Vatican News

Learn from St. John Paul, pope tells young people

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Holy See Press Office

Pope Francis speaks from the Vatican in this image taken from a video message to young people of the Archdiocese of Krakow, Poland, commemorating the 100th anniversary of St. John Paul's birth. (CNS photo/Holy See Press Office) See JP2-POPE-YOUTH May 19, 2020.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Young men and women today can learn from the example of St. John Paul II, who proved that life's difficulties are not an obstacle to holiness and happiness.

Despite losing his mother, father and brother at a young age and experiencing the atrocities of Nazism and atheistic communism, St. John Paul passed the "test of maturity and faith" and chose to rely "on the power of Christ, who died and rose again," the pope said in a May 18 video message to young people in Poland.

The message, which was sent to mark the 100th anniversary of St. John Paul's birth, was addressed to young people of the Archdiocese of Krakow, where then-Cardinal Wojtyla served as archbishop from 1964 until his election to the papacy in 1978.

The centennial celebration, the pope said, was a "beautiful opportunity" to address young people whom St. John Paul "loved very much."

"St. John Paul II was an extraordinary gift of God to the church and to Poland, your homeland," he said. "His earthly pilgrimage, which began on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice and ended 15 years ago in Rome, was marked by a passion for life and a fascination for the mystery of God, the world and man."

Recalling St. John Paul's 1980 encyclical "Dives in Misericordia" ("Rich in Mercy"), as well as his canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska and his institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said he remembered his predecessor "as a great one of mercy."

"In the light of God's merciful love, he grasped the specificity and beauty of the vocation of women and men; he understood the needs of children, young people and adults, taking into consideration cultural and social conditions," he said.

Pope Francis called on young people to use today's technology to learn about St. John Paul, his life and his teachings, and he expressed his hope that, like the Polish saint, they may "enter into Christ with your whole life."

"I hope that the celebrations of the centenary of St. John Paul II's birth will inspire in you the desire to walk courageously with Jesus, who is 'the Lord of risk, the Lord of the eternal 'more,'" the pope said.

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St. Peter's Basilica reopens to the public

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

A man has his temperature checked before entering St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 18, 2020, after the basilica reopened to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters) See COVID-STPETER-OPEN May 18, 2020.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Almost 10 weeks after St. Peter's Basilica was closed to the public in cooperation with Italy's COVID-19 lockdown measures, the faithful and tourists were allowed back in May 18.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at 7 a.m. at the tomb of St. John Paul II to mark the 100th anniversary of the Polish pope's birth. Then, at 8 a.m., the general public was admitted.

The basilica was sanitized May 15 in preparation for the reopening. It had been closed to the public since March 10.

On the edge of St. Peter's Square, a sign advises visitors they must wear a mask and stay 2 meters (6.5 feet) away from others in order to enter the basilica.

The Vatican sanitation service placed hand-sanitizer dispensers at the end of the colonnade surrounding St. Peter's Square. From there, the public finds "keep your distance" labels and tape on the cobblestone path leading to the health and security checks before entering the basilica.

At the end of the path, two members of the Knights of Malta dressed in white, lightweight hazmat suits point a small thermoscanner at the visitor's forehead. If the person does not have a fever, he or she can proceed to the line for the metal detectors.

After the security check and before entering the church, visitors find another hand-sanitizer dispenser.

While many of the people attending the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis were not wearing masks, once the celebration was over, Vatican security began enforcing the face-mask requirement and breaking up any situation where it looked like people were standing close to each other to talk, including journalists trying to interview some of the first people inside.

Vatican Media did not show people receiving Communion at the pope's Mass. For the Masses celebrated later that morning, Communion was distributed only in the hand.

Vatican workers with large spray bottles resanitized the altars and pews where Masses were celebrated with the public.

Except for the expanded space needed for the line for security checks, St. Peter's Square remained closed.


Vatican listens to 'cry of poor, cry of the Earth' during pandemic

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

This is the prayer card the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development published to mark the fifth anniversary May 24 of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si' on Care for Our Common Home." (CNS photo/Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development) See COVID-VATICAN-COMMISSION May 18, 2020.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' vision of "integral human development" and "integral ecology" involves identifying the connections between the condition of human beings and the condition of the environment, said Cardinal Peter Turkson.

While Christians are right to be increasingly focused on "the cry of the Earth" and how environmental destruction impacts human life, with the COVID-19 pandemic "we must listen to the cry of the poor," especially those risking starvation, the unemployed and migrants and refugees, said Cardinal Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Cardinal Turkson is coordinating the work of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission and led an online news conference May 15 to discuss the commission's progress.

"In one of the last meetings we had with Pope Francis, he asked us to 'prepare the future,' not 'prepare for the future,' but prepare it, anticipate it," the cardinal said.

"Hardly any aspect of human life and culture is left unscathed" by the virus and efforts to stop its spread, the cardinal said. "Covid-19 started as a health care issue, but it has affected drastically the economy, jobs and employment, lifestyles, food security, the primary role of Artificial Intelligence and internet security, politics and even governance."

Obviously, providing health care to victims of the virus is an urgent need, said the cardinal and other members of the commission.

Father Augusto Zampini, adjunct secretary of the dicastery, said that is one reason why Pope Francis called for international debt relief -- it would help the world's poorest countries redirect money from interest payments to ramping up their health services.

But another major issue the commission is looking at is the threat of a "hunger pandemic."

At the beginning of 2020, before the coronavirus became a global pandemic, the U.N. World Food Program said 135 million people in 55 countries were facing "acute hunger" as a result chiefly of conflict, the effects of climate change and economic crises.

Now, with people out of work and supply chains interrupted, the WFP is warning that "the lives and livelihoods of 265 million people in low- and middle-income countries will be under severe threat."

Still, Father Zampini said, changes in production and consumption patterns and in private and public actions can still make a difference, for example, by providing incentives to farmers to improve productivity in ways that also protect the environment and by encouraging all nations "to divert funds from weapons to food."

Individuals also can contribute to alleviating food insecurity and protecting the environment by reducing food waste, eating food that is in season and avoiding products and packaging that pollute.

"COVID has shown that we do not need as many things as we think. We can be more with less," he said.

Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization of national Catholic relief and development agencies, is part of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission and has created a COVID-19 Response Fund.

Aloysius John, Caritas secretary general, said the fund already has received 32 project requests and already approved and distributed funds to 14 of them, which aim to help 7.8 million people in Ecuador, India, Palestine, Bangladesh, Lebanon and Burkina Faso and eight other countries.

A big concern, which parish, diocesan and national Caritas agencies are responding to, he said, is the provision of basic food assistance, because people will not respect lockdown requirements if they have nothing at home to eat and no way to earn the money to buy it.

John also called on the international community to remove the economic sanctions on Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Venezuela "so that aid to the affected population can be guaranteed, and Caritas, through the church, can continue to play its role of support for the poor and most vulnerable."

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