Andria, Italy, Mar 25, 2016 / 06:38 pm (CNA).- A single thorn held to have been taken from Christ’s crown of thorns that traditionally ‘bleeds’ each time that Good Friday falls on March 25, has done so again this year. Bishop Raffaele Calabro, Bishop Emeritus of Andria in Italy’s Apulia region, confirmed today that the thorn has bled. “The miracle has started, the wonder is underway,” Bishop Calabro stated. The thorn has been kept in a reliquary in Andria’s cathedral since 1308. A commission who observed the miracle confirmed the formation of three spherical formations or “gems” on the thorn and that “on the base of the thorn is the residue of the preceding miracle of 2005, renewing.” The last time the miracle of the bleeding thorn took place was in 2005, and it is not expected to do so again until 2157. The occurrence has been recorded since 1633. Bishop Calabro thanked God “for what he is doing, as the miracle is a gift from the love of God and is a sign of his love for this community.” Read more

Rome, Italy, Mar 25, 2016 / 05:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the yearly Good Friday tradition set by his predecessors, Pope Francis presided over the Stations of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum, where such issues as migration and the persecution of Christians were remembered. “O Cross of Christ, today too we see you raised up in our sisters and brothers killed, burned   alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence,” the Pope said March 25 at the conclusion of the stations in a prayer he composed for the event. In the prayer, Francis spoke of  traitors, arms dealers, and those who destroy “our common home.” “Today too we see you in the faces of children, of women and people, worn   out and fearful, who flee from war and violence and who often only find death and many Pilates who   wash their hands.” The Roman Pontiff also prayed for those who seek to remove God from public places and public life “in the name of a pagan laicism or that equality you yourself taught   us.” The Cross of Christ, the Pope said, is seen among the abandoned elderly, as well as among the migrants who have died attempting to make the passage to Europe. “Today too we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas which have   become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anaesthetized conscience.” In addition to the hardships, Pope Francis recounted in the prayer how the Cross is also found among men and women of good will: families, volunteers, consecrated men and women “who have left everything to bind up, in evangelical silence, the wounds of poverty and   injustice.” “O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in ministers who are faithful and humble, who   illuminate the darkness of our lives like candles that burn freely in order to brighten the lives of the  least among us.    The Pope delivered his prayer after the recitation of the Via Crucis, which included reflections from Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve. This year’s reflections also touched on various themes, including the plight of migrants, persecuted minorities, and all those who suffer. Read more

Vatican City, Mar 25, 2016 / 11:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Remembering this week’s deadly terror attack in Brussels, the papal preacher centered his Good Friday reflection on mercy’s role in saving the world. “The opposite of mercy is not justice but vengeance,” said Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, in his sermon for the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica March 25. “The hate and the brutality of the terrorist attacks this week in Brussels help us to understand the divine power of Christ’s last words: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” His remarks come days after more than 30 people were killed and scores were injured by Islamic State suicide bombers at a Brussels airport and metro on March 22. “In forgiving sinners God is renouncing not justice but vengeance; he does not desire the death of a sinner but wants the sinner to convert and live,” he added. Fr. Cantalamessa called for the need to “demythologize vengeance,” observing how it pervades many of the stories “seen on screen and video games” in which the “good hero” seeks revenge. “It has become a pervasive mythic theme that infects everything and everybody, starting with children,” he said. Outside these fictional contexts, this “mythic theme” of vengeance accounts for much of the world’s suffering, “whether in personal relationships or between states and nations.” Fr. Cantalamessa made this reflection to the congregation gathered in Saint Peter’s Basilica following the chanting in Latin of the account of Christ’s Passion and Death according to St. John. Pope Francis presided over the celebration, leading the faithful in the Veneration of the Cross, during which those present were invited to approach a wooden crucifix and kiss the feet of Jesus. In his lengthy homily, the papal preacher also placed special emphasis on the role of mercy in saving marriage and the family, which is “the most precious and fragile thing in the world at this time.” Here he observed the similarity between marriage and “God’s relationship with humanity.” “In the very beginning,” he said, “there was love, not mercy. Mercy comes in only after humanity’s sin.” “So too in marriage, in the beginning there is not mercy but love. People do not get married because of mercy but because of love.” After this initial period, challenges and routine “quenches all joy” in the family, he observed. “What can save a marriage from going downhill without any hope of coming back up again is mercy, understood in the biblical sense.”   