly worrying.”

Francis pointed to the day’s Gospel passage from St. Luke, in which, he said, “Jesus reassures us: Do not be afraid.”

“Trust in the Father who wants to give you all that you truly need. He has already given you his Son, his Kingdom, and he will always accompany you with his providence, taking care of you every day. Do not be afraid — this is the certainty that your hearts should be attached to,” Pope Francis said.

Jesus, the pope said, makes two fundamental exhortations to his disciples: to “not be afraid,” and to “be ready.”

“There is no need to worry and fret for our lives are firmly in God’s hands,” he said. “But knowing that the Lord watches over us with love does not entitle us to slumber, to let ourselves succumb to laziness.”

“On the contrary, we must be alert, vigilant,” he continued. “Indeed, to love means being attentive to the other, being aware of his or her needs, being willing to listen and welcome, being ready.”

Vigilance also extends to our responsibility over the goods God has entrusted to us, he said, pointing to life, faith, family, relationships, work, our home, and creation.

“We have received so many things. Let us try to ask ourselves: Do we take care of this inheritance the Lord has left us? Do we safeguard its beauty or do we use things only for ourselves and for our immediate convenience?” he said. “We have to think a little about this — are we guardians of the creation that has been given to us?”

“St. Augustine said, ‘I am afraid that the Lord passes by and I do not notice;’ of being asleep and not noticing that the Lord passes by,” Francis said.

“May the Virgin Mary help us, who welcomed the Lord’s visit and readily and generously said, ‘Here I am.’”

After the Angelus, Pope Francis said he was glad that the first ships carrying grain had been allowed to leave the ports of Ukraine since the outbreak of war in February.

“This step demonstrates that it is possible to dialogue and to reach concrete results for everyone’s benefit,” he said. “Therefore, this event also presents itself as a sign of hope, and I sincerely hope that, following in this direction, there might be an end to combat and that a just and lasting peace might be reached.”

Francis also expressed his sorrow for the Polish pilgrims who died or were injured in a bus crash in Croatia on Saturday.

Ahead of trip to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis meets with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony

Pope Francis meets with Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk at the Vatican, August 5, 2022 / Vatican media

CNA Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 08:22 am (CNA).

The new head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations met with Pope Francis today. 

It was the first visit of Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, who was appointed in June, to the Vatican.

No further details of the meeting were provided by the Holy See. According to a brief statement by the Moscow Patriarchate, the “lengthy conversation” dealt with “current issues concerning relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.”

Metropolitan Antony’s predecessor as “foreign minister” of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, was “released from his position” after the war began.

As the Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in December 2021.

The meeting raised hopes of a second encounter between the pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. But the plans were abandoned following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In recent months Kazakhstan has been discussed as a potential location for a meeting between Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, as both are expected to attend an interreligious congress there in September.

The Moscow patriarch has faced intense criticism over his stance on the war and narrowly avoided being placed on a European Union sanctions list after reported opposition from Hungary, one of the EU’s 27 member states.

Orthodox Christian media had suggested that Metropolitan Hilarion was seeking to distance himself from Patriarch Kirill in recent months.

The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with an estimated 150 million members, accounting for more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

Pope Francis calls on young people to turn to Jesus like Blessed Carlo Acutis did

Pope Francis speaking to participants of an Italian youth camp on August 5, 2022 / Vatican media

CNA Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 07:13 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told young Catholics on Friday that Jesus is not just a moral precept but a person and a great friend. 

He encouraged them to build and cultivate their relationship with Christ as Blessed Carlo Acutis did. 

The first millennial to be beatified by the Catholic Church, Carlo Acutis loved the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. ”To be always united with Jesus, this is my life program,” he wrote at age 7. 

Speaking to participants of an Italian youth camp in an audience on Aug. 5 at the Vatican, the pontiff reminded them of the message from Christus Vivit, a post-synodal exhortation published in 2019: ”Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!”

Jesus is therefore the person a young Catholic should turn to, the pope explained. 

“We are in the presence of Jesus, who knows us and loves us more than we do ourselves, and who wants each of us to find his or her own unique, personal fulfillment.”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks with a prayer: “May Jesus become your great Friend, your Companion along the way. May the living Jesus become your life! Every day and forever.”

Alpha Camp is a “Church-sponsored weeklong camp for young people in central Italy dedicated to exploring life, faith, and meaning,” Vatican News reported.

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for August 2022

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address in St. Peter's Square, July 31, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Aug 4, 2022 / 15:12 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has asked the Catholic Church to pray for small businesses during the month of August. 

“As a consequence of the pandemic and the wars, the world is facing a grave socio-economic crisis,” the pope said in a video message released Aug. 2. “And among those most affected are small and medium-sized businesses.”

He added that “despite the difficulties, they create jobs, fulfilling their social responsibility.”

