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On his birthday, Pope Francis hosts pizza party for sick children

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2017 / 07:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis celebrated his 81st birthday with a pizza party for sick children Sunday, reflecting on the joy of children and the importance that they are raised with the faith.

“The joy of children is a treasure,” he said Dec. 17. “And we ought to do everything so that they continue to be joyous.”

“A joyous spirit is like good land that grows life well, with good fruit,” he said in his Vatican meeting with the children being treated by the Pediatric Dispensary of Santa Marta.

Pope Francis encouraged the children to speak with their grandparents. Grandparents “have memory, have roots, and it will be the grandparents that give roots to the children,” he said.

He asked that the children may not be “uprooted children, without the memory of a people, without the memory of the faith, without the memory of so many beautiful things that have made up history, without the memory of values.”

“And who will help children to do this? The grandparents,” said the Pope, adding that the elderly “love us very much.”

He exhorted parents to “teach them to talk with God.”

“May they learn to pray, to say what they feel in their heart,” Pope Francis said. “It is joy, to talk with the grandparents, with the elderly, and to talk with God.”

He then encouraged the children to eat the pizza, saying it will make them grow.

Before eating, he prayed the Hail Mary with the children.

Pope Francis' three Christmas ingredients: joy, prayer, gratitude

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2017 / 12:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With Christmas just eight days away, Pope Francis said three simple attitudes can help prepare us to welcome Jesus Christ.

“Saint Paul invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord by assuming three attitudes: constant joy, persevering prayer and continual thanksgiving,” the Pope said. “Joy, prayer and gratitude are three attitudes that prepare us to live Christmas in an authentic way.”

Pope Francis’ remarks to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square came ahead of the Angelus for Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, which this year coincided with Pope Francis’ 81st birthday, Vatican News reports.

He said the liturgy in recent Sundays has focused on how to be vigilant and how to prepare for the way of the Lord. For Gaudete Sunday, the liturgy invites Christians to joy.

The Pope cited St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, “always be happy.”

“That is to say, always remain in joy, even when things do not go according to our desires,” Francis explained. “Anxieties, difficulties and sufferings permeate our lives, and so many times the reality around us seems to be inhospitable and arid, like the desert in which the voice of John the Baptist resounded, as the Gospel of today recalls.”

John the Baptist’s voice in the desert reveals that Christian joy rests on “the certainty that the desert is inhabited.”

This is Jesus, who in the words of the Prophet Isaiah comes “to bring the good news to the poor, to bind the wounds of broken hearts, to proclaim the freedom of slaves, the release of prisoners, to promulgate the year of grace of the Lord.”

Jesus’ mission in the world consists of “liberation from personal and social sin and the slavery that it produces.”

“He came to earth to give back to men the dignity and freedom of the children of God, which only He can give,” said Pope Francis.

Unceasing prayer helps us enter into relationship with God, the source of true joy.

“The joy of the Christian comes from faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness,” the Pope continued. “The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we find inner serenity, even in the midst of everyday contradictions.”

The Christian who has met Jesus cannot be “a prophet of misfortune” but must be “a witness and a herald of joy,” said Francis. This is “a joy to share with others; a contagious joy that makes life's journey less tiring.”

St. Paul also stressed “the grateful love of God,” his generosity, mercy, patience and goodness. Christians are to be “living in an endless state of thanksgiving.”

Pope Francis closed his remarks before the Angelus by entrusting the congregation to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

“She is ‘the cause of our joy,’ not only because she is the Mother of Jesus, but because she continually leads us to Him,” he said.

After the Angelus, the Pope called for the release of six women religious kidnapped in Iguoriakhi in Nigeria’s southern Edo State.

On Nov. 13 gunmen abducted the sisters, three professed women and three aspirants, from their convent. There have been no claims of responsibility for the crime in a country where kidnapping for ransom has become common.

“I unite my heart to the appeal of the bishops of Nigeria for the liberation of the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Christ,” he said.

“I pray with insistence for them and for all the other persons who find themselves in this painful condition,” he continued, adding “may they all, on the occasion of Christmas, finally return to their homes.”

From Pope Francis, a checklist for good journalism

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2017 / 06:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Journalism must prize truth and reflection over sensationalism and clamor, Pope Francis told journalists on Saturday.

“It is important that the criteria of judgment and information are offered patiently and methodically so that ‎public opinion is able to understand and discern, and is not stunned and disoriented,” the Pope said Dec. 16, according to Vatican News.

