Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic State share their story

Denver, Colo., Sep 23, 2015 / 03:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The plight of Christians in the Middle East was the focus of an educational and fundraising event in Denver on Friday, in which two Christian refugees from a city near Mosul told of their escape … Read more

Pope Francis: Imitate Saint Junipero Serra, be trailblazers for Christ

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2015 / 03:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis made history Wednesday by performing the first-ever canonization on U.S. soil, of St. Junipero Serra. St. Serra, a Franciscan missionary from Spain, founded nine Catholic missio… Read more

New York City prepares for ‘The Francis.’

New York City, N.Y., Sep 23, 2015 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Everyone and everything from singers and priests to the cathedral itself in the New York archdiocese are making final preparations for the Pope’s next stop during his first papal trip to the U.S. “I’m ecstatic,” Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, told CNA. “He generates so much charism, his way of talking with people, his way of approaching the world and the various problems we deal with is very engaging.” Msgr. Ritchie said that the Pope’s first stop in New York City will be an evening prayer service at the cathedral – in some ways a very average service for a busy and unique city. “The Pope is doing something that is not extraordinary, but quite ordinary, but it will be done in an extraordinary way,” he said. “What we’re going to be doing Thursday night is the evening prayer of the Church, which is basically the same anywhere in the world.” The evening prayer, also called “Vespers” is an integral part of the Church’s liturgical life. “Vespers is prayed by all of the priests, all deacons, many religious orders, some sisters, some brothers,” Msgr. Ritchie explained. “It is prayed as a pious activity by many laypeople, who join their personal prayer with that of the Church. It is a liturgical act, even if it’s done just by the priest in private, because it is a part of the liturgy of the Church.” The service, he said, consists of psalms, readings of the scriptures. The papal vespers on Thursday will also feature a homily given by Pope Francis. “What we will be doing is a part of the daily life of the Church and sharing that with other people.” The vespers service will also contain musical settings for the psalms, and hymns, sung by the Cathedral’s Choir and orchestral players. “We’ve been planning this actually since February of this year,” Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral told CNA. “We’re starting off with a prelude concert of entirely sacred music,” she said, adding that the music for the prelude and vespers services will include “a whole repertoire from Palestrina of the Classical Baroque through the Romantic through living composers of today.” The Cathedral’s choir and other choirs from New York City will also provide the music for the Pope’s Mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday Sept. 25. Mass parts for the Eucharistic prayer will all be said in Latin, at the request of the Vatican. The choir will also sing “Pescador de hombres,” “which I understand is the Pope’s favorite hymn,” at the Mass, added Dr. Pascual, with a full orchestral arrangement. Liturgies and music are not the only things being prepared for Pope Francis’ visit: the 136-year-old building of St. Patrick’s Cathedral itself is also receiving its own final touches before Thursday’s Vespers. The renovation process started the nine years ago when parts of the facade of the historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral began to fall down. Reconstruction “began in earnest,” Msgr. Ritchie said, in 2012. “We were ready to finish in December of this year, then all of a sudden we began to hear rumors that the Pope might be coming to New York.” Msgr. Ritchie and other members of the Cathedral staff sat down with builders and architects, he said, “and we looked at schedules and said it is possible” to finish the renovations by the Pope’s visit. “We put in some more effort and we worked some weekends and people bent over backwards to make sure the work is done.”Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com. Read more

