Vatican News

Different clicks, same prayer: Pope asks Catholics to pray the rosary

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis prays the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love in Rome in this May 1, 2018, file photo. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See VATICAN-LETTER-POPE-ROSARY Oct. 15, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Told that some people think Pope Francis isn't exactly a fan of the rosary, Jesuit Father Federic Fornos practically shouted, "What?"

"Pope Francis says the rosary is the prayer of his heart. He prays it every day," said the international director of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, formerly known as the Apostleship of Prayer.

Father Fornos was at the Vatican press office Oct. 15 to launch the latest effort to respond to what he said was Pope Francis' explicit request that the network help young people learn to pray and love the rosary.

The Click to Pray eRosary is both a free app for Apple and Android and an actual high-tech rosary bracelet that connects to a smartphone using Bluetooth. Making the sign of the cross with the rosary automatically opens the app on the phone, while clicking one of the prayer beads allows the person praying to advance through the prayer texts, music and images on the screen.

Father Joao Chagas, head of the youth office at the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the app -- described on -- is "a concrete sign of the pope's desire to enter the lives of young people and help them pray."

Pope Francis' big push to get young people to pray the rosary came in the run-up to and the celebration of World Youth Day in Panama in January, Father Fornos said. Hundreds of thousands of rosaries were distributed to the young people taking part.

But the pope has not let up. Speaking to Polish pilgrims at his weekly general audience Oct. 9, Pope Francis reminded them that when Mary appeared to two young women in Gietrzwald, Poland, in 1877, she told them, "Pray the rosary every day" and, the pope said, "she assured them that the graces imparted by this prayer would be salvific and would lead people to happiness in heaven."

"Remember these words, especially now, in the month of October dedicated to the rosary," the pope continued. "Through the intercession of Mary, mediator of graces, we ask for peace for the world, wisdom for those who govern and for faith and unity for families."

Marking the month of the rosary in 2017, Pope Francis tweeted: "The rosary is a synthesis of the mysteries of Christ: we contemplate them with Mary, who allows us to see with her eyes of faith and love."

But his admonitions to pray the rosary were particularly fervent in October 2018 when the Catholic Church was reeling from accusations about clerical sexual abuse and, particularly, its cover-up.

Pope Francis asked Catholics last year to pray the rosary each day in October, asking Mary to protect the church and make it more aware of its "sins, errors and the abuses committed in the present and the past, and committed to fighting without hesitation so that evil would not prevail."

Turning to Mary in times of trouble should be as natural as turning to one's earthly mother when things look grim, he has said.

Celebrating the feast of Mary's assumption into heaven Aug. 15, Pope Francis told people that the feast is a reminder that, in heaven, "there is a mother who waits for us, and she is our mother. She loves us, she smiles at us and she rescues us with great care."

"Like every mother, she wants the best for her children and tells us, 'You are precious in the eyes of God. You were not made for the little gratifications of this world, but for the great joys of heaven,'" he said.

"Let's allow the Mother of God to take us by the hand," the pope said. "Every time that we pick up the rosary and pray, we take a step forward toward the great goal of life," which is to be with God for eternity.

The pope also has let the rosary speak for itself, such as when he went to Rome's Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love May 1, 2018. Greeting the crowds gathered outside the shrine's original little church, the pope said little more than: "Let's pray together. I'll see you later, but let's pray, OK?"

Then he went inside, recited the rosary with a few dozen people and came back outside to recite one more Hail Mary with the crowd and give them his blessing.

In Pope Francis' descriptions of her, Mary is the ideal disciple: full of faith, willing to take risks and ready to set out at a moment's notice.

The Gospel description of her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth says, "She set off in haste."

At the end of a Marian procession and recitation of the rosary in the Vatican Gardens in 2014, Pope Francis said Mary, "the virgin of haste," is "always ready to come to our aid when we pray to her, when we ask her help, her protection."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden


Jesus does not tolerate hypocrisy, pope says

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis gives the homily as he celebrates morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, at the Vatican Oct. 15, 2019. The pope, in his homily, said Christians must avoid hypocrisy by scrutinizing and acknowledging their own faults and sins. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-HOMILY-HYPOCRISY Oct. 15, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus enjoys unmasking hypocrisy, which is the work of the devil, Pope Francis said.

