Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Sep 28, 2015 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nigeria’s bishops closed their latest assembly with a view toward the upcoming Synod on the Family, re-affirming the family while warning about LGBT activism. The bishops said “we reaffirm the validity of the family as a divinely instituted community of persons made up of a man and a woman who are open to life in love, together with their children and relatives.” They commended the Pope for his recent document Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, which aimed at accelerating the process for investigating the nullity of a marriage. “We pledge to use this new process for the pastoral and spiritual benefit of our people,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria said in a wide-ranging statement closing its second plenary meeting, held Sept. 10-18 in Port Harcourt, the capital of Nigeria’s Rivers State. The bishops also voiced “deep concern” about homosexual, bisexual and transgender activism in many parts of the world. “We reiterate our unreserved condemnation of all acts of homosexuality as sinful and opposed to the natural law of creation,” they said. “We call on our government to continue to resist the attempt by some external governments and agencies to impose an acceptance of same-sex unions. “Nevertheless, we maintain that persons with these orientations should be assisted pastorally, spiritually and psychologically, with respect for their dignity as human persons created in the image and likeness of God.” Nigeria’s bishops also welcomed Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for creation, Laudato Si’. They said the ecological crisis requires “all persons of good will” to work for justice and to have “a profound spiritual and ecological conversion: from consumerism to sacrifice; from greed to generosity; and from wastefulness to sharing.” “The changes we have noticed in our climate are affecting everyone,” they added. “Locally, the degradation of our environment is worsened by such collective bad habits as littering everywhere with plastic sachets and bottles, loss of tropical forests, lack of proper disposal of waste and a contemporary throwaway culture.” The bishops commended Nigeria for holding peaceful elections. They called on the country’s leaders to work for the common good, and congratulated the national government and security services for achievements against Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group. “The refugees and internally displaced persons are gradually returning to their homes,” they said. The bishops pledged assistance in refugee resettlement and asked the government and other humanitarian agencies to take practical measures to help the families and victims of the conflict rebuild and reconcile. They said the growing youth population in Nigeria is among the challenges facing priestly ministry. “Priests should love their Church as Christ does. This era more than ever requires that priests be modest and honest. The youth are crucial agents of transformation that require our sincere pastoral concern,” they said. “We invite the young people to be courageous and proud of their faith and while investing in the life of the Church seek the truth of the gospel in which lies freedom.” The bishops hoped for “practical demonstrations of mercy and compassion” from all sectors of society and all religions. They prayed for comfort for the poor and homeless and for healing for the wounded and broken-hearted. The bishops also warned of the dangers of an economy in distress and unemployment that pressures young people to migrate. “In many cases, young promising lives are wasted on our streets, in the deserts of some African countries and on the shores of Europe,” they said. The bishops called for more productive investments and lamented the high cost of governance at a time when many workers are not paid a basic salary. They repeated their condemnations of corruption and violence, as well as the presence of personal interest and vendettas in national life. The bishops renewed a call to prayer and encouraged Catholics to pray a family rosary. The bishops have written two special prayers for this rosary: one for Nigeria in Distress, and another against bribery and corruption. ‘The bishops also called for repentance, inviting the faithful and all Nigerians to “a true conversion of heart.” Read more

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2015 / 03:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With World Youth Day coming up next year, Pope Francis has a question for young people: “Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love?” “You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope?” the Pope asked Sept. 28. His Message for the 31st World Youth Day in Krakow 2016 invited young people to reflect on mercy and to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow. The next global Catholic youth gathering takes place July 25-31. “Dear young people, at the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where he is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you,” the Pope continued. “Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to him and do not be afraid!” Pope Francis credited to Divine Providence the decision to celebrate World Youth Day in Krakow, the city of Sts. John Paul II and Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina, a 20th century nun, had visions of Christ, upon which is based the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. “John Paul II realized that this is the time of mercy,” Pope Francis said. He noted that his predecessor had instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy and personally inaugurated Krakow’s Divine Mercy Shrine in 2002. Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to come to Jesus and say “Jesus, I trust in you!” “Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair,” he said. “We are being guided on this long and challenging path by Jesus’ words taken from the Sermon on the Mount,” the Pope continued. “During the year ahead, let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the words: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’.” Pope Francis reflected on the message of Divine Mercy and the struggle to forgive. “One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies,” he said. “I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence,” the Pope said. “We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong.” “Mercy is the only way to overcome evil. Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough” Pope Francis also reflected on the example of the 20th century Italian layman Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who said, “Jesus pays me a visit every morning in Holy Communion, and I return the visit in the meager way I know how, visiting the poor.” The Pope said Frassati was a young man who “understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need.” “He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words and his capacity to listen,” the Pope said. He noted that Frassati, who was beatified in 1990, also followed the gospel command that his almsgiving be secret. “At his funeral, his family and friends were stunned by the presence of so many poor people unknown to them. They had been befriended and helped by the young Pier Giorgio.” Pope Francis linked the Beatitudes with the works of mercy Christ commanded in Matthew 25: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. “Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, teach the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive offences, patiently bear with troublesome people and pray to God for the living and the dead,” he added. “God’s mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand,” he said, recounting his deep feeling of mercy when he decided to stop into a church for confession at the age of 17. “I felt certain that, in the person of that priest, God was already waiting for me even before I took the step of entering that church. We keep looking for God, but God is there before us, always looking for us, and he finds us first.” He said that the Church must “offer abundant signs of God’s presence and closeness, and reawaken in people’s hearts the ability to look to the essentials.” He explained that mercy is not “mere sentimentality” nor does it just imply being “a good person.” “It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today’s world,” the Pope said. Read more

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2015 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week’s Mass for the Canonization of Saint Junipero Serra, said by Pope Francis, proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those who participated in it, and a reflection of the excitement for the Pope’s mission. “I think the Pope has a beautiful mission, which is to bring to all of us the love of Christ, who we grow closer to every day,” Maria, from Maryland, told CNA. Maria and her husband came to the Sept. 23 Canonization Mass along with their two daughters. The Mass marked the canonization of Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary from Spain who founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California. It was the first canonization performed on U.S. soil. Kaden, a high school student at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, said he took the canonization and large crowd at the Mass as a sign of “hope that the Catholic faith is still alive and strong” in the United States. His little brother George piped up that to him, the Pope’s visit “means that he loves and respects us and prays for us all the time.” Fray Carlos Reyes told CNA that as both a Franciscan friar and a Latino, he thought the canonization on US soil was “a good gesture on the part of the Church” to recognize Serra’s “work and legacy for Catholics.” “It’s deserved.” The excitement for the Mass and historic canonization united Christians across denominational divides. Chloe, a student at Georgetown University, said even though she is a nondenominational Christian, she was excited to attend her first Mass. “I can’t miss this historic opportunity,” she explained, adding that she was excited “just to be in this holy place with all these people” who had come for the Mass. The Canonization Mass also had an impact on those who helped volunteer for the Mass. Gina, a Catholic University of America junior helping direct the crowds at Mass, told CNA “it was incredible” to be able to serve in that capacity. “It was just amazing to help out people and helping at Communion. Being next to the Eucharist was incredible for me.” The event also had great meaning for other Catholic University students – particularly one from California. “It’s a really special time especially for Californians … because Junipero Serra is such an important part of our history,” said Dexie, a senior from San Diego – a city that sprung up around a mission St. Junipero Serra founded. “Being a Catholic, I’m very excited that he’s being acknowledged and being canonized,” she added. She also noted that the campus has been filled with “so much excitement.” “For months,” she explained, “we’ve been preparing and not just setting up the altar … but also service, praying a lot, just getting ourselves ready for this very spiritual experience.” “It’s just a really exciting time to be a Catholic.” Read more