The Pope encouraged journalism that embodies “serenity, precision and completeness.” It must use calm language that favors “fruitful reflection” and thoughtful, clear words that reject “clamorous and ambiguous speech.”

The Pope spoke to about 350 members of the Italian Periodical Press Union and the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies, who met him at the Vatican.

“Your free and responsible voice is fundamental for the growth of any society that wants to be called democratic, so that a continuous exchange of ideas and a profitable debate based on real and correctly reported facts are assured,” the pontiff told them.

He noted the dominance of speed and sensationalism in some reporting, which lacks precision and thoroughness. It is dominated by overheated emotions, not thoughtful reflection.

The pontiff stressed the need for reliable information, verified data and news that does not aim to amaze and excite. Rather, it creates in readers a healthy critical sense that allows them to ask appropriate questions and make justified conclusions.

“There is no need to fall into the ‘sins of communications’: misinformation, that is saying only a part which is calumny and which is sensational, or defamation that seeks out things past and old and bringing them to light today,” said Pope Francis. “They are very grave sins that damage the heart of the journalist and damage the people.”

Pope to youth: expand your wisdom and meet the elderly

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2017 / 04:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with the youth of Catholic Action on Saturday as the movement marks its 150th anniversary year.

The pontiff encouraged the young people to meet with the movement’s “grandparents.”

“This is something very beautiful and important,” he said, adding that “the elderly are the historic memory of every community, a heritage of wisdom and faith to be heard, preserved, and valued.”

“These are your peripheries!” he said.

The delegation of 12 boys and girls, accompanied by their teachers, came from 12 different Italian dioceses, Vatican News reports. The movement aims to expand Catholic influence in society.

The Pope encouraged the youth to fix their attention on “the decisive events of the life of Jesus” and “to seek to become ever more like Him, your greatest and most faithful friend.”

He encouraged them to be ready to shoot a photograph and to be “good photographers,” both of the deeds Jesus has done and of the reality of their world.

They should be attentive to those who have forgotten, “the poorest, the weakest, those relegated to the margins society because they are considered as a problem.”

They should seek out those “no one ever sees” and “dare to take the first step to meet them, to give them a little bit of your time, a smile, an act of tenderness.”

For Pope Francis, the meeting with the delegation was joyful because it allowed them to update him on their activities of “solidarity in favor of the poor and of the most disadvantaged.”

Treat saints' relics right, says new Vatican directive

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2017 / 12:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The relics of Christian saints and blesseds deserve special care and their authenticity must be certified by the Church, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has said.

“Relics in the Church have always received particular veneration and attention, because the bodies of saints and blesseds, destined for resurrection, were on earth the living temple of the Holy Spirit and the instruments of their sanctity, recognized by the apostolic see through beatification and canonization,” said the Dec. 16 instruction from the congregation.

The instruction was sent to Catholic bishops, eparchs, and those who take part in procedures related to relics of saints, blesseds and those declared venerable and servants of God, Vatican News reports.

It contains 38 separate items. Among its directives: relics of saints and blesseds that lack a certificate from church authority cannot be exposed for the veneration of the faithful.

Current canonical practice of verifying the authenticity of relics and mortal remains of saints and blesseds remains in place to guarantee that these relics and remains are preserved and venerated. Among other topics, the instruction outlines how to obtain the consent of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for the canonical recognition of relics and the procedure to follow for relics that are taken on pilgrimage.

The new document replaces the appendix to the 2007 instruction “Sanctorum Mater,” also issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Meet the man who holds the keys to the Pope's Museums

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2017 / 03:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus told St. Peter, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew.

Gianni Crea, as the ‘clavigero’ – or key keeper – of the Vatican Museums, has a slightly different job. Beginning at 5:30 every morning, he traverses the dark and quiet halls of the Vatican, opening the more than 300 doors in the “Museums of the Pope.”

As the senior key keeper, Crea oversees nine other key keepers and is responsible for managing 2,797 keys. These keys unlock the 300-some gates and doors of the public spaces of the museums – passed through by thousands of people per day – as well as other various maintenance rooms, closets and personnel spaces.

The most important key of all – that of the Sistine Chapel – is kept not on the ring with the others, but in a white envelope.

“For me this is a unique and extraordinary privilege,” Crea told EWTN. “I have the opportunity to open these doors to all the tourists that come from all over the world to the museums of the Pope, but especially the Sistine Chapel, the seat of the conclave since 1492.”