Why Pope Francis is here, according to Bishop Robert Barron

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2015 / 11:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Chatter over politics – and whether or not Pope Francis is a communist – has taken center stage since he landed in the U.S., but for Bishop Robert Barron, the Pope’s visit is about much more. “I’m expecting the Pope to evangelize, he’s come as a preacher of the Gospel,” Bishop Barron told CNA Sept. 23 outside the White House. The Pope, he said, will “speak across the denominational lines and across even to the secular world about basic human values.” “It’s wonderful” to have Francis in the U.S., the bishop commented, adding that as both a Catholic and an American to have the Pope there as “a symbol of our government and democracy” is exciting. Known for his online videos which tackle everything from the saints, to the “new atheism,” to the latest blockbuster film, Bishop Barron was appointed as one of three new auxiliary bishops for Los Angeles in July. He is the founder of the online initiative Word On Fire Catholic Ministries, and is the producer of the popular documentary series Catholicism. His latest series, Pivotal Players, is currently in production. Also a contributor to NBC News, the prominent internet evangelist was ordained a bishop just two weeks ago on Sept. 8 inside L.A.’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Having just finished a spot with the Today Show, Bishop Barron said that after the day’s events – which include a meeting between Pope Francis and U.S. bishops – he will head to New York, where he’ll be on NBC’s Nightly News program following the canonization of Bl. Junipero Serra. The bishop said that he never expected to be in Washington participating in the Pope’s visit as a bishop, “so that’s part of the novelty of this.” He said the first weeks in his new role have been “interesting, exciting, a little confusing. A lot of things new being thrown at me, but it’s all good.” Bishop Barron spoke to CNA early Wednesday morning as journalists were waiting to enter the South Lawn of the White House for Pope Francis’ official welcoming ceremony. After sharing a private meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, the Pope met with some 400 American bishops in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Later Francis will celebrate Mass in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he will carry out the much-anticipated canonization of “the evangelizer of the west,” Bl. Junipero Serra.Alan Holdren contributed to this report.http://catholicnewsagency.tumblr.com/post/129716654172/interview-with-the-new-auxiliary-bishop-robert Read more

