Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Christ cannot be divided, Pope urges

At Solemn Vespers for the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul this evening, Pope Francis preached the following homily at the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls.

“Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor 1:13). The urgent appeal which Saint Paul makes at the beginning of his First Letter to the Corinthians, and which has been proclaimed at this evening’s liturgy, was chosen by a group of our fellow Christians in Canada as the theme for our meditation during this year’s Week of Prayer.

The Apostle was grieved to learn that the Christians of Corinth had split into different factions. Some claimed: “I belong to Paul”; while others claimed: “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas”, and others yet claimed: “I belong to Christ” (cf. v. 12). Paul could not even praise those who claimed to belong to Christ, since they were using the name of the one Savior to set themselves apart from their other brothers and sisters within the community. In other words, the particular experience of each individual, or an attachment to certain significant persons in the community, had become a yardstick for judging the faith of others.

Amid this divisiveness, Paul appeals to the Christians of Corinth “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” to be in agreement, so that divisions will not reign among them, but rather a perfect union of mind and purpose (cf. v. 10). The communion for which the Apostle pleads, however, cannot be the fruit of human strategies. Perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5). This evening, as we gather here in prayer, may we realize that Christ, who cannot be divided, wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart, to his complete and confident surrender into the hands of the Father, to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force behind our unity.

As we find ourselves in his presence, we realize all the more that we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association. Our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, appealing to the text of Saint Paul which we have reflected on, significantly states: “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communities present themselves to people as the true inheritance of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but they differ in outlook and go their different ways, as if Christ were divided”. And the Council continues: “Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1).

Christ, dear friends, cannot be divided! This conviction must sustain and encourage us to persevere with humility and trust on the way to the restoration of full visible unity among all believers in Christ. Tonight I think of the work of two great Popes: Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II. In the course of their own lives, both came to realize the urgency of the cause of unity and, once elected to the See of Peter, they guided the entire Catholic flock decisively on the paths of ecumenism. Pope John blazed new trails which earlier would have been almost unthinkable. Pope John Paul held up ecumenical dialogue as an ordinary and indispensable aspect of the life of each Particular Church. With them, I think too of Pope Paul VI, another great promoter of dialogue; in these very days we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his historic embrace with the Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.

The work of these, my predecessors, enabled ecumenical dialogue to become an essential dimension of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, so that today the Petrine ministry cannot be fully understood without this openness to dialogue with all believers in Christ. We can say also that the journey of ecumenism has allowed us to come to a deeper understanding of the ministry of the Successor of Peter, and we must be confident that it will continue to do so in the future. As we look with gratitude to the progress which the Lord has enabled us to make, and without ignoring the difficulties which ecumenical dialogue is presently experiencing, let us all pray that we may put on the mind of Christ and thus progress towards the unity which he wills.

In this climate of prayer for the gift of unity, I address a cordial and fraternal greeting to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and to His Grace David Moxon, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered here this evening.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his body, to keep us deeply united to him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking, and to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). Amen.

Pope to priests: hear confessions

Pope hears confessionsThe human face of Jesus Christ, the mercy of God and the love of Holy Mother Church is only going to be known if the priest gets back into the confessional (on a daily basis?). The Pope of Mercy is calling priests to act like priests and not as bureaucrats by getting into the confessional more often.

Robert Moynihan, Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Vatican, writes today, “Out of the Curia into the Confessional,” that a recent papal decision in asking the priests (which includes the bishops and cardinals) of the Roman Curia to hear confessions on a regular basis. Why? “Because he [Pope Francis] wishes to emphasize the importance of confession, and of God’s great goodness in forgiving human sin.”

Confession of sin opens all of us up to what is a living Catholicism (evangelization and faith formation): to living a mature form of Christianity.

What a great idea! Actually, the Pope is expanding the ministry started at one of the churches in Rome devoted to promoting God’s unfailing mercy through the inspiration of Saint Faustina. Oddly enough, the building next to the church where the confessions are heard, is the Jesuit Roman Curia. You might remember that the Jesuits, from the days of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, had a special ministry in hearing confessions for people of all walks of life. The good Jesuit would stop everything to reconcile someone to God and the Church! A delight that is no longer frequently practiced by the Jesuits of their own Curia. Leave it to the Jesuit pope to re-invigorate this venerable aspect of Jesuit priestly ministry… I hope the Jesuits get the hint.

What the Pope has proposed the Curia is not meant for them alone; it is meant as an invitation to all priests about the world to reclaim the ministry of reconciliation today. There are no reasonable excuses to be made but I can hear the priests complaining now: “I already sit in the confessional once a week for 20 min.” OR, “The people know where to find me.” OR “We’ve lost the battle already, why bother?” OR “There are plenty of other priests hearing confessions in this city, I don’t have to spend more time in that box!” OR my favorite, “I am too busy.” The priest who holds this attitude needs some re-education.

