Transfixed by the face of Jesus: Pilgrims at the Shroud of Turin

Turin, Italy, Jun 24, 2015 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At this year’s exposition of the Shroud of Turin, pilgrims reflected on looking upon what some believe to be Christ’s own image – miraculously imprinted on a Jewish burial cloth 2,000 years ago. “I was transfixed looking at the face,” said Peter Taylor, a seminarian for the diocese of Middlesbrough, England in an interview with CNA. “I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the face of Christ. It was just so mesmerizing that you couldn’t look away.” Taylor, who is completing his second year of formation for the priesthood at the Venerable English College (VEC) in Rome, was one of scores of pilgrims to have visited the Shroud of Turin during its April 19-June 24 exposition. Pope Francis also made a pilgrimage to Turin before the event ended. Housed in Turin’s Saint John the Baptist Cathedral, the image on the 14 ft. long, 3-and-a-half ft. wide cloth is stained with the postmortem image of a man – front and back – who has been brutally tortured and crucified. Taylor said it was especially moving to see the face on the shroud in light and Pope Francis’ recent Bull of Induction for the Year of Mercy, set to begin this December: “To see Jesus is to see the face of the Father’s mercy.” “To really look upon Christ was really moving,” he said. The staff and student body of the VEC began this past academic year with a trip to the Holy Land, during which they visited the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Many of these took part in a pilgrimage organized by the seminary to see the shroud during this current exposition. “To actually have been in the tomb (of Jesus), and then to see the shroud, was a very moving experience I think for everybody,” Taylor said. For pilgrims traveling to Turin to see the shroud, the experience begins a short way from the main Cathedral. Visitors are led quietly through a series of covered walkways which wind through a nearby wooded area. The path is occasionally marked by images and quotes from the local saints, such as St. John Bosco and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Visitors are then led into a darkened room where they are presented with a short film, without narration, showing the details of the burial cloth, and what the various markings mean. The film draws particular attention to the wounds on the shroud, emphasizing the correlation between the injuries seen on the image and those suffered by Christ as depicted in the Gospel. At the conclusion of the film, the visitors are led through the Cathedral itself, which has been darkened to allow the full effect of the backlighting behind the Shroud. They pass by various side chapels, including one containing the tomb of Turin local, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Finally, they are led behind the central altar, and allowed to stand, in silence for about five minutes, just a few feet from where the Shroud is on display. Although tickets are required to be able to see the Shroud close up, it is still visible from the pews which are open to everyone, and it is easy to make out many of the details owing to the overall darkness in the Cathedral in relation to the dim lighting behind the cloth. Marco Egawhary, a third-year seminarian receiving formation at the VEC for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, also took part in the pilgrimage to Turin. He told CNA he was surprised by the prayerful atmosphere considering the number of people who were going. “Before the shroud itself is actually very, very prayerful, and that was what really struck me,” he said. “It was the quietness of the atmosphere and just the deep sense of prayer that was going on.” The Shroud of Turin is among the most well-known relics believed to be connected with Christ’s Passion. Venerated for centuries by Christians as the burial shroud of Jesus, it has been subject to intense scientific study to ascertain its authenticity, and the origins of the image. Regardless of what the evidence indicates, however, it is not necessary to believe that the Shroud is authentic, according to Catholic teaching. Belief in whether it is genuine or not is left up to the individual. In light of the question surrounding the Shroud’s authenticity, Egawhary explained his attitude in going to Turin: “If this is the shroud that has wrapped our Lord in the tomb, then what would that mean for me and to be praying in front of it?” Although he believes the evidence suggesting that the cloth is real is compelling, he said his faith does not depend on its being authentic. “Our faith is not based on these sort of exterior signs of things like the shroud or the true relics of the cross. Our faith is based on a personal encounter with Jesus. That’s what it is to be a Catholic.” “My experience in front of the shroud being that powerful sort of confirmed it, that interior sense. But if a statement were to be released saying it’s not genuine…it wouldn’t change my faith.” Echoing the Church’s teaching that it is not necessary to accept the Turin relic as Jesus’ actual burial shroud, Taylor said the atmosphere of holiness surrounding the Shroud nonetheless left him believing in its authenticity. “There was a real sense of being somewhere sacred, being somewhere holy,” he said. Even so, “if the Vatican said it wasn’t authentic, for me it would still have meant something really moving,” he said. “Having that time in front of the Shroud was a very poignant moment in my life and it always will be.” Read more