Immigrants enrich America and the Church, Pope affirms

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2015 / 11:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the longest speech of his trip so far, Pope Francis on Wednesday praised U.S. bishops for their commitment to defending life, their handling of the clerical abuse crisis, and their welcome of immigrants, while urging them not to be afraid to do more. In his Sept. 23 address to the bishops of the United States, Pope Francis asked to be excused “if in some way I am pleading my own case,” and brought up immigration as a key challenge of current times. Right now the United States is “facing this stream of Latin immigration which affects many of your dioceses,” he said, and thanking the bishops for what they have already done to welcome migrants “who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity.” “The Church in the United States knows like few others the hopes present in the hearts of these ‘pilgrims’.” “From the beginning you have learned their languages, promoted their cause, made their contributions your own, defended their rights, helped them to prosper, and kept alive the flame of their faith,” he said. However, he also noted the challenges presented by such a large influx of diverse peoples, and recognized that it’s not always easy to look beyond differences into the soul of the person. “But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them. Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church.” Pope Francis made his comments to the more than 400 U.S. bishops gathered in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on his first full day in the United States, following the celebration of Daytime Prayer. Following the liturgical celebration he was greeted by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who said that “as a nation founded by immigrants seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity, we have a special responsibility to ensure the promise of one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all remains an American dream accessible to everyone.” Archbishop Kurtz, who is also president of the US bishops’ conference, added that “true to to our heritage, we seek to spread the Good News so that each human life is cherished and given an opportunity to flourish.” The Pope delivered his speech in Italian, and began it by greeting the Jewish community in the United States, noting that today marks the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of a Atonement and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In his speech the Pope stressed his closeness to the pastors of the United States, and praised “the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit.” He also gave a shout-out to the Church in the United States for her commitment to integrating immigrants into American society, as well as her emphasis on education and charity. Francis also acknowledged the courage with which the Church in the U.S. has faced the difficulties arising from the clerical sex abuse crisis “without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.” “Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful.” With the pain and heaviness of the crisis in mind, the Pope offered his support for the Church’s “generous commitment to  bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.” Pope Francis offered the bishops his own reflections on being a pastor, saying, “I speak to you as the Bishop of Rome, called by God in old age, and from a land which is also American, to watch over the unity of the universal Church and to encourage in charity the journey of all the particular Churches toward ever greater knowledge, faith and love of Christ.” He said his intention is not to offer a specific strategy, or to judge or to lecture, but to speak to them “as a brother among brothers.” He added, “would turn once again to the demanding task – ancient yet never new – of seeking out the paths we need to take and the spirit with which we need to work. Without claiming to be exhaustive, I would share with you some reflections which I consider helpful for our mission.” He emphasized the need to remember the joy of being shepherds, as well as that of a personal encounter with Christ in prayer. “It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake,” he said, explaining that the style of one’s preaching should always reach listeners on a personal level. Francis urged the bishops to remember to be “shepherds who do not lower our gaze, concerned only with our concerns, but raise it constantly toward the horizons which God opens before us and which surpass all that we ourselves can foresee or plan.” While affirming that “it is helpful for a bishop to have the farsightedness of a leader and the shrewdness of an administrator,” he added that “we fall into hopeless decline whenever we confuse the power of strength with the strength of that powerlessness with which God has redeemed us. Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world. Woe to us, however, if we make of the cross a banner of worldly struggles and fail to realize that the price of lasting victory is allowing ourselves to be wounded and consumed.” Pope Francis also pointed to the importance of dialogue, saying it needs to happen at all levels, including among themselves, and with their priests, and with lay persons, families, and society. “I know … that there is always the temptation to give in to fear, to lick one’s wounds, to think back on bygone times and to devise harsh responses to fierce opposition. And yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every response. Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One who never wearies of visiting the marketplace, even at the eleventh hour, to propose his offer of love.” The Pope said, “I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly. The richer the heritage which you are called to share with parrhesia, the more eloquent should be the humility with which you should offer it. Do not be afraid to set out on that exodus which is necessary for all authentic dialogue.” “Otherwise, we fail to understand the thinking of others or to realize deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem … counts more than their positions.” Language was also touched on by the Pope, who stressed that “harsh and divisive” words don’t befit a true pastor, and have “no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.” He also spoke on the importance of being humble and of fostering collegiality among themselves. In a divided and broken world, the Church can’t allow herself to be “to be rent, broken or fought over.” “Our mission as bishops is first and foremost to solidify unity, a unity whose content is defined by the Word of God and the one Bread of Heaven,” he reminded them. “With these two realities each of the Churches entrusted to us remains Catholic, because open to, and in communion with, all the particular Churches and with the Church of Rome which ‘presides in charity’.” He added that it is therefore imperative “to watch over that unity, to safeguard it, to promote it and to bear witness to it as a sign and instrument which, beyond every barrier, unites nations, races, classes and generations.” Their service to unity is particularly important for the United States, he said, because its “vast material and spiritual, cultural and political, historical and human, scientific and technological resources impose significant moral responsibilities in a world which is seeking, confusedly and laboriously, new balances of peace, prosperity and integration.” Pope Francis then encouraged the bishops to face the current challenges of our time with courage. “The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards,” he said. “It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family, which in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia I will emphatically proclaim together with you and the entire Church.” He reminded the bishops that “these essential aspects of the Church’s mission belong to the core of what we have received from the Lord. It is our duty to preserve and communicate them, even when the tenor of the times becomes resistant and even hostile to that message. I urge you to offer this witness, with the means and creativity born of love, and with the humility of truth. It needs to be preached and proclaimed to those without, but also to find room in people’s hearts and in the conscience of society.” In light of the loneliness, neglect, fear and despair which are manifested in various methods of escapism, even amid material wealth, “only a Church which can gather around the family fire remains able to attract others,” Francis observed. Pope Francis concluded by giving two final recommendations to the bishops: to welcome immigrants and to always be pastors who are close to their people, especially to their priests. Support them, but do not let them “be content with half-measures … Find ways to encourage their spiritual growth, lest they yield to the temptation to become notaries and bureaucrats” instead of reflecting the motherhood of the Church. “May God bless you and Our Lady watch over you!” Read more

