Vatican News

Eucharist is bread of sinners, not reward of saints, pope says

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

Pope Francis participates in adoration of the Eucharist during Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, Reuters pool)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People's hearts and the entire church must be wide open to wonder and devotion to Christ and ready to embrace everyone -- sinner and saint alike, Pope Francis said.

"The church of the perfect and pure is a room where there isn't a place for anyone; the church with open doors that celebrates around Christ is, on the other hand, a large hall where everyone -- the righteous and sinners -- can enter," the pope said in his homily during Mass June 6, to mark the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

"The Eucharist is meant to nourish those who are tired and hungry along the journey, let's not forget this!" he said during the early evening Mass, which was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica with about 200 people, who wore masks and maintained social distance.

It was the second year the Mass was held with a reduced congregation and without the traditional outdoor Corpus Christi procession afterward as part of the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The ceremony instead concluded with a long moment of silent eucharistic adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of the images presented in the reading from the Gospel of St. Mark which detailed Jesus' instructions for preparing and finding a place for Passover and the Lord's Supper.

Pope Francis said the image of a man carrying a jar of water reminds people that humanity is thirsty, "always seeking a source of water that satisfies and restores."

"All of us journey through life with a jar in our hands" as "each one of us is thirsty for love, joy, a successful life in a more humane world," he said, adding that only God can satisfy that real thirst for something more -- that hope in an eternal life that sustains people in life.

Because that thirst is often not acknowledged, with fewer people seeking or asking about God, Christians must evangelize, the pope said.

It is not enough for the church to be a small group "of the usual people who gather to celebrate the Eucharist. We have to go into the city, encounter people, learn to recognize and reawaken the thirst for God and yearning for the Gospel," he said. It will be that renewed thirst that brings people to the altar to encounter God in the Eucharist, he added.

The other important image is the grand upper room they find for the Passover meal, he said, a meal that will be significant because of a tiny morsel of bread.

"God makes himself small like a piece of bread," so humble, hidden and sometimes invisible, that it is necessary that one's heart be large, open and vigilant to recognize, welcome and adore him, the pope said.

"Instead, if our heart is less like a large room and more like storage closet where we regretfully keep old things, like an attic where we have long stored away our enthusiasm and dreams, like a cramped and dark room where we live alone, with ourselves, our problems and bitterness," he said, "then it will be impossible to recognize this silent and humble presence of God."

The church also must be a large, welcoming space, "not a small exclusive club, but a community with its arms wide open, welcoming to everyone," and willing to lead to Christ the wounded, the wayward and those who have done wrong, he said.

"To celebrate and live the Eucharist," he said, "we, too, are called to live this love, because you cannot break Sunday's bread if your heart is closed to others, you cannot eat this bread if you do not give the bread to the hungry, you cannot share this bread if you do not share the sufferings of those in need."

Earlier in the day, the pope greeted hundreds of people spread out in St. Peter's Square for the noon recitation of the Angelus prayer.

The Eucharist, he said, shows "the strength to love those who make mistakes" because Jesus gave the world the bread of life on the night he was betrayed.

Jesus reacts to the evil of Judas' betrayal with a greater good, responding to Judas' "no" with the "yes" of mercy, he said. "He does not punish the sinner, but rather gives his life for him, he pays for him."

"When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus does the same with us: he knows us; he knows we are sinners; he knows we make many mistakes, but he does not give up on joining his life to ours," the pope said. "He knows that we need it, because the Eucharist is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners. This is why he exhorts us: 'Do not be afraid! Take and eat.'"

Priesthood always involves closeness with the faithful, pope says

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

Pope Francis leads an audience June 7, 2021 at the Vatican with priests staying at the St. Louis of France residence for priests in Rome. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told a group of priests studying in Rome that if they do not want to be pastors, spending time with the faithful, they should request dismissal from the priesthood and concentrate on academics instead.

"Be pastors with the scent of your sheep, persons able to live, laugh and cry with your people -- in other words, to communicate with them," the pope told the priests June 7.

The priests, who are studying at pontifical universities in Rome, live at the city's St. Louis of France residence.

The priesthood cannot be understood without its essential connection to "the holy people of God," the pope told them. "The ministerial priesthood is a consequence of the baptismal priesthood of the holy faithful people of God."

"If you think of a priesthood isolated from the people of God, that is not a Catholic priesthood," he said. A Catholic priest puts God and God's people at the center of his daily concerns, setting aside self-interest and "dreams of greatness."

"To put God's holy faithful people at the center, you must be a pastor," he said.

A priest who would say, "No, I would like to be an intellectual only, not a pastor," would be better off asking for "a reduction to the lay state," the pope said. "But if you are a priest, be a pastor."

Obviously, there are many ways to be a pastor, he said, but all those ways involve being "in the midst of God's people."

During the ongoing year dedicated to St. Joseph, Pope Francis asked the priests "to rediscover the face of this man of faith, this tender father, a model of fidelity and trusting abandonment to God's plan."

St. Joseph is a reminder that "having faith in God also includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties, our weaknesses," he said. "We must not leave frailty aside: it is a theological place."

"My fragility, the fragility of each one of us, is a theological place of encounter with the Lord. The 'superman' priests end up badly, all of them," Pope Francis said. "The fragile priest, who knows his weaknesses and talks about them with the Lord, he will be fine."

To be the "apostles of joy" that the church and its people need, priests also must have a sense of humor, he said, and they must cultivate gratitude for being called to serve people and the church.