Possibly the most famous chapel in the world, the Sistine Chapel is where the College of Cardinals convenes to cast their ballots during a papal election. The room’s ceiling frescoes, painted by Michelangelo, depict the story of creation, the Last Judgement, and other Old and New Testament stories.

In the “the Museum of Museums,” each of the more than 300 doors has its own unique key, which the key keepers learn by heart. Some doors themselves are impressive, such as door “401,” whose key is from the 1700s, the oldest on Crea’s keyring.   

Starting every morning at the “Atrium of the Four Gates,” Crea meets his colleague Alessio, selects the right set of keys, and the two proceed with their course.

Five key keepers turn on the lights and unlock the doors of the museums every morning, walking over two miles of the total nearly 5-mile length of the Vatican Museums.

The route “is unique and extraordinary because each door and each key has its charm and its secret that it reveals to the world,” Crea said. “The Vatican Museums are so fascinating and so beautiful that in each corner you discover something, each corner has its own peculiarity.”

His path takes him past many famous works and galleries, including the ‘Laocoön,’ which was the first statue acquired by the Museums in 1506, and Caravaggio’s ‘The Entombment of Christ.’

Passing through the Gallery of Statues, Crea said that “each statue ‘speaks’ about history; each statue has something different and fascinating (to tell).”

He also opens the Niccoline Chapel, which is found in the oldest part of the Apostolic Palace. It is covered in frescoes depicting scenes from the lives of St. Stephen and St. Laurence, painted by Fra Angelico and his assistants. It was used as the private chapel of Pope Nicholas V and is not usually open to the public.

In the “Raphael Rooms,” which used to be the private apartments of Pope Julius II, Crea uses one of the smallest keys on the ring to turn on the lights, illuminating the famous painting of the “School of Athens” by Raphael.

He ends his daily journey at the original “Scala del Bramante,” or “Bramante Staircase,” built in 1505, which Crea considers “one of the most beautiful spots of the Vatican Museums.” From the top you can find a beautiful view of Rome.

The modern Bramante staircase, inspired from the original, was built in 1932 and designed by Giuseppe Momo. The double helix design allows people to ascend and descend without crossing each other.

The Vatican Museums were founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II. The museums are made up of 54 galleries, including the Sistine Chapel, which is the last stop on a visitor’s route through the roughly 20,000 works on display.

The Vatican Museums are among the largest and most visited museums in the world, with more than 6 million visitors annually.


Alexey Gotovsky contributed to this article.

 

Pope Francis: Music opens our hearts to the true meaning of Christmas

Vatican City, Dec 15, 2017 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Music and art are especially suited to helping us more deeply comprehend the true meaning of the mystery of Christmas, said Pope Francis in remarks on Friday.

“Art is an impressive means of opening the doors of the mind and heart to the true meaning of Christmas. The creativity and genius of artists, with their work, music and singing are able to reach the innermost depths of the conscience,” the Pope said Dec. 15.

“Art enters precisely into the depths of the conscience.”

“Christmas,” he continued, “is a feast that is heart-felt, participatory and capable of warming the coldest of hearts, of removing barriers of indifference towards our neighbors and encouraging openness towards others and a free gift (of self).”

“This is why today we need to spread the message of peace and fraternity proper to Christmas; we need to represent this event by expressing the authentic sentiments that animate it.”

Pope Francis spoke to those involved in the organization and performance of the 25th edition of the Vatican’s annual charity concert: “Christmas at the Vatican,” which will take place Dec. 16.

This year the concert supports two children’s projects: The Pontifical Foundation “Scholas Occurrentes” and a program to free children enslaved in the coltan mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It includes performances by Italian and international musicians and vocalists, including a children’s choir from Rome.

Scottish singer Annie Lennox and American singer-songwriter Patti Smith will also perform, as well as Suor Cristina, the young Ursuline Sister of the Holy Family who captivated millions when she won the 2014 edition of The Voice Italy.

Upon entering the Clementine Hall, the Pope was greeted by the sounds of a Christmas carol sung by various singers, including the children of the Italian “Small Choir of Piazza Vittorio” and members of the Art Voice Academy and Hallelujah Gospel Singers.

Pope Francis thanked all those who will take part, including performers and audience members, for showing concern for those in need of help and solidarity.

He said that he hopes the Christmas concert can be an opportunity to sow tenderness in the world, a word that is, he said, “much forgotten today.”

