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Vatican quashes rumors of Benedict XVI stroke

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI is not dead and did not recently suffer a stroke, the Vatican confirmed on Tuesday.

On Monday, rumors circulated on Twitter and other social media platforms that the Pope Emeritus had suffered a “mild ischemia” - a kind of stroke.

“The rumours are false,” Alessandro Gisotti, director ad interim of the Press Office of the Holy See, confirmed to the Catholic Herald on Tuesday.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, called the rumors “fake news,” Edward Pentin reported on Twitter.

On multiple occasions over the past several years, Vatican officials have had to quash similar rumors that the small, white-haired nonagenarian is close to death.

Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

International Youth Forum meets to continue work of Synod

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2019 / 07:45 am (CNA).- Nearly 250 young adults will meet in Rome this week for the International Youth Forum to discuss how best to implement ideas from the 2018 Synod of Bishops in their home dioceses.

Citing Pope Francis’ urging in Christus Vivit that “young people themselves are agents of youth ministry,” the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life invited young adults from 109 countries to participate in the forum June 19-22.

Isabella McCafferty was selected by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference to participate in the International Youth Forum this week. She called Christus Vivit “a constant source of encouragement in my own faith journey and inspired me in my ministry.”

“The challenge of course now is how to enable its richness to reach those who need to hear the heart of the document,” McCafferty said June 18.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said he was “grateful” that Pope Francis was continuing the conversations begun at the synod last year and that the forum in Rome was part of an “important dialogue.”

Brian Rhude and Brenda Noriega are two of the young adult leaders who have been asked to represent the United State at the forum.  

Rhude, a student of Theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., studied at the Catholic University campus in Rome during the Fall 2018 semester, which coincided with the Synod on Young People. He attended the synod as a media correspondent for the Catholic Apostolate Center.

Noriega is the current coordinator of young adult ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino, Ca, and also serves on the USCCB’s National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry.

Last year, Noriega was co-leader of the bishop and young adult encounter at the V Encuentro national event held in Texas.

All the “youth delegates,” who are between the ages of 18 to 29, will listen to talks and panels on synodality, pastoral ministry, and vocational discernment. They will also meet in groups to consider how to apply the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit to their local youth ministries.

Pope Francis published Christus Vivit, a 50-page letter to “all Christian young people,” April 2 following the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment which took place Oct. 3-28.

In Christus Vivit Pope Francis addressed the obstacles to faith and personal fulfulment faced by young people today, such as isolation, over-consumption of media, and addiction to drugs and pornography. Do not let the world “rob you of hope and joy, or drug you into becoming a slave to their interests,” Francis said.

“You need to realize one basic truth: being young is not only about pursuing fleeting pleasures and superficial achievements. If the years of your youth are to serve their purpose in life, they must be a time of generous commitment, whole-hearted dedication, and sacrifices that are difficult but ultimately fruitful.”

On the final day of the International Youth Forum, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with the young participants, after which they will meet Pope Francis.

“I think Pope Francis offers a very personal invitation to young people to return to what is most essential: an encounter daily with the love of God and the living person of Christ," McCafferty said.

Amazon Synod to consider possible ordination of married men

Monday, June 17, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The working document for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, released Monday, recommends study of the possibility of ordaining married men in remote areas for the priesthood.

“Stating that celibacy is a gift for the Church, we ask that, for more remote areas in the region, study of the possibility of priestly ordination of elders, preferably indigenous …  they can already have an established and stable family, in order to ensure the sacraments that they accompany and support the Christian life,” paragraph 129 of the document released June 17 states.

This opens the door for the discussion of the ordination of viri probati -- a term referring to mature, married men -- during the Special Synod of Bishops from the Pan-Amazonian region to be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

Canon law for the Latin Catholic Church prohibits the ordination of married men to the priesthood, with limited exceptions regarding the ordination of formerly Anglican and Protestant ecclesial leaders who have converted to Catholicism.

The working document, which calls for “a Church with an indigenous face,” further recommends that the synod identify “an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church.”

Monsignor Fabio Fabene, Under-Secretary for the Synod of Bishops highlighted the document’s call for new lay ministries.

“In this sense, one wonders what official ministry can be conferred to the woman,” Fabene said at a Vatican press conference June 17.

He continued, “the document does not speak of the female diaconate, since the pope has already expressed himself on the subject in the Assembly of the Superiors General, declaring that the topic needs further study. In fact, the study commission set up in 2016 did not reach a unanimous opinion on the issue.”

The synod working document, entitled “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” is divided into three sections on the Amazonian cultures, environmental and economic problems, and pastoral approaches for the Church in the region.

Calling for “an integral ecological conversion,” the document touches on the issues of migration, deforestation, urbanization, corruption, health, education, and Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation (PIAV).

The document stresses the importance of inculturation of indigenous cultures in the Catholic faith and the liturgy in the region, starting with engagement with indigenous spiritualities.

“It is necessary to grasp what the Spirit of the Lord has taught to these peoples over the centuries: faith in God the Father-Mother Creator, the sense of communion and harmony with the earth, the sense of solidarity with one's companions ...  the living relationship with nature and 'Mother Earth,’ the resilience of women,” paragraph 121 of the document states.

Recommending that the Church “recognize indigenous spirituality as a source of wealth for the Christian experience,” and the document calls for dialogue with “the Amazonian cosmovision” to be included in formation for religious life.

Monsignor Fabene described inculturation in the liturgy in the region as “a better integration of the symbols and celebratory styles of indigenous cultures … taking into account music and dance, languages ​​and native clothes.”