In this context, marriage is “not just reciprocal forgiveness but spouses acting with “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience.” “Mercy adds agape to eros, it adds the love that gives of oneself and has compassion to the love of need and desire.” “Shouldn’t a husband and wife, then, take pity on each other? And those of us who live in community, shouldn’t we take pity on one another instead of judging one another?” Fr. Cantalamessa centered his sermon on Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in which he speaks of becoming “reconciled with God.” St. Paul is not referring to the “historical reconciliation between God and humanity,” or “the sacramental reconciliation that takes place in Baptism and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation,”  Fr. Cantalamessa said.   The passage “refers to an existential and personal reconciliation that needs to be implemented in the present,” he said, noting that it is addressed to the baptized Christians of Corinth, and also “to us here and now.” Reflecting on the “existential and psychological dimension” of reconciliation with God, Fr. Cantalamessa acknowledged the “distorted image” of God which alienates people “from religion and faith.” “People unconsciously link God’s will to everything that is unpleasant and painful, to what can be seen as somehow destroying individual freedom and development,” he said. “It is somewhat as though God were the enemy of every celebration, joy, and pleasure – a severe inquisitor-God.” A remnant of the pagan view of God, this is an image of an all-powerful being who asserts control over individuals, with an emphasis on the impossibility of making reparation for the “transgression of his law,” he said. Such a perception causes “fear” and “resentment” toward God.   “It is a vestige of the pagan idea of God that has never been entirely eradicated, and perhaps cannot be eradicated, from the human heart,” he said: that “God is the one who intervenes with divine punishment to reestablish the order disrupted by evil.” In contrast, God’s mercy “has never been disregarded,” he said.   “The Year of Mercy is a golden opportunity to restore the true image of the biblical God who not only has mercy but is mercy.” Reflecting on the Apostle John’s statement “God is love,” Fr. Cantalamessa observed that God’s love within the Trinity is without mercy. This is because the love of the Father and the Son is a “necessity even though it occurs with the utmost freedom; the Son needs to be loved and to love in order to be the Son.” “The sin of human beings does not change the nature of this love but causes it to make a qualitative leap: mercy as a gift now becomes mercy as forgiveness.” Fr. Cantalamessa turned his reflection to the relationship between justice and his mercy, citing Paul’s letter to the Romans which speaks of all sinners being justified by God’s grace through “redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” “God shows his righteousness and justice by having mercy! This is the great revelation.” “He is in fact love and mercy, so for that reason he is just to himself – he truly demonstrates who he is – when he has mercy.” An incorrect notion of God’s “righteousness” can cause fear rather than encouragement, he said. However, “the righteousness of God is that by which God makes those who believe in his Son Jesus acceptable to him. It does not enact justice but makes people just,” Fr. Cantalamessa explained in reference to the writings of St. Augustine.   He went on to state that the 16th century figure Martin Luther is credited for reintroducing this understanding of God’s righteousness, “at least in Christian preaching,” and cited the upcoming fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. Although revisited by St. Augustine, and later Luther, the correct understanding of God’s righteousness goes back to Scripture, he said. “God’s justice not only does not contradict his mercy but consists precisely in mercy!” Fr. Cantalamessa examined the “radical change in the fate of humanity” that was brought about by the Cross. He quoted Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth, saying: “That which is wrong, the reality of evil, cannot simply be ignored; it cannot just be left to stand. It must be dealt with; it must be overcome. Only this counts as a true mercy.” “And the fact that God now confronts evil himself because men are incapable of doing so – therein lies the ‘unconditional’ goodness of God.” The papal preacher added that “God was not satisfied with merely forgiving people’s sins; he did infinitely more than that: he took those sins upon himself, he shouldered them himself.” That the Son of God “became sin for us,” as St. Paul writes, is “a shocking statement,” Fr. Cantalamessa said.    However, “it was not death, then, but love that saved us!” “The death of Christ needed to demonstrate to everyone the supreme proof of God’s mercy toward sinners,” he said. He recalled the two thieves with whom Christ was crucified, which shows how God “wants to remain a friend to sinners right up to the end, so he dies like them and with them.” Fr. Cantalamessa concluded his sermon, calling for the removal of “any desire for vengeance from the hearts of individuals, families, and nations, and make us fall in love with mercy.” “Let the Holy Father’s intention in proclaiming this Year of Mercy be met with a concrete response in our lives, and let everyone experience the joy of being reconciled with you in the depth of the heart.” Read more

Hanoi, Vietnam, Apr 14, 2017 / 04:48 am (CNA).- While the Stations of the Cross are a worldwide Lenten devotion for Catholics, the faithful in Vietnam have an additional practice that blends ancient traditional chants with Catholic prayer and meditatio… Read more

