Not just a mother to Catholics – locals reflect on Mother Angelica

Hanceville, Alabama, Apr 5, 2016 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Mother Angelica may have had an international television audience, but she also left an impression in her own backyard. “Her impact, you can feel it, it’s here,” Sister Te… Read more

Is Hillary Clinton becoming ‘more extreme’ on abortion?

Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2016 / 03:33 am (CNA).- Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has long been known for supporting legal abortion. But her comments in this election year have some pro-life critics saying that she is becoming more radical. “She is publically signaling to the abortion lobby that she backs abortion on demand and won’t support any restrictions,” said Mallory Quigley, communications director for the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political advocacy group. In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Clinton was asked when, or if, an unborn child has constitutional rights. “Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists,” she said. “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.” In the same interview, Clinton said she supports “reasonable restrictions” on abortion that account for “health of the mother.” Quigley suggested that these comments are both incoherent and an attempt by Clinton to convince voters that she has a moderate stance on abortion. “It’s a complete contradiction to say that the unborn are people, to recognize them by calling them persons, but to insist that they do not have constitutional rights,” Quigley told CNA. “If you acknowledge that the baby is a person, then of course they should have constitutional rights.” In the interview, Clinton did not specify which restrictions she would support. Quigley said that because the definition of health in abortion legislation is so broad, it is questionable whether Clinton supports any restrictions at all. “(S)he’s really gotten increasingly radical on this issue,” Quigley said, discussing the abortion language used in Clinton’s campaign speeches over the years. In one speech during her bid for the nomination in 2008, Clinton responded ‘Yes’ when asked whether her goal was ultimately to “reduc(e) the decisions for abortion to zero.” During that discussion, Clinton said that she thought abortion should be “safe, legal and rare, and by rare, I mean rare” and that it “should not in any way be diminished as a moral issue.” Four years later, Clinton has dropped the emphasis on making abortion “rare” and ultimately nonexistent. This February, when responding to claims from Sen. Marco Rubio that she believed in abortion on demand and without restrictions, Clinton said: “You know, I’ve been on record for many years about where I stand on abortion, how it should be safe and legal and I have the same position that I’ve had for a very long time.” Quigley said she thinks the change in Clinton’s abortion platform mirrors what has been happening in the Democratic Party over the past few years.   “The Clintons were famous for normalizing the mantra of ‘safe, legal and rare’, but over time the Democratic party has really become more extreme, taking the word ‘rare’ out of the party platform and putting in ‘regardless of ability to pay,’ which of course means paid for at taxpayers’ expense,” Quigley said. Other comments about abortion during Clinton’s campaign have also caused some critics to question whether her stance on the issue has become more extreme. In April 2015, Clinton said she believes that “religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” to expand access to abortion. And in August 2015, Clinton likened GOP candidates with pro-life views to terrorists: “Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States,” Clinton said at a speech in Cleveland. “Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.” The most radical position that Hillary has espoused during her 2016 presidential bid, Quigley suggested, is her proposal to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, which since its passage in 1976 has barred taxpayer money from paying for abortions other than in cases of an endangered life of the mother. In 1993, President Bill Clinton expanded the exceptions to include rape and incest. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have made repealing the Hyde Amendment part of their 2016 campaign, which signals a dramatic, “abortion on demand and without apology” platform, Quigley said. “(Clinton) wants to change longstanding federal policy, which has always been bipartisan,” she said. “The Democrats have for a long time realized that many taxpayers just can’t stomach the idea of federal funding for abortion without limits, but her position is more and more extreme at a time when it’s very clear that there’s areas of consensus when it comes to abortion.” Polls indicate that there is the greatest consensus on abortion policy surrounding abortion restrictions after 20 weeks, when scientists generally agree that a fetus can feel pain in the womb. A 2013 Washington Post-ABC News poll found 56 percent of voters preferred limiting unrestricted abortion rights to 20 weeks rather than 24 weeks.  A 2012 Gallup poll found 61 percent of Americans believe abortion should generally be legal during the first trimester, but the support dropped to 27 percent in the second trimester and 14 percent in the third trimester. A 2014 Quinnipiac poll found that 60 percent of Americans support pain capable legislation, which restricts abortion after a fetus can feel pain, typically after 20 weeks. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, said since so many American voters favor restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks, Clinton’s more extreme views seem out of touch with the American people. “She (Clinton) surrounds herself with these people who are telling her that everyone supports abortion, but it’s a minority view, it’s not what the rest of the country believes,” Day said. “If you look around, and all these states are passing 20 week bans and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.” Twenty states limit abortion after fetal viability, and 23 states have some form of limits on abortions at 20 weeks or later, with varying exceptions. In Sept. 2015, the Senate blocked a Republican bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks nationwide. Quigley added that election pressures from the pro-choice and Planned Parenthood lobby have likely led Clinton to embrace a more extreme stance. For the first time ever in their 100-year existence, Planned Parenthood announced their endorsement of a candidate, Clinton, during the primaries rather than waiting for the general election. “We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Hillary Clinton is the most outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood among all the presidential candidates,” Planned Parenthood said in January of their endorsement of Clinton. Other pro-choice groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC have also endorsed Clinton. CNA reached out to Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America for comment, but did not hear back by press time. “They are certainly one of Hillary Clinton’s key allies, so as they’ve gotten more and more stringent, not allowing for any concessions on abortion at all, the politicians have been forced to follow suit because there’s a lot of money that comes with those endorsements, money and power,” Quigley said. Ultimately, however, she thinks “the American people are going to reject that level of extremism when going to the voting booth.”     Photo credit: Joseph Sohm via www.shutterstock.com Read more