“Recognition and dialogue will be the best way to transform the ancient relations marked by exclusion and discrimination,” paragraph 35 states. In several places, the document refers to “the wounds caused during long periods of colonization.”

“For this Pope Francis asked ‘humbly for forgiveness, not only for the offenses of his own Church, but for crimes against indigenous peoples during the conquest of so-called America.’  In this past, the Church has sometimes been complicit in the colonization and this has stifled the prophetic voice of the Gospel,” paragraph 38 states.

The document also stresses the importance of having greater respect for the dignity and rights of indigenous populations in the area today.

“The Church cannot but worry about the integral salvation of the human person, which involves promoting the culture of indigenous peoples, talking about their vital needs, accompanying movements and joining forces to defend their rights,” paragraph 143 states.

The synod document therefore recommends that Catholics in the region, “join the basic social movements, to prophetically announce a program of agrarian justice that promotes a profound agrarian reform, supporting farming organic and agroforestry.”

Participants in the special synod of the Amazon will include residential bishops and ordinaries of the nine Pan-Amazonian ecclesiastical territories in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname; the presidents of the seven bishops’ conferences of the Pan-Amazonian Region; members for the Roman Curia; the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM); and the members of the pre-Synodal Council.

Upon the working document’s publication June 17, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, said:

“The image of a Church with an Amazonian face, courageous in its prophetic proclamation of the Gospel in defense of Creation and of indigenous peoples, is the horizon towards which we are walking under the guidance of Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis: Whatever happens, 'hope does not disappoint!'

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Camerino, Italy, Jun 16, 2019 / 06:09 am (CNA).- Hope, which is more than mere optimism, gives one a deep-rooted confidence in the love and care of God, no matter what has happened, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Hope “does not expire, because it is based on the fidelity of God. The hope of the Spirit is not even optimism. Born deeper, it rekindles at the bottom of the heart the certainty of being precious because loved,” the pope said June 16.

“It is a hope that leaves peace and joy inside, regardless of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots, which no storm of life can uproot,” he added. “It is a hope that, says St. Paul, ‘does not disappoint’ – hope does not disappoint! – which gives the strength to overcome all tribulations.”

Pope Francis said Mass in Camerino, Italy during a day visit to the Archdiocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche. The area was one of those affected by the earthquakes which struck central Italy in 2016 and 2017. The Mass was said in the square outside the cathedral, which is still under reconstruction after being damaged in the earthquake.

In his homily, Francis spoke to those who suffered damage, injury, or loss due to the earthquakes.

“When we are troubled or wounded – and you know well what it means to be troubled, wounded – we are led to ‘nest’ around our sadness and our fears,” he said, noting that the Holy Spirit can free people from these “nests.”

“The Spirit feeds us with living hope. Invite him. Let us ask him to come to us and he will come near. Come, Comforter Spirit! Come give us some light, give us the sense of this tragedy, give us the hope that does not disappoint. Come, Holy Spirit!” he prayed.

The pope also reflected on a line from the day’s Responsorial Psalm: “What is man that you should be mindful of him...” This question, he said, could come also in the face of “collapsed houses and buildings reduced to rubble.”

“What is man ever? What is he, if what you raise can collapse in an instant? What is he if his hope can end in dust?”

The truth, Francis said, is that “God remembers us as we are, with our frailties.”

“No one is contemptible in his eyes, each has an infinite value for him: we are small under heaven and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything.”

Before praying the Angelus following Mass, Pope Francis told the people of the diocese he came in order to be near to them and to pray with them, saying, “I pray to the God of hope, so that what is unstable on earth does not shake the certainty we have inside.”

God remembers everyone and he can heal the memories of that difficult time, he said. “God helps us to be builders of good, consolers of hearts. Everyone can do a little good, without waiting for others to start.”

Entrusting the diocese to the Virgin Mary, he prayed: “May she who animated the first community of Jesus’ disciples with her motherly presence, also help the Church today to give good witness to the Gospel.”

Before returning to the Vatican in the afternoon, the pope met with around 200 children who had received their first Holy Communion and with their parents and catechists.

 

Vatican’s doctrinal office expected to release document on gender theory

Friday, June 14, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s doctrinal office is preparing a document which will address Church teaching and the anthropology of the human person in the context of so-called gender theory, according to a Vatican official.

According to a source, speaking to CNA on background, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is expected to publish in the coming months a more in-depth theological and anthropological text than the guide that was published by the Congregation for Catholic Education earlier this week.

With “Male and Female He Created Them,” issued June 10, the Congregation for Catholic Education did not intend to give a detailed treatment of the topic of gender in all areas, but to provide a guide for those in Catholic school and university environments on how to approach and engage with the advancement of gender theory in contemporary society, the source said.

The document focuses on the educational context because it is the congregation’s competency, according to the source, though experts and other Vatican departments were consulted as is ordinary practice.

The 31-page text, signed in February by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, was in production for three years, and came about largely due to the requests of bishops on ad limina visits.

The source told CNA that the education congregation has heard from a large number of bishops looking for support from the Vatican on the topic of so-called gender theory in the educational environment.

Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, stated last year that his department was preparing a document on gender theory.

At the time, Zani said the document was expected within one to two months. He spoke at a March 2018 study conference on education and teaching at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

Zani said on the same occasion that another “deeper” document on the same topic was in the works at the CDF.

Writing for L’Osservatore Romano this week, prefect Versaldi said the document from Catholic Education “traces history, focuses on reasonable meeting points and proposes the Christian anthropological vision.”

He criticized an ideology which “induces educational projects and legislative guidelines that promote a personal identity and an affective intimacy radically detached from the biological diversity between male and female.”