Thousands gather in Rome to support the family, oppose gender theory

Rome, Italy, Jun 24, 2015 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A pro-family demonstration drew hundreds of thousands of participants to Rome on Saturday, where the rally gathered those opposed to the introduction of gender ideology in Italian schools and to a bill which would expand the rights of those in civil unions. “We want to bear witness to the beauty of the family,” said Vincenzo and Sara, addressing the June 20 rally. “All of our children have been born of a mother and a father.” The couple have 11 children, and they emphasized that “parents are the ones called in the first place to educate our children, and the school cannot take away that sacred right from us.” The demonstration took place in the piazza in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and drew a crowd whose estimates range from 300,000 to 1 million. Participants came from across Italy, despite short notice – the event having been announced only June 2. Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register also noted that the demonstration “had only tacit support from the Italian bishops’ conference.” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, sent a message of support for the event. It was organized by “Defend our Children” to call for the rejection of a bill in the Italian parliament which would grant same-sex couples in civil unions many of the rights afforded to married couples. More generally, the rally intended to reaffirm parents’ right to educate their children, and to oppose gender theory in Italy’s schools and parliament. Speakers outlined the key elements of this proposed legislation, and explained how the attendant gender theory has already been introduced in many of the country’s schools. Gender theory or ideology is the notion that one’s ‘gender’ is chosen and need not correspond with one’s biological sex. Gianfranco Amato, president of Jurists for Life and one of the organizers, called for an end to gender theory in the schools, calling it a “drift toward totalitarianism that tends to impose by law the dictatorship of a single way of thinking.” Simone Pillon of Family Forum told the crowd, “Today in the square we are all creating a culture, not against persons, but against the ideologies that are destroying the family and are trying to destroy man and woman as its model.” The demonstration included, but was not limited to, Catholics. Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs participated, as well. The imam of the Centocelle Mosque in Rome told participants that “the Muslim community is against this law that is dangerous for the existence of humanity and would pollute the minds of our children.”  Kiko Argüello, founder of the Neocatechumenical Way, said that “Europe is sinning by rejecting the Gospel.” He said “the Pope is with us,” pointing out that the week prior the Holy Father warned of “ideological colonization ” when he spoke to hundreds of families in Saint Peter’s Square at the opening of a conference of the Diocese of Rome. Read more

Father Flanagan founded Boys Town. Will he be recognized as a saint?