Bishop Mulkearns, accused of sex abuse cover-up in Australia, dies

Ballarat, Australia, Apr 5, 2016 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who led the Diocese of Ballarat in Australia’s Victoria state from 1971 to 1997, died Monday at the age of 85. He had been accused of covering up sexual abuse of children in his diocese. Bishop Mulkearns died April 4 at the Nazareth House Nursing Home in Ballarat after suffering colon cancer. “Those who knew him personally will remember a man who was dedicated in his service over those years and, indeed, over the sixty years he served as a priest,” Bishop Paul Bird of Ballarat stated. “At the same time, Bishop Mulkearns himself acknowledged that he had made some tragic mistakes during his time as bishop.” Bishop Mulkearns was born in 1930 in Caulfield, a suburb of Melbourne, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1956. He was consecrated a bishop in 1968 and appointed coadjutor bishop of Ballarat. He succeeded as bishop in 1971, remaining there until his resignation in 1997, at the age of 66. The bishop was known to have moved Gerald Ridsdale, one of Australia’s most notorious abusers, between parishes for several years while being fully aware of the former priest’s abuses. Ridsdale is known to have committed more than 130 offenses while chaplain at Ballarat’s St. Alipius school in the 1960s-1980s. Ridsdale was first convicted of charges related to child sex abuse in 1993. In 2013 Australia established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commission has held more than 30 hearings on institutions’ handling of sex abuse, including religious groups, sporting and youth institutions, and government institutions. Bishop Mulkearns appeared before the commission in February via video, saying that “I certainly regret that I didn’t deal differently with paedophilia. We had no idea, or I had no idea, of the effects of the incidents that took place.” Bishop Bird noted in his statement that Bishop Mulkearns had “expressed his sorrow for [his] mistakes in the evidence he gave to the Royal Commission in February.” “The Royal Commission had foreshadowed a further hearing of evidence from Bishop Mulkearns. His death means that the Royal Commission and survivors will not be able to hear any further evidence that he might have given and this will be a disappointment to them,” Bishop Bird added. Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, was ordained a priest of the Ballarat diocese and served for a time as a consultor to Bishop Mulkearns. At his hearing before Australia’s Royal Commission at the end of February, Cardinal Pell voiced criticism for the way Bishop Mulkearns had dealt with Ridsdale, saying it was “a catastrophe for the victims and a catastrophe for the Church.” Read more