Vatican Secretary of State marks 25 years of diplomatic relations with Israel

Friday, June 14, 2019

Rome, Italy, Jun 14, 2019 / 06:56 am (CNA).- Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin marked the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel Thursday by calling for a shared commitment to religious freedom and combatting anti-Semitism.

“The peace process and the future of the region are in the heart of the pope and the Holy See,” Parolin said June 13 at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary in the Great Synagogue of Rome.

“The Holy See and the State of Israel are called to join forces to promote religious freedom -- of religion and of conscience -- as an indispensable condition to protect the dignity of every human being, and to work together to combat anti-Semitism,” he said.

Parolin said that the special nature of the relationship between Israel and the Holy See emerges from the unique character of the Holy Land.

“Jerusalem, the city of peace, is at its heart, the common heritage for all the faithful of the three great monotheistic religions and of the whole world,” he said.

“Our religious and political commitment favors the city's vocation to be a place of reconciliation and encounter between religions, as well as a symbol of respect and peaceful cohabitation,” the Secretary of State continued.

To mark the anniversary, Pope Francis invited all believers and non-believers to dedicate “a minute of peace,” a minute of prayer and reflection for “a more fraternal world,” Parolin said.

The Holy See established full diplomatic relations with Israel with the Fundamental Agreement signed in December 1993, which set forth a common commitment to cooperate in combaing anti-Semitism, the promotion of academic exchanges, and cooperation in encouring Christian pilgrimages.

Diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and the Vatican opened on June 15, 1994. Each of the following popes visited Israel since the signing of the agreement. Saint Pope John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, and Pope Francis in 2014.

In his speech to the Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See Oren David and the Israeli diplomatic corp, Cardinal Parolin highlighted the prayer meeting between Israeli and Palestinian presidents hosted by the Vatican in June 2014 and Pope Francis’ address to international conference on combatting anti-Semintism in 2018.

“The Church wishes to extend its hand. We want to remember and walk together … mindful of the heritage shared in common with the Jewish people, driven not by political reasons, but by religious evangelical charity, we deplore the hatred, persecution and all manifestations of anti-Stemitism directed against the Jewish people at any time and from anyone,” Pope Francis said.

Christians must sow hope among the poor, pope says

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis challenged Catholics to be a source of hope for those in poverty, especially in the face of divisions in wealth and a throw-away culture.

The Pope released Thursday his message for the third annual World Day of the Poor, which will take place Nov. 17.

In the June 13 text, he drew a comparison between the financial disparities of people the Old Testament and current social injustices. As present-day people are trapped in new forms of slavery, he said, it is the Catholic’s obligation not only to provide the poor with relief services, but with spiritual hope.

“‘The hope of the poor will not perish forever’ These words of the Psalm remain timely. They express a profound truth that faith impresses above all on the hearts of the poor, restoring lost hope in the face of injustice, sufferings and the uncertainties of life,” the pope said.

“I ask all Christian communities, and all those who feel impelled to offer hope and consolation to the poor, to help ensure that this World Day of the Poor will encourage more and more people to cooperate effectively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness and solidarity,” he added.

As during the time of the Psalms' development, there is now economic prosperity, he said. But he added that financial success has also led to an inequitable distribution of wealth. There are a privileged few, he said, but there are also millions of people who are exploited.

He said this exploitation is a type of bondage and enforces new forms of slavery. He said this abuse can be recognized in the displaced immigrants compelled to leave their homes, orphans and women forced into human trafficking, and young adults barred from employment.

“As in a hunt, the poor are trapped, captured and enslaved. As a result, many of them become disheartened, hardened and anxious only to drop out of sight,” he said. “They become for all effects invisible and their voice is no longer heard or heeded in society. Men and women who are increasingly strangers amid our houses and outcasts in our neighborhoods.”

These struggles may seem hopeless, he said, but it is the vulnerable and poor who will bear witness to God’s faithfulness. He said, even if the poor are dismissed and turned away, it will not be like that forever.

“Scripture constantly speaks of God acting on behalf of the poor. He is the one who ‘hears their cry’ and ‘comes to their aid’; he ‘protects’ and ‘defends’ them; he ‘rescues’ and ‘saves’ them... Indeed, the poor will never find God indifferent or silent in the face of their plea.”

He said it is the obligation of the Christian to care for those who are vulnerable, because Christ identifies with those in poverty. He gave the example of Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic humanitarian who died last month. Vanier founded L’Arche, an international organization of communities dedicated to people with disabilities.

“God gave Jean Vanier the gift of devoting his entire life to our brothers and sisters with grave disabilities, people whom society often tends to exclude. He was one of those saints ‘next door’” he said.

“His witness changed the life of countless persons and helped the world to look differently at those less fortunate than ourselves. The cry of the poor was heard and produced an unwavering hope, creating visible and tangible signs of a concrete love that even today we can touch with our hands.”

In this culture of waste, he said it is difficult to spread Christian hope. Francis said charity must go beyond the distribution of physical necessities and it must become an authentic concern for the person, inspiring that individual to hope and compassion.

“The poor acquire genuine hope, not from seeing us gratified by giving them a few moments of our time, but from recognizing in our sacrifice an act of gratuitous love that seeks no reward,” he said.

This act of kindness requires consistent commitment and a joyful individual who will listen and identify the true needs of each person, he said. It may seem illogical to the world, but charity extends beyond statistics, he further added.

“I encourage you to seek, in every poor person whom you encounter, his or her true needs, not to stop at their most obvious material needs, but to discover their inner goodness, paying heed to their background and their way of expressing themselves, and in this way to initiate a true fraternal dialogue,” said Pope Francis.