Christians, in fact, must learn to avoid hypocrisy by scrutinizing and acknowledging their own personal faults, failings and sins, he said Oct. 15 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"A Christian who does not know how to accuse himself is not a good Christian," he said.

The pope focused his homily on the day's Gospel reading (Lk 11:37-41) in which Jesus criticizes his host for being concerned only with outward appearances and superficial rituals, saying, "although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil."

Pope Francis said the reading shows how much Jesus does not tolerate hypocrisy, which, the pope said, "is appearing one way but being something else" or hiding what one really thinks.

When Jesus calls the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs" and hypocrites, these words are not insults but the truth, the pope said.

"On the outside you are perfect, strait-laced actually, with decorum, but inside you are something else," he said.

"Hypocritical behavior comes from the great liar, the devil," who is a huge hypocrite himself, the pope said, and he makes those like him on earth his "heirs."

"Hypocrisy is the language of the devil; it is the language of evil that enters our heart and is sown by the devil. You can't live with hypocritical people, but they exist," the pope said.

"Jesus likes to unmask hypocrisy," he said. "He knows it will be precisely this behavior that leads to his death because the hypocrite does not think about using legitimate means or not, he plows ahead: slander? 'Let's use slander.' False witness? 'Let's look for an untruthful witness.'"  

Hypocrisy, the pope said, is common "in the battle for power, for example, (with) envy, jealousies that make you appear to be one way and inside there is poison for killing because hypocrisy always kills, sooner or later, it kills."

The only "medicine" to cure hypocritical behavior is to tell the truth before God and take responsibility for oneself, the pope said.

"We have to learn to accuse ourselves, 'I did this, I think this way, badly. I am envious. I want to destroy that one,'" he said.

People need to reflect on "what is inside of us" to see the sin, hypocrisy and "the wickedness that is in our heart" and "to say it before God" with humility, he said.

Pope Francis asked people to learn from St. Peter, who implored, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."

"May we learn to accuse ourselves, us, our own self," he said.


Syriac Catholic patriarch pleads for peace in northeastern Syria

By Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters raise the Syrian opposition flag at the border town of Tel Abyad, Syria, Oct. 14, 2019. (CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters) See SYRIA-YOUNAN-PEACE Oct. 14, 2019.

ROME (CNS) -- The patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church pleaded for "immediate and lasting peace in northeastern Syria and the preservation of innocent lives, especially for Christians, who are the original and founding component of Syria."

Celebrating Mass Oct. 13 in the patriarchal Church of the Virgin Mary in Rome in the presence of people uprooted over the years from Syria and Iraq, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said, "We Christians of the East are neglected and abandoned by this world, which searches for its immediate material interests."

As fighting between Kurdish forces and the Turkish army continued following the offensive launched by Turkey into northeastern Syria Oct. 9, the patriarch said, "We know that those who will pay the price are particularly innocent, especially Christians who cannot defend themselves, while Christians believe that the world around them, especially the powerful, exploits them and does not think of them, as if they are the scum of this world."

Making an "urgent appeal in this Mass," Patriarch Younan said he was uniting with Pope Francis "and all the church pastors around the world, in order to bring immediate and lasting peace" in northeastern Syria and throughout the country and "to preserve the lives of innocent people and the safety of all those who suffer."

"The path of our cross has been going on for many years in Iraq, and today in Syria we continue to suffer from terrorist attacks, acts of violence, blind religious and sectarian fanaticism, and thus we are displaced, uprooted and annihilated," the patriarch stressed.

"Our Christian people find no solution other than to leave their land and that of their fathers and grandfathers and emigrate," he said.

Many of the Christians of northeastern Syria as well as Iraq are descendants of victims of the Turkish genocide. Patriarch Younan was born in Hassakeh, Syria, an area now at risk. His parents and grandmothers fled southeast Turkey in 1918.

In his homily, Patriarch Younan urged the faithful to "remain strong by faith and hope" together on the path "whose dark tunnel extends more and more."


Indigenous woman brings message from her elders to pope as church elder

By Barbara J. Fraser Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser

Anitalia Pijachi, a member of the Ocaina Huitoto indigenous group from Colombia and an observer at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, is pictured Oct. 11, 2019, near the Vatican. She said she agreed to participate in the synod to carry a message from the elders of her people to the elder of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser). See SYNOD-PIJACHI Oct. 14, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Anitalia Pijachi, an indigenous woman from the Amazonian town of Leticia, Colombia, came to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon bringing a message from the elders of her people to Pope Francis, an elder of the Catholic Church.