Among those hit the hardest, the pope mentions stores, workshops, cleaning businesses, transport businesses, and others “that don’t appear on the world’s richest and most powerful lists.”

The Holy Father applauded the dedication of small businesses to change things from the bottom up through “an immense creative capacity.”

“With courage, with effort, with sacrifice, they invest in life, creating wellbeing, opportunities, and work,” Pope Francis said. 

“Let us pray for small and medium-sized businesses, hard hit by the economic and social crisis, so that they may find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities,” he concluded. 

The video is part of a series created by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in collaboration with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. 

The prayer intention follows prayer requests for the elderly in July and families in June. The July prayer intention coincided with the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly on July 24.

Pope Francis appoints nurse as his ‘personal health care assistant’

Pope Francis greets the crowd in a wheelchair at his general audience, Aug. 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2022 / 09:40 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Thursday that Pope Francis has appointed a “personal health care assistant.”

Pope Francis has selected Massimiliano Strappetti, a Vatican nurse whom the pope has credited with saving his life, to provide additional assistance as the 85-year-old pope faces mobility problems. 

“A nurse, a man with a lot of experience, saved my life,” Pope Francis told Spanish COPE radio after his colon surgery last summer.

Strappetti advised Pope Francis to undergo tests after he had his first flare-up of diverticulitis in February 2021, according to La Repubblica. He, along with the pope’s other medical staff, recommended that the pope have an operation to keep the problem from becoming worse.

The Vatican nurse was also part of Pope Francis’ medical team during his trip to Canada, accompanying the 85-year-old pope during some of his public appearances in a wheelchair.

In his new role, Strapetti will work with Pope Francis’ personal physician, Dr. Roberto Bernabei, a professor of internal medicine and geriatrics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

The 52-year-old nurse has worked in the Vatican since 2002, after eight years in the intensive care unit at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. He served as the coordinator for the nurses in the Vatican health care system and played an active role in the Vatican’s medical charity for the homeless.

Pope Francis’ appointment of the new medical assistant on Aug. 4 comes days after he told journalists on his return flight from Canada that he may need to slow down a bit with his travel schedule due to his health.

The pope has alternated between the use of a cane and a wheelchair during his public audiences since May, when he began medical treatment for a knee injury. Pope Francis also postponed international trips to Lebanon and South Sudan due to his health.

“I don't think I can move at the same pace of travel as before,” the pope said during an in-flight press conference on July 30.

“I think that at my age and with this limitation I have to cut back a little bit to be able to serve the Church or on the contrary think about the possibility of stepping aside.”

Pope Francis calls for 'justice and truth' ahead of Beirut blast anniversary

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Aug. 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Aug 3, 2022 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed Wednesday for “justice and truth” in Lebanon ahead of the second anniversary of the deadly Beirut port explosion.

“My thoughts are with the families of the victims of that disastrous event and with the dear Lebanese people,” the pope said on Aug. 3.

“I pray that each one may be consoled by faith and comforted by justice and truth, which can never be hidden.”

Speaking at the end of his general audience in Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis expressed hope that Lebanon will experience “a rebirth.” The Middle Eastern country has grappled with a devastating financial crisis and a lack of stable governance in recent years.

“I hope that Lebanon, with the help of the international community, will continue on the path of ‘rebirth,’ remaining faithful to its vocation of being a land of peace and pluralism, where communities of different religions can live in fraternity,” Pope Francis said.

Lebanon will mark the anniversary of the Beirut port explosion with a National Day of Mourning on Aug. 4. The Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, is also expected to offer a memorial Mass for the victims.

The blast killed 218 people and wounded 7,000. The World Bank has said that the explosion caused more than $3.8 billion in material damage in the capital city, destroying homes, schools, churches, and medical facilities.

Two years after the devastating explosion, many Lebanese people feel frustrated that they “still do not know the truth” about what happened, according to a priest in Lebanon.

“The memory of the event is causing so much suffering, coming on top of the country’s severe economic crisis, the worst in its history, and general distrust towards politicians,” Father Michel Abboud, the president of Caritas Lebanon, told Asia News.

“The Lebanese people are accustomed to wars and suffering, but today trust between people has been lost and only faith in God seems to have remained,” he said.

Pope Francis prayed for Lebanon at his first Wednesday general audience since June 22. Much of the audience was dedicated to a reflection on his week-long visit to Canada, which he said marked “a new page” in the relationship between the Catholic Church and indigenous peoples.

The pope was expected to travel to Lebanon in June, but the papal trip to Beirut was postponed for “health reasons.” The Vatican has not said when a future papal trip to Lebanon might take place.

Pope Francis: Canada is ‘writing a new page’ in Church’s relationship with indigenous peoples

Pope Francis walked with a cane into Paul VI Hall for his Wednesday audience on Aug. 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Aug 3, 2022 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Canada is in the process of “writing a new page” in the relationship between the Catholic Church and indigenous peoples.