Rome, Italy, Mar 24, 2016 / 11:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a Mass in Rome on Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of migrants and refugees, many of whom were moved to tears by the gesture. The Pope told them that while there are some people in the world who seek to sow violence, Jesus shows us the path to unity, brotherhood and peace. “Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are making the same gesture of brotherhood,” he said March 24. “We are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” he said, adding that “each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood.” Francis spoke to the 900 migrants and refugees currently housed at the Reception Center for Asylum Seekers, or CARA, in Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome. Nearly all of them come from sub-Saharan Africa. The Pope decided to celebrate his Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the center, after spending previous years offering the Mass in prisons and a rehab center for the disabled. Nearly 900 migrants and more than 100 volunteers will attend the Mass. Most of the migrants hosted at CARA are Muslims, and among the Christians, most are Copts or Protestants. During the Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of 11 migrants and of one volunteer. Of the migrants, four were Catholic youths from Nigeria, three were Coptic women from Eritrea, three were Muslims, and one was a Hindu youth from India. While tears could be seen in the eyes of several of the men and women whose feet the Pope washed, one woman was particularly moved. She had been tearful while the Pope washed her feet, but began to sob as Francis reached up to touch her baby. In his homily, the Pope stressed that “actions speak more than images and words,” and pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from John in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet before being betrayed by Judas, who turned him in for 30 pieces of silver. Francis pointed to two separate gestures in the passage, the first was being “Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest.” The second gesture was that of Judas, “who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money…two gestures.” Pope Francis noted that the two gestures are also present today. One, he said, seeing everyone from different cultures and religions gathered together. “Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated.” However, the Pope observed that there is also the gesture of war and destruction, and pointed to the March 22 terror attacks in Belgium. The attack is an example of “people who don’t want to live in peace,” he said, but noted behind that act, “just as behind Judas, there were others.” “Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood.” Francis again contrasted the actions of Jesus who washes feet, and Judas who sells his friend for money. He told the migrants despite their differences, they are all “children of the same Father, brothers.” He encouraged each of them, “in their own religious language,” to pray to God “so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.” Please see below for the full text of the Pope’s homily: Actions speak more than images and words. Actions. In the Word of God we have read, there are two gestures. Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest. One gesture. The second gesture: Judas, who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money, that … of 30 coins. Two gestures. Also here today there are two gestures. This, all of us together. Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated. One gesture. Three days ago there was a gesture of war, of destruction in a European city. People who don’t want to live in peace. But behind that act, just as behind Judas, there were others. Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood. Two gestures. Jesus washes the feet, and Judas sells Jesus for money. You, us, everyone together, different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers. And over there (are the) poor ones who buy arms to destroy brotherhood. Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are doing the same gesture of brotherhood, and we all say, we are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace. And this is the gesture that I do with you. Each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood. Each one, in their own religious language, prays to the Lord, so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it. Read more

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2016 / 07:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has named Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda as the new head of the Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocese – a surprise move for the archbishop, who was expected to take over the diocese of Newark in July. In a March 24 press release, Archbishop Hebda said that he was “humbled by this expression of Pope Francis’s confidence.” He also said he was “honored” to serve in a diocese with such a “rich history and its long tradition of extraordinary priests, zealous Religious and empowered laity, all working to put their faith into action.” Archbishop Hebda has been serving as apostolic administrator for the Minneapolis archdiocese since June 15, 2015, when the former archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, stepped down after the diocese was charged with mishandling cases of child sexual abuse. On June 5, 2015, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was charged with six counts of failing to protect minors, specifically with regard to the actions of the now-former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is currently serving a five year prison sentence for sexually abusing two minors and possession of child pornography. In order to temporarily fill the vacant position of archbishop, the Pope appointed Archbishop Hebda as Apostolic administrator. The archbishop