Pope Francis to Obama: Religious freedom is beyond price

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2015 / 08:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Wednesday reminded U.S. president Barack Obama that religious freedom is one of America’s most “precious possessions,” while lauding the nation’s Catholics their work toward a society marked by tolerance and inclusivity. “With countless other people of good will, (American Catholics) are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty,” the Pope said Wednesday, addressing the U.S. commander-in-chief at the White House in Washington, D.C. “That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.” Echoing the appeals by the U.S. bishops on the issue of religious freedom, the pontiff told President Obama: “All are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.” Pope Francis also stressed the role American Catholics have played in building a tolerant and inclusive society in the nation, one which safeguards of individuals and communities, while “rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” In his remarks prior to the pontiff’s, President Obama noted how the 20,000 people gathered on the White House lawn served as only a small reflection of the “deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics.” The Pope’s meeting at the White House, marking the first major event of his visit to the U.S. Capital, comes at a time of uncertainty with regard to religious of freedom in the country. Affecting many Catholic as well as other religious institutions, the Obama administration’s 2012 HHS mandate requires institutions to provide contraceptive services, often failing to offer exemptions to those who oppose the bill on religious grounds. There are also concerns regarding the religious rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year to legalize marriage between gay couples across all fifty States. Pope Francis’ Sept. 23 speech to President Obama also addressed the issue of climate change, and acknowledged US’s commitment to seeking solutions to air pollution. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” the Pope said. He said this is a “critical moment in history” with regard to caring for our “common home.” Citing his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis stressed the need for continued changes in the areas of “sustainable and integral development.” “Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them.” “Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies.” The Pope cited Martin Luther King, saying “we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.” Inspired by the certainty that the Creator does not abandon his creatures, the Pope said, we as Christians “wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.” “The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom,” the Pope said. “I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.” Pope Francis also expressed his appreciation to Obama for the welcome he had received in the U.S., while lightly alluding to the question of immigration. He recalled that America is a country largely built on immigrant families, like his own Italian family who settled in Argentina. Concluding his White House address, the Pope said: “Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!” The Sept. 22-28 apostolic journey to the U.S. marks Pope Francis’ first on America soil. In addition to the meeting with President Obama at the White House, the agenda for the Pope’s visit to the U.S. capital includes the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and a visit to the US Congress. The Pope’s visit will also include an address at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and will culminate with his presence in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Read more

Pope Francis to Obama: Religious freedom is beyond price

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2015 / 08:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Wednesday reminded U.S. president Barack Obama that religious freedom is one of America’s most “precious possessions,” while lauding the nation’s Catholics their work toward a society marked by tolerance and inclusivity. “With countless other people of good will, (American Catholics) are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty,” the Pope said Wednesday, addressing the U.S. commander-in-chief at the White House in Washington, D.C. “That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.” Echoing the appeals by the U.S. bishops on the issue of religious freedom, the pontiff told President Obama: “All are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.” Pope Francis also stressed the role American Catholics have played in building a tolerant and inclusive society in the nation, one which safeguards of individuals and communities, while “rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” In his remarks prior to the pontiff’s, President Obama noted how the 20,000 people gathered on the White House lawn served as only a small reflection of the “deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics.” The Pope’s meeting at the White House, marking the first major event of his visit to the U.S. Capital, comes at a time of uncertainty with regard to religious of freedom in the country. Affecting many Catholic as well as other religious institutions, the Obama administration’s 2012 HHS mandate requires institutions to provide contraceptive services, often failing to offer exemptions to those who oppose the bill on religious grounds. There are also concerns regarding the religious rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year to legalize marriage between gay couples across all fifty States. Pope Francis’ Sept. 23 speech to President Obama also addressed the issue of climate change, and acknowledged US’s commitment to seeking solutions to air pollution. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” the Pope said. He said this is a “critical moment in history” with regard to caring for our “common home.” Citing his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis stressed the need for continued changes in the areas of “sustainable and integral development.” “Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them.” “Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies.” The Pope cited Martin Luther King, saying “we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.” Inspired by the certainty that the Creator does not abandon his creatures, the Pope said, we as Christians “wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.” “The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom,” the Pope said. “I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.” Pope Francis also expressed his appreciation to Obama for the welcome he had received in the U.S., while lightly alluding to the question of immigration. He recalled that America is a country largely built on immigrant families, like his own Italian family who settled in Argentina. Concluding his White House address, the Pope said: “Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!” The Sept. 22-28 apostolic journey to the U.S. marks Pope Francis’ first on America soil. In addition to the meeting with President Obama at the White House, the agenda for the Pope’s visit to the U.S. capital includes the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and a visit to the US Congress. The Pope’s visit will also include an address at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and will culminate with his presence in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Read more

