Madrid, Spain, Oct 16, 2013 (CNA) - The recent beatification of 522 Spanish martyrs of the 20th century is a testimony to the victory of God’s love, said a local bishop.
The beatification took place at an Oct. 13 ceremony in Tarragona. The 522 martyrs died during the religious persecution in Spain in the 1930s.
In a pastoral letter last week, Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba said that the Church honors her martyrs “because they were capable of showing the world the definitive victory of love over hatred.”
The bishop recalled the ten Carmelite religious from his diocese who were among the martyrs.
“In addition to its good wine and oil, this land of Andalusia has these descendants who today honor us all, as the best sons of the Church and of this land,” he said.
The 522 martyrs “learned to love to the extreme, because when they were attacked and killed, they knew how to forgive as Christ did.”
These men and women did not die on the battlefield, but were sought after in their homes and convents and taken to the firing line because they were priests and religious, he observed.
“They were killed out of hatred for the faith.”
Bishop Fernandez described the martyrs’ beatification as a celebration of their great love.
This “historical memory” of the martyrs is not a political statement, he said, but rather aims to “sing the praises of God and encourage us to love and to forgive.”
“It is therefore a festival of glory and mercy,” he explained. “Once again we see that the last word does not belong to hatred and sin, but instead to the merciful love of God.”
Emphasizing the added importance of the beatifications during the current Year of Faith, Bishop Fernandez pointed to the words of the early Christian writer Tertullian: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians.”
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis' Oct. 12 appointment of Monsignor Diego Ravelli as office chief of the Office of Papal Charities rounds out the bureau which delivers charity to the poor in the name of the Roman Pontiff.
Already on Aug. 3, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, a priest of the Lódz diocese in Poland, was appointed head of the office, or almoner.
Traditionally, the pontifical almoner sends parchments with the Papal blessing to those who request them, and with the proceeds, as well as with other offerings, he sends a “modest donation” to those in need. The pontifical almoner also accompanies the Pope at official appearances and during international trips.
But under Pope Francis, Archbishop Krajewski's role is to be something more.
Since both Archbishop Krajewski and Monsignor Ravelli have been part of the office of the papal master of ceremonies, it would seem that Pope Francis wishes to mark his pontificate with a sort of “liturgy of the poor.”
The archbishop recounted to L'Osservatore Romano Oct. 4 that Pope Francis immediately explained to him the way he wanted to re-design his office.
“You will not stay behind a desk signing parchments,” Pope Francis told Archbishop Krajewski. “I want you always among the people. In Buenos Aires I often went out in the evening to go find the poor. Now I no longer can: it is difficult for me to leave the Vatican. You will do it for me.”
Through Archbishop Krajewski, Pope Francis has already sent a $270 check to an old woman from Marghera, in northern Italy, who had been robbed of the wallet containing only $73.
Pope Francis also sent his almoner to buy international phone cards to be delivered to the refugees who survived the Oct. 3 shipwreck in Lampedusa, so that they might get in touch with their families.
Archbishop Krajewski was at Lampedusa four days later, saying Mass, blessing the corpses of those who died, and saying the rosary together with Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento and Fr. Stefano Nastasi, Lampedusa's parish priest.
Following that, he visited the survivors, giving them consolation from the Pope as well as financial aid and the phone cards.
Archbishop Krajewski's activism is something new to the Office of Papal Charities.
Archbishop Guido Pozzo, who was papal almoner until Archbishop Krajewski's appointment, told L’Osservatore Romano Dec. 29 that in 2011 his office had delivered some $1.2 million in response to 7,000 requests for aid.
He explained that “the almoners' donations are of modest amount, in order to extend the aid we can give to the biggest number of people.” He also stressed that anyone's “request for financial aid must come together with a written acknowledgment of their parish priest.”
In accord with Pope Francis' mind, however, Archbishop Krajewski will not be waiting for parish priests' written acknowledgments.
He recounted to L'Osservatore Romano that “if, for example, our office gets a request for an aid to pay an electricity bill, I would go to visit that family and see with my very eyes what their conditions are.”
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has donated his Harley Davidson motorcycle to be sold to raise money for a hostel and soup kitchen that serves Rome’s homeless.
“It is a precious gift that has once again made us happy in feeling the closeness of our bishop to the poor of the Church of Rome. We are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for this,” Monsignor Enrico Feroci, the director of Caritas Rome, said at an Oct. 12 press conference.
The sale of the motorcycle will fund the renovation of Caritas’ Don Luigi di Liegro Hostel and Soup Kitchen at Rome’s Termini station. The two projects have operated since 1987 to help relieve the suffering of about 1,000 people every day, Caritas Rome reports.