Omaha, Neb., Jun 23, 2015 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The case for the sainthood of Servant of God Edward Flanagan, the priest who founded Nebraska’s famous Boys Town community for orphans and other boys, is now headed to Rome. “More than being just a humanitarian, he was a man driven by his love for Jesus Christ to care for children who were forgotten and abused,” said Omar Gutierrez of the Archdiocese of Omaha. “He is a great model for the priesthood and for what Catholic social teaching looks like in the real world.” Gutierrez, who served as notary for the diocesan tribunal investigating the priest’s sainthood cause, said he was particularly struck by the stories of past Boys Town residents, now elderly men, who knew Father Flanagan. “I have had World War II veterans weep in front of me as they recall what Fr. Flanagan did for them when they were just boys,” he told CNA June 22. “I have witnessed in a unique way the amazing power of fatherhood.” The Omaha archdiocese closed the diocesan phase of the investigation with a June 18 Mass at Omaha’s St. Cecilia Cathedral, with Archbishop George Lucas as celebrant. The final documents produced by the diocesan tribunal were signed and stamped. Two copies of the tribunal’s report were packaged and sealed with wax, stamped with the archdiocesan seal. The apostolic nuncio will take the package to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The congregation can recommend whether Pope Francis should declare Fr. Flanagan to have demonstrated heroic virtue and to declare him “venerable,” an important step on the path to beatification or canonization. Father Flanagan helped at least 10,000 boys at Boys Town in his lifetime, and his influence extended around the world. The priest was born in Ireland’s County Roscommon July 13, 1886. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1912. He was assigned to what was then the Diocese of Omaha. After working with homeless men in Omaha, he founded a boarding house for all boys, regardless of their race or religion. He soon moved his work to Overlook Farm on the outskirts of Omaha, where he cared for hundreds. The home became known as the Village of Boys Town, growing to include a school, dormitories, and administration buildings. The boys elected their own government to run the community, which became an official village in the state of Nebraska in 1936. Steven Wolf, president of the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion and vice-postulator of his cause, said he thinks there is abundant evidence of the priest’s heroic virtue. “He completely immersed his life in the gospel, and lived it,” Wolf told CNA. “He completely poured his life into saving these kids nobody else wanted to deal with.” Father Flanagan integrated young boys, “built a society around them, and put love, God’s love, in the middle of their circumstances and helped them to become whole and complete people.” “He could see the face of Christ in every child, and he wanted to help every child, not just be successful citizens, but also be saints.” Wolf added, “We need people to look into this man’s life, look into this man’s motivation, and look at his example and live that example. Pray that we can make our culture a better place through the way that he lived the gospel in his life.” Gutierrez and Wolf could not speak about the tribunal findings, which are confidential. However, they noted that Archbishop Lucas alluded to its conclusions in his June 18 homily. “You can imagine that we wouldn’t go through all this trouble to collect this information and send it to the Holy See if it wasn’t very good,” the archbishop said. Father Flanagan’s work inspired 80 other Boys Towns around the world. The original Boys Town now serves about 80,000 kids and families each year. After World War II, the priest helped care for orphans and displaced children in war-ravaged Japan, Germany, and Austria at the request of US president Harry Truman. According to Wolf, Japan’s juvenile system was founded on a report by Father Flanagan. He noted that the priest broke with the segregationist practices of his time, serving all boys regardless of their race and religion. After Boys Town moved from Omaha, the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan threatened to burn Boys Town to the ground because of it care for black children and Jews, Wolf said. Father Flanagan’s response to racist criticism was to ask what color a person’s soul was. Critics of his integrationist policy also included Catholic and Protestant clergy, as well as judges. Although the priest’s organization was always in debt, he turned down a wealthy Californian’s offer of $ 1 million if he turned Boys Town into a Catholic-only group. “He was decades ahead of the civil rights movement in the US in what he was doing,” Wolf said. Flanagan also worked to reform the criminal justice system’s treatment of minor offenders. One of the priest’s famous phrases was “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.” The priest rose to national and international prominence for his work. Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for his portrayal of Fr. Flanagan in the 1938 movie “Boys Town.” The actor later donated the trophy to the priest. Father Flanagan died of a heart attack in Berlin on May 15, 1948. His remains are interred in a memorial chapel at Boys Town. He was declared a Servant of God in March 2013.   The findings of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s tribunal will be the basis for the postulator’s argument before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the congregation approves, Father Flanagan will be declared Venerable. If a miracle attributed to his intercession is recognized, he will be beatified, and if a second miracle, he will be canonized. Gutierrez said that two alleged miracles attributed to the priest are being investigated now. He added that supporters of Father Flanagan’s cause can help through their prayers and through their support for the expenses of its advocates. The Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion is the main advocate for the priest’s canonization cause. Among the people of Omaha, Father Flanagan’s reputation endures. “They remember him with an intimate fondness and with a surety that he will be made a saint someday,” said Gutierrez. Read more