“For once, let us set statistics aside: the poor are not statistics to cite when boasting of our works and projects. The poor are persons to be encountered; they are lonely, young and old, to be invited to our homes to share a meal; men women and children who look for a friendly word. The poor save us because they enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ.”

Francis tells his ambassadors not to criticize him behind his back

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2019 / 02:04 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a message to apostolic nuncios Thursday informing his ambassadors that they have a responsibility as papal representatives not to criticize the pope or to join groups hostile to the Roman curia.

“It is therefore irreconcilable to be a pontifical representative criticizing the pope behind his back, having blogs or even joining groups hostile to him, to the curia and to the Church of Rome,” Pope Francis said June 13 in remarks distributed to more than 100 nuncios meeting in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis said that he desired to share some simple precepts to help the papal diplomats live out their mission, calling the 4,000 word document a “Ten Commandments” of sorts for nuncios and their co-workers throughout the world.

One of the ten precepts outlined in the document is titled, “The Nuncio is a man of the Pope.” The section states that “certainly every person could have reservations, likes and dislikes, but a good nuncio cannot be hypocritical.”

“As a Pontifical Representative, the nuncio does not represent himself but the Successor of Peter and acts on his behalf at the Church … the Representative is a link, or better, a bridge of connection between the Vicar of Christ and the people to whom he was sent, in a certain area, for which he was appointed and sent by the Roman Pontiff himself,” Pope Francis said.

Other exhortations included in the document are to be merciful, obiendent, prayerful, charitable, humble, and to have initiative and apostolic zeal.

“The man of God does not deceive nor deceive his neighbor; he does not let himself go into gossip and slander; it preserves the pure mind and heart, preserving eyes and ears from the filth of the world. He does not let himself be deceived by worldly values, but looks to the Word of God to judge what is wise and good,” he said.

“The Nuncio who forgets that he is a man of God ruins himself and others; he goes off the track and also damages the Church, to which he has dedicated his life,” Francis warned.

Current papal nuncios have been caught in scandal. The apostolic nuncio to France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura has been accused of sexual misconduct against an adult male while he was nuncio in Canada. The Vatican diplomat is already under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Paris.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, apostolic nuncio to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan has recently been accused of financial and personal misconduct during his time of service as the Vatican’s chief diplomat at the United Nations.

Some have pointed to Pope Francis’ comments about “having a blog” as alluding to the apostolic nuncio to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, because he has a blog, which was linked to a Twitter account in which he shared articles critical of some of Pope Francis’ comments.

In 2015, the nuncio tweeted a National Review article entitled, “The Pope Got It Completely and Utterly Wrong,” which called Pope Francis’ comments in an in-flight press conference “imprecise, poorly judged.” The nuncio’s Twitter account has since been deleted.

Former nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, set off a flurry of debate last August by penning a public letter alleging that some Vatican officials knew of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct for years yet restored McCarrick’s place as a papal advisor to Pope Francis.

The former nuncio issued additional letters calling for Pope Francis to resign and gave an extended interview to the Washington Post published this week.

Francis' document to nuncios quotes Saints Maximilian Kolbe, Paul, Augustine, and Paul VI on living the Christian life. It concludes with the “Litany of Humility” written by Servant of God Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, Vatican Secretary of State from 1903-1914.

“The nuncio - and all of us - without a life of prayer, risks failing to meet all the aforementioned requirements. Without prayer we become mere officials, always unhappy and frustrated. The life of prayer is that light that illuminates everything else and all the work of the nuncio and his mission,” Pope Francis said.

Fr. Augustus Tolton, former African American slave, advances toward sainthood

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2019 / 05:03 am (CNA).- Fr. Augustus Tolton advanced along the path to sainthood Wednesday, making the runaway slave-turned-priest one step closer to being the first black American saint.

Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtue of Fr. Tolton June 12 making him “venerable” within the Church, only two steps away from canonization. With the decree, Catholics are now authorized to pray directly to Tolton as an intercessor before God.

Venerable John Augustus Tolton was born into slavery in Monroe County, Missouri in 1854. He escaped slavery with his family during the Civil War by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois.

“John, boy, you're free. Never forget the goodness of the Lord,” Tolton’s mother reportedly told him after the crossing.

The young Tolton entered St. Peter’s Catholic School in Quincy, Illinois with the help of the school’s pastor, Fr. Peter McGirr. The priest went on to baptize Tolton, instruct him for his first Holy Communion, and recognize his vocation to the priesthood.

No American seminary would accept Tolton because of his race, so he studied for the priesthood in Rome. However, when Father Tolton returned to the U.S. after his ordination in 1889, thousands of people lined the streets to greet him. A brass band played hymns and Negro Spirituals, and black and white people processesed together into the local church.

Father Tolton was the first African American to be ordained a priest. He served for three years at a parish in Quincy, before moving to Chicago to start a parish for black Catholics, St. Monica Parish, where he remained until his death in 1897.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints also recognized the heroic virtue of six other new “Venerables” June 12. Five Italians: Father Enzo Boschetti, Brother Felice Tantardini, layman Giovanni Nadiani, and Mother Maria Paola Muzzeddu.

The Filipino foundress of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of the Philippines, Maria Rosario of the Visitation, was also declared venerable, and the martyrdom of Servants of God Maria Colón Gullón Yturriaga and two companions was recognized. Yturriaga and her companions were laypeople killed for their faith in Somiedo, Spain in 1936.

After two miracles through their particular intercession are verified by the Vatican, Father Tolton and the other new venerables can be declared saints.