Msgr. Feroci thanked Pope Francis on behalf of everyone who will benefit from “this act of hospitality and solidarity.” He assured the Pope that the poor will continue to pray for the “precious work that he is doing in the vineyard of the Lord.”
The Harley Davidson Motor Company presented two of its motorcycles and a biker jacket to Pope Francis in June, when Rome hosted the 110th anniversary celebration of the iconic American motorcycle. On June 16 the Pope blessed about 800 bikers and their rides in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis has encouraged clergy and religious to show humility in their choice of transportation.
In July, he told a group of seminarians and religious novices that he felt hurt when he sees a priest or a sister with a brand new car.
“And, if you like that beautiful car, think about how many children are dying of hunger,” he said, urging them to choose simpler transportation options.
As a cardinal in Argentina, Pope Francis was well known for taking public transportation.
In September, the Pope accepted an Italian priest’s gift of a used Renault 4 with 186,000 miles on its odometer.
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2013 (CNA) -
The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, told CNA it was “providential” that Pope Francis has decided to devote the next synod of bishops to the family.
Archbishop Paglia said that this synod “ is an extraordinary sign of affection of Pope Francis for families,” coming in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and the 1980 synod of bishops also focused on the family, which produced John Paul II's 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.
On October 8, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has convened the synod of bishops for Oct. 5-19 of next year on the theme “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”
In statements to reporters, Archbishop Paglia explained that the Holy Father consulted with him about issues related to the family prior to meeting with the Council of Cardinals, and that his next meeting with the Roman Pontiff could come during the Pontifical Council for the Family’s plenary assembly.
“Pope Francis is underscoring a path that we should take with wisdom, intelligence, and boldness,” the archbishop said.
“To take up again the image of the miraculous catch, that of Peter and the small number of fish, we should all go to fish with him.”
Archbishop Paglia made his statements Oct. 10 during a ceremony to announce the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which will take place October 23-25, and the pilgrimage of families, which will take place in the days following the assembly.
He said he hopes Rome will become the capital of the family during those days, and he invited everyone to come to the Italian capital on pilgrimage “to celebrate together with the Pope.”
The event will also be broadcast live for those who are unable to attend, he said.
Some 150,000 pilgrims from 75 nations are expected to be in Rome for the event, which will be translated simultaneously into Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese and French.
The event will include a video presentation about the difficulties families in Syria are currently facing.
Archbishop Paglia noted that since Vatican II, the Church “has taken many steps in relation to family ministry,” beginning with the constitution Gaudium et Spes, which Pope Francis is “undoubtedly embracing.”
“The family is the great resource of humanity,” concluded Archbishop Paglia.
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The efforts of the Catholic Church were undoubtedly decisive in the escape of most of Rome's Jews during World War II, according to a Jewish historian and columnist of “L’Osservatore Romano.”
In a recently published book, “Portico d'Ottavia, 13,” Anna Foa describes the only raid against Jews committed by Nazis in Rome. The book is named for the address of the Oct. 16, 1943 raid.
Foa told CNA Oct. 10 that “Nazis entered in the courtyard and knocked on everyone's doors. They captured 30 people, one third of the inhabitants of the house.”
She also explained that “Nazis had a list of the Jews living in that courtyard. The list was drafted basing on the census of Jews made in Italy in 1938, and on a list of taxpayers.”
This was “the first and last time the Nazis used a list to capture Jews” in Rome. Afterwards, Jews were apprehended by casual raids on public transport, or by spy reports.
Why did this list disappear?
Foa hypothesizes that then-Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglione, agreed with the German ambassador to the Holy See, Ernst von Weiszaeker, that no “formalized raids would ever take place again in Rome.”
This hypothesis is based on “a letter ambassador Weiszaeker sent to Berlin, writing that ‘here in Rome there will undoubtedly not be carried out actions against the Jews.’”
Foa maintained that the ambassador’s words have “no clear meaning,” but that they may refer to a sort of agreement Nazis made with Catholic Church.
In fact, she said, “the Church was the only organizing force” during the war, and it “made a great contribution to the saving of the Roman Jews.”
Only 1,006 Roman Jews were captured and sent to concentration camps. This has been attributed to the ‘passive resistance’ of the Roman population and also of fascists, who used to hide and help Jews, advising them in case of persecution.
But it was also due, Foa said, to “the organization of the Church, which opened convents to Jewish refugee as part of an aid network that could be developed only thanks a direction from the top levels” – that is, Pope Pius XII.
Pius XII has been accused for staying “silent” about the Jewish persecution, failing to make official statements against the Nazi's policy towards them.
Yet the Pope was aware that any official statement would have made the Church’s efforts to aid them all the more difficult, she explained.
Pius XII allowed nuns, monks, priests, and prelates in his diocese, including several at the vicariate, to involve themselves in Jewish rescue, she said. Many Church institutions, including Vatican properties, sheltered Jews as well as other fugitives for long periods of World War II.