Pope Francis to Obama: Religious freedom is beyond price

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2015 / 08:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Wednesday reminded U.S. president Barack Obama that religious freedom is one of America’s most “precious possessions,” while lauding the nation’s Catholics their work toward a society marked by tolerance and inclusivity. “With countless other people of good will, (American Catholics) are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty,” the Pope said Wednesday, addressing the U.S. commander-in-chief at the White House in Washington, D.C. “That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.” Echoing the appeals by the U.S. bishops on the issue of religious freedom, the pontiff told President Obama: “All are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.” Pope Francis also stressed the role American Catholics have played in building a tolerant and inclusive society in the nation, one which safeguards of individuals and communities, while “rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” In his remarks prior to the pontiff’s, President Obama noted how the 20,000 people gathered on the White House lawn served as only a small reflection of the “deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics.” The Pope’s meeting at the White House, marking the first major event of his visit to the U.S. Capital, comes at a time of uncertainty with regard to religious of freedom in the country. Affecting many Catholic as well as other religious institutions, the Obama administration’s 2012 HHS mandate requires institutions to provide contraceptive services, often failing to offer exemptions to those who oppose the bill on religious grounds. There are also concerns regarding the religious rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year to legalize marriage between gay couples across all fifty States. Pope Francis’ Sept. 23 speech to President Obama also addressed the issue of climate change, and acknowledged US’s commitment to seeking solutions to air pollution. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” the Pope said. He said this is a “critical moment in history” with regard to caring for our “common home.” Citing his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis stressed the need for continued changes in the areas of “sustainable and integral development.” “Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them.” “Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies.” The Pope cited Martin Luther King, saying “we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.” Inspired by the certainty that the Creator does not abandon his creatures, the Pope said, we as Christians “wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.” “The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom,” the Pope said. “I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.” Pope Francis also expressed his appreciation to Obama for the welcome he had received in the U.S., while lightly alluding to the question of immigration. He recalled that America is a country largely built on immigrant families, like his own Italian family who settled in Argentina. Concluding his White House address, the Pope said: “Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!” The Sept. 22-28 apostolic journey to the U.S. marks Pope Francis’ first on America soil. In addition to the meeting with President Obama at the White House, the agenda for the Pope’s visit to the U.S. capital includes the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and a visit to the US Congress. The Pope’s visit will also include an address at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and will culminate with his presence in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Read more