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2015 / 08:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a 47 minute Q&A with journalists on his way back to Rome Pope Francis touched on sensitive topics such as forgiving abusers and conscientious objection, as well as the upcoming synod of bishops and women’s ordination. The Pope answered 11 questions posed in English, Spanish and Italian Sept. 27 while on board his American Airlines overnight flight from Philadelphia to Rome. Among the themes addressed were the new, streamlined annulment process, women’s ordination to the priesthood, the migrant crisis and whether or not government officials have a right to conscientious objection. He reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s position on women’s ordination to the priesthood, saying that St. John Paul II led the lengthy reflections and discussion on the topic and it “cannot be done,” though it’s not because women “don’t have the capacity.” Please read below for the full English transcription:Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi S.J. greeted everyone onboard before going immediately into the questions and answers. He introduced each of the journalists before their questions.Pope Francis: Good evening to all and thank you for the work because you went about from one place to the other and I was in a car but you…thank you very much.Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine: Thank you so much Holy Father, Elizabeth Diaz from TIME magazine. We are all so curious…this was your first visit to the U.S. What surprised you about the U.S. and what was different to what you might have expected?Pope Francis: It was my first visit. I’d never been here before. What surprised me was the warmth, the warmth of the people, so lovable. It was a beautiful thing and also different: Washington the welcome was warm but more formal; New York was a bit exuberant. Philadelphia very expressive. Three different kinds of welcome. I was very struck by this kindness and welcome but also by the religious ceremonies and also by the piety, the religiosity of the people…you could see the people pray and this struck me a lot. Beautiful.Elizabeth Diaz, Time Magazine: Was there challenge that the United States presented that you didn’t expect? (The translator added “some provocation?”)Pope Francis: No thank God no…everything good. No challenge. No provocation. All polite. No insults and nothing bad.Elizabeth Diaz, Time Magazine: And the challenge?Pope Francis: We must continue to work with these faithful people like we have always done so until now. Accompanying the people in their growth through good times and also through their difficulties, accompanying people in their joy and in their bad moments, in their difficulties when there is no work, ill health and the challenge of the Church…now I understand…the Church’s challenge is staying close to the people, close to the people of the United States…not being a detached Church from the people but close to them, close, close, and this is something that the Church in the United States has understood and understood well.David O’Reilly, Philadelphia Inquirer: Holy Father. Philadelphia as you know has had a very difficult time with sex abuse. It’s still an open wound in Philadelphia. So I know many people in Philadelphia were surprised that you offered bishops comfort and consolation and I think many in Philadelphia would ask you why did you feel the need to offer compassion to the bishops?Pope Francis: In Washington I spoke to all the U.S. bishops …they were all there no? I felt the need to express compassion because something really terrible happened. And many of them suffered because they didn’t know about this. And when the thing was discovered, they suffered so much, men of the Church, of prayer…true pastors. I used word from the bible from the apocalypse. You are coming from a large tribulation. What happened was a great tribulation. But not only the actual suffering, but what I said today to the victims of abuse. I wouldn’t say it was an apostasy but almost a sacrilege. We know the abuses are everywhere; in families, in the neighborhoods, in the schools, in the gyms, but when a priest abuses it is very serious because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl grow toward the love of God, toward maturity and toward good, but instead of that they squashed them and this is nearly a sacrilege. He betrayed his vocation, the calling of the Lord. For this reason the church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up. There are also those who covered these things up, even some bishops who covered this up. It is a terrible thing and the words of comfort were not to say “No, no don’t worry it was nothing,” but “It’s a terrible thing I imagine that you cried a lot” That was the sense of what I meant and today I spoke strongly.Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision: You have spoken a lot about forgiveness, that God forgives us and that we often ask for forgiveness. I would like to ask you, after you were at the seminary today. There are many priests that have committed sexual abuses to minors and have not asked for forgiveness for their victims. Do you forgive them? And on the other hand, do you understand the victims or their relatives who can’t or don’t want to forgive?Pope Francis: If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he has done and does not say sorry, I ask God to take him into account. I forgive him, but he does not receive that forgiveness, he is closed to forgiveness. We must forgive, because we were all forgiven. It is another thing to receive that forgiveness. If that priest is closed to forgiveness, he won’t receive it, because he locked the door from the inside. And what remains is to pray for the Lord to open that door. To forgive you must be willing. But not everyone can receive or know how to receive it, or are just not willing to receive it. What I’m saying is hard. And this is how you explain how there are people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving the tenderness of God.Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision: On victims or relatives who don’t forgive – do you understand them?Pope Francis: Yes, I do. I pray for them. And I don’t judge them. Once, in one of these meetings, I met several people and I met a woman told me “When my mother found out that I had been abused, she became blasphemous, she lost her faith and she died an atheist.” I understand that woman. I understand her, and God who is even better than me understands her. And I’m sure that that woman has been received by God. Because what was groped, destroyed, was her own flesh, the flesh of her daughter. I understand her. I don’t judge someone who can’t forgive. I pray and I ask God, because God is a champion in finding paths of solutions. I ask him to fix it.Andres Beltramo, Notimex: Thanks, first of all for this moment. We’ve all heard you speak so much about the peace process in Colombia between the FARC and the government. Now, there’s a historic agreement. Do you feel involved in this agreement and you’ve said that you wished to go to Colombia when this agreement was made, right? Now there are a lot of Colombians awaiting you. And a little one, how do you feel when the trip is over and the airplane takes off?Pope Francis: When I heard the news that in March the accord will be signed I said to the Lord, ‘Lord, help us reach March.’  The willingness is there on both sides. It is there, even in the small group, everyone is in agreement. We have to reach March, for the definitive accord, which is the point of international justice. I was very happy and I felt like I was a part of it because I’ve always wanted this. I spoke to president Santos twice about this problem and not only me but the Holy See. The Holy See was always willing to help and do what it could.      The other questions, this is a bit a personal but I have to be sincere. When the plane leaves after a visit, I see the faces of so many people. I get the urge to pray for them and say to the Lord, ‘I came here to do something, to do good, perhaps I have done wrong, forgive me but protect all those people who saw me, who thought of what I said, who heard me, even those who have criticized me, all of them,’ that is what I feel. Excuse me, it’s a bit personal…you can’t say that in the newspapers.Thomas Jansen, CIC: Holy Father, I wanted to ask something about the migrant crisis in Europe. Many countries are building new barriers out of barbed wire. What do you think of this development?Pope Francis: You used a word, crisis. It’s become a state of crisis after a long process. For years, this process has exploded because the wars which those people leave and flee are wars waged for years. Hunger. It’s hunger for years. When I think of Africa, this is a bit simplistic, but I saw it as an example. It comes to me to think about Africa, “the exploited continent.” They went to pick up the slaves there, then the great resources. It’s the exploited continent. And, now the wars, tribal or not. But they have economic interests behind them. And, I think that instead of exploiting a continent or a nation, make investments instead so these people might have work and this crisis would be avoided. It’s true, as I said at Congress, it’s a refugee crisis not seen since World War II. It’s the biggest. You asked me about barriers. You know what happens to all walls. All of them. All walls fall. Today, tomorrow or in 100 years, they will fall. It’s not a solution. The wall isn’t a solution. In this moment, Europe is in difficult, it’s true. We have to be intelligent, and whoever comes…that  migrant flow. It’s not easy to find solutions, but with dialogue beween nations they should be found. Walls are never solutions. But bridges are, always, always. I don’t know. What I think is that walls can last for a long time or a little time. The problem remains but it also remains with more hate. That’s what I think.Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro: Holy Father, you obviously cannot anticipate the debate of the synod fathers, we know that well but we want to know just before the synod, if your heart as a pastor, if you really want a solution of the divorced and remarried. We want to also know if your ‘motu proprio’ on the speeding of annulments has closed this debate. Finally, how do you respond to those who fear that with this reform, there is a de-facto creation of a so-called ‘Catholic divorce?’ Thank you.Pope Francis: I’ll start with the last one. In the reform of the procedure and the method, I closed the door to the administrative path, which was the path through which divorce could have entered. You could say that those who think this is ‘Catholic divorce’ are wrong because this last document has closed the door to divorce by which it could have entered. It would have been easier with the administrative path. There will always be the judicial path. (Continuing with the third question) The document…I don’t remember the third but you correct me.Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro: The question was on the notion of catholic divorce, if the motu proprio has closed the debate before the synod on this theme?Pope Francis: This was called for by the majority of the synod fathers in the synod last year: streamline the process because there are cases that last 10-15 years, no? There’s one sentence, then another sentence, and after there’s an appeal, there’s the appeal then another appeal. It never ends. The double sentence, when it was valid that there was an appeal, was introduced by Pope Lambertini, Benedict XIV, because in central Europe, I won’t say which country, there were some abuses, and to stop it he introduced this but it’s not something essential to the process. The procedure changes, jurisprudence changes, it gets better. At that time it was urgent to do this, then Pius X wanted to streamline and made some changes but he didn’t have time or the possibility to do it. The synod fathers asked for it, the speeding up of the annulment processes. And I stop there. This document, this ‘motu proprio’ facilitates the processes and the timing, but it is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It’s doctrine. It’s an indissoluble sacrament. The legal trial is to prove that what seemed to be a sacrament wasn’t a sacrament, for lack of freedom for example, or for lack of maturity, or for mental illness, or, there are so many reasons that bring about (an annulment), after a study, an investigation. That there was no sacrament. For example, that the person wasn’t free. Another example: now it’s not so common but in some sectors of common society at least in Buenos Aires, there were weddings when the woman got pregnant: ‘you have to get married.’ In Buenos Aires, I counselled my priests, strongly, I almost prohibited them to celebrate weddings in these conditions. We called them “speedy weddings,” eh? (They were) to cover up appearances. And the babies are born, and some (marriages) work out, but there’s no freedom and then things go wrong little by little and they separate (and say) ‘I was forced to get married because we had to cover up this situation’ and this is a reason for nullity. So many of them. Cases of nullity, you have, you can find (the reasons) on the Internet, there are many, eh? Then, the issue of the second weddings, the divorcees, who make a new union. You read what, you have the “instrumentum laboris.” What is put in discussion seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the synod, that the solution for these people is that they can receive communion. That’s not the only solution (being asked). What the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes is a lot and also the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn’t the only problem. In the instrumentum laboris, there are many (problems to be addressed). For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It’s a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the affective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith. ‘Do I believe that this is for ever? Yes, yes, yes, I believe.’ ‘But do you believe it?’ the preparation for a wedding: I think so often that to become a priest there’s a preparation for eight years, and then, its not definite, the Church can take the clerical state away from you. But, for something lifelong, they do four courses! Four times…Something isn’t right. It’s something the synod has to deal with: how to do preparation for marriage. It’s one of the most difficult things. There are many problems, they’re all are listed in the “Instrumentum laboris.” But, I like that you asked the question about ‘Catholic divorce.’ That doesn’t exist. Either it wasn’t a marriage, and this is nullity – it didn’t exist. And if it did, it’s indissoluble. This is clear. Thank you.Terry Moran, ABC News: Holy Father, thank you, thank you very much and thank you to the Vatican staff as well. Holy Father, you visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and we were told that you wanted to show your support for them and their case in the courts. And, Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples? Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?     Pope Francis: I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection. But, yes, I can say conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the Chancon Roland, when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font – the baptismal font or the sword. And, they had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.  (Editor’s note: He’s referring to provencal poem: Song of Roland in which Crusaders forced Muslims to choose between being baptized or being killed by the sword. The Pope says they were not allowed to choose conscientious objection)            Terry Moran, ABC News: Would that include government officials as well?     Pope Francis: It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.Stefano Maria Paci, Sky News: Holiness, you used very strong words at the U.N. to denounce the world’s silence on the persecution of Christians, who are deprived of their homes, thrown out, deprived of their possessions, enslaved and brutally killed. Yesterday, President Hollande announced the beginning of a bombing campaign by France on ISIS bases in Syria. What do you think of this military action?  Also, the mayor of Rome, city of the Jubilee, declared that he came to the World Meeting of Families because you invited him. Can you tell us how it went?Pope Francis: I will start with your second question. I did not invite Mayor Marino. Is that clear?  I didn’t do it and I asked the organizers and they didn’t invite him either. He came. He professes to be a Catholic and he came spontaneously. That’s the first thing. But it is clear, heh? And now about bombardments. Truly, I heard the news the day before yesterday, and I haven’t read about it. I don’t know much about the situation. I heard that Russia took one position and it wasn’t clear yet about the United States. I truly don’t know what to say because I haven’t fully understood the situation. But, when I hear the word bombing, death, blood…I repeat what I said in Congress and at the U.N., to avoid these things. But, I don’t know, I can’t judge the political situation because I don’t know enough about it.Miriam Schmidt, German DPA Agency: Holy Father, I wanted to ask a question about the relationship of the Holy See with China and the situation in this country which is also quite difficult for the Catholic Church. What do you think about this?Pope Francis: China is a great nation that offers the world a great culture, so many good things. I said once on the plane when were flying over China when we were coming back from Korea that I would very much like so much to go to China. I love the Chinese people and I hope there is the possibility of having good relations. We’re in contact, we talk, we are moving forward but for me, to have as a friend a great country like China, which has so much culture and has so much opportunity to do good, would be a joy.Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE: Thanks. Good evening, Holy Father. You have visited the U.S. for the first time, you had never been there before. You spoke to Congress, you spoke to the United Nations. You drew multitudes. Do you feel more powerful? And another question, we heard you draw attention to the role of religious women, of the women in the Church in the United States. Will we one day see women priests in the Catholic Church as some groups in the U.S. ask, and some other Christian churches have?Pope Francis: He’s telling me not to answer in Spanish (referring to Fr. Federico Lombardi). The sisters in the United States have done marvels in the field of education, in the field of health. The people of the United States love the sisters. I don’t know how much they may love the priests, (laughs) but they love the sisters, they love them so much. They are great, they are great, great, great women. Then, one follows her congregation, their rules, there are differences. But are they great. And for that reason I felt the obligation to say thank you for what they have done. An important person of the government of the United States told me in the last few days: “The education I have, I owe above all to the sisters.” The sisters have schools in all neighborhoods, rich and poor. They work with the poor and in the hospitals. This was the first. The second? The first I remember, the second?Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE: If you feel powerful after having been in the United States with your schedule and having been successful?Pope Francis: I don’t know if I had success or not. But I am afraid of myself. Why am I afraid of myself? I always feel – I don’t know – weak in the sense of not having power and also power is a fleeting thing, here today, gone tomorrow. It’s important if you can do good with power. And Jesus defined power, true power is to serve, to do service, to do the most humble services, and I must still make progress on this path of service because I feel that I don’t do everything I should do. That’s the sense I have of power.   Third, on women priests, that cannot be done. Pope St. John Paul II after long, long intense discussions, long reflection said so clearly. Not because women don’t have the capacity. Look, in the Church women are more important than men, because the Church is a woman. (Using masculine and feminine articles in Italian) It is “la” Church, not “il” Church. The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests. I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true.Mathilde Imberty, Radio France: Holy Father, you have become a star in the United States. Is it good for the Church if the Pope is a star?Pope Francis: The Pope must…Do you know what the title was of the Pope, which ought to be used? Servant of the servants of God. It’s a little different from the stars. Stars are beautiful to look at. I like to look at them in the summer when the sky is clear. But the Pope must be, must be the servant of the servants of God. Yes, in the media this is happening but there’s another truth. How many stars have we seen that go out and fall? It is a fleeting thing. On the other hand, being servant of the servants of God is something that doesn’t pass.Fr Federico Lombardi thanks the Pope. Pope Francis thanks the journalists and it’s over. The Pope says, “I’ll pray for you, truly,” and heads back to his seat. Read more

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2015 / 05:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his wide-ranging press briefing en route from the United States to Rome, Pope Francis spoke on the difficult subject of forgiving priests who have molested minors, saying that the strength to forgive, and to be forgiven, can only come from God. Francis also told journalists that while he is willing to forgive clergy who have abused children and young people, he understands why there are some who find this difficult. “We must forgive, because we were all forgiven,” the Pope said. However, “it is another thing to receive that forgiveness.” Pope Francis told journalists on board the papal plane he is not judgmental of victims or the families of molested children who struggle to forgive the abuser. He illustrated this point by recalling a meeting he once had with a victim of molestation, who told him that her mother had “lost her faith and died an atheist” on account of the abuse. “I understand that woman,” the Pope said, “and God who is even better than me understands her.” Pope Francis said he believes this mother “has been received by God,” taking into account that it was her own flesh and blood, her daughter, who was molested. “I don’t judge someone who can’t forgive,” he said, but instead prays for them. “God is a champion in finding paths of solutions. I ask him to fix it.” “What remains is to pray for the Lord to open that door. To forgive, you must be willing.” Pope Francis also stressed that he forgives priests who have abused children, but they in turn must be open to receiving forgiveness. A priest who has sexually abused a minor, and is not remorseful, “is closed to forgiveness,” the pontiff said. “He won’t receive it, because he locked the door from the inside.” “If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he has done, and does not say sorry, I ask God to take him into account.” “I forgive him, but he does not receive that forgiveness. He is closed to forgiveness.” Not everyone is able or willing to receive forgiveness, he acknowledged. “What I’m saying is hard. And that is how you explain how there is people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving the tenderness of God.” Pope Francis made these remarks on the papal plane returning from his Sept. 19-28 visit to Cuba and the U.S. While in the United States, he spoke several times on the topic of sex abuse by clergy. The apostolic journey concluded with his visit to Philadelphia, a city which was struck hard by the clerical sex abuse crisis. While there, the Pope met with five survivors who had been molested as children, either by clergy, family members or educators. One journalist asked Pope Francis about his remarks to the U.S. bishops in Washington, D.C. about the clerical sex abuse crisis – specifically, his reasons for offering them comfort in the wake of the scandal. “I felt the need to express compassion because something really terrible happened,” he said in reference to the Sept. 23 speech, explaining that many of the bishops who suffered “did not know of this.” The Pope said he made reference to the book of Revelation when he told the bishops: “You are coming from a large tribulation. What happened was a great tribulation.” Although sexual abuse of minors