The first Europeans to arrive in the Amazon were "invaders," she said. "They never asked permission of mother nature or of the people who lived there. They imposed the cross and the Bible. That caused a great deal of resentment," and in some cases forced indigenous peoples from their territories.

But when the pope, during his 2018 visit to Peru, asked Amazonian people to tell the church how it should walk with them, "that was a question that asked permission," she told Catholic News Service.

Pijachi, an Ocaina Huitoto woman who is not Catholic, said that when she heard that, she spoke to the elders of her people, who approved of her participation in presynod gatherings as long as the church respected indigenous cultures.

"The elders said that first the Catholic Church and all churches must recognize us as having a right to our own culture and customs, our own spirituality," she added. "They must not impose themselves and change" those beliefs.

For many indigenous peoples, evangelization meant relocation from their territories to church-run communities known as reductions, as well as the loss of their languages and traditions, she said. "The pain is alive and still there."

The culture and spirituality of Amazonian indigenous people remain strong "as long as we have our territory, our rivers, our sacred places, food and our seeds, the elements of our rituals," Pijachi said.

She said she sees the synod as an opportunity to talk with "a great friend, a great elder, (Pope) Francis, who can carry our voice" to places where it otherwise would not be heard.

Environmental destruction by extractive industries such as logging, mining and oil companies has been a recurring theme in the synod.

"The people who come to extract (natural resources) don't live there," Pijachi said. "They live in Europe; they live in mansions in the big cities. All they're interested in is money."

The damage to the environment "is a spiritual death and a cultural death" for indigenous people, she said, adding that some whose actions or policies result in destruction are Catholic.

"The same person who received first Communion, who was married in the church, is the one who is cutting down the forest, who does not understand respect for creation," she said. "The same one who was baptized, who went to confession, who received Communion, who goes to Mass on Sunday is the governor of a state and pays no attention" to how public policies affect people.

"I asked (the bishops), 'Is that important to you?'" she said. Pijachi addressed the synod assembly Oct. 9.

As an indigenous woman, Pijachi said, she also called for church leaders to listen to women.

During the first days of the synod, when she heard bishops refer to the "holy mother church," the words reminded Pijachi of the "maloka," the spacious, round-sided communal building where her people gather for special occasions.

The maloka, she said, "is the woman, the womb that brings her children together, the place of abundance."

Although many synod participants spoke of the important pastoral work done by women, some remained reluctant to give women a larger role, she said. That is partly because some bishops do not understand the reality of ministry in the Amazon, she added.

A priest must administer the sacrament of the sick, for example, but where there is no priest, parents will ask a religious sister to bless a dying child. She has seen sisters telephone a priest to give the blessing by phone.

"I believe it is very important that the synod give women a place in decision-making (and) the autonomy to act," she said.

"I reminded the men that they do not have to be afraid of us," Pijachi said. "The only way a man can be born is if he comes from a woman. Before he saw the light of day, he was born through a woman's vagina."

"So why, after I gave him life, I who am his mother, why does he reject me and send me off to a corner?" she asked.

In her people's creation story, Pijachi said she told the bishops, "God put man and woman together in the world ... to walk together." If the two are not working in harmony, one indigenous elder told her, "it's like walking with only one leg."


Ministry, ecology, mission are main themes at synod's first week

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/David Agren

Jesuit Father Alfredo Ferro celebrates Mass July 14, 2019, in the indigenous community of Nazaret, Colombia. The first week of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon saw support for the priestly ordination of married indigenous men, impassioned pleas for respect for indigenous culture and denunciations of violence against the Earth. (CNS photo/David Agren) See SYNOD-FIRST-ROUNDUP Oct. 14, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The first week of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon saw support for the priestly ordination of married indigenous men, impassioned pleas for respect for indigenous culture and denunciations of violence against the earth.

In synod working sessions Oct. 7-12, more than 90 voting members of the synod addressed the assembly and 20 observers, special guests and delegates from other Christian churches made their interventions. The Vatican synod hall is hosting 185 voting members, 25 experts, 55 observers, six delegates from other Christian communities and 12 special guests who are experts on various topics the synod is discussing.