has since been helping the archdiocese to recover from the scandals and work toward transparency in abuse cases. In September 2015, the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis removed two priests from ministry pending investigation of sex abuse allegations, while it has reinstated a separate priest on the grounds that an allegation against him was not substantiated. At the time, Archbishop Hebda was also serving as the Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., and was scheduled to replace Newark’s current Archbishop, John J. Myers, when the latter is expected to retire in July after reaching the age limit. The official announcement of Archbishop Hebda’s appointment as archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis will be made during a brief news conference at 9:00a.m. local time in the Cathedral of Saint Paul. In addition to his leadership roles in the Archdioceses of Newark and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Archbishop Hebda also served as bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, Mich., as well as in the Vatican and in parishes in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Penn. The archbishop was born Sept. 3, 1959, in Pittsburgh, and joined the city’s seminary in 1984. In 1985 he was sent to Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he completed his theological studies and earned his S.T.B. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1989. He was ordained a priest by ordained then-Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, now the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, July 1, 1989. After his ordination, Archbishop Hebda briefly served as Parochial Vicar Pro Tem at Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Elwood City, Penn., before eventually to Rome, where he obtained a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1990. The archbishop then returned to Pittsburgh where he served in various pastoral roles around the diocese until 1996, when he was appointed as an official of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in Rome. He was named Undersecretary of the Council by St. John Paul II in 2003. While in Rome, Archbishop Hebda also served as an adjunct spiritual director at the North American College, and was a confessor for the postulants of the Missionaries of Charity and for the sisters in the community who were working at a home for unwed mothers. On Oct. 7, 2009, Benedict XVI appointed him as bishop the Diocese of Gaylord, and episcopal ordination took place in December of that year. Four years later, on Sept. 24, 2013, Pope Francis named Bishop Hebda as coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark. Archbishop Hebda’s installation Mass as Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul is scheduled to take place Friday, May 13, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima at the Cathedral of St. Paul. In a March 24 statement, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said that he as been “both privileged and blessed” to have worked closely with Archbishop Hebda.  “He is a great Priest, and a great Bishop,” Archbishop Myers said, adding that Hebda’s “tireless, positive approach to dealing with the challenges presented him will be one of the graces that he will share with the people of the Twin Cities.” Archbishop Myers said the faithful of the diocese of Newark are “truly grateful for all that he has done here since 2013, and he will be missed.” At the same time, the archbishop offered prayers that God would continue to bless Archbishop Hebda “as he enters this new chapter in a life of service to the Church as the new Shepherd of this local Church of St. Paul-Minneapolis.” Read more

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2016 / 04:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During Holy Thursday’s Chrism Mass Pope Francis focused on the topic of mercy, telling priests that one of their primary tasks is to make mercy visible in the same way as Jesus, who always gave it in excess. “As priests, we are witnesses to and ministers of the ever-increasing abundance of the Father’s mercy; we have the rewarding and consoling task of incarnating mercy, as Jesus did,” the Pope said March 24. He told priests that they have a special role in enculturating mercy, “so that each person can embrace it and experience it personally.” This, he said, “will help all people truly understand and practice mercy with creativity, in ways that respect their local cultures and families.” Pope Francis spoke to those present in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Chrism Mass, which takes place in the Catholic Church each year on Holy Thursday and involves the blessing of oils used for the sacraments of Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick. As part of the Mass all priests, bishops and cardinals present renewed the promises they made on the day of their ordination. Francis began his homily by noting how during his life, Jesus was a sign of contradiction, just as the elderly prophet Simeon had predicted. “By his words and actions, Jesus lays bare the secrets of the heart of every man and woman,” he said, noting that in the Gospel, the privileged place where Jesus preaches the Father’s unconditional mercy is to the poor, the outcast and the oppressed. “(This) is the very place we are called to take a stand and fight the good fight,” Francis said, explaining that Jesus also fought, but never to build power. “If he breaks down walls and challenges our sense of security, he does this to open the flood gates of that mercy which, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he wants to pour out upon our world.” He then pointed to two areas where he said God shows “an excess” of mercy. These areas, he said, are encounter and forgiveness. On