Have a family, grow a garden, be holy – conclusions from Laudato Si

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2015 / 03:46 pm (CNA).- The vision behind Pope Francis’ newest encyclical is one that offers a holistic proposal of stewardship rooted in faith, offering a lens through which to view the environment, said several Catholic theologians and ecologists. “I think what he is telling Catholics in the center of this encyclical is ‘you’ve got all the resources to show a better way to care for creation than any environmentalist has, and you have to make that contribution’,” said Dr. Chad Pecknold, professor of historical and systematic theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The Pope’s latest encyclical “Laudato Si,” meaning “Praise be to You,” was published Thursday, June 18. The 184-page document takes its name from St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun,” a prayer composed in medieval Italian which praises God through the created world with figures like “Brother Sun,” “Sister Moon,” and “our sister Mother Earth.” The document covers a wide range of topics in relation to the environment – from climate change, consumerism and economic structures to abortion, population control and gender. Care for God’s creation is central to living the Catholic faith and is a natural outgrowth of a holiness, said Bill Patenaude, a special lecturer in theology at Providence College and founder of the website “Catholic Ecology.” “Being an environmentalist is really not something that we add to our lives, it’s something that we do naturally as Catholics because we’re seeking a holy life,” he told CNA. “We’re seeking to be free from the constraints of our desires and live in accordance with the needs of others, with those simple things of life, the joy God gives us, the blessings God gives us infinitely throughout the day, from moment to moment.” At the heart of the encyclical is an exhortation for conversion on the part of every person, Pecknold said. It is as part of this call – and not outside of it – that Pope Francis advocates care for the environment. “It’s not just an ecological conversion that’s necessary,” Pecknold explained. “It’s a conversion to God, it’s a conversion to Christ, it’s a conversion of all creation in the Eucharist,” he told CNA, adding that this conversion is not just “individual” but “communal.” How then can Catholics, particularly Catholic families, answer this call to conversion in their daily lives, specifically with regard to the environment? For one, “the Catholic family would not be contraceptive,” Pecknold said, but one that celebrates “new creation, new life.” He also suggested that “you might have domestic gardens, and you might grow your own food,” among other ways of connecting with life in one’s own community. “Every little daily action” can either be “destructive” or “cultivating” of creation, he emphasized. In appreciating the little things, families can also guard against the consumerism and overconsumption warned about in the encyclical, Patenaude added. “The virtues of temperance, of prudence…we don’t have to satiate every desire.” Furthermore, families can strive to practice gratitude for little things and mindfulness of others in their daily lives, he said. “How do we be more aware of interactions, our relationship (with) God, each other, and the environment? There’s kind of a spiritual sense of mindfulness that Pope Francis has called us to,” Patenaude remarked. “The joy of our lives can be so missed because we’re always working on our getting ready for the next thing.” “We need to say grace before dinner,” he suggested as a simple example of families practicing gratitude. Participation in the Eucharist can be another profound way for Catholics to express gratitude for the created world, Pecknold said. “I think one thing that’s easy to forget…is that the bread and the wine actually come from the earth,” he said. “And not in an abstract way, but that there must be a grain of wheat in every wafer means that there had to be a wheat farmer, means that there had to be arable soil for that wheat to grow, means that there had to be rain that wasn’t acidified, that meant that there had to be time for the cultivation of the earth.” In addition to speaking of conversion on a personal and family level, the encyclical also speaks to local, national, and international governing bodies, said Lucia Silecchia, a professor of law at The Catholic University of America who specializes in environmental law, ethics, and development. Global policy cannot be limited to purely environmental concerns, but must promote human dignity and the wellbeing of the poor, she said. “A dominant theme in the encyclical is that of interconnectedness – of economic life, political life, social life, moral life, spiritual life, physical environment, and natural environment.” A prime example of this interconnectedness is the link in the encyclical between “respect for human life as a gift from God” and “environmental decision-making,” she continued: Human dignity must be central to national and international social policy. For example, the encyclical warns environmentalists against putting the human person at or below the level of importance given to the environment, Silecchia said. It also admonishes authorities against pushing population control in developing countries to cope with “the environmental problem,” she noted, as Pope Francis says this is simply a running away from “more difficult questions.” Another area of connection between economy and environment is in the document’s claims that the poor in developing countries suffer a disproportionate burden of the harmful effects of climate change. At the same time, policy that attempts to alleviate the material burdens of the poor must also consider their spiritual well-being, Silecchia explained of the encyclical. “It is quite skeptical of the ability of economics or technology to bring about improvement to the lives of those who are poor,” she said. It even warns of their “potential to cause great harm if their use is not informed by moral considerations.”   Read more