exists in many areas, Pope Francis said it is particularly serious when it occurs at the hands of a priest, whose vocation is to lead children toward God. “We know the abuses are everywhere in families in the neighborhoods, in the schools, in the gyms,” he said. “But, when a priest abuses it is very serious because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl grow toward the love of God, toward maturity and toward good,” he said. The abuse of minors is “nearly a sacrilege,” he said, and by committing these acts the priest has “betrayed his vocation, the calling of the Lord.” The Pope stressed that this is why the Church is adamant that these crimes of abuse must not be covered up. During the sex abuse crisis in the U.S., it came to light that a number of US bishops sought to prevent these criminal acts by priests from being exposed. “Those who covered this up are guilty,” the pontiff said, in reference to these bishops. During his Sept. 22-28 visit to the U.S., Pope Francis also spoke with clergy and religious in New York on the country’s sex abuse crisis, in which he acknowledged their suffering in the wake of the scandal. In his homily at the Sept. 24 vespers in St. Patrick’s Cathedral the Pope acknowledged they had come out of the period of “great tribulation,” and reminded them that their vocation is to be lived out with joy. Read more

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2015 / 04:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told journalists on board his flight to Rome that giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics is a “simplistic” solution to the issue, and stressed that there are also other problems that need to be discussed.   “(It) seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the synod, that the solution for these people is that they can receive communion. That’s not the only solution (asked for).”   What the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes “is a lot,” he said. “Also, the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn’t the only problem.”   “In the instrumentum laboris, there are many (problems to be addressed). For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It’s a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the effective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith.”   Pope Francis spoke to journalists on board his American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Rome after spending 10 days in Cuba and the United States.   In the 47 minute inflight news conference, Francis answered 11 questions on themes such as his impressions of the United States after completing his first visit, bishop’s accountability in cases of clerical sex abuse and the right of government employees to exercise conscientious objection as a human right.   The Pope’s comments on divorced and remarried were the answer to a question posed by journalist Jean Marie Guenois of French news agency Le Figaro.   Guenois asked the Pope whether he is looking for a solution to the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics, as well as his response to fears that his recent ‘motu proprio’ on streamlining marriage annulments have created a de-facto “Catholic divorce,” and whether they have closed discussion on the topic.   In his response, Francis stressed that with his motu proprio, he has closed the administrative path that could have led to divorce.   “Those who think this is ‘Catholic divorce’ are wrong because this last document has closed the door to divorce by which it could have entered. It would have been easier with the administrative path,” he said.   “This document, this ‘motu proprio,’ facilitates the processes and the timing, but it is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It’s doctrine. It’s an indissoluble sacrament.”   On Sept. 8 Pope Francis made significant changes to the marriage nullification process, giving more of a role to local bishops, dropping the automatic appeals, and declaring the process free of charge.   The changes were published in two motu proprio – or letters issued by the Pope “on his own initiative.” The documents were entitled “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” (The Lord Jesus, a meek judge), which deals with modifications in the Latin Rite’s Code of Canon Law, and “Mitis et misericors Iesus” (Jesus, meek and merciful), which outlines changes for Eastern Churches who, although in full communion with Rome, have historically had a different process.   Francis noted that the streamlined process was asked for by last year’s synod participants, since there are some cases that take up to 10-15 years.   “There’s one sentence, then another sentence and after there’s an appeal, there’s the appeal then another appeal. It never ends,” he said.   Although Pope Benedict XIV instituted the double-sentence in his time, it was because there were “some abuses” being made in the process in central Europe, the Pope noted, and that to stop it “he introduced this but it’s not something essential to the process.”   “The procedure changes, jurisprudence changes, it gets better,” he said, noting that although at the time it was an urgent need, times change and even Pius X wanted to streamline the annulment process but didn’t “have time or the possibility to do it.”   On the topic of the coming synod, Pope Francis said that the issues surrounding divorced persons who enter into new marriages will be discussed, as can be seen in the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, for the discussion.   However, he also stressed that there are many others issues to be addressed besides just new unions and communion for the divorced and remarried, such as the growing number of youth who don’t want to marry, personal maturity when entering into the sacrament and faith.   Marriage preparation is also an important point to address, he said, adding that “I think so often that to become a priest there’s a preparation for eight years, and then, it’s not definite, the Church can take the clerical state away from you.”   “But, for something lifelong, they do four courses! Four times… Something isn’t right. It’s something the synod has to deal with: how to do preparation for marriage. It’s one of the most difficult things.”   He said that the many problems needing attention can be found in the synod’s “Instrumentum laboris,” but said he was glad to get a question on “Catholic divorce,” and clarified that “it doesn’t exist.”   “Either it wasn’t a marriage, and this is nullity – it didn’t exist. And if it did, it’s indissoluble. This is clear.”   Published June 23, the “Instrumentum Laboris,” has been compiled by the Vatican department in charge of organizing the synod to guide this October’s discussions.   Divided into three parts, it builds on the final report of last October’s synod, also incorporating suggestions from Church entities like bishops’ conferences and even individuals who freely sent their opinions.   The final instrumentum was reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before its publication, according to a source familiar with the document.   Set to take place Oct. 4-25, this year’s ordinary synod will reflect on the theme “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family” will gather more than 200 Bishops and representatives from all over the world. The conclusions of the gathering will be used by Pope Francis to draft his first Post-Synodal Exhortation, which can be expected in 2016.   In the document it is noted that various opinions have been expressed by synod fathers on the topic of communion for the divorced and remarried, including suggestions to keep the current practice.   Others have asked that each individual case be examined, and that couples in special circumstances be allowed to receive the Eucharist after completing a journey of penance and reconciliation guided by the local bishop.   The document emphasizes that the question is still being discussed, and that particular emphasis should be given to the distinction between “objective situations of sin and extenuating circumstances.” Read more

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 27, 2015 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As he concluded his historic visit to the United States, Pope Francis thanked organizers and volunteers, saying that he concludes his trip with appreciation and hope.    “… Read more

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 27, 2015 / 02:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis paid an unscheduled visit to St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia this afternoon to bless a statue celebrating improved Vatican relations with the Jewish community. T… Read more

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 27, 2015 / 02:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the final Mass closing out the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Pope Francis warned against narrowing God’s love and works to only a certain group of people. “To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not ‘part of the group’, who are not ‘like us’, is a dangerous temptation,” the Holy Father said Sept. 27. “Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of the faith!” In the day’s Mass readings, Pope Francis pointed out, both Moses and Jesus rebuked their followers for the same reason: trying to put limits on God’s works. Joshua told Moses that people were prophesying without a mandate and John reported that the disciples had put a stop to people casting out demon’s in Christ’s name. “Would that we could all be prophets!” he said, “Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others.” “But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, by passing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith.” Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States culminated in his stop in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. While there, he made an unscheduled visit with five survivors of sexual abuse. His visit also included a trip to New York where he addressed the United Nations and Washington, D.C. where he was the first pope to speak to a joint meeting of Congress. He will travel back to the Vatican where next week Bishops will convene for the much anticipated Synod on the Family. The Holy Father praised all the families who came to the meeting calling it “something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world.” Family life is so important because it is full of “little gestures” that make up a vibrant faith life. Hugs after an absence, a warm meal shared at the end of the day, evening prayers and the like teach us love, which is why we call the family the “true domestic churches.” Although these small acts of love that are learned in the family often get lost in daily life, they still make a difference in each day. “Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. He said that as seen in today’s readings, “Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles.” “Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.” In this vein we should ask ourselves, “How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?” “Sterile divisions” can no longer be tolerated because we now face an “urgent challenge of protecting our home.” Therefore, he said, Christians are asking other families of the world for help in spreading love and generosity. “Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation,” he said. “Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong!” Speaking briefly off the cuff, he said: “I will leave you with a question. In your house do people yell, or do you speak with love or affection or kindness?” “This is a good way to measure our love.” Read more

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 27, 2015 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will say Mass to conclude the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this afternoon at 4 pm ET, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Watch EWTN’s live coverage here! Read more

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