Mary’s ‘yes’ to God changed history, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2016 / 01:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis marked the Feast of the Annunciation on Monday by reflecting on the power of Mary’s “yes” to God. “Mary’s ‘yes’ opens the door to Jesus&rsquo… Read more

Pope Francis meets with SSPX superior general

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2016 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Both the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X have confirmed that this weekend Pope Francis met with the priestly society’s superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, at the Vatican. The Holy See press office issued a statement April 4 indicating that Pope Francis and Bishop Fellay had met April 2 at the Vatican.An April 4 statement issued by the SSPX, meanwhile, said that Pope Francis received Bishop Fellay at his Domus Sanctae Marthae residence in the Vatican on April 1. The statement said Bishop Fellay was accompanied by Fr. Alain-Marc Nely, second assistant general of the priestly society. “Pope Francis had wanted a private and informal meeting, without the formality of an official audience. It lasted 40 minutes and took place under a cordial atmosphere,” the SSPX stated. “After the meeting, it was decided that the current exchanges would continue. The canonical status of the Society was not directly addressed, Pope Francis and Bishop Fellay having determined that these exchanges ought to continue without haste.” The statement from the priestly society added that on April 2, Bishop Fellay met with Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei – the Vatican office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responsible for doctrinal discussions with the SSPX. The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II. The illicit consecration resulted in the excommunication of the five bishops; the excommunications were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then, negotiations between the Society and the Vatican have continued, “to rediscover full communion with the Church.” In remitting the excommunications, Benedict also noted that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.” The biggest obstacle for the society’s reconciliation has been the statements on religious liberty in Vatican II’s declaration Dignitatis humanae, which it claims contradicts previous Catholic teaching. Doctrinal discussions between the SSPX and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith broke down in the summer of 2012, when the society’s superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, would not sign a doctrinal preamble presented by Rome. Talks between the CDF and the society resumed, however, in 2014. Since then several moves have suggested a warming in relations between the Vatican and the SSPX. In 2015 the Holy See delegated a cardinal and three bishops to visit the seminaries of the SSPX. They were sent to become better acquainted with the society, and to discuss doctrinal and theological topics in a less formal context. And Pope Francis announced in a September 2015 letter on the Jubilee Year of Mercy that during the jubilee year the faithful can validly and licitly receive absolution of their sins from priests of the SSPX. “I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity,” he wrote. Read more