Sister Nirmala, former head of Missionaries of Charity, dies in India

Kolkata, India, Jun 23, 2015 / 11:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics around the world are mourning the death of Sister Nirmala Joshi, who passed away Tuesday. Sr. Nirmala had succeeded Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, serving in that capacity from 1997 to 2009. Sr. Nirmala, who was 81, had suffered ill health for some years, and was hospitalized and then brought home a few days ago, dying at a Missionaries of Charity home in Kolkata in the early hours of June 23. “All people in India and especially the Archdiocese of Calcutta is saddened with this great loss of Sr. Nirmala Joshi, who was very close and dear to us,” Fr. Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, told CNA. “She was simple, humble and emanated a strong spirituality of faith,” Fr. Gomes added. “Her exemplary life was an inspiration to the younger generation in the congregation and to people around the world.” The body of Sr. Nirmala is lying in state at St John’s Church in Kolkata’s Sealdah district, and will be taken to the Missionaries of Charity’s Mother House in Kolkata tomorrow. The funeral Mass will be said at 4 pm local time on Wednesday, and then interred at St. Johns cemetery. Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta, who had visited Sr. Nirmala a fortnight ago when she had regained consciousness, has expressed his deep sadness and grief at her death, saying, ‘she was a great soul.” He praised her work, noting that “she never talked about herself; she was more about how to support peace, to be helpful to the poor … she had a deep union with Jesus and she was a gentle apostle of peace until the end.” Sr. Nirmala was in born in 1934 in Ranchi, capital of what is now India’s Jharkhand state, to a Hindu brahmin family from Nepal who were serving the British during colonial rule. Her given name was Kusum, meaning “flower,” and she was the eldest sibling among eight girls and two boys. Her early education was at Christian schools. She was inspired by Mother Teresa’s humanitarian work, and was baptized. She later entered the Missionaries of Charity and took the name Nirmala, meaning “purity” in Sanskrit. She completed a master’s degree in political science, and studied law as well. In the 1970s, she became head of the congregation’s contemplative wing. Sr. Nirmala was elected as superior general of the congregation just a few months before Mother Teresa’s death in 1997, and pursued the founder’s cause for beatification. During the Missionaries of Charity’s general chapter in 2009 she declined to remain head of the congregation, given her health issues. She was succeeded by Sr. Mary Prema Pierick, who remains superior general. The Indian government has recognized her work for the poor and for peace, granting her the Padma Vibhushan, the nation’s second highest civilian award, in 2009. Tributes and messages have started to flood social media praising her service to the poor. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was quick to tweet, “Sister Nirmala’s life was devoted to service, caring for the poor & underprivileged. Saddened by her demise. May her soul rest in peace.” The opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Extremely saddened at the passing away of Sister Nirmala. She carried forward Mother Teresa’s work with quiet dedication & dignity. She will be missed by the countless whose lives she touched.” The West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee stated, “Saddened at the passing away of Sister Nirmala, who headed the Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa. Kolkata and the world will miss her.” Read more