For Pope’s visit, United Nations will unfurl Holy See flag

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2015 / 07:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the first time, the Holy See’s distinct white and yellow flag will fly alongside the flags of United Nation’s countries in honor of Pope Francis’ arrival to U.N. headquarters in New York City. U.N. officials, after consulting with the Holy See, decided to raise the flag on the morning of Sept. 25 so that it will be flying when Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive at 8:30 a.m. The Pope will then address a special summit to define the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Both the Holy See and the U.N. Secretariats have agreed there will be no ceremony to accompany the flag raising, but it will be raised by U.N. personnel at the same time as the other flags that day. The Holy See’s flag has two vertical bands of white and gold. The white side displays a pair of traversed keys, one gold and one silver, tied together with a red cord and topped by a triple-crowned miter with a cross sitting on its very top. The image of the two keys holds a special significance in the Catholic Church, as they are linked to Jesus’ declaration to Peter in Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed.” The keys are a traditional symbol of the papacy along with the miter. The keys are associated with Peter’s authority as head of the Church and vicar of Jesus Christ. The keys also signify St. Peter’s successors from the time of Peter’s death down to Pope Francis. Although the Holy See is not an official member of the United Nations, it is one of two sovereign states that have observer status. Palestine is the other country with an observer mission. In July 2004, the Holy See received all the rights of full membership except the right to vote. Interventions from the head of its permanent observer mission, Archbishop Bernard Auza, are frequent. Pope Francis will address the U.N. special summit on the third day of his five-day visit to the U.S. A small gathering greeted the Pope on his landing at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. the evening of Sept. 22. He will meet with President Obama the next morning, and will canonize Bl. Junipero Serra at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception later that afternoon. On Thursday Francis will be the first Pope in history to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. The next day he will visit the U.N., after which he will hold a major interreligious encounter at Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The Pope’s visit will culminate with his visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families’ Sept. 27 concluding Mass. He will arrive back in Rome the morning of Sept. 28. Read more

En route to US, Pope Francis rejects ‘left-leaning’ accusations

Washington D.C., Sep 22, 2015 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On the papal flight from Cuba to Washington, D.C., where Pope Francis held the customary press conference with journalists on board, an Italian reporter posed a particularly tough question. What was the Holy Father’s response to the rampant rumors in the media just ahead of his U.S. visit that he is left-leaning, maybe even a “communist Pope” or even “not a Catholic”?    Pope Francis did not seem surprised by the questions, but denied that his teachings on the economy and environment ever strayed from Church teaching. “I’m sure that I haven’t said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church,” he said. On a different flight, the Pope recalled, someone else asked him whether or not he had reached out a hand to the “popular movements”, and whether or not the Church would follow him.   “I told him, ‘I’m the one following the Church,’” Pope Francis said.   “No, my doctrine on this, in Laudato si’, on economic imperialism, all of this, is the social doctrine of the Church. And if it is necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh,” he quipped. Having just wrapped up his papal visit to Cuba, Pope Francis was asked by another journalist whether or not he would speak about the U.S. embargo on Cuba during his address to Congress Thursday. “And my wish is that we reach a good conclusion in this, that there might be an agreement that satisfies both sides. An agreement, yes?” the Holy Father said. But whether he would specifically address the Cuba embargo, or the topics of embargo, with the United States Congress, the Pope was unsure, since “the speech is finished so I can’t say; or better put, I’m thinking well about what I might say about it.”   While in Cuba, 50 dissidents were arrested outside of the Cuban nunciature, where they were trying to score a meeting with the Pope. There have also been concerns about ontroversial guests at the White House welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis, which include LGBT activists and others. Asked whether he would have liked to meet with the Cuban dissidents, the Pope had two things to say. “I like to meet with all people. I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches. Even though it was soothsaying, that’s my reply. I would like to meet with everyone,” he said. But, he added, he was unable to meet with the dissidents at the nunciature because he was on a state visit, and needed to respect the schedule of the country he was visiting. “For the nunciature, first, it was very clear that I was not going to give audiences because not only the dissidents asked for audiences, but also audiences (were requested) from other sectors, including from the chief of state. And, no, I am on a visit to a nation, and just that. I know that I hadn’t planned any audience with the dissidents or the others.” Pope Francis’ U.S. visit spans Sept. 22-27. During his stay, the pontiff will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, visit an inner-city school, address a joint session of Congress, meet with President Barack Obama, visit the United Nations, and close with a Mass for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He comes to the U.S. after a three-day trip to Cuba, where he met with Fidel Castro and celebrated Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square. Read more