In the City of New Haven, CT, there two Catholic parishes, both run by religious orders, the Order of Preachers and the Vincentian Fathers, St Mary’s Church and St Stanislaus Church (respectively), who make their priests available for confessions six days a week. I frequently see people going into the box a sinner only to emerge freed from sin and given sanctifying grace.

The Dominican Friars have a tendency to preach about the need for repentance and the beauty of being in the merciful embrace of the Good Shepherd through the ministry of the confession box. I think the Holy Father got his ideas in the Elm City, no?

Pope Francis writes to new cardinals

Dear Brother,

On the day in which your designation is made public to be part of the College of Cardinals, I wish to express to you a cordial greeting together with the assurance of my closeness and my prayer. I hope that, as associate of the Church of Rome, clothed in the virtues and sentiments of the Lord Jesus (cf. Romans 13:14), you will be able to help me, with fraternal effectiveness, in my service to the universal Church.

The Cardinalate does not signify a promotion, or an honor, or a decoration. It is simply a service that calls for enlarging one’s vision and widening one’s heart. And, although it seems a paradox, this ability to look far ahead and to love more universally with greater intensity can only be acquired by following the same way of the Lord: the way of abasement and humility, taking the form of a servant (cf. Philippians 2;5-8). Therefore, I ask you, please, to receive this designation with a simple and humble heart. And, although you must do so with joy and gladness, do it in such a way that this sentiment is far from any expression of worldliness, from any celebration that is foreign to the evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety and poverty.

Farewell, then, until next February 20, in which we will begin two days of reflection on the family. I remain at your disposition and, please, I ask you to pray and to have others pray for me.

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin protect you.

Fraternally,

FRANCIS

From the Vatican
January 12, 2014

Wow! What a letter to read! Imagine receiving such a letter if you were nominated to the cardinalate in the Catholic Church. The papal letter is brief, direct, and an unexpected fraternal gesture expressing clear hopes (expectations?) for the men entering into the College of Cardinals. I hope not only the cardinals listen to what the Holy Father has to say, but the rest of us, too. What is said to the new cardinals is said to all the faithful!

Symbolic of the new form service for Christ and the Church is the adoption of the color red, expressed most often as “the red hat” (seen above) and the reception of a new ring. These are classic signs to the deeper reality of love and service. The wearing of the color red, the donning of the biretta (hat) and the wearing of the cardinal’s ring is a clear sign of willing to die for the Church, and to be of service to the Church at all costs. You might say that being a cardinal is all-consuming in all forms of service that others (deacon, priest, bishop & faithful lay person) may not have: the prayers for the new cardinal at the time of the consistory have a clear element of martyrdom in them. The martyrdom of a cardinal –which hasn’t happened in a while– ought to be a spark for new life in the Paschal Mystery.

One of the striking lines in the Pope’s letter is enlarging one’s vision and widening one’s heart. Other parts of the letter that we ought to note is how the cardinal relates to the person of the bishop of Rome: in a personalistic way. Moreover, Francis asks the new cardinals to celebrate with joy yet in a sober manner that is not triumphalistic keeping in mind what the Scriptures reveal.

Baptism gives us new hope

On January 8, 2014, Pope Francis began a new series of Catecheses (teaching) on the seven sacraments for his Wednesday General Audiences. In the coming weeks he’ll explore for us these seven saving moments in a Chrsitian’s life. Given that today’s feast in the Novus Ordo Mass, the Baptism of the Lord, I think it is appropriate to give for our consideration what the Holy Father developed for us with regard to our Catholic sacramentality.

It would be good if pastors, the DREs and the faith formation coordinators collate what the last three popes said about the sacraments, and what meaning they have for us today. Certainly this can be done in a booklet form for the sacraments most administered in parishes.

The first teaching is on Baptism, one three sacraments of initiation. Francis gives perspective when he notes that what we understand a sacrament to be has as its historic and coherence the sense that sacraments are grace-filled signs making Jesus Christ’s saving authority and power present in concrete ways. Just like love being concrete, so too, sacraments are concrete actions of the Holy Spirit.

What do we believe about baptism, as a consequence of our Liturgy? Baptism:

  • “gives us new birth in Christ,
  • makes us sharers in the mystery of his death and resurrection,
  • grants the forgiveness of sin,
  • and, brings us new freedom as God’s children and members of his Church.”

Moreover, “baptism has changed us, given us a new and glorious hope, and empowered us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ.” Baptism makes us different persons, our life of faith is not the same as a Jew or a Muslim.

In the papal address the Pope gives us some homework. Do you know when your baptism was performed, by whom, and where? That is, when were you brought into communio with God?

The Pope says,

1. Baptism is the sacrament in which our faith is founded upon and which engages us as living members in Christ and in His Church. Together with the Eucharist and Confirmation, they form the so-called “Christian Initiation”, which constitutes as a single, great sacramental event that configures us to the Lord and makes of us a living sign of His presence and His love.

