Vatican City, Sep 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis made a personal phone call to a young Italian woman facing a difficult pregnancy, applauding her bravery in choosing life for her child and offering to baptize the baby.
Anna Romero, a 35-year-old woman from central Italy, was on vacation when she received a phone call from the Pope. She had written the pontiff earlier this summer, describing her anguish at discovering that she had become pregnant by a man who – unknown to her at the time – was already married.
“In June I discovered I was pregnant through him and when I told him instead of being happy he told me he was already married, already had a child and to have an abortion,” Romero said, according to the Daily Mail.
“I told him that I would not have an abortion and told him to get out of my life.”
Romero described her situation in a letter to the Pope, sharing that she had never had luck with men, and that after marrying young and getting divorced, she thought she had found the perfect man.
However, after learning about the man's existing marriage, she felt “humiliated and betrayed,” and told the Holy Father that she wrote to him because she had “no-one else to turn to.”
“I addressed the letter simply to Pope Francis, the Vatican and put it in the post. I didn't even send it recorded delivery. I didn't really expect to get a reply but then out of the blue when I was on holiday I had a phone call from him.”
Romero said that when the call came in, she knew the number was from Rome because of the city's dial code, and that she recognized the Pope's voice as soon as he started speaking.
“I had only seen the Pope once before, from St. Peter's Square when I lived in Rome,” she said, “I would never have imagined that the Pope would pick up a telephone and call me and speak to me as if I was a dear friend.”
“We were only on the phone for a few minutes but my heart was filled with joy,” she added.
During the call, Pope Francis consoled her, saying that she would never be alone, and that a child is a “gift from God” and “a sign of Divine Providence,” saying also that she had been both “brave and strong” for her unborn child.
When Romero shared her fears of baptizing her baby because she was divorced and a single mother, the Holy Father assured her that he would be her spiritual father, and even voiced his willingness to baptize the baby himself.
Romero said that even if the Pope does not end up performing the baptism, the phone call has changed her life.
She said that she hopes her letter “will be an example for other women who feel they may be distant from the Church simply because they have chosen the wrong man, they are divorced or they are with men who are not worthy of being fathers.”
“I don't know the sex of the baby,” she added, “but if the Pope does baptize it and it's a boy I have no doubt of his name – Francis.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 9, 2013 (CNA) - The Colombian bishops are inviting the faithful of their country to take part in a pilgrimage for peace and reconciliation during the national Week for Peace this month.
“Peace has been one of the great concerns of the Church throughout the centuries,” said Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, president of the Colombian Bishops Conference.
The pilgrimage – which began Sept. 8 – comes after the initiation of peace talks between the government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, a revolutionary guerrilla organization that had been in conflict with the state for decades.
Given these circumstances, Cardinal Salazar said, “the prayer for peace has become even more urgent and necessary. For this reason the Church calls us to go on pilgrimage for peace and reconciliation.”
The director of the National Secretariat for Social Ministry, Bishop Hector Fabio Henao, said the Week for Peace will take place Sept. 8-15 in Colombia and is intended to help encourage the peace process currently ongoing in the country.
“The Week for Peace aims to send a very strong message that Colombian society supports the negotiations to end the conflict, that it agrees that negotiated political solutions be sought for the conflict that has left the Colombian society with so much destruction and death in these decades,” he said.
The statue of Our Lady of Chiquinquira, the patroness of Colombia, will be taken on pilgrimage to areas throughout the country during the Week of Peace.
The Dominican order in Colombia has assumed the role of organizing and leading the pilgrimage. In each city along the route, the local bishop will welcome the statue of Our Lady of Chiquinquira and join the faithful in prayers for peace.
Lincoln, Neb., Sep 9, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln says that a solution to the violence in Syria must be achieved, not through more violence or “taking sides” with one of the warring factions, but by speaking the truth “boldly.”
“I am not a politician, or a military strategist. I am only a pastor,” he wrote in a Sept. 7 column. “But I know we cannot solve the violence of Syria with more violence.”
On the occasion of the Pope’s call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, Bishop Conley referred to an ancient Syrian legend about a monk who tamed a dragon that was blinded with rage.
Realizing that defense against the dragon would only provoke more rage, Simeon the monk calmed the dragon by speaking “truth, boldly, and with compassion.”
Again, the bishop said, Syria “seems to be fighting blind dragons again” as “dictators” and “thugs masquerading as democratic reformers” steep the country in “corruption beyond the rules of war.”
“The country’s problems are real, and interminable. Real people are suffering,” he said, adding that in the past months more than 100,000 people have been killed with Christians and other religious minorities “bearing the brunt of Syria’s violence.”
“The attacks on Christians are unprovoked—but the rage of Syria’s dragons, in the government and among the opposition, seems to know no bounds,” he said.
However, “to choose sides in a conflict where no side can be trusted is unreasonable.”