Pope Francis: Unity is in the 'DNA' of Christian community

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2019 / 04:15 am (CNA).- An essential characteristic of Christian community is its unity in diversity, and the freedom this gives to Christians to come alive as witnesses of Christ, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

The selection of Matthias to take Judas’ place among the Twelve Apostles, as told at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, is the “reunification of the apostolic college,” the pope said June 12.

This moment “shows how in the DNA of the Christian community there is unity and freedom from oneself, which make it possible not to fear diversity, not to attach oneself to things and gifts and to become martyrs, that is, luminous witnesses of God alive and active in history,” he said.

“We too,” Francis urged, “need to rediscover the beauty of witnessing to the Risen, emerging from self-referential attitudes, renouncing the withholding of the gifts of God and not yielding to mediocrity.”

The pope, as part of a new series of general audience catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles, reflected on the disciples’ selection of Matthias to replace Judas as one of the Twelve Apostles.

Following the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus into heaven, the disciples are praying in the Upper Room. The selection of a disciple to fill the space left by Judas is a sign of the importance of communion, Pope Francis said.

With the addition of Matthias, “the body of the Twelve is reconstituted,” he said. “A sign that communion – it is communion – that wins over divisions, isolation, the mentality that absolutizes the private space, a sign that communion is the first testimony the Apostles offer.”

“The Apostles choose to live under the lordship of the Risen One in unity among brothers, which becomes the only possible atmosphere of the authentic gift of self,” he stated.

Judas, on the other hand, the pope said, had received a great grace in being part of Jesus’ own ministry, but he tried to “save” his own life and ended up losing it.

“He ceased to belong to Jesus with his heart and placed himself outside of communion with Him and his [disciples]. He stopped being a disciple and placed himself above the Master,” Pope Francis said.

Judas sold Christ to his enemies and with the “wages of his iniquity” bought land, where, “falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out,” as Peter says in Acts 1:18.

But if Judas chose death over life, the other 11 apostles “choose life and choose blessing, they become responsible in making it flow in turn in history, from generation to generation, from the people of Israel to the Church.”

With the addition of Matthias, the Twelve Apostles, he said, “are the respected witnesses of Christ’s work of salvation and do not manifest their presumed perfection to the world but, through the grace of unity, they bring out an Other who now lives in a new way among his people: And who is this? It is the Lord Jesus.”

 

Missionary mandate rooted in baptism, Pope Francis says

Monday, June 10, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis, in his message for World Mission Day, asked the Church to remember her ‘missionary awareness and commitment’, rooted in the grace of baptism.

He emphasized “the importance of renewing the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ” in his message, released June 9. The 93rd World Mission Day will be held Oct. 20.

The title of the pope’s message and October’s missionary month is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.”

Pope Francis asked that in October the Church commemorate the centenary of Maximum illud, Benedict XV’s apostolic letter on the propagation of the faith throughout the world.

“Celebrating this month will help us first to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ, a faith graciously bestowed on us in baptism,” said Pope Francis. “Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church. Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practise proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission.”

“The Church is on mission in the world,” Pope Francis stated. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity teach us how to be missionaries in the world.

“Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God’s own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of the divine life that we share. Charity, of which we have a foretaste in the sacraments and in fraternal love, impels us to go forth to the ends of the earth.”

“The man who preaches God must be a Man of God,” Pope Francis wrote.

“This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love. Even if parents can betray their love by lies, hatred and infidelity, God never takes back his gift of life. From eternity he has destined each of his children to share in his divine and eternal life.”

He said that baptism “gives us rebirth in God’s own image and likeness, and makes us members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. In this sense, baptism is truly necessary for salvation for it ensures that we are always and everywhere sons and daughters in the house of the Father, and never orphans, strangers or slaves.”

Baptism “remains the vocation and destiny of every man and woman in search of conversion and salvation. For baptism fulfils the promise of the gift of God that makes everyone a son or daughter in the Son.”

“In baptism,” according to Pope Francis, “we receive the origin of all fatherhood and true motherhood: no one can have God for a Father who does not have the Church for a mother.” Hence, our mission “is rooted in the fatherhood of God and motherhood of the Church.”

“The mandate given by the Risen Jesus at Easter is inherent in Baptism,” he said, and therefore “this mission is part of our identity as Christians.”

In “today’s rampant secularism,” the pope said, “when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human fraternity, which finds expression in reciprocal respect for the life of each person. Without the God of Jesus Christ, every difference is reduced to a baneful threat, making impossible any real fraternal acceptance and fruitful unity within the human race.”

Pope Francis notes that Benedict XV, given the universality of salvation, saw “that the Church’s universal mission requires setting aside exclusivist ideas of membership in one’s own country and ethnic group.”

Today, the Church needs men and women “who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the sacraments of Jesus Christ and his holy Church.”

Pope Francis noted the coincidence of World Mission Day with the Synod on the Churches in the Amazon, saying, “A renewed Pentecost opens wide the doors of the Church, in order that no culture remain closed in on itself and no people cut off from the universal communion of the faith. No one ought to remain closed in self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and religious affiliation. The Easter event of Jesus breaks through the narrow limits of worlds, religions and cultures, calling them to grow in respect for the dignity of men and women, and towards a deeper conversion to the truth of the Risen Lord who gives authentic life to all.”

We confide our mission to Mary, Mother of the Church, Pope Francis said: “In union with her Son, from the moment of the Incarnation the Blessed Virgin set out on her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross: the mission of cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith.”

Pope Francis concluded his message with a brief mention of the Pontifical Mission Societies, who “serve the Church’s universality as a global network of support for the Pope in his missionary commitment by prayer, the soul of mission, and charitable offerings from Christians throughout the world.”