the theme of encounter, the Pope explained that Jesus gives of himself “completely and in such a way that every encounter leads to rejoicing.” Francis pointed to the parable of the prodigal son, calling it the parable of the “Merciful Father,” in which the father waits for his son, runs out to meet him, kisses him, gives him a ring and throws a party. When thinking about the “superabundance of the Father’s joy that is freely and boundlessly expressed when his son returns, we should not be fearful of exaggerating our gratitude,” he said. Our attitude when we encounter the mercy of the Father, he said, should mirror that of the leper who, after being healed, leaves the nine others who do what Jesus ordered and returns to Jesus, kneeling at his feet and glorifying God aloud. “Mercy restores everything; it restores dignity to each person,” the Pope said, adding that this is the reason why “effusive gratitude is the proper response.” Pope Francis then pointed to the second area of forgiveness, saying that “God does not only forgive incalculable debts,” but he also enables us to “move directly from the most shameful disgrace to the highest dignity without any intermediary stages.” However, he noted that we frequently tend to separate the attitudes of shame and dignity. When we are ashamed of our sins, he said, “we hide ourselves and walk around with our heads down, like Adam and Eve.” On the other hand, when we elevated to some sort of rank of dignity, “we try to cover up our sins and take pleasure in being seen, almost showing off.” The only response to God’s abundant forgiveness, Francis said, “should be always to preserve that healthy tension between a dignified shame and a shamed dignity.” This is the attitude of someone “who seeks a humble and lowly place, but who can also allow the Lord to raise him up for the good of the mission, without complacency,” he observed. Francis then pointed to the prophet Isaiah’s words “You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God.” The people the Lord chooses to transform into a priestly people, he noted, are precisely the poor, hungry, prisoners of war, those with no future and those are “cast to one side and rejected.” A priest must identify with people who are excluded, the Pope said, and encouraged the clergy present to remind themselves that there are “countless masses of people who are poor, uneducated, prisoners, who find themselves in such situations because others oppress them.” However, he cautioned that a priest must also keep in mind the extent to which he himself is “blind, lacking the radiant light of faith, not because we do not have the Gospel close at hand, but because of an excess of complicated theology.” Often times a priest can feel trapped, though not with the stone walls that enclose others, he said. Instead, a priest can feel imprisoned by “a digital, virtual worldliness that is opened and closed by a simple click.” “We are oppressed, not by threats and pressures, like so many poor people, but by the allure of a thousand commercial advertisements which we cannot shrug off to walk ahead, freely, along paths that lead us to love of our brothers and sisters,” the Pope observed. However, despite the many trials and temptations a priest can face, “Jesus comes to redeem us, to send us out, to transform us from being poor and blind, imprisoned and oppressed, to become ministers of mercy and consolation.” Pope Francis concluded his homily by praying that during the Jubilee of Mercy, all would be able to receive “with a dignity that is able to humble itself, the mercy revealed in the wounded flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Read more

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2016 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Archbishop Peter Wells, the Pope’s new ambassador to South Africa, being in the diplomatic service of the Holy See isn’t about politics or governing,  but is  above all a ministry centered on Jesus Christ. “At the end of the day what is papal diplomacy? What does it mean to be a papal diplomat? It’s about one thing at the end of the day: Jesus Christ. That’s it,” Archbishop Wells told CNA March 23. He said that apostolic nuncios, the Holy See’s ambassadors, always have to look for effective means of showing that they are in a country “to bring the concerns, the hopes, the suffering of the local population back to the Vicar of Christ.” Apostolic nuncios differ from secular diplomats because “we’re not really there to represent the political, economic, diplomatic views of our government,” but rather “to listen to what the people need,” he said. As representatives of the Pope, “we’re dealing with the local Church, the local bishops, we’re there for them as the Pope’s representatives to be their voice when we come back to the Pope, but also to be the Pope’s voice when we go back to them.” Archbishop Wells said he detests it “when people talk about priests who are working in the Vatican, people who are in my kind of job, as bureaucrats or CEOs. We’re not. We’re priests. We’re ministers first and foremost.” One of the things the archbishop said he has always emphasized to his colleagues in the Secretariat of State is that “the minute you start feeling like a bureaucrat is the minute you need to get out. You need to get back to the parish.” “We are doing ministry here,” he said, adding that while it may be a more indirect, behind-the-scenes form of ministry,  “it is helping the Holy Father as the Vicar of Christ in his ministry.” “If you lose touch with that you better get out of there quick because you need to get yourself grounded again.” Archbishop Well’s appointment as apostolic nuncio to South Africa, as well as Botswana, Lesotho, and Namibia, was made in February. He was consecrated a bishop March 19 by Pope Francis. His episcopal