Synod guiding document: families need the Church’s message of mercy

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2015 / 08:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The document set to guide this year’s synod discussions on the family touches on hot-button issues such as homosexuality and divorced and remarried couples, stressing that mercy is something every family needs from the Church.   “For the Church it’s about starting from the concrete situations of families of today, all are in need of mercy, beginning with those who suffer most,” the document reads. Published June 23, the document said that although mercy doesn’t break with the essential truths Church teaching is founded on, it could be communicated better, particularly in regards to irregular family situations such as separations, mixed marriages and divorce.   The Church’s role, it says, is to accompany families as Christ did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.   “We must give our journey the healthy pace of proximity, with a respectful gaze full of compassion, but which at the same time is healthy, free and encourages one to mature in the Christian life,” the document reads, quoting a speech of Pope Francis.   “To be close to families as a companion on the journey means, for the Church, to assume a wise and diverse attitude…the Church adopts, in an affectionate sharing, the joys and hopes, sorrows and anguishes of every family.”   The working document, or “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.   The first part, titled “Listening to the challenges of the family,” focuses mainly on themes surrounding last year’s synod. The second, “Discernment of the family vocation,” and third, “The mission of the family today,” address the themes to be discussed during this year’s discussion.   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.   Last year’s synod spoke of the need to communicate the Church’s message of mercy more clearly to divorced couples and individuals with homosexual tendencies. This year’s document affirms the need, saying that persons in these situations shouldn’t feel excluded from the Church.   At the beginning of this year’s instrumentum the synod fathers emphasized the indissolubility of marriage, which is a sacrament that has been designed to reflect the love of the Trinity.   “Jesus himself, referring the primitive design of the human couple, reaffirmed the indissolubility of marriage between man and woman, while saying ‘for the hardness of your heart Moses allowed you to denounce your wives, but in the beginning it was not so.’”   Marriage indissolubility “is not intended as a ‘yoke’ imposed on men but rather as a gift to the persons united in marriage,” it read.   However, it also stressed the need to express the Church’s mercy in a stronger way to couples who have been divorced and civilly remarried.   Integrating couples in these situations into the life of the Church requires “an attentive discernment and an accompaniment of great respect, avoiding any language or attitude which makes them feel discriminated against and which promotes their participation in the life of the community,” the document says.   To care for such couples “is not a weakening of faith and witness of the indissolubility of marriage for the Christian community, but rather it is precisely in this care that charity is expressed.”   The document stressed that an unsuccessful marriage is “a defeat for everyone,” and that after becoming aware of one’s own responsibility, each person needs to regain confidence and hope. Everyone, it says, “needs to give and receive mercy.”   Also addressed is the debate surrounding access to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, which was one of the most debated issues of last year’s gathering.   In the document it is noted that various opinions have been expressed by synod fathers on the topic, 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.”   It is also noted that the Church’s message of mercy extends to men and women with homosexual tendencies.   Although “there is no foundation whatsoever to assimilate or establish analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s design for marriage and the family,” persons with homosexual tendencies, the document says, “ought to be welcomed with respect and delicacy.”   It reiterated that “each person, regardless of their sexual orientation, must be respected in their dignity and welcomed with sensitivity and delicacy, both in the Church and in society.”   However, the document condemned as “unacceptable” the fact that the Church is often pressured by international organizations to support laws allowing same sex “marriage” as a condition for giving financial assistance to poor countries.   Other themes addressed in the document and up for discussion during the October gathering are the pastoral concerns and care for civilly married or cohabiting couples, and the streamlining of the marriage annulment process, which many synod fathers have asked to be “more accessible” and possibly free of cost.   Also addressed was the possibility of globally unified pastoral guidelines for the care of divorced persons, the lack of which has raised “confusion and division” and produced “a burning pain in those who live a failed marriage, (and) who at times feel unfairly judged,” the document said.   The increasing fear of young people to get married, the betterment of the marriage preparation process and the accompaniment of couples in the first years after marriage were also addressed. Read more

What Pope Francis owes the Salesians

Turin, Italy, Jun 23, 2015 / 04:03 am (Aid to the Church in Need).- Pope Francis is a Jesuit, but he has Salesian roots. A Salesian priest was the matchmaker for Pope Francis’ parents and baptized the future Pope, while Francis owes his priestly vocation to a Salesian priest. Pope Francis recently visited Turin to celebrate the 200th anniversary of St. John Bosco’s birth. Father Elio Cesari, who is responsible for the Salesian Youth in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, said there is a strong connection between the 19th century saint and the 21st century Pope. “St. John Bosco was a prophet, and the Pope was imbued with his thought, as he studied in Salesian schools, and he owes his vocation to a Salesian priest, Fr. Pozzoli, as he always recounted,” Fr. Cesari told CNA June 20. According to the Salesian Press Agency, the connection between Pope Francis and Salesians stretches back before his birth. A Salesian was the matchmaker of the first meeting of the parents of the Pope. Fr. Enrico Pozzoli, an Italian who emigrated in Argentina, was the bridge between the families of Francis José Mario Bergoglio and Maria Regina Sivori, when they were in their twenties. The two met thanks to the priest, and Fr. Pozzoli celebrated their wedding Dec. 12, 1935. Francis and Maria Regina moved in a house around the Basilica San José de Flores, in Varela in 1968. In that house, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born Dec. 17, 1936. Fr. Pozzoli baptized him 8 days after, in the Salesian Church ‘San Carlos’ in Almagro. “Pope Francis nurtured in the Salesian world, and he grabbed much of St. John Bosco spirit,” said Fr. Elio Cesari. In a 1990 letter contained in the book “Pope Francis and Fr. Bosco” by Fr. Alessandro Leòn, the then-Fr. Bergoglio recounted that he used to take part in the procession of Mary Auxiliatrix when he was a child and used to go to the oratory St. Francis of Sales, while he knew the Salesian confessors in San Carlo. Pope Francis also attended classes for one year in the Salesian College in the House of Ramos Mejia. In the letter, Bergoglio stressed that “through an awakening of conscience and of truth, the College created a ‘non-bigoted’ Catholic culture. Study, social values of coexistence, the social references to the needs of people, sport, competence, mercy…everything was real and everything contributed to raise up habits that shaped a cultural way of being.” This is also the reason why the mayor of Turin, Piero Fassino, gave to Pope Francis copies of 22 St. John Bosco autographed letters, reproduced on 19th century paper. The letters are part of a series of letters St. John Bosco addressed to Baron Feliciano Ricci des Ferres, an Italian Catholic noble strongly committed to social action, and a friend and benefactor of the saint. Fr. Enrico Stasi, inspector of the Salesian province of Piedmont, told CNA June 20 that “the connection between Pope Francis and the Salesians is strong.” “The Pope asks (us) to go to the peripheries, and St. John Bosco went to the peripheries to help young people and help them to learn a job. We took over his legacy.” Read more

