Vatican News

U.S. Eastern Catholic bishops celebrate liturgy at tomb of St. Peter

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, N.J., exchanges the kiss of peace with Bishop Mikael Mouradian of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in Glendale, Calif., as bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in the United States concelebrate a Divine Liturgy in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 18, 2020. 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 ADLIMINA-FIFTEEN-STPETER Feb. 18, 2020.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faith is not something people put on like a piece of cloth that is easy to change, but is more like skin, which "is inseparable from us," said Bishop Mikael A. Mouradian, leader of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg, which covers the United States and Canada.

Looking for guidance or for a model, a person naturally looks to one who has the most experience and expertise; for Catholic bishops, the first model is St. Peter, prince of the apostles, said Bishop Mouradian in a homily Feb. 18 at the apostle's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Armenian Catholic bishop presided at the Divine Liturgy concelebrated with the other Eastern Catholic bishops of the United States as part of their visit "ad limina apostolorum," literally to the tomb of the apostles.

Wearing their own rites' mainly gold and white vestments, the Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Maronite, Melkite, Syriac, Syro-Malabar, Armenian and Romanian Catholic bishops were assisted at the liturgy by a small choir of Armenian seminarians and by an Armenian deacon who gave a running commentary of the Armenian-rite liturgy and indications to the concelebrants about which prayers to recite.

In his homily, Bishop Mouradian said bishops are called to guide their people to faith as the church sails amid "troubles, difficulties, hardships, challenges," but they must remember "none of us -- not me or any of us -- is the captain of this boat. The captain is Jesus Christ."

"Yes, sometimes as he was with the disciples on the sea (of Galilee), perhaps we feel that he is sleeping," the bishop said. But as St. Paul said, "we don't preach only Jesus Christ the crucified one, but we preach Jesus Christ the living one, the eternally living God."

"As bishops we are called to fix our gaze on him," the bishop said. "He is the one who called St. Peter, an ordinary fisherman, to become a fisher of men."

"Each one of us has the same calling as St. Peter," Bishop Mouradian said. "As bishops, archbishops, we are the successors of the apostles, and we know that all the apostles gave their lives to witness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ."

"In front of the tomb of the prince of the apostles, St. Peter, let us renew our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "Let us tell him that we trust in him, the merciful Lord, because he will guide us, he will help us live our Christian faith regardless of the difficulties and hardships we have in our lives."

The bishops, like the 14 groups of U.S. bishops that preceded them on their "ad limina" visits, recited the creed and paused in silence before St. Peter's tomb.


Pope, bishops discuss possible themes for 2022 synod

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope Francis leads a session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican in this Oct. 15, 2019, file photo. The pope has decided that the next general assembly of the Synod of Bishops will meet in the fall of 2022. He has not announced the topic for the synod. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-SYNOD-FUTURE Feb. 17, 2020.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has decided the next general assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in the fall of 2022, but he has not announced the theme for the gathering, the Vatican said.

Meeting with the pope Feb. 6-7, members of the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops formally presented the pope with three possible themes and discussed the work accomplished by the council after the synod on young people in 2018, the Vatican said Feb. 15.

The Vatican statement did not list the three possible themes, although in his closing speech to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in October, Pope Francis had said "synodality" was among the three themes "voted on and that obtained a majority" of support from synod members.

"I do not know whether it will be chosen; I have not decided yet," the pope had said. "I am reflecting and thinking but I can certainly say that we have journeyed a lot and we must still journey more along this path of synodality."

While the themes proposed at the February meeting were not disclosed, the Vatican said the ordinary council did feel "the need to urgently express its solidarity with brothers and sisters involved with the tragedy of forced migration."

In a message released by the Vatican press office Feb. 15, the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops reflected "on the consequences of the migration phenomenon" caused by economic inequality, unemployment, religious persecution, terrorism and environmental devastation.

"People are disoriented, families destroyed, young people traumatized and those left at home are induced to despair," the statement said. "Sometimes these people suffer in refugee camps and some even end up in prison. Women and young people are forced into prostitution; they are physically, socially and sexually abused. Children are separated from their parents and deprived of the right to grow up in the security of a united family."

The ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops expressed support for governments and non-governmental organizations that seek to help migrants and refugees and called for cooperation in the fight against human trafficking.  

"We entrust our suffering brothers and sisters to Mary, mother of humanity, who first knew the pain of leaving her home and country together with her family in search of security and peace," the council said.

