Vatican News

All of life should be journey toward God, pope says at memorial Mass

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in memory of cardinals and bishops who died in the past year. The Mass was Nov. 4, 2019, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-MASS-MEMORIAL Nov. 4, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus invites everyone to always go to him, which, Pope Francis said, also means no longer making life revolve around oneself.

"What direction is my journey going? Do I only try to make a good impression, to protect my position, my time and my space or do I go to the Lord?" he asked during a memorial Mass for the 13 cardinals and 147 bishops who died over the preceding year.

Celebrating Mass Nov. 4 in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope reflected in his homily on God's will that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life and be raised on their last day.

In the day's Gospel reading, Jesus says, "I will not reject anyone who comes to me."

Jesus extends this invitation -- "Come to me," so people may be "inoculated against death, against the fear that everything ends," the pope said.

Going to Jesus means living each moment of the day in ways that put him at the center -- with one's thoughts, one's prayers and one's actions, particularly by helping someone in need.

He said people must ask themselves, "Do I live going to the Lord or do I revolve around myself," only being happy when things go well for oneself and complaining when they do not.

"You cannot belong to Jesus and revolve around yourself. Whoever belongs to Jesus lives going outward toward him," he said.

"Today, while we pray for our brother cardinals and bishops who have left this life to go encounter the Risen One, we cannot forget the most important and difficult way out, which gives meaning to all the others, is (going out) of ourselves," he said.

The bridge between life on earth and eternal life in heaven, he said, is to show compassion and "to kneel before those in need to serve them."

"It is not (having) a bleeding heart, it is not cheap charity; these are questions of life, matters of resurrection," he said.

It would do people well, he added, to think about what the Lord will see in them on judgment day.

People can find guidance when making an important decision in life by seeing things from the Lord's perspective -- what fruits resulted from which seeds or choices made today.

"Among the many voices of the world that make us lose the meaning of existence, let us tune in to the will of Jesus, resurrected and alive."

If church does not evangelize, it will decay, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis meets indigenous people from the Amazonian region during the second week of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 17, 2019. In an excerpt of a new book-length interview published Nov. 4, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must follow Jesus' command to preach the Gospel to every person, otherwise it will not fulfill its mission of bearing witness to Christ. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-MISSIONARY-BOOK Nov. 4, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must follow Jesus' command to preach the Gospel to every person, otherwise it will not fulfill its mission of bearing witness to Christ, Pope Francis said.

In an excerpt of a new book-length interview published Nov. 4 by Fides, news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the pope said the phrase he uses -- "a church on the move" -- is not meant to be a "fashionable expression" but a summary of the church's mission.

"The church is either on the move or she is not (the) church. Either she evangelizes or she is not (the) church. If the church is not on the move, she decays, she becomes something else," he said.

The book, titled "Without Him, We Can Do Nothing: a Conversation About Being Missionaries in Today's World," will be released in Italian bookstores Nov. 5. It was written by Gianni Valente, a journalist for Fides.

Reflecting on evangelization, the pope said that to evangelize means to deliver Christ's teachings "in simple and precise words like the apostles did" without the need to "invent persuasive discourses."

"The proclamation of the Gospel can even be whispered, but it always passes through the overwhelming power of the scandal of the cross. And it has always followed the path indicated in the letter of the apostle Peter, which consists in simply 'providing reasons' of one's hope to others, a hope that remains a scandal and foolishness in the eyes of the world," he said.

True missionaries, he said, act as "facilitators and not as controllers of the faith."

Facilitators, he explained, make things easier without "placing obstacles to Jesus' desire to embrace everyone, to heal everyone, to save everyone, not being selective, not imposing 'pastoral tariffs,' not playing the part of the guard at the door controlling who has the right to enter."

Asked regarding missionaries of the past and debates that arose regarding "who was worthy to receive baptism," Pope Francis said that, in the 16th century, Pope Paul III rejected those who theorized that indigenous people "were by nature 'incapable' of accepting the Gospel."

However, even today, there are "circles and sectors that present themselves as enlightened and even (seize) the proclamation of the Gospel through their distorted reasoning that divides the world between 'civilized' and 'barbaric,'" he said.

The pope said that this form of thinking was prevalent among those who criticized the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

"They consider a large part of the human family as if they were a lower-class entity, unable to achieve decent levels in spiritual and intellectual life according to their standards. On this basis, contempt can develop for people considered to be second rate," he said.

Pope Francis said that Christianity "does not embrace only one cultural model." Citing St. John Paul II, he said that while the church remains true to itself in proclaiming the Gospel and preserving its traditions, "Christianity will also reflect the different faces of the cultures and peoples in which it is received and takes root."

While some cultures are closely linked to the proclamation of the Gospel and the development of Christian thought, he added, Christians must keep in the mind that the divine revelation "is not identified with a particular culture."

"When meeting new cultures, or cultures that have not accepted the Christian proclamation, we must not try to impose a determined cultural form," Pope Francis said. "Today, in missionary work as well, it is even more important not to carry heavy baggage."