“Sow the tenderness, the peace and the welcome which spring from the cave of Bethlehem,” he said.

 

That time a priest was reprimanded by a saint

Vatican City, Dec 15, 2017 / 09:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When white smoke poured out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel on October 16, 1978, Fr. Eamon Kelly, a seminarian studying in Rome at the time, couldn’t have known that he was witnessing the election of a future saint.

Nor did he know that more than a dozen years after that election, he would be reprimanded by that same future saint, John Paul II, during one of his Wednesday general audiences.

It was Holy Week of 1992, and Fr. Kelly, a priest with the Congregation of the Legion of Christ, was on his annual pilgrimage to Rome.

But this year was different.

His youth group had brought along eight Russian young people, the tension of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War just barely in the rearview mirror of history.

Fr. Kelly had done some strategizing to make sure the Russian youth got a good seat.

“We had our tickets and we went in early, and we did get positions up against the barrier of the corridor,” Fr. Kelly said. “So that was fantastic, we were going to see Pope John Paul II.”

His German students gave up all of the seats closest to the aisle, so that the Russian young people would get to shake the Pope’s hand as he walked through the Paul VI audience hall.

“I had the kids observe how he did it – he’d shake hands but by that he’d already moved on to talking to the next person, greeting them,” Fr. Kelly recalled.

“So I told them this pope knows Russian, and you need to greet him politely when he’s two or three people away; say some nice greeting in Russian.”

They did, and it worked: sure enough, the Pope’s ears perked up when he heard the Russian greetings. As soon as he got to the group, he stopped walking.

“He started talking to them in Russian, and there was a tremendous chemistry going on, and everybody was super excited. Our six rows of kids had assimilated into about two,” Fr. Kelly said.

Eventually the Pope asked, in Russian, how the group was able to make it to Rome. All the Russian students turned and pointed at Fr. Kelly.

He was a head taller than most of the students, so Fr. Kelly suddenly found himself in straight eye contact with John Paul II.

“There was so much joy and appreciation and gratitude in his eyes that these kids were there,” Fr. Kelly said.

“But then, his look turned like a storm with a critical question – ‘Why didn’t you tell me before they came?’” the Pope demanded of the priest.

“You know, like I could call up the Pope and tell him we’re coming,” Fr. Kelly recalled with a laugh.

“I tried to give an excuse, I said it was hanging by a thread that it was going to happen, I just fumbled my way through it. What are you going to do when the Pope is asking you for accountability?” Fr. Kelly said.

In hindsight, Fr. Kelly said he maybe could have called an office in the Vatican to alert them of the Russian students, but he didn’t realize that this visit would be so important for the Pope.

But Russia was dear to St. John Paul II’s heart, as he had played a critical role in the peaceful fall of communism and the Soviet Union. Just a few years prior, he had met for over an hour with President Mikhail Gorbachev, who later said the peaceful dissolution of the USSR would have been impossible without the Roman Pontiff.

Perhaps their meeting in 1989 had also softened Gorbachev’s heart prior to World Youth Day 1991, when the leader allowed some 20,000 Russian youth to attend the event in Poland for the first time ever. The conciliatory move was the whole reason the Russian students were now meeting John Paul II in Rome.

“He said to me, 'This is the first group of Russians I’ve ever greeted in the audience hall',” Fr. Kelly said.

It’s possible that it may have been the first youth group from Moscow to visit Rome ever, Fr. Kelly said.

“I don’t want to claim that title, because there may have been others, but it’s unlikely that anyone would have been able to come before the start of communism,” he said.

He said the Pope was visibly moved by the Russian students.

“He was happy, he was happy. He said if he would have known that they were there, he would have greeted them formally from the stage.”

And the Russian students?

“They were elated.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 22, 2016.

Vatican communications department will soon unveil new website

Vatican City, Dec 13, 2017 / 11:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue discussions on reform of the Roman Curia and unveiled a new communications system for the Secretariat for Communications.

Taking place at the Vatican Dec. 11-13, all members were present for the meetings, apart from Cardinal George Pell. Pope Francis was present except for Wednesday morning during the general audience, as is ordinary.

Fr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, presented the new communications system, including a new website and logos, during the 22nd round of meetings.

According to a Dec. 13 statement, the “the Vatican media system adopts a new production model based on integration and unified management, in full harmony with the reform desired by Pope Francis.”

The center of the communications system will be new multimedia publishing center, which will present a unified structure for the daily production of content, including audio, text, video, and graphics, in multiple languages.