Except for the formal introductions to the synod's work Oct. 7 and Pope Francis' remarks on the occasion, the Vatican has released no texts from the synod. Instead, the press office is distributing twice daily summaries from Vatican News and invites three or four synod participants to meet the press each day during the midday break.

From the summaries and the comments of briefing participants, the main discussion topics can be grouped as: ministries in the church; destruction of the environment; ending violence against people and the environment in the region; indigenous rights and culture; evangelization and mission; and migration, including the move of indigenous people from villages to cities.

Before the talks began, Pope Francis told participants the gathering would have "four dimensions: the pastoral dimension, the cultural dimension, the social dimension and the ecological dimension," but that the pastoral would be primary because the church's ministry to people of the region includes all the religious, social, cultural and environmental realities impacting them.

The topic of ministries included how candidates for the priesthood are identified and trained, the need to expand use of the permanent diaconate, the possibility of ordaining married indigenous elders -- the so-called "viri probati" or men of proven virtue -- and support for some official recognition of the ministerial service of women, especially in the Amazon, including the possibility of women deacons.

Retired Bishop Erwin Krautler of Xingu, Brazil, told reporters Oct.9 that he believed that of "the bishops who are in the Amazon region, two-thirds are in favor of the 'viri probati.'"

Most of the Vatican News synod summaries included mention of the dramatic lack of access to the Eucharist in Amazonian communities because of a lack of priests and, therefore, about suggestions for ordaining married men who already are recognized leaders -- both socially and religiously -- in their communities.

The summary for the evening discussion Oct. 12, however, seemed to indicate that as synod members discussed "viri probati" more in depth, there was an examination of the challenges the practice could raise.

"Some contributions highlighted that the lack of vocations is not particular to the Amazon," which led to the question of why an exception to mandatory celibacy for most Latin-rite priests should be given only for one region of the world.

At least one participant suggested the ordination of "viri probati" should be the subject of a future synod.

Others used the discussion to highlight the important sign and witness of celibacy, especially at a time when "today's world sees celibacy as the last rampart to be demolished using the pressure of a hedonistic and secular culture. It is, therefore, necessary to carry out an attentive reflection on the value of a celibate priesthood," the summary said.

The same summary indicated the discussion continued and included the value of have men from a community ordained for that community as part of what many synod members described as a "ministry of presence" rather than a "ministry of visit," where a priest comes once a month or twice a year to celebrate the sacraments.

"It was also suggested," the summary said, "that the synod could lay the foundation for this new step forward in faith in the Holy Spirit, which must be stronger than the fear of making a mistake."

Over and over, synod members heard of the important role women in the Amazon play as community leaders, catechists, prayer leaders, evangelists and protectors of creation. Repeated calls were made to institute formal recognition of their role in the church, perhaps including the diaconate.

But more immediately, many synod participants continued the call for a change in women's roles within the synod itself, noting that while a non-ordained religious brother could be a voting member of the synod, none of the religious sisters could be.

Some of Pope Francis' strongest words at the synod, both in his public opening talk and again Oct. 9, according to one participant, were focused on the respect due to indigenous culture and his disappointment at sarcastic or stereotypical remarks about indigenous clothing and prayer at the synod itself.

But synod members, according to the summaries, went further, asserting that since "the church considers with benevolence everything that is not tied to superstition," studies should be made of the various cultural expressions and rituals used throughout the region at liturgies and in connection with baptisms, marriages and ordinations with the aim of developing an "Amazonian rite" for Catholics in the region.

Of course, in the first week many synod members focused on the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest and the pollution of its waters with chemicals from the mining and gas industries. And at least one member said Catholics in general need more education about how "ecological sins" -- from littering to large-scale pollution -- are sins "against God, against one's neighbor and against future generations."

Several synod participants highlighted the need for the church to encourage and support young people, especially as they champion the cause of safeguarding creation, God's gift to humanity and to future generations.

The Amazon as a "land of migrations" also came up repeatedly as something calling for the church's response on both a humanitarian and missionary level. People who feel forced to leave their homes because of violence, poverty or a lack of education and opportunity need material aid and support in maintaining their faith and culture.

Throughout the synod, the summaries said, participants called for renewed forms of evangelization and missionary work in ways that respect indigenous culture but share with the people the good news of salvation in Christ.

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