Francis: Leaders who talk of peace but sell arms will face 'wrath of God'

Monday, June 10, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- Discussing the Syrian civil war Monday, Pope Francis said God hears the cry of orphans and widows, and that his wrath will be visited on those who deal in arms trafficking while speaking of peace.

“I think with sadness, once again, of the drama of Syria and the dense clouds that seem to thicken above it in some areas that are still unstable and where the risk of an even greater humanitarian crisis remains high. Those who have no food, those who do not have medical care, who have no school, orphans, the wounded and widows raise their voices up high,” the pope said June 10 to participants in the plenary assembly of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.

“The hearts of men may be insensitive, but that of God is not: wounded by the hatred and violence that can be unleashed among his creatures, always able to be moved and take care of them with the tenderness and strength of a father who protects and guides. But sometimes I also think of the wrath of God that will be unleashed against the leaders of countries that talk about peace and sell weapons to carry out these wars. This hypocrisy is a sin.”

Francis' meeting with ROACO was at the Vatican's Consistory Hall. The organization unites funding agencies to provide services to members of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

In his address the pope also discussed Iraq, where he said he wishes to visit next year, hoping “it may look ahead through the peaceful and shared participation in the construction of the common good of all the religious components of society, and that it may not fall into the tensions which come from the never-ending conflicts of regional powers.”

Pope Francis then voiced his desire for peace among the people of Ukraine, “whose wounds caused by the conflict we have tried to alleviate with the charitable initiative to which many ecclesial realities have contributed.”

“In the Holy Land, I hope that the recent announcement of a second phase of study of the restoration of the Holy Sepulchre … will be accompanied by the sincere efforts of all local and international actors for a peaceful coming soon living together in respect of all those who live in that land, a sign to all of the blessing of the Lord,” he reflected.

He recalled his condemnation of arms trafficking, saying: “People fleeing, huddled on ships in search of hope, not knowing which ports they will be able to receive, but in Europe they open the ports to boats that have to load sophisticated and expensive weapons, capable of producing devastation that do not spare even children. This is the hypocrisy of which I spoke.”

“We are aware here that Abel’s cry rises up to God, as we remembered in Bari a year ago, praying together for our faithful of the Middle East.”

Though there is lamentation and weeping in the homes of the Eastern Catholic Churches, there is also “hope and consolation” through ROACO's “tireless work of chariaty,” the pope said.

“This expresses the face of the Church and contributes to making her alive, in particular nurturing hope for the young generations. Young people have the right to be heard announcing the fascinating and demanding word of Christ and … when they meet an authentic and credible witness they are not afraid to follow Him and to question themselves on their vocation.”

He urged the members of ROACO to “ontinue and increase your effort, so that in the countries and situations you support, young people can grow in humanity, free from ideological colonization, with open hearts and minds, appreciating their national and ecclesial roots and desiring a future of peace and prosperity, which leaves no one behind and discriminates against no-one.”

The pope recalled with gratitude the reopening of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and he urged the spreading of his document on human fraternity adopted in February with the grand imam of al-Azhar.

“And let us all commit ourselves to preserving those realities that have been living the message for years, with particular attention to educational institutions, schools and universities, so precious especially in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, authentic laboratories of coexistence and workshops of humanity to which all can easily have access,” he concluded.

New Vatican document says gender theory is 'cultural and ideological revolution'

Monday, June 10, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2019 / 08:35 am (CNA).- A Vatican department has issued a sweeping denunciation of so-called gender theory, and affirmed the principles of human dignity, difference, and complementarity.  

“In all such [gender] theories, from the most moderate to the most radical, there is agreement that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex,” the Congregation for Catholic Education wrote June 10, in a new document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them.”

“The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society.”

The document says it aims to set out an intellectual framework “towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education.”

Published at the beginning of “Pride Month,” during which many cities and corporations mark the campaign of LGBT advocacy, the document says that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and woman, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.

“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated,” the document explains.

“The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be.’”

The text, signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, outlines the philosophical origins of the gender theory movement, and notes the broad movement to enshrine its distinct anthropology in policy and law.

The Congregation explains that, beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, a series of studies were published which proposed that external conditioning had the primary determinative influence on personality. When such studies were applied to human sexuality, the document says, they did so with a view to demonstrating that sexuality identity was more a social construct than a given natural or biological fact.

“These schools of thought were united in denying the existence of any original given element in the individual, which would precede and at the same time constitute our personal identity, forming the necessary basis of everything we do.”

“Over the course of time, gender theory has expanded its field of application. At the beginning of the 1990s, its focus was upon the possibility of the individual determining his or her own sexual tendencies without having to take account of the reciprocity and complementarity of male-female relationships, nor of the procreative end of sexuality,” the document says.

The result was a “radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the later.”

The problem with this theory, according to the Congregation, is not the distinction between the two terms, which can be properly understood, but in the separation of the two from each other.

“The propositions of gender theory converge in the concept of ‘queer’, which refers to dimensions of sexuality that are extremely fluid, flexible, and as it were, nomadic.”

The result of this ideological trend, according to the Congregation’s assessment, is an undermining of the family.

“[In gender theory] the only thing that matters in personal relationships is the affection between the individuals involved, irrespective of sexual difference or procreation which would be seen as irrelevant in the formation of families.”

“Thus, the institutional model of the family (where a structure and finality exist independent of the subjective preferences of the spouses) is bypassed, in favor of a vision of family that is purely contractual and voluntary.”