According to Foa, “focusing the discussion only on Pius XII is a derailment. In Rome, Jews were mostly saved by the Church. The role of convents was pivotal.”
Foa explained that Nazis did not enter convents because “the Vatican posed targets claiming the extraterritoriality of the convents, and the Nazis did not want to ‘invade’ the territory of a neutral state.”
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis continued his reflections on the Creed, drawing attention to the Church's apostolic nature and Jesus' invitation to spread the Gospel.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we profess in faith that the Church is 'apostolic,'” the Pope told the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Oct. 16 general audience.
The Holy Father stressed that the apostolic character of the Church has remained unbroken throughout history. Beginning with Peter and the Twelve Apostles, the chain of those who transmit the faith has continued until today, and will continue until the end of time, he urged.
Pope Francis lauded the Church's meticulous care for and transmission of Christ's teaching in its entirety, rather than in bits and pieces – highlighting also the first apostles' faithfulness to Jesus' commandment to go and baptize all nations.
“The Church is apostolic because Jesus founded her upon the apostles whom he chose and sent forth to continue his work,” he noted.
“Thus Saint Paul compares the Church to a temple which has the apostles as its foundation and Christ as its cornerstone,” he said, reflecting on the apostle’s letter to the Ephesians.
“The Church is also apostolic because she preserves and hands down the fullness of Christ’s teaching and the means of salvation which he instituted.”
Pope Francis concluded his reflections by highlighting a third aspect of the Church’s apostolic nature in that “she accomplishes in history the mission which Christ entrusted to the apostles: making disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them his commands.”
The pontiff then extended his greetings to all of the pilgrims present, who included many from England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Ghana, Nigeria, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and the United States.
“May we come to appreciate and love the Church as the place where we encounter the Risen Lord,” urged the Pope, “who sends us forth as his missionaries, inviting all whom we meet to know the truth of the Gospel, the joy of faith and the promise of eternal life proclaimed by the apostles.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In the aftermath following decades of communism, a Czech bishop reveals that although the number of those who practice their faith in the country has diminished, people are ready to hear the Gospel.
“That's what we take as our mission, the re-evangelization. We try to enter in the society with the message of the Gospel, something good, positive, that can address them,” Bishop Jan Vokal told CNA/EWTN News in an Oct. 14 interview.
“In fact,” noted the bishop, there are a lot of people interested in hearing the Gospel, “because it’s something they, inside of them, they search for or look for that they cannot find anywhere but in God. So the Church will try to offer this to them.”
Bishop Vokal oversees the Eastern Bohemian diocese of Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic, and was present in Rome for the entrustment of the world to Our Lady of Fatima over the weekend.
Speaking of the impact which past wars have had on the country's history and faith situation, the bishop said that “before the second world war, we were a very Christian country. I think nearly everyone was baptized, mostly in the Catholic Church.”
“Then the war came, and after the war, several decades of totalitarian regime of communism, which oppressed all the human liberties, among them also the religious freedom.”
The bishop stressed that in wake of the oppression experienced while the communist party was in power, the younger generations “are somehow marked by this situation,” noting that roughly “two thirds of the population do not believe, basically, in anything, or at least they do not practice any kind of religion.”
In order to re-awaken the faith in the lives of the Czech people, Bishop Vokal reflected that both the New Evangelization called for by Pope John Paul II, and a re-evangelization are needed.
“Regarding the young generations, it is rather a first evangelization, while for some other generations, it’s mostly re-evangelization.”
“It is important to ask” he encouraged, “that the other people would not look at church only as an institution, thus as a negative,” but rather “to say that the Church is the body of Christ, that means it is Christ Himself, and also that is you, because you baptized, you God’s child, and everything in between is all us together.”
“So (the) Church is something alive and positive, and its presence among us is positive.”
Bishop Vokal noted that the local Church in his diocese, which is “about one third” Catholic, is “in a fairly good position,” and that in the last few years there has been “a slight pick-up of vocations.”
In order to continue the trend, the bishop stressed that they have many programs in place which are directed to engaging the youth in dialogue about topics relevant in modern society, as well as fostering a greater devotion to Mary.
“In my whole life, and in my whole vocation to the priesthood and episcopacy, it was very important the Marian devotion,” he said, urging that “I consider very important that all the seminarians and future priests, would have a very strong and positive relationship with Mary.”
The bishop, who navigated through communist territory in 1983 in order to study abroad, which was illegal at the time, crossed into Italy the same year and began his studies in theology in order to become a priest.
Bishop Vokal was ordained in Rome by Bl. John Paul II and worked for twenty years at the secretary of state until he was appointed as bishop of his current diocese, in which he is working diligently for the conversion of the dominant atheistic population.