Mother Teresa was heroic – but maybe not for the reasons you think

Vatican City, Jun 7, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There are many things about Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta that could be called heroic – her tireless service to the world’s most rejected and her courageous witness to millions of what it is to live the Gospel, just to name a couple. But the priest who oversaw her path to sainthood said that for him, one thing stands out above all the rest: her experience of spiritual darkness and what she described as feeling totally abandoned by God for the majority of her life. “The single most heroic thing is exactly her darkness. That pure living, that pure, naked faith,” Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for Mother Teresa’s canonization cause, told CNA in an interview. Fr. Kolodiejchuk is a priest of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, founded by Mother Teresa in 1989. By undergoing the depth and duration of the desolation she experienced and doing everything that she did for others in spite of it, “that’s really very heroic,” he said. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje, in what is now Macedonia, Mother Teresa joined the Sisters of Loretto at the age of 17, but later left after she felt what she called “an order” from God to leave the convent and to live among the poor. She went on to found several communities of both active and contemplative Missionaries of Charity, which include religious sisters, brothers, and priests. The first community of active sisters was founded in 1950. An order of active brothers was founded nearly 20 years later in 1968. Then two contemplative orders came, one of women (in 1976) and one of men (in 1979). In 1989 the Missionaries of Charity Fathers was established, and is a clerical religious institute of diocesan right whose members make promises of poverty, chastity, obedience, and wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor. Additionally, an order of lay missionaries was also founded in 1984, and several movements who organize various works of charity have also been born as part of the Missionaries of Charity spiritual family. One of the first steps in declaring someone a saint is to determine their heroic virtue. Fr. Kolodiejchuk said that Mother Teresa’s entire life was lived heroically, which was clear from what he had seen firsthand and heard from the testimonies of others, even though he himself has only been a part of the Missionaries of Charity family for 20 years. He said the most heroic aspect of Mother Teresa’s life and vocation is the more than 50 years of darkness and abandonment she felt after receiving what she termed “a call within a call” to leave the Sisters of Loretto and found the Missionaries of Charity. Although the Albanian nun is always seen beaming and smiling brightly in photos, she experienced a profound internal desolation during which she felt silence and rejection from God, who seemed distant. In a letter to her spiritual director in 1957, Mother Teresa wrote that “I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer. Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.” “Love – the word – it brings nothing. I am told God lives in me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul,” she said. Mother Teresa had prayed fervently to share in Jesus’ suffering, and many, including her spiritual director, believed her feelings of rejection and abandonment to be a mirror of Christ’s own experience of loneliness and desolation during his Passion and death. Because of the depth and duration of Mother Teresa’s spiritual desert, many have hailed her as a great mystic when it comes to topic of spiritual darkness. Fr. Kolodiejchuk himself said Mother Teresa was “a great mystic, but also very concrete, very down to earth.” The priest had met Mother Teresa in his early 20s while attending the vows of his sister, who had joined the active branch of the Missionaries of Charity sisters. He joined the order of priests a year later. A lot of people “think that saints are somewhere in the mystical clouds,” he said, but cautioned that this wasn’t true of Mother Teresa, who was spiritual, but also observant and active in the lives of others. From the first moment he met her, of Mother Teresa’s most distinguishing qualities was “this sense that she really was Mother,” he said, explaining that being a mother was something important to her, and was the only thing she was ever called. When Mother Teresa was first elected superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, her immediate response after receiving congratulations, he noted, was to say “Oh that means nothing, the title. No, I want to be a mother.” The nun also placed a heavy emphasis on God’s tenderness, Fr. Kolodiejchuk said, recalling that “tender” was one of her favorite words – even more so than mercy. “She would talk more about Jesus’ tender love and mercy; his thoughtfulness, his presence, his compassion…So mercy was a word in her vocabulary, but with this quality especially of tenderness.” “Even in the darkness she still had an intimate sense of God’s tender love for us,” he said, and recited a prayer that Mother Teresa would often teach and have others repeat: “Jesus in my heart, I believe in your tender love for me. I love you.” The priest said that her canonization during the Jubilee of Mercy was providential since the core mission of the Missionaries of Charity is to respond to Chapter 25 in the Gospel of Matthew, which lists the works of mercy. He noted how the day of Mother Teresa’s canonization also marked a special jubilee day for workers and volunteers of mercy. Given the work the Missionaries of Charity do, “it’s appropriate” that the nun would become a patroness for all who carry out the same type of activities, he said. Part of the reason Mother Teresa is such a strong example for the world today, Fr. Kolodiejchuk believes, is because “people like to see,” and the work the Missionaries do is something visible that others can easily touch and participate in, no matter what religion they profess. “Mother was a great believer in that we receive in giving. So there’s something attractive about the work. And then you receive by sharing in it,” he said.  This article was originally published on CNA April 4, 2016. Read more