The document said that despite the challenges, dialogue remains possible. It also called for protection of human and family rights, decried unjust discrimination, and noted points of unity among people of divergent perspectives on gender ideology.

“For instance, educational programs on this area often share a laudable desire to combat all expressions of unjust discrimination, a requirement that can be shared by all sides,” the document said.

“Indeed, it cannot be denied that through the centuries forms of unjust discrimination have been a sad fact of history and have also had an influence within the Church. This has brought a certain rigid status quo, delaying the necessary and progressive inculturation of the truth of Jesus’ proclamation of the equal dignity of men and women, and has provoked accusations of a sort of masculinist mentality, veiled to a greater or lesser degree by religious motives.”

The aim of the Church at the institutional and individual level must be the education of children in line with authentic principles which defend and instil authentic human dignity, the Congregation explains.

“In practice, the advocacy for the different identities often presents them as being of completely equal value compared to each other.”

“The generic concept of ‘non-discrimination’ often hides an ideology that denies the difference as well as natural reciprocity that exists between men and women.”

Referencing classical philosophy, historic Church teaching, Vatican Council II and the writings of several popes, the document explains the Church’s understanding of a Christian anthropology, insisting that it be at the heart of human formation.

For Christians working in schools, both religious and secular, the radical individualism of gender theory should be avoided in favor of teaching children “to overcome their individualism and discover, in the light of faith, their specific vocation to live responsibly in a community.”

Above all, the document says, the family remains “the primary community” to which the students belong and the fundamental vehicle for preserving, understanding, and transmitting human dignity.

“The school must respect the family’s culture. It must listen carefully to the needs that it finds and the expectations that are directed towards it.”

In the modern context, however, the essential alliance between school and family “has entered into crisis,” the Congregation notes.

“There is an urgent need to promote a new alliance that is genuine and not simply at the level of bureaucracy, a shared project that can offer a ‘positive and prudent sexual education’ that can harmonise the primary responsibility of parents with the work of teachers.”

“Although ideologically-driven approaches to the delicate questions around gender proclaim their respect for diversity, they actually run the risk of viewing such difference as static realities and end up leaving them isolated and disconnected from each other,” the document concludes.

Promoting a culture of dialogue between the Church and those advancing gender theory principles must take place, the document says, in a manner that respects “the legitimate aspirations of Catholic schools to maintain their own vision of human sexuality,” based on “an integral anthropology capable of harmonizing the human person’s physical, psychic and spiritual identity.”

The congregation ends by insisting on the rights of the Church, the family, and of Catholic educators to defend authentic teaching and understanding in the face of an increasingly exclusivist approach to education in line with secular progressive principles.

“A democratic state cannot reduce the range of education on offer to a single school of thought, all the more so in relation to this extremely delicate subject, which is concerned on the one hand with the fundamentals of human nature, and on the other with natural rights of parents to freely choose any educational model that accords with the dignity of the human person.”

With international service group, pope connects Catholic charismatics to broader Church

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Rome, Italy, Jun 9, 2019 / 08:27 am (CNA).- As several thousand Catholics belonging to the charismatic renewal gathered in Rome this Pentecost weekend, the Vatican officially launched a new international service to aid the ministry in its commitment to communion and service.

Bishop Peter Smith told CNA that with the creation of CHARIS, “the Holy Father is trying to say okay, we’re part of a much bigger thing here, let’s not lose sight of that connection and let’s help one another to build the Kingdom and not just be focused on ourselves.”

“This pope sees [the charismatic renewal] as a much broader thing,” he said.

CHARIS is an abbreviation for Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service and fulfills a request of the pope that there be one charismatic service organism for all expressions of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

It does not have any legal authority over charismatic communities, but its purpose is communion, formation, and advice. It also has a doctrinal and canonical commission, which can study and give information on things such as baptism in the Holy Spirit, as CHARIS moderator Jean-Luc Moens told CNA.

“We need to be sure that we serve the Church without going into our own ideas,” he said.

Auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon, Peter Smith has been in the charismatic renewal since a young adult in the late 1970s. As CHARIS launches under the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, he is serving on the leadership team as one of two representatives for North America.

Smith explained to CNA that the charismatic renewal is not an organized movement in the sense of having a founder or one overarching vision, but that it is very loosely organized.

“The heart of the charismatic movement is a profound encounter with Christ and the Holy Spirit,” he said. “There’s sort of a deeper infusion of the Holy Spirit into our lives that transforms us, and so, people go forth from there.”

“It deepens people’s lives of faith significantly,” he said, explaining that the way most Catholics would encounter the movement is likely through a prayer group at their parish, at conferences and retreats, or communities and ministries.

He said there are an estimated 100 to 112 million active members of the charismatic renewal worldwide, many of whom are in Africa and Asia.

Pope Francis met with around 3,000 or more Catholics of the charismatic renewal on June 8 in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall. He told them that with the start of CHARIS “a new stage begins on this journey.”

“A stage marked by communion among all the members of the charismatic family, in which the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested for the good of the whole Church,” he continued.

The pope said he expects the movement to share Baptism in the Holy Spirit with everyone in the Church: “it is the grace that you have received. Share it! Do not keep if for yourself!”

He also asked them to serve the unity of the body of Christ and to serve the poor.

“These three things: Baptism in the Holy Spirit, unity of the Body of Christ and service to the poor, are the necessary testimony for the evangelization of the world, to which we are all called for our Baptism,” he said.

Smith described the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the context of Confirmation, which he said, “is a gift of a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit.” And just like any gift one receives, “it is worthless unless you do something.”