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Raphael's tapestries briefly return to Sistine Chapel

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

CNS photo/courtesy Vatican Museums

Workers in the Sala Regia carry a tapestry designed by Renaissance master Raphael as they prepare to place it on display in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Feb. 16, 2020. Ten enormous tapestries by Raphael are on display for one week in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his death in 1520. (CNS photo/courtesy of Vatican Museums) See VATICAN-RAPHAEL-TAPESTRIES Feb. 18, 2020. EDITORS: Editorial use only with stories about the display of Raphael's tapestries. Max 800x600 pixels web use.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An artistic masterpiece conceived by the Renaissance master Raphael was on display for one week in the Sistine Chapel to help celebrate the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.

"It's an important moment" and a way to celebrate a truly great artist, Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, told Vatican News Feb. 17. Raphael died in Rome on Good Friday, April 6, 1520, at the age of 37.

The 10 enormous tapestries designed by Raphael for the lower walls of the chapel were on display Feb. 17-23 in the Sistine Chapel, "putting them in the place they were commissioned for in 1515 and where (some) were hung in 1519," Jatta said. The tapestries are normally displayed behind glass on a rotating basis elsewhere in the museums.

The colorful and detailed tapestries depict the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul and events from the Acts of the Apostles. They were designed to specifically correspond to the frescoed images higher on the walls depicting scenes from the lives of Moses and Jesus, and Michelangelo's images from the story of Genesis.

After Michelangelo had completed the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1512, Pope Leo X wanted to leave his mark on the chapel, but every surface had already been painted by Michelangelo, Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Pope Leo chose the young and rising star, Raphael, to create 10 designs for a special set of tapestries for the chapel's lower walls, whose panels had already been adorned with "trompe l'oeil" drapery. Tapestries were a popular art form at the time and the church liked to use them for special liturgical ceremonies.

The painted designs, called "cartoons," were sent to famed tapestry artisans at Pieter Van Aelst's workshop in Brussels. Seven of the 10 original cartoons still survive and belong to the British Royal Collection.

The tapestries cost 1,600 gold ducats a piece -- an enormous amount of money because of the intense labor involved and the expensive materials used, including real gold and silver thread. The total cost for the 10 designs and tapestries was five times the amount Michelangelo was paid for decorating the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Seven of the tapestries were completed and sent to Rome in 1519 and the last three arrived in 1521, right before Pope Leo died in December and one year after Raphael passed away.

Miraculously, they have survived the centuries despite numerous unfortunate events. First, they were stolen during the Sack of Rome in 1527 but, by 1536, seven of the 10 tapestries made their way back home. Pirates got hold of the others and some ended up in Tunisia and Turkey.

The missing tapestries eventually were recovered in Venice in 1554, but others were snatched again from their home in 1798 during the Napoleonic Wars. It took the diplomatic finesse of Pope Pius VII's secretary of state to wrangle for their return in 1808.

All 10 tapestries have been restored over the years. Each covers about 35 square yards (30 square meters) and weighs between 110 and 132 pounds. (50-60 kilograms).

Hearts hardened by ideology, ego leave no room for God, pope says

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis celebrates morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, at the Vatican Feb. 18, 2020. In his homily, the pope said there is no room for God in hearts hardened by ideology, selfishness and arrogance. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-MASS-COMPASSION Feb. 18, 2020.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hearts hardened by ideology, selfishness and arrogance leave no room for God, Pope Francis said.

"The Lord only goes in hearts that are like his heart," that is, "hearts that are compassionate, open," the pope said in his homily Feb. 18 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark in which Jesus warned the disciples against sharing the rebellious and corrosive attitudes the Pharisees and King Herod had toward Jesus.

Pope Francis said that during Jesus' time, there were people like the Pharisees who had a "hardened heart in order to promote a plan that was not God's. There was no room for God's plan, there was no room for compassion."

A remedy for a hardened heart does exist, he said, and it is remembering Christ's mercy and compassion.

A heart becomes hardened, he said, when "one forgets the grace of salvation" that is given freely without merit.

God wants mercy, not sacrifices and "a heart without compassion is an idolized heart, a self-sufficient heart that goes forward, held up by one's own ego, that becomes strong only with ideologies," the pope said.

"A hard heart leads to fights, wars, selfishness, the destruction of one's brother because there is no compassion," he said.

"The greatest message of salvation is that God had compassion for us," Pope Francis said; realizing that should be like a "slap" or wake-up call for a hardened heart.

"Each one of us has something hard in the heart. Let's remember and may the Lord give us a heart that is just and sincere," open and compassionate, he said.

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