Speaking during his general audience in Vatican City on Aug. 3, the pope said that his pastoral visit to Canada last week was “a different journey” from the other 36 international trips of his pontificate.

“There were many joyful moments, but the sense and tone, on the whole, was one of reflection, repentance, and reconciliation,” he reflected.

The pope told the crowd that his main motivation for the July 24-29 trip to Edmonton, Québec, and Iqaluit was to be close to the indigenous peoples and "to ask for forgiveness … for the harm done to them by those Christians, including many Catholics, who in the past collaborated in the forced assimilation and enfranchisement policies of the governments of the time.”

“In this sense, Canada has embarked on the process of writing a new page, an important page, in the journey that the Church has been making together with the indigenous peoples for some time,” Francis added.

“From this journey of memory, reconciliation, and healing springs hope for the Church, in Canada and everywhere,” he said.

Pope Francis walked into Paul VI Hall for his Wednesday audience using a cane without assistance. The crowd cheered as the pope slowly made his way across the stage.

The audience occurred four days after his return to Rome from the week-long trip to Canada — a trip which the pope said made him realize that he may need to slow down a bit with his travel schedule due to his health.

At the end of the audience, the pope offered a prayer for Lebanon, a country that he was expected to visit in June until the visit was "delayed for health reasons."

Pope Francis also took time to greet and offer blessings to those in the crowd using a wheelchair. Among those present in the hall for the pope’s audience was a group of indigenous people.

Pope Francis greeted the crowd in a wheelchair at the end of his general audience on Aug. 3, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis greeted the crowd in a wheelchair at the end of his general audience on Aug. 3, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

A group of children in bright t-shirts also sat at the front of the audience hall. The kids have been taking part in the Vatican’s annual summer camp, which is only open to the children of Vatican City State employees.

Pope Francis with children taking part in the Vatican City summer camp on Aug. 3, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis with children taking part in the Vatican City summer camp on Aug. 3, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pope Francis said that he saw a sign of hope particularly in his last meeting with the young and the elderly together “in the land of the Inuit."

“Also in Canada, this is a key combination, it is a sign of the times: young and old in dialogue to walk together in history between memory and prophecy,” he said.

"May the fortitude and pacific action of the indigenous peoples of Canada be an example for all indigenous peoples not to close themselves up, but to offer their indispensable contribution for a more fraternal humanity, that knows how to love creation and the Creator, in harmony with creation, in harmony between you all."

Pope Francis to Medjugorje youth festival: 'Follow the example of Mary'

The Church of St. James in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. / Miropink/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has urged the thousands of young people gathered at Medjugorje this week to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who leads us closer to Christ.

In a message to the Medjugorje Youth Festival published by the Vatican on Aug. 2, the pope said that “it takes courage” to live like Christ.

“Beloved, do not be afraid. Go to Him with all that you are carrying within your heart. He is the only Lord who offers true refreshment and true peace. Follow the example of Mary, his and our Mother, who will lead you to Him,” Pope Francis said.

“Entrust yourselves to the Stella Maris, a sign of hope on the rough seas, who guides us towards the harbor of peace. She, who knows her Son, will help you to imitate him in your relationship with God the Father, in compassion for your neighbor, and in the awareness of what we are called to be, children of God.”

Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, the papal envoy in Medjugorje, read aloud the pope’s message on the second day of the 33rd Medjugorje Youth Festival taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina Aug. 1-6.

“At this moment, in the heart of summer, the Lord invites you to take a vacation with him in the most special place there is — your heart,” the pope said in the message that he signed on July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. 

The Medjugorje Youth Festival, also known as “Mladifest,” is focused on prayer and includes daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and a candlelight procession. 

The theme of this year’s festival is inspired by Christ's words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Pope Francis said that the Lord knows “how difficult life can be and that there are many things that strain our hearts: many disappointments, various wounds from the past, burdens that we carry and injustices we bear, many uncertainties and worries.”

“Jesus tells us, ‘Come to me and learn from me.’ This is an invitation to move, not to stand still, frozen and afraid before life, and to rely on Him. It sounds easy, but in dark moments it becomes natural to close-in on ourselves. Instead, Jesus wants to pull us out, so He says, ‘Come.’ The way out is via relationship, in looking up to the One who truly loves us.”

The alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje have been a source of controversy and conversion since their beginning, 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 on June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena that 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. The pope has sent annual messages to the Medjugorje Youth Festival since 2020.

“Dear young people, while you are resting in Jesus Christ during these days, I entrust you all to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our heavenly Mother, so that, through her intercession and with her example, you may take upon yourself the gentle and light yoke of following Christ,” Pope Francis said in his message.

“May the gaze of God the Father who loves you personally accompany you every day, so that, in relationships with others, you can be witnesses of the peace that you will receive as a gift.”