Centuries of religious freedom at risk with Virginia veto, Catholic bishops warn

Richmond, Va., Apr 3, 2016 / 04:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The veto of a religious freedom bill means faith-based groups that support marriage as a union of a man and a woman won’t have needed protections, the state’s Catholic bishops said. “The Virginia Catholic Conference is deeply dismayed by the governor’s action,” the conference said March 30. “This veto risks the destruction of Virginia’s long tradition of upholding the religious freedom of faith communities which dates back to Thomas Jefferson.” The bill would have forbidden the state of Virginia from punishing religious groups that follow their sincerely held beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. The bill passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 59-38 and the Senate by 21-19. Virginia’s Catholic conference said the bill would ensure “that clergy and religious organizations are not penalized by the government.” The bill would also protect these individuals and organizations from civil liability. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, vetoed the bill on live radio Wednesday. He claimed that signing the bill would be “making Virginia unwelcome to same-sex couples, while artificially engendering a sense of fear and persecution among our religious communities.” He also cited corporation leaders’ opposition to the bill, charging that it was “bad for business.” “They don’t want headaches coming from the state,” he said. LGBT activist groups also opposed the bill. The Catholic conference said that the bill does not apply to businesses, but “simply affirms the right of religious organizations to follow their religious beliefs.” The conference charged that Gov. McAuliffe’s veto “marginalizes religious believers who hold to the timeless truth about marriage.” The legislation would have preserved “fair access to state resources” for clergy and religious organizations, including charities and schools, the conference said. “Marriage is the first institution, written in natural law and existing before any government or religion, and is between one man and one woman,” the conference added. “Recognizing and honoring this institution is not discrimination, but counting people’s faith against them most certainly is.” Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson) sponsored the bill. He told the Washington Post he believes there will be lawsuits against churches. “I think you see a trend around the country right now to promote homosexual beliefs, and I think you see that trend happening on a wide-scale basis,” he said. The Virginia legislature could override the veto, but that is considered very unlikely, the Associated Press reports. Other bills to protect religious freedom have drawn significant opposition in recent years. In Georgia on Monday, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed another proposed religious freedom protection bill. In some states and the District of Columbia, new laws and funding decisions have shut down Catholic adoption agencies on the grounds they do not place children with same-sex couples. Some Catholic schools have also become the targets of lawsuits from employees fired for violating morals standards on sexual morality. Wealthy funders like the Ford Foundation, the Arcus Foundation and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund have poured millions of dollars into legal groups, law school projects and activist groups to counter religious freedom protections. Photo credit: Joseph Sohm via www.shutterstock.com Read more

Francis announces special collection for victims of Ukraine conflict

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2016 / 05:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis announced that a special collection will be taken up in all Catholic churches in Europe April 24, the funds of which will go toward relief for all suffering due to ongoing violence in Ukraine. After celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying the Regina Caeli, telling them beforehand that “on this day, which is like the heart of the Holy Year of Mercy, my thoughts go to all peoples who are thirsty for peace and reconciliation.” “I think, in particular here in Europe, of the plight of those who suffer the consequences of violence in Ukraine,” he said, and pointed to the thousands who have either died, or continue to suffer due to a serious humanitarian crisis in the conflict areas. Additionally, the Pope noted that so far “more than a million” people have been forced to leave their homes due to the severity of the situation, the majority of whom “are elderly and children.” Francis assured his closeness and prayer to those suffering, and announced his decision “to promote a humanitarian support in their favor.” “To this end, a special collection will take place in all of the Catholic Churches in Europe April 24,” he said, and invited faithful to participate with a “generous contribution.” In addition to alleviating the material suffering of those effected by the conflict, the act serves as an expression of the Pope’s closeness and solidarity, as well as that of the entire Greek Catholic Church, Francis said. “I fervently hope that this will, without further delay, help to promote peace and respect of rights in that land which is so tried.” Conflict erupted in Ukraine in November 2013, when the former government refused to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union, leading to months of violent protests. Tensions deepened in February 2014, when the country’s former president was ousted following the protests, and a new government appointed. In March of that year, Ukraine’s eastern peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia and pro-Russian separatist rebels have since taken control of eastern portions of Ukraine, around Donetsk and Luhansk. More than 6,500 people, including civilians, have died in the fighting between Ukraine’s military and pro-Russian separatists. Roughly a million others have been forced to flee due to violence and a lack of basic humanitarian necessities. Rebels have been supported by both Russian arms and troops, according to both Ukraine and Western nations. A ceasefire was brokered and officially began at midnight Feb. 15, 2015, however there have been constant and ongoing violations. The announcement of Pope Francis’ special collection was made nearly a month after his March 7 meeting with leaders of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), who were gathered in Rome for their annual synod of bishops. In his appeal, the Pope also noted how April 4 marks the World Day against Landmines, and prayed that a renewed commitment would be made to free the world from “these terrible weapons.” Read more