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Catholic universities must educate minds and hearts, pope says

By Paige Hanley Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Universities must find ways to educate the "hearts and consciences" of students in an age of increasing technological advancement and shifting societal demands, Pope Francis said.

The challenges arising from development in science and technology and the needs of society "invite academic institutions to provide appropriate and up-to-date responses," the pope told people attending a convention of the International Federation of Catholic Universities.

The convention was held Nov. 4-5 in Rome and drew leaders of Catholic universities together to discuss the concurring transformations of society and the university.

The conference theme -- "New frontiers for university leaders. The future of health and the university ecosystem" -- calls attention to the ongoing responsibility of universities to advance both individual education and the universal needs of humanity, Pope Francis said.

Rectors and professors, he said, must prepare "new generations to become not only qualified professionals in various disciplines, but also proponents of the common good, creative and responsible leaders in social and civil life with a proper vision of the person and the world."

"Old and new problems must be studied in their specificity and immediacy, but always within a personal and global perspective," the pope said.

Complex new problems require complex solutions and that will mean promoting interdisciplinary approaches, international cooperation and sharing of resources, he said.

While academic studies have focused on the impersonal and objective nature of knowledge, today "many authors stress that completely impersonal experiences do not exist," he noted. Universities are, therefore, challenged to find ways to connect that search for knowledge to students' experience, creativity and perception of the world.

"The ecosystem of universities," he said, "develops when every member of the university, by focusing on the whole person, cultivates a particular awareness of the context in which people live and grow and of all that contributes to their advancement."

Having greater knowledge means having a greater obligation to serve others, the pope said. And when a university community claims a Christian inspiration, that responsibility is even greater.


In time of crisis, church must be renewed, U.S. archbishop says

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Reed of Boston and other U.S. bishops from the New England states walk in procession after concelebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome Nov. 4, 2019. The bishops were making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses to Pope Francis and Vatican officials. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See BISHOPS-NEW-ENGLAND-MASS Nov. 4, 2019.

ROME (CNS) -- At times of great crisis in the Catholic Church, God intervened to renew it through the example and witness of saints, said Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut.

"We feel very keenly today, all of us, the weight of human sinfulness, of infidelity, of scandal, of the sin that weighs down the church," Archbishop Blair said in his homily Nov. 4 during a Mass at the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Nevertheless, he said, the life and example of St. Charles Borromeo, who was among the saints who spearheaded the Counter-Reformation, is "a model of faith" that bishops can look to be inspired to find "courage, hope and joy."

Archbishop Blair was the principal celebrant and homilist of the first Mass that the bishops of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont celebrated during their visits "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles.

The New England group was the first of 15 U.S. groups to make their visits to Rome and the Vatican in 2019-2020. The U.S. bishops' last ad limina visits were eight years ago -- in 2011-2012.

While the visits are filled with meetings with various offices of the Roman Curia, the "Directory for the 'Ad Limina' Visit" makes clear that the ad liminas are a pilgrimage first of all.

The purpose of the bishop's pilgrimage, the directory states, is "the strengthening of their own responsibility as successors of the Apostles and of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter. The point of reference is a visit to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, pastors and pillars of the Roman church."

On the first day of their pilgrimage, the New England bishops celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Rome basilica that houses the Marian icon "Salus Populi Romani" (health of the Roman people).

In his homily, Archbishop Blair reflected on the day's memorial of St. Charles Borromeo and read a description of the saint by Bishop Antonio Seneca of Anagni, Italy, who had lived in the same house with him.

St. Charles, the archbishop read, was "vigilant in rooting out vice, benevolent in correction, just in judgment, loving in punishment, patient of human weakness, quick to avenge disobedience, his justice was united with kindness, his severity with gentleness and peace. He was a diligent guardian of wholesome discipline both in priests and people."

Archbishop Blair said that the Italian bishop's description of the saint "took place in a church that had seemed to be failing, really failing."

Recalling his years working at the Vatican Secretariat of State -- from 1994 to 1997 -- Archbishop Blair noted that the English section is located in an area known as the Borgia tower, where among the rooms is the apartment of Giovanni Borgia, the murdered son of Pope Alexander VI.

When the sins of those called to lead the church became more widely known, Archbishop Blair said, "it was a time of utter pain for the church and one might wonder how the church would ever get itself out of such a mess."

Yet, decades after the death of the pope's son, St. Charles Borromeo "inhabited that very same room," he said. "The plea of God's people -- that the church be constantly renewed, and (that) by conforming itself to the likeness of Christ may show his face to the world -- that prayer was answered."

In the day's reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, the archbishop noted, the apostle tells the Christian community that "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

"By (St. Charles') very existence, in the midst of all that was going on in those days, truly the words of St. Paul were fulfilled with God's irrevocable call," Archbishop Blair said.

"I will close with one saying ascribed to St. Charles Borromeo that is perhaps the most important for us," he said: "Souls are won on one's knees. And we need to be men of faith and of prayer."

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