Rather than “adding to the violence,” we must find a clear solution to the civil war by speaking the truth “with conviction.”
“We must insist on an end to the systematic persecution of Christians, and to violent attacks on women, children, and minorities.”
Bishop Conley offered a reminder of Pope Francis’ world day of prayer and fasting in Syria, saying that “prayer effects real change.”
He encouraged readers to continue offering prayers that would “calm the blind, raging, intemperate dragons of Syria.”
To read Bishop Conley’s full column, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2669.
Vatican City, Sep 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - After a global day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and throughout the world, Pope Francis is continuing his calls for peace, hope and negotiations through messages on social media.
“Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace!” he exclaimed on Twitter Sept. 9.
“I ask each party to follow decisively and courageously the path of encounter and negotiation,” he said, referring to potential strikes on Syria by Western nations.
Both of these tweets were followed by the hashtag “#prayforpeace,” which the Holy Father has repeatedly used throughout the month.
In another Sept. 9 tweet, he referenced his morning homily, given on the topic of hope from the chapel of Saint Martha.
“We ought never to lose hope,” the Pontiff said. “God overwhelms us with his grace, if we keep asking.”
The tweets come amid escalating tension regarding Syria. Lawmakers in the United States are currently considering President Barack Obama’s proposal for military action against the nation, which has been embroiled in a violent civil war between government and rebel forces – both secular and Islamist – for more than two years.
Late last month, reports indicated that chemical weapons had been used against civilians in Syria, killing more than 1,400 people.
The Obama administration has said it has conclusive evidence that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for these attacks, though the Syrian government denies this charge and blames the rebels for the use of chemical weapons.
The possibility of a military strike against Syria has sparked strong opposition from Russia, whose leaders say they have compiled an extensive report with evidence that rebels used chemical weapons back in March.
On Sept. 7, Pope Francis called for a global day of prayer and fasting for peace. He led a prayer vigil that day in St. Peter’s Square, drawing about 100,000 pilgrims.
Calling for dialogue and forgiveness, the Pope emphasized that violence only yields more violence. On the day of the vigil, he tweeted, “Pray for Peace!”
The previous day, Sept. 6, Pope Francis also made three peace appeals on Twitter.
“All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace,” he tweeted.
“Dear young people, pray with me for peace in the world,” he added in a separate tweet.
He also noted that “peace is a good which overcomes every barrier because it belongs to all of humanity.”
Earlier that week, the Holy Father pushed for peace efforts on Twitter as well. He posted on the social networking site on Sept. 4, “let the cry for peace ring out in all the world.”
“We want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace,” he affirmed on Sept. 2. “War never again! Never again war!”
“Let us pray for peace: peace in the world and in each of our hearts,” he said Sept.1.
Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Joining in a global day of prayer for peace in Syria, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., urged Catholics to stand strong in their faith despite the threat of violence and evil in the world.
“The Church always calls us to prayer,” Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily. “Particularly in moments of crisis we turn to prayer.”
At this particular moment in history, he continued, we pray especially for “Syria and the Middle East, asking that God open them with the power of his love so that those hearts might be changed – so that the world might be changed.”
A Mass for Peace and Justice was celebrated on Sept. 7 – the vigil of the Nativity of Mary, Queen of Peace – at the Basilica of the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, joined the cardinal at the liturgy, as a representative of Pope Francis.
The celebration of the Mass coincided with the beginning of the Vigil for Prayer at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome.
Pope Francis called for the vigil as part of a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria as Western countries, including the United States, discuss the possibility of a military attack against the country after reports indicated that chemical weapons had been used on citizens.
The D.C. Mass allowed Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington to unite themselves in prayer with the Pope and with the Universal Church.
At the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl prayed “for those who are a part of our human family and who endure terrible acts of violence,” asking for “God’s blessings on those who strive to contain violence around the world.”
The cardinal also asked for peace for “those who suffer so mightily in the Middle East,” as well as for the whole world.
He reminded the faithful that they “must never allow the violence that exists in the world to wound our inner conviction that Christ is ‘the way, the truth and the life.’”
“What the Lord tells us is that we have the power within us to make this world a better place,” he explained. “Our actions, while individual and seemingly small, play a part in the great cosmic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness, between peace and war, between violence and harmony, between hatred and love.”
“Jesus tells us that victory begins first in each human heart.”
Cardinal Wuerl also emphasized that the Mass shows “solidarity with our Holy Father Pope Francis.”
“Mindful that Jesus himself told us, ‘Where two or three are gathered I am with them,’ the Pope calls us to join him and the tens of thousands who are gathering at this very hour in Rome at Saint Peter’s Square,” he remarked.
“In uniting our prayer with that of our brothers and sisters throughout the Catholic world, our prayer truly becomes universal and a sign of hope for the world.”