Mercy is an open book – and it’s our task to write it, Pope says

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2016 / 04:08 am (Aid to the Church in Need).- On Divine Mercy Sunday Pope Francis said the “Gospel of Mercy” begun by Jesus and the apostles is still unfinished, and is an open book that each person is called to write t… Read more

You can’t receive mercy without sharing it, Pope says

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2016 / 12:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Receiving God’s mercy ignites in us the drive to become “instruments of mercy,” especially to the weakest and the marginalized, Pope Francis said Saturday at a vigil for the feast of Divine Mercy. “The more we receive, the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves,” he said, addressing those gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica.  “It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love, thus recognizing the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized.” Falling each year on the first Sunday after Easter, the feast of Divine Mercy was instituted by St. John Paul II in 2000 during the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish mystic whose apparitions of Jesus inspired devotion to the Divine Mercy. This year’s feast falls within the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis publicly proclaimed during the 2014 vigil for the feast of Divine Mercy. The Jubilee began Dec. 8, 2014, and will conclude Nov. 20. “Mercy seeks out the lost sheep, and when one is found, a contagious joy overflows.  Mercy knows how to look into the eyes of every person; each one is precious, for each one is unique,” the Pope said during his addess.  Francis delivered his vigil address following a series of testimonies and readings from Scripture, all on the theme of mercy. The expressions of God’s mercy in His encounters with us are “numerous,” he said; “it is impossible to describe them all, for the mercy of God continually increases.”   “God never tires of showing us mercy and we should never take for granted the opportunity to receive, seek and desire this mercy,” he said.   “It is something always new, which inspires awe and wonder as we see God’s immense creativity in the ways he comes to meet us.” Throughout Scripture, God has frequently revealed himself as mercy, the Pope observed. “How great and infinite is the nature of God, so great and infinite his mercy, to the point that it is greatly challenging to describe it in all its entirety.”   Francis cited a passage from the prophet Isaiah, and its “extremely evocative” image of God holding each of us to his cheek.  He had this passage in mind for the image of the Jubilee, he said: “I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (Isaiah 11:4).   “How much tenderness and love is expressed here!” the Pope said. “Jesus not only carries humanity on his shoulders, but his face is so closely joined to Adam’s face that it gives the impression they are one.” Francis reflected on God’s capability of “understanding and sharing our weaknesses” through Christ’s Incarnation. “Precisely because of his mercy God became one of us,” he said.  By being touched by God’s mercy in Jesus, moreover, we are in turn “inspired to become instruments of his mercy,” the Pope continued.   “It is easy to speak of mercy, yet more difficult to become its witness.”  He spoke of the many ways in which mercy comes to us: “closeness and tenderness,” “compassion and solidarity,” “consolation and forgiveness” – and this in turn compels us to share mercy with others, he said.  Francis also reflected on how Christ’s love “makes us restless” and “impels us to embrace, welcome and include those who need mercy, so that all may be reconciled with the Father.”   “We ought not to fear for it is a love which comes to us and involves us to such an extent that we go beyond ourselves, enabling us to see his face in our brothers and sisters,” he said.   “Let us allow ourselves to be humbly guided by this love; then we will become merciful as the Father is merciful.” In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis referenced the Gospel reading which recounts the Apostle Thomas’ initial disbelief, and his need to place his fingers into Jesus’ wounded side in order to be convinced of his resurrection.  A faith that does not allow us to put our fingers into the wounds of Jesus’ side “is not faith,” the Pope said. “It is not a faith that is capable of being merciful.” “It is not faith. It is an idea. It is ideology. Our faith is incarnate, in a God who was made flesh,” he said, “who was wounded for us.”  If we want to believe “with seriousness,” the Pope said, “we must come close to and touch the wounds, caress the wounds,” while bowing our heads to allow others to “caress our wounds.” The Pope concluded by urging faithful to remain open to being transformed by the Holy Spirit, who is the love and “mercy that is poured into our hearts.”   “May we not place obstacles to his life-giving work but with docility follow the path he shows us,” he said.   “Let us open our hearts so that the Spirit can transform us; thus forgiven and reconciled, we will become witnesses to the joy that brims over on finding the risen Lord, alive among us.”   Read more




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