This system is the result of consolidation on both an economic and technical level, and will be available soon (in a beta version) at vaticannews.va, the press release stated. This replaces the previously used informational websites and aims to streamline the image and channels of communication.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s photo service, and the Vatican Typography will merge with the secretariat.

It will start with a team of 70 people divided into six language divisions – English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese – in four thematic areas: Pope, Vatican, Church, and world. It will all be overseen by an editorial directorate in coordination with other support groups.

The new system draws its inspiration from the words of Pope Francis to the Secretariat for Communication during their first plenary earlier this year: that “reform is not ‘whitewashing’ things: reform is to give another form to things, organize them in another way.”

Viganò also reported on the final stretch of the reform of Holy See communications, including the achievement of goals to reduce costs and consolidate personnel.

The meetings also included an update from Cardinal Kevin Farrell on the work of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, which is preparing for the 2018 synod on youth.

The cardinals also listened to presentations by Fr. Michael Czerny and Fr. Fabio Baggio, the under-secretaries of the Migrant and Refugee section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The section is developing a global strategy to implement in cooperation with the Secretariat of State, bishops’ conferences, NGOs, and religious congregations.

As usual, Cardinal Sean O’Malley also provided an update on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Members of the commission are appointed for a term of three years, which may be reconfirmed. The terms of the present 15 members of the commission end Dec. 17. Pope Francis will decide whether to reconfirm current members and whom to appoint as new members.

Peter Saunders, founder and former Chief Executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood and a member of the commission since Dec. 2014, told the Tablet Dec. 13 he plans to step down from the commission at the end of the week. He has been on a leave of absence from the advisory body since early 2016.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – also known as the “C9” – serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution which governs the Roman Curia.

The council’s next round of meetings will take place Feb. 27-29.

Pope Francis: Think 'being good' is enough? It’s not. Go to Mass

Vatican City, Dec 13, 2017 / 03:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to Pope Francis, a Christian can’t just be a good person and skip Mass on Sundays, because it is the Eucharist that provides the nourishment needed to truly live the Gospel well in our daily lives.

“How can we respond to those who say that there is no need to go to Mass, not even on Sundays, because what is important is to live well, to love our neighbors?” the Pope said Dec. 13.

“It is true that the quality of the Christian life is measured by the capacity to love,” as Jesus says in the Gospels, he said.

“But how can we practice the Gospel without drawing the necessary strength to do it, one Sunday after another, from the inexhaustible spring of the Eucharist?”

Pope Francis spoke during his Wednesday general audience, during which he continued his weekly catechesis on the Mass and Eucharist, focusing on the reasons why we must go to Mass every Sunday, besides the fact that it is a law of the Church, which he said is important, but “not enough alone.”
 
Instead we must go deeper: “We Christians need to participate in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with his living presence in us and among us, can we put into practice his commandment, and thus be his credible witnesses,” he said.

The Eucharist and Mass, he said, are where we find our strength for daily life.

Without it, Christians “are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of everyday life.” Often consumed by worries and fears, this weekly meeting is where Christ gives us the strength to live each day with courage and with hope.

He explained how participating in the Eucharistic communion with Jesus here on earth helps us to anticipate heaven, where it will be “Sunday without sunset”: no more tears, grief, or pain, but only “the joy of living fully and forever with the Lord.”

At Sunday Mass we rest from the busyness and work of the week, which teaches us to place our trust in the Father, not in earthly things, the Pope said. In this same way, abstaining from unnecessary labor on Sundays helps us to live out our identity as sons and daughters of God, and not slaves.

The Pope also noted an important distinction about Mass, which is that Christians do not go in order to give something to God, “but to receive from Him what we really need.”

This teaching is evoked in a prayer from the Roman Missal, which addresses God, saying: “You do not need our praise, but for a gift of your love you call us to give you thanks; our hymns of blessing do not increase your greatness, but they obtain for us the grace that saves us,” Francis said.

Pope Francis then noted that there are some Christian communities which are not able to celebrate Mass every Sunday, but they are still called to gather together in prayer, to listen to the Word of God, and to nurture their desire for the Eucharist.

Alternatively, there are many secularized societies which have entirely lost the Christian sense of an “illuminated Sunday,” he said.

In this case we must help revive and recover the meaning of the day, he said, which should be celebrated with joy, with community, and with solidarity; as a day of rest “that restores the soul and the body.”