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Pope Francis: Marriage and family have 'an essential mission'

Loreto, Italy, Mar 25, 2019 / 06:38 am (CNA).- On the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of family and marriage for society. He also called the Virgin Mary a model for every vocation.

“It is necessary to rediscover the plan drawn by God for the family, to reaffirm its greatness and irreplaceability in the service of life and society,” the pope said March 25, during a visit to the Shrine of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy.

The Shrine of the Holy House preserves the building where tradition holds the Virgin Mary was born, raised, and greeted by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Historic documentation shows that the Holy House was brought from Palestine to Italy in the 13th century. The Holy House also holds the statue of Our Lady of Loreto.

The Holy House of Mary is the “home of the family,” Pope Francis said during his visit, noting that “in the delicate situation of today’s world, the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman takes on an importance and an essential mission.”

He said the Holy House is also the home of the young, “because here the Virgin Mary, the young woman full of grace, continues to speak to the new generations, accompanying each one in the search for his vocation.”

“Mary is the model of every vocation and the inspirer of every vocation ministry,” he continued. “Young people who are looking for, or wondering about their future, can find in Mary She who helps them to discern God’s plan for themselves and the strength to adhere to it.”

Mary was a daughter, a betrothed, a bride, and a mother, he noted, and “for this reason, every family, in its different components, finds a refuge here…” in the Holy House.

The pope added that the domestic experience of Mary shows that pastoral care of the family and of young people should not be kept separate, but “must walk closely together,” because young people are highly impacted by their experience of family in their formative years.

During the day-long visit to Loreto, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inside the Holy House, gave a speech and led those present in praying the Angelus.

“The Mother of God does not cease to obtain spiritual benefits in those who, with faith and devotion, come here to pause in prayer,” he said about the Holy House.

After Mass, the pope signed the post-synodal exhortation written following October 2018’s Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. The document, which is addressed to the young people of the Church, is titled Christus vivit (“Christ lives”) and will be published April 2.

He later greeted the sick and the Capuchin Friars who run the Shrine of the Holy House, thanking them for their devotion to hearing Confessions in the Loreto basilica and for their work at the Loreto St. John Paul II youth center.

He also expressed the desire for John Paul II youth centers to be “relaunched” throughout Italy and around the world and asked the friars to extend the opening hours of the Basilica of the Holy House into the late evening and early night, when groups of young pilgrims are present, so that the place may be available for prayer and vocational discernment.

The pope said: “I think of Loreto as a privileged place where young people can come in search of their vocation, at Mary’s school!”

At the Annunciation, Mary demonstrated the steps one should take to respond to God’s call of vocation: listening to the Word of God, discernment, and decision, he said.

First, Mary listened to the message of the Angel Gabriel. And in response to what the Angel said, she asked, “how can this be?” The pope explained that Mary’s question did not come from a lack of faith, but from a deepening discernment of the Lord’s will and her cooperation in it.

And finally, Mary gives her “yes,” he said, “the ‘yes’ of full trust and total availability to the will of God.”

“There is a need for simple and wise people, humble and courageous, poor and generous. In short, people who, at Mary’s school, welcome the Gospel without reserve in their lives,” Pope Francis said.

“Thus, through the holiness of the people of God, testimonies of holiness in every state of life will continue to spread in Italy, in Europe and in the world, to renew the Church and animate society with the leaven of the Kingdom of God.”

Phoenix Eucharistic retreat seeks to foster sacramental devotion

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 24, 2019 / 03:26 pm (CNA).- At the end of this month, the Diocese of Phoenix will host a retreat that aims to inspire devotion to and education on the Eucharist.

According to Catholic Sun, Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted expressed hope that the event will help participants “to have an even deeper sense of awe and wonder at the love of Jesus present under the humble appearance of bread and wine.”

“The more we grow in love of our Savior, the more He can work through us for the good of others,” he said.

The Lenten Eucharistic Mission is sponsored by the diocese and Friends of the Cathedral. It will take place March 28-30.

The event will include Masses celebrated by Bishop Thomas Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares. Speakers from the Denver-based Augustine Institute will include president Dr. Tim Gray and professors Dr. Michael Barber and Dr. Mark Giszezak.

MaryAnn Symancyk, a board member for Friends of the Cathedral and director of adult formation at St. Paul Parish, said the event is for everyone regardless of their theological background.

“They have a beautiful way of teaching the faith and catechizing on every level,” she said of the Augustine Institute, according to the Catholic Sun.

Symancyk said attendees will grow in their understanding about Scripture and its relation to the Eucharist.

“We need to know the biblical references, the history of the Eucharist from the Old Testament through to the New Testament. That’s what the Augustine Institute will bring us,” she said.