“You have to take it, you have to open it, you have to see what it is, you have to make it part of your life,” he noted. “And when you do, that gift comes alive for you. The same thing happens with the gift of faith.” The charismatic renewal helps people to have a “vivified, living faith.”

“God is not just a philosophical reality... God becomes like a close friend in the sense that you experience him,” he said. “This is all fundamentally part of our faith life.”

“I’ve bumped into certain groups of Catholics who say, well [the renewal] is Protestant. My reaction to that is no, that’s been Catholic from the beginning,” Smith argued. While the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been around for just 52 years, the bishop said what the renewal promotes can be seen even in the writings of the early Church Fathers and in the lives of saints.

For Catholics who would like to have a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost, Smith said there is not a set formula except for simply placing one’s self in God’s presence. If there is some obstacle to communion with God, something one needs to repent of, do that, he said, and then “just ask God to reveal himself more closely to you, to make the Holy Spirit come alive within you.”

“Countless people, myself included, we were good Catholics, always lived the Church’s teaching,” he noted, “but there comes a point where you can say, Lord, I want more.”

Most people, he said, will never have one of “these St. Paul moments” where you are going about your life and “wham, you have this incredible experience.”

For most people, “we begin to pray, you surrender your life to God, you ask the Holy Spirit to be more a part of your life, and you begin to see things happen.”

It can be summed up by thinking about the universal call to live and proclaim the Gospel. “We can’t do that on our own, nobody can. We fall short,” he explained. “So, God in his mercy gives us the Holy Spirit, which makes Christ present in us in a much deeper way and strengthens us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit... so that we can live as he calls us to.”

“That is why people who experience this often have their faith come alive,” he said.

Pope Francis on Pentecost: 'Christian life unravels' without the Holy Spirit

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Vatican City, Jun 9, 2019 / 03:29 am (CNA).- Without the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Christians lack that which animates them and gives them internal life and harmony, Pope Francis said on Pentecost.    

“Without the Spirit, our Christian life unravels, lacking the love that brings everything together,” Pope Francis said at Mass in St. Peter’s Square June 9.

“Without the Spirit, Jesus remains a personage from the past; with the Spirit, he is a person alive in our own time. Without the Spirit, Scripture is a dead letter; with the Spirit it is a word of life,” he continued. “A Christianity without the Spirit is joyless moralism; with the Spirit, it is life.”

At Mass for Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year, Pope Francis spoke about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, which he said is “far from being an abstract reality,” but is the “most concrete and close, the, the one who changes our lives.”

Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room. Pentecost marks the conclusion of the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church.

How does the Holy Spirit change people’s lives? the pope asked. “Let us look at the Apostles. The Holy Spirit did not make things easier for them, he didn’t work spectacular miracles, he didn’t take away their difficulties and their opponents.”

Pope Francis said what the Holy Spirit brought was harmony: something deeply needed also in “today’s frenzied pace of life.” – “Pulled in a thousand directions, we run the risk of nervous exhaustion,” so we look for quick fixes like pills and thrill-seeking “to feel alive.”

“But more than anything else, we need the Spirit: he brings order to our frenzy. The Spirit is peace in the midst of restlessness, confidence in the midst of discouragement, joy in sadness, youth in aging, courage in the hour of trial. Amid the stormy currents of life, he lowers the anchor of hope,” he stated.

According to the pope, a lack of harmony is what has caused the many stark divisions seen in today’s world: People with too much and people with nothing, people striving after longevity and those who “cannot even be born.”

More social media use, he said, has made people less social. “We need the Spirit of unity to regenerate us as Church, as God’s People and as a human family.”

“Let us daily implore the gift of the Spirit,” Pope Francis urged, explaining that it is easy to stay at surface levels; that “rather than seeking the Spirit, we try to keep afloat, thinking that everything will improve once this or that problem is over, once I no longer see that person, once things get better.”

He said this is superficial because there will always be more problems, and “resolving momentary problems will not bring peace. What makes a difference is the peace of Jesus, the harmony of the Spirit.”

“Peace is about receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems but in problems, is offered to each of us,” he said, explaining that: “Filled with his peace, our hearts are like a deep sea, which remains peaceful, even when its surface is swept by waves.”

Francis also criticized the tendency to “hurl adjectives” and insults at others, stating that it is harmful not only to those insulted but also to those who insult.

Those who live by the Spirit, by contrast, “bring peace where there is discord, concord where there is conflict. Those who are spiritual repay evil with good. They respond to arrogance with meekness, to malice with goodness, to shouting with silence, to gossip with prayer, to defeatism with encouragement.”

It is important to recognize, he said, that just like for the Apostles, seeing the Risen Lord is not enough, “unless we welcome him into our hearts.” Quoting St. Bonaventure, the pope said the Holy Spirit “comes where he is loved, where he is invited, where he is expected.”

“Holy Spirit, harmony of God, you who turn fear into trust and self-centeredness into self-gift, come to us,” Pope Francis prayed. “Grant us the joy of the resurrection and perennially young hearts.”

“Holy Spirit, our harmony, you who make of us one body, pour forth your peace upon the Church and our world. Make us artisans of concord, sowers of goodness, apostles of hope.”

After Mass, Pope Francis led Catholics in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional Marian prayer for Eastertime. He asked for prayers for the people of Sudan, “so that the violence ceases and the common good is sought in dialogue.”

“The news coming from Sudan is giving rise to pain and concern,” he said.

Protestors in Sudan have called for civil disobedience and work strikes from Sunday, after a military crackdown in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum June 6 resulted in dozens of deaths.

The country has seen months of protests which led to the military’s overthrowing of authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir in April. A work strike is being called for by protest leaders until a civil government takes over from the military.