But a question may arise in us: is Baptism truly necessary to live as Christians and to follow Jesus? Isn’t it basically a simple rite, a formal act of the Church to give a name to a boy or a girl? It is a question that may come to us. In this context, it is illuminating what the Apostle Paul writes: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6,3-4). Therefore, it is not a formality! It is an act that profoundly touches our existence. A baptized child and a non-baptized child is not the same! A baptized person and a non-baptized person is not the same! With Baptism we come immersed in that inexhaustible source of life that is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and death, but in the communion with God and with the brothers.

2. Many of us do not have the slightest memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, obviously, if we were baptized shortly after birth. I have asked this question two or three times here in the Square. Who here knows the date of their Baptism? Raise your hand! Who knows? Few, eh! Very few. It is important! It is important to know what day you were immersed in that current of salvation of Jesus! Permit me to give you a piece of advice. More than an advice, a homework for today: Today at home search for, ask for the date of your Baptism. And thus you may truly know well that beautiful date of your Baptism. Will you do it? [People: Yes!] I don’t hear enthusiasm. Will you do it? [People: Yes!] Yes! Because it is to know a happy date! Our Baptism! But the risk is to lose the memory of that which the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift that we have received. We end up considering it as only an event that happened in the past – and not even by our own will, but that of our parents -, that no longer has any effect in our present. We must awaken the memory of our Baptism. Awaken the memory of Baptism. We are called to live our Baptism every day as an actual reality in our existence. If we follow Jesus and remain in the Church, despite our limitations, our weaknesses and our sins, it is precisely by the Sacrament through which we become new creatures and we are reinvested by Christ.  It is in virtue of Baptism, in fact, that, free from original sin, we are grafted into the relationship of Jesus with God the Father; that we are bearers of a new hope because Baptism gives us this new hope! The hope of going on the path of salvation for the rest of our life. And nothing and no one can extinguish this hope, because hope does not deceive. Remember this. The hope in the Lord never deceives us. Thanks to Baptism, we are capable of forgiving and to love even those who offend us and hurt us, that we can recognize in the last ones and in the poor the face of the Lord who visits us and comes close to us and with this Baptism helps us to recognize in the face of the needy, in those suffering, even in our neighbor, the face of Jesus. It is a grace of this strength of Baptism.

3. One last important element and I’ll ask a question. Can a person baptize himself? [People: No!] I can’t hear your! [People: No!] Are you sure? [People: Yes!] One cannot baptize himself/herself!  No one can baptize themselves! No one! We can ask for it, desire it, but we always have need for someone to confer this Sacrament in the name of the Lord. Baptism is a gift that is given in a context of solicitude and fraternal sharing. Always in history, one baptizes another, and another. It is a chain, a chain of grace. But I cannot baptize myself. I must ask another for Baptism. It is an act of brotherhood, an act of filiation to the Church. In its celebration we can recognize the most genuine features of the Church, which as a mother continues to generate new children in Christ, in the fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit. Let us now ask the Lord with our whole heart to be able to experience evermore, in daily life, the grace that we have received with Baptism. That in meeting us, our brothers may encounter true children of God, true brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, true members of the Church. And don’t forget your homework for today, which is, to search, to ask, for the date of your Baptism. And as one knows their date of birth, so must they also know the date of Baptism because it is a feast day!

New Cardinals by Pope Francis

TempestaAs was previously announced, on February 22, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, I will have the joy of holding a Consistory, during which I will name 16 new Cardinals, who, coming from 12 countries from every part of the world, represent the deep ecclesial relationship between the Church of Rome and the other Churches throughout the world. The following day [February 23] I will preside at a solemn concelebration with the new Cardinals, while on February 20 and 21 I will hold a Consistory with all the Cardinals to reflect on the theme of the family.

Here are the names of the new Cardinals:

1. Pietro Parolin, Titular Archbishop of Acquapendente, Secretary of State
2. Lorenzo Baldisseri, Titular Archbishop of Diocleziana, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
3. Gerhard Ludwig Műller, Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Regensburg, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
4. Beniamino Stella, Titular Archbishop of Midila, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
5. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster (Great Britain).
6. Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Archbishop of Managua (Nicaragua).
7. Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Québec (Canada).
8. Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan (Ivory Coast).
9. Orani João Tempesta, O.Cist., Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
10. Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve (Italy).
11. Mario Aurelio Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires (Argentina).
12. Andrew Yeom Soo jung, Archbishop of Seoul (Korea).
13. Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., Archbishop of Santiago del Cile (Chile).
14. Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).
15. Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., Archbishop of Cotabato (Philippines).
16. Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes (Haïti).

Together with them, I will join to the Members of the College of Cardinals three Archbishops emeriti distinguished for their service to the Holy See and to the Church.

They are:

1. Loris Francesco Capovilla, Titular Archbishop of Mesembria.
2. Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, C.M.F., Archbishop emeritus of Pamplona.
3. Kelvin Edward Felix, Archbishop emeritus of Castries.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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