A recent study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that 91 percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly believe in Christ's True Presence in the Eucharist. However, this number drops to 40 percent among those who attend Mass only a few times a year.

One of the main goals of the retreat is to equip Catholics to share their knowledge and love of the Eucharist with others. Attendees will have access to apologetic and educational material on the Eucharist.

“People leave our faith but what draws them back is always the Eucharist,” Symancyk said. “When we know our faith on that level, especially with the focus on the blessed sacrament, the more we can evangelize and the more people stay in our faith or come back to the faith.”

 

Pope Francis tells Catholics not to abuse God's mercy

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2019 / 07:09 am (CNA).- The mercy of God is not an invitation to “spiritual laziness,” but requires a sincere and prompt response from those who want to grow in holiness, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“Despite the barrenness which sometimes marks our existence, God has patience and offers us the possibility of changing and making progress on the path of good,” the pope said March 24.

However, the chance for conversion is not limitless, he said. “We can rely heavily on God’s mercy, but without abusing it. We must not justify spiritual laziness but increase our commitment to respond promptly to this mercy with sincerity of heart.”

In his address before the Angelus, the pope reflected on the call to conversion, as depicted in the parable of the fig tree in the day’s Gospel.

In the parable, a man decides to cut down a fig tree in his vineyard because it has not produced any fruit in three years, and he does not want to expend the resources of the land on this barren tree.

But when the man speaks to the farmer who works in the vineyard about cutting down the tree, the farmer asks him to wait one year more and that during that time, he will cultivate and fertilize the land around the fig tree so that it may have the possibility to bear fruit in the future.

“What does this parable represent?” Francis asked. The owner of the land represents God the Father, and the farmer represents Jesus, while the fig tree “is a symbol of indifferent and arid humanity,” he said.

Like the farmer, Jesus intervenes on behalf of humanity, asking for a little more time for “the fruits of love and justice” to grow.

“The fig tree that the owner of the parable wants to uproot represents a barren existence, without fruit, incapable of giving, of doing good,” he said. “It is the symbol of one who lives for himself, satisfied and calm, laid down in his comfort, unable to turn his eyes and heart to those who are close to him and find themselves in a state of suffering, in a state of poverty, of discomfort.”

This state of “spiritual barrenness” is countered by the great love of the farmer for the fig tree, he stated. “He has patience, he knows how to wait, he dedicates his time and his work to it. He promises his master to take special care of that unhappy tree.”

Francis explained that this parable “manifests the mercy of God,” which gives us time for conversion.

“God is the Father and does not extinguish the weak flame, but accompanies and cares for those who are weak so that they may be strengthened and bring their contribution of love to the community,” he said.

Lent, in particular, is a time in which the Lord invites his children to conversion, he said, adding that, “each of us must feel challenged by this call, correcting something in our lives, in our very way of thinking, acting and living relationships with others.”

“We can think in this Lent, what should I do to get closer to the Lord?” he said, adding to not be tempted to put conversion off until “next Lent,” because no one is guaranteed another year.

“Each of us, think today: what should I do before this mercy of God that awaits me, and that always forgives? What should I do?” he asked.

He concluded by asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to help Catholics live Lent “as a time of spiritual renewal and trusting openness to the grace of God and to his mercy.”

After the Angelus, Pope Francis prayed for the success of the discussions underway in Nicaragua since the end of February and focused on resolving the “serious socio-political crisis facing the country.”

“I accompany the initiative with prayer and encourage the parties to find a peaceful solution for the good of all as soon as possible,” he said.

Francis also recognized the Church in Italy’s celebration of the “Day of Remembrance for Missionary Martyrs” and the many bishops, priests, religious sisters, and lay faithful who have been victims of violence.

Forty missionaries were killed in 2018, he said, noting that the number is almost double the number of missionaries killed the previous year.

It is “a duty of gratitude” for the whole Church to remember the sacrifice of those killed for their faith in Jesus, even in these times, he stated.

Recalling recent attacks in Nigeria and Mali, the pope also prayed a ‘Hail Mary’ for the dead, the wounded, and their families, and for the conversion of hearts.

Montreal priest stabbed at Mass 'eager' to return

Montreal, Canada, Mar 23, 2019 / 03:19 pm (CNA).- Father Claude Grou is out of the hospital and grateful for the groundswell of support he received after he was stabbed by an assailant while celebrating a televised Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal Friday morning.

The 77-year-old priest said in a statement that the words of support he had received “warm my heart and allow me to contemplate these difficult moments peacefully.” He said he was in good health and still processing the Friday attack, CBC News reports.

Celine Barbeau, a spokesperson for the oratory, said the priest will grudgingly take a few days’ break.

Though he needs a few days, he is in “a very good state of mind,” said Barbeau.