Pope Francis reconnects with relatives in Turin

Turin, Italy, Jun 23, 2015 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his trip to Turin this week, Pope Francis visited his relatives and his ancestors’ parish, his father, an Italian emigrant to Argentina, having been baptized in the city. On June 21, he made a short visit to St. Teresa parish, where his grandparents were married in 1907, and his father baptized. He kissed the baptistery, recalling his grandparents and praying for families and the upcoming Synod on the Family, leaving behind a sheet of paper with brief reflections on the importance of the family. The following day, he met with six of his cousins and their families, some 30 persons in all. He said Mass for them in a chapel at the residence of the Torinese archbishop, after which they had lunch together. Pope Francis’ grandfather hailed from Portocomaro, a small town fewer than 45 miles southeast of Turin. The family settled in Portocomaro in the first half of the 18th century, when one of their ancestors bought the only house then extant in the town. In 1906, Giovanni Angelo Bergoglio, Pope Francis’ grandfather, moved to Turin looking for better opportunities, where he met Rosa Margherita Vassallo. The two were married Aug. 20, 1907, and the following year they baptized their first son, Mario. In 1929, they moved to Argentina. The Bergoglio’s first settled in Parana, and then moved to Buenos Aires. There, at a Salesian oratory, Mario met Maria Regina Sivori, and they were married in 1935. Jorge, their first son, was born the next year. Pope Francis was profoundly influenced by his grandmother Rosa. During his June 21 Mass, he quoted from the Piedmontese poem “Rassa nostrana” by Nino Costa, which Rosa had taught him in the local dialect. He has also mentioned his grandmother in his homily for Palm Sunday in 2013, and in homilies at his daily Masses. Rosa was a very religious woman, nurtured in the stimulating cultural environment of Turin. Her religiosity was filled with the example of the ‘saints of social action’, as many Catholic associations for women were flourishing in Turin while she lived there. In her spiritual testament, Rosa wrote: “May my grandsons, whom I gave the best of my heart, have a long and happy life. If one day pain, sickness or loss of a dear one will fill them with affliction, may they always remember that a breath in front of the Tabernacle, where the greatest and important martyr is secured, and a glance to Mary at the foot of the cross, can leave a drop of balsam on the deepest and most painful wounds.” Read more

Modern martyrs should inspire US Christians, archbishop says

Baltimore, Md., Jun 22, 2015 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The plight of persecuted religious believers overseas should inspire American Catholics and others to continue their defense of religious freedom at home, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore sa… Read more

A wish granted – Pope meets with young prisoners in Turin

Turin, Italy, Jun 22, 2015 / 02:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For Fr. Domenico Ricca, chaplain of the Ferrante Aporti juvenile prison in Turin, this weekend’s visit from Pope Francis was a dream come true. “I met Pope Francis two years ago, an… Read more


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