consecration “was an extraordinary moment,” he said. “It was a moment filled with grace and thanksgiving, great humility, a sense of awe but also a real serenity.” The archbishop, 52, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa in 1991. He has been working in Rome in Vatican diplomacy since 2002, giving him a 14 year tenure in which he has served under three Roman Pontiffs: St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Since July 2009 he has served as the Assessor for the General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, which handles the majority of Church affairs aside from relations with other states. His role as assessor made Archbishop Wells the fifth ranking official in the Secretariat of State. Though he is happy to be back in active ministry, the archbishop said his time in the Vatican was “a real grace,” especially in serving under three Popes. Having arrived toward the end of St. John Paul II’s pontificate, Archbishop Wells said he was amazed to see that the Polish Pope was “still so active, still so engaged with his limitations.” Benedict XVI, with whom the Archbishop frequently traveled, including during his 2008 visit to the United States, “was such a humble, incredibly humble person,” he said. While many thought the German pontiff was timid, Archbishop Wells said he didn’t see him that way. “I never thought he was timid…he’s humble and incredibly respectful. And because of the respect, maybe as a professor…he always showed incredible respect for the other person, but he wanted to let them express their ideas, their views, and then he would say something.” Francis, on the other hand, has been “a whirlwind since day one,” the archbishop said, chuckling. He said that though the Argentine has only been in office for three years, “it’s been an extremely invigorating time and a very beautiful time, especially to see how Pope Francis has this ability to touch everyone’s heart immediately.” Touching on the differences in the diplomatic tone of each of the Popes under whom he’s served, Archbishop Well said that St. John Paul II “was extraordinary” in terms of his diplomatic service. “(John Paul) interacted on the entire world stage and was very much a part of the fall of the Eastern Bloc,” he said, crediting the saint’s  input, diplomatic tact, and rapport with other heads of state in helping to eliminate communism in Europe. The archbishop said that in his opinion, one of the most significant contributions of Benedict XVI in the diplomatic world was that he continuously talked about “the importance of the relationship between faith and reason,” as well as the importance of religious communities in having a voice in the public forum. Francis has followed closely in his predecessors’ footsteps, and has already had a huge impact in just three years, Archbishop Wells said, pointing specifically to Francis’ role in helping to restore U.S.-Cuba relations and in drawing attention to the global migrant crisis. “He has a keen sense of what is happening, but he never, ever loses the idea that it’s the human person who is at the center,” he said, adding that “we can never lose the concept of the integral and core nature of the human person.” The archbishop said that one of the biggest challenges in his tenure has been not only his assistance in streamlining Vatican communications – he is one of the officials who pushed for the Pope’s Twitter account – but also knowing how to deal with Benedict XVI’s resignation. “We didn’t have instruments, or really archives, of how to deal with the resignation of the Pope and how to move forward in the interim, so we had to come up with new models of dealing with things.” A large part of the discussion centered on determining what would happen when Benedict actually resigned, he said. In order to signify that he had actually stepped down, they finally agreed to close the doors to Castel Gandolfo and to  remove the Swiss Guard (the personal protectors of the Holy Father), replacing them with the Gendarme, the Vatican’s police service. “Our communications office did a beautiful job following Pope Benedict in the helicopter, and the way that that was shown to the world was extraordinary,” he said. “Everyone could really participate in what was happening, because it was a historical moment.” Despite his time serving in Rome, Archbishop Wells said he is eager to jump into his new position as nuncio. He hopes to make the move to South Africa in time for the April 30 consecration of an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Johannesburg. One of the things the archbishop said he’s looking forward to as nuncio is that “now I get to be involved in direct ministry again.” While the diplomatic work of someone inside the Secretariat of State is important, it’s indirect, he said, voicing his excitement at being able to say Mass in communities and help with sacramental preparations such as marriage and confirmations. “I’ll also get to be present in a very direct way for the local bishops, for the priests and the laypeople. That’s definitely going to be a real joy: I’m really looking forward to that.”  Mary Shovlain contributed to this article. Read more

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2016 / 05:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The war of interpretations has begun over Pope Francis’ yet-to-be-published post-synodal exhortation. And this war is taking place in the press. Three articles published in the past week in… Read more

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mar 23, 2016 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Congolese Catholic priest who documented human rights abuses in his home country was killed by armed gunmen early Monday morning. Father Vincent Machozi Karunzu was mu… Read more

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