Dignity comes from work, not money, pope tells young people

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

Pope Francis touches a pregnant woman's womb during an audience with representatives of "Progetto Policoro," an employment initiative of the Italian bishops' conference, at the Vatican June 5, 2021. The initiative helps young people, primarily in southern Italy, find work. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Promoting employment is a key part of promoting and protecting human dignity, especially the dignity of young men and women, Pope Francis said.

"It is a problem of dignity," the pope said June 5 during a meeting with young people and representatives commemorating the 25th anniversary of the "Progetto Policoro," an initiative of the Italian bishops' conference that helps young people find employment.

"The dignity of the person does not come from money, it does not come from the things one knows, it comes from work," he said. "Work is an anointing of dignity. Whoever does not work is not worthy."

Founded in 1995 in the town of Policoro by Father Mario Operti, the initiative was meant to be a "concrete response to the problem of unemployment in Italy," the project's website says.

The goal of the "Progetto Policoro" is "to address the problem of youth unemployment by initiating training programs for a new work culture, by promoting and supporting youth entrepreneurship within the scope of subsidiarity, solidarity and legality according to the principles of the church's social doctrine," it said.

In his address, the pope said the initiative "has been and is a sign of hope, especially for so many territories in southern Italy that either lack work or exploit workers."

"Sharing, fraternity, gratuitousness and sustainability are the pillars on which to base a different economy," he said. "It is a dream that requires audacity because the bold are the ones who change the world and make it better. It is not voluntarism: it is faith, because true novelty always comes from the hands of God. This is what it means to animate."

Young people also must show older generations what it means to "inhabit the world without trampling on it," he continued.

While many young people might be tempted to move away to find better opportunities, the pope urged them to "love the areas where God has placed you and avoid the temptation to flee elsewhere."

The pope also noted that the unemployment crisis has led to a demographic "winter" in which many young people, especially women, find themselves denied of employment opportunities if they are expecting a child.

"You have to react against this," the pope said. "Let young people start to dream, to be parents, to have children. And for that, let them have jobs. Work is a bit of a guarantee of this future."

Young people must be "passionate" about not only their own futures, but also in helping "other young people to take their lives into their own hands," he said. "Do not be afraid to lend yourselves, even gratuitously, to uplift the lives of those who are discarded. Go to the peripheries to find the rejected."

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Pope leads prayers for Indigenous children who died in Canadian schools

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

A child's red dress hangs on a stake near the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School June 6, 2021. The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found at the site in May in Kamloops, British Columbia. Pope Francis expressed his sorrow at the discovery of the remains at the school, which was run from 1890-1969 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. (CNS photo/Jennifer Gauthier, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis led hundreds of pilgrims and visitors in St. Peter's Square in a moment of silent prayer for the Indigenous children who died in Canadian residential schools and for their grieving families.

After praying the Angelus June 6, the pope told the crowd, "With sorrow I am following the news from Canada about the shocking discovery of the remains of 215 children, pupils at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Province of British Columbia."

"I join the Canadian bishops and the whole Catholic Church in Canada in expressing my closeness to the Canadian people who have been traumatized by this shocking news," the pope said. "This sad discovery further heightens awareness of the pain and sufferings of the past."

The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported May 30 that using ground-penetrating radar an estimated 215 bodies had been found in unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The school opened in 1890 and, on behalf of the Canadian federal government, was run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate until 1969. After that, the federal government took over the administration and ran the facility as a residential building for students at day schools. It was closed in 1978.

Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has been studying the residential-school system as part of a broader look at the treatment of the nation's Indigenous communities, has records of 51 children dying at the Kamloops school, according to information posted on the website of the Oblates' Lacombe province.

"At this point, there is not a clear explanation" as to why an estimated 215 bodies were discovered there, the OMI website said. "Clearly there is a significant discrepancy between their records and what was found by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. We will continue to work with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, through the RBCM (Royal British Columbia Museum), who curate our archives, in the search of understanding this distressing discrepancy."

The Oblates said that while the Anglican, United (Methodist) and Presbyterian churches ran some of the 130 Indian Residential Schools in Canada, more than 70 of them were run by Catholic orders with the Oblates administering the majority of them.

In 2015, Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon Pope Francis to visit Canada and make a formal apology to Indigenous survivors, their families and communities for the abuse suffered in Catholic-run residential schools.

During a visit to Bolivia in 2015, Pope Francis issued an apology to all the Indigenous peoples of the Americas for abuses suffered.

During a meeting at the Vatican in 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally asked Pope Francis to help Canadians "move forward on a real reconciliation" with the country's Indigenous people "by issuing an apology" on behalf of the Catholic Church for its role in harming their communities.

Trudeau, speaking to reporters June 4, complained that the Catholic Church had not acted swiftly enough and even seemed to be hiding information. "As a Catholic," he said, "I am deeply disappointed by the position the Catholic Church has taken now and over the past many years."

At his Sunday Angelus appointment, Pope Francis prayed that "the political and religious authorities in Canada" would "continue to work together with determination to shed light on this sad event and humbly commit themselves to a path of healing and reconciliation."

The discovery of the bodies, he said, shows a need to turn away from every form of colonization and instead "walk side by side in dialogue, mutual respect and recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada."

"We commend to the Lord the souls of all the children who have died in the Canadian residential schools," he said, "and we pray for the grief-stricken Indigenous families and communities of Canada."

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