“And actually he’s eager to go back to work. We have to hold him back,” said the spokesperson.

Grou was standing behind the altar for daily Mass with about 60 congregants in the oratory’s Crypt Church when he was rushed by a man in a baseball cap, who stabbed him.

The church security team quickly detained the attacker, BBC News reports. The incident was broadcast live.

Authorities detained a 26-year-old suspect they said is known to police.

The priest, who is rector of the shrine, was taken away by ambulance. Montreal police said he suffered upper-body “lacerations.”

Adele Plamondon was finishing the day’s reading when the assailant stood up from the pew.

“I saw this man coming quickly and taking his knife out and going straight for Père Grou,” she said, according to CBC News. “It was obvious what his intentions were. So, I left screaming to alert the security.”

The attack drew comment from many people.

“Father Claude Grou, Canadians are thinking of you and wishing you a swift recovery,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter the day of the attack.

"We are all shocked by this act of violence that has taken place in our city, in a space dedicated to peace,” Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal said in a statement.  

“We know that places of worship of many religions are targets of acts of violence,” the archbishop continued. “We must continue to follow the path of peace and love, believing that good will overcome evil through prayer and good works.”
 
Construction on the mountaintop oratory was finished in 1967. Its dome is visible from across Montreal. It is the largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph in the world, with about two million annual visitors.

St. Andre Bessette, a Holy Cross brother devoted to the poor and sick, had built a chapel to St. Joseph on the site with help from friends and money he received from giving haircuts to students. He spread devotion to St. Joseph and the brother’s prayers were believed to be especially effective in working miraculous cures, drawing many visitors.

Larger versions of the chapel were built as more and more visitors came. When he died in 1937, over one million people attended his wake and funeral.

Brother Andre was canonized under Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Chilean cardinal accused of cover-up

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2019 / 09:21 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Saturday accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, who has faced accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of several abusive priests.

Cardinal Ezzati’s resignation was originally submitted to Pope Francis in May 2018, along with the rest of the Chilean bishops. The pope March 23 named Bishop Celestino Aos Braco, OFM Cap., to oversee the Archdiocese of Santiago as apostolic administrator until the appointment of Ezzati’s successor.

Ezzati, 77, is the eighth Chilean bishop to have his resignation accepted since last May. The cardinal has come under scrutiny by Chilean authorities for the possible cover-up of the crimes of abusive priests Fernando Karadima, Rigoberto Tito Rivera Muñoz, and Oscar Munoz Toledo. He denies covering up any abuse.

In an interview with Informe Especial this month, Cardinal Ezzati denied knowing and giving money to Daniel Rojas Alvarez, who was about 40 when he was sexually assaulted by Fr. Rigoberto Tito Rivera Muñoz in a room of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in 2015.

Rojas claims he told Cardinal Ezzati of the attack during a confession, and that the archbishop asked him to pray for the abuser, gave him 30,000 pesos ($45), and asked him not to share what had happened.

In the Informe Especial interview, Ezzati said: “I hear confessions in the cathedral, especially during the time of Holy Week, but I am not aware of having heard his confession, because I don’t know him and still less am I aware of giving him a hug and telling him that a priest would give him some money in my name, that’s not it, this is all very unfortunate, but that’s not the case.”

Asked if he ever had contact with Rojas, the cardinal said “no.”

Chilean police raided several archdiocesan offices last summer after Rivera Munoz was linked to a suspected network of 14 abuser-priests in the neighboring Diocese of Rancagua, approximately 40 miles south of Santiago.  

During one of the searches, authorities discovered a 2013 letter from a former bishop of Rancagua to Ezzati criticizing the cardinal for his response to victims of Fr. Fernando Karadima. Karadima was a serial abuser of minors whose relationship with Bishop Juan Barros triggered a scandal that has engulfed the Chilean Church for months.

Ezzati later invoked his legal right to silence after being summoned for questioning by a state prosecutor.

The intended questioning was likely to have been focused on what the cardinal knew about his former archdiocesan chancellor, Fr. Oscar Munoz Toledo, who was arrested in July 2018 following allegations he sexually abused seven minors.

Munoz has already admitted to sexually abusing one minor, but investigators believe the archdiocese may have been aware of as many as four of his victims. Ezzati was called as prosecutors consider his involvement in a potential cover-up of Munoz’s crimes.

According to Crux, Ezzati's replacement to manage the archdiocese of Santiago, Aos Braco, was charged in 2012 with investigating abuse allegations by former seminarians against five priests of the Diocese of Valparaiso, Chile.

As the diocesan promoter of justice, Aos Braco reportedly spent three months looking into the allegations before dismissing them on a lack of evidence. One of the accused priests has since died and the others have either been suspended from ministry or are being investigated for abuse, Crux reports.