Vatican City, Feb 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A religious sister who celebrated her 107th birthday at daily Mass with Pope Francis Feb. 20 believes that the Holy Father is a gift to the Church.
“If God wanted us to have Pope Francis, it’s because it was already in his eternal mind,” Sister Candida Bellotti said in statements to CNA. “He is the right person for our time, and we need to respect him because it is God’s will.”
The religious sister, who is believed to be the oldest nun in the world, was too emotional to speak with the pontiff after Mass at St. Martha’s Residence at the Vatican. However, she said that she was filled with joy and continued celebrating with her family, the Camillian Order, at its headquarters in Rome, where members had made a huge birthday cake for her.
“True happiness is appreciating the moment as God gives it to us,” Sister Bellotti reflected. “What we really need in life is to give thanks to God for what he gives us. Because that is the only thing that will make man happy. Man needs to accept each moment that comes and say ‘thank you’.”
“We need to accept the good that we find,” she added. “Sometimes we seek after good things and we don’t find them, but that is the very secret, to seek what is good and avoid what is bad. We need to have the grace and the intelligence to know how to choose between good and evil.”
Sister Bellotti is a member of the Congregation of the Ministers of the Sick of St. Camillus de Lellis. She was born in 1907 in Quinzano in the Italian province of Verona, during the pontificate of St. Pius X. She has spent her life serving the sick at hospitals throughout Italy and currently lives in Luca, where she spends her days in prayer.
In more than a century of life, the 107-year-old sister has survived two world wars and has witnessed numerous developments that have changed history. She attributes all of humanity’s advances to God.
Sister Bellotti felt God’s call to a vocation at the age of 16 and entered the convent when she was 22. She has been convinced since then that Christ called her from all of eternity.
“Never in my entire life have I thought for one minute that perhaps I made a mistake,” she explained. “Never! I am happy, secure and committed to improving my life thanks be to God.”
“My entire life has been beautiful,” she continued. “The saddest and at the same time happiest memory of my life is when I left my family to join the convent. It was something I didn’t want, but accepted and loved. But it filled me completely.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During the Feb. 23 Mass of Thanksgiving for the creation of new cardinals, Pope Francis offered words of affection for the newly-elevated South Korean cardinal’s home country.
“I love Korea,” were the unexpected words of Pope Francis at the sign of peace to Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-Jung, who recounted the moment later at a Feb. 25 press conference. The cardinal said he promptly replied, “The Korean people love you, Holy Father!”
Cardinal Yeom, archbishop of Seoul, South Korea, and apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, North Korea, was made a cardinal by Pope Francis during the recent consistory on Feb. 22.
Three days later, at the press conference at the Korean College in Rome, he commented on the experience, as well as on the situation of the Catholic Church in Korea.
“Only God can fill the hearts with love and give life meaning,” were his opening words, before going on to enumerate three main challenges facing the Church in Korea.
All three major struggles faced by the Church are tied to the state of family life, he said. First, the family in Korea faces the aftermath of 40 years of birth control. Despite the fact that South Korea did not suffer from a one-child policy like China, many couples are reluctant to have children.
A second concern is the overall aging of society, and the third challenge involves couples experiencing great indecisiveness and waiting until their 30s to get married.
“This is especially surprising since the family is generally held up as a strong ideal,” explained the cardinal.
He did, however, express his joy at the recent attempt to reunite families that were divided by the separation of North and South Korea 60 years ago. Some 30,000 people applied for the “family reunion” held in a mountain resort in February. About 350 of them were chosen, with average age being 82 years old, the oldest participant 94.
“The Church can contribute to foster initiatives like this which give a sign of hope to young and old alike,” explained Cardinal Yeom.
He also revealed his high expectations for the Bishops Synod to be held this October in Rome, which will focus on the family. In addition, he mentioned his hope that Pope Francis will visit South Korea.
“Pope Benedict did not have the chance to visit Asia, so the time seems to have come now, for us to receive the Pope,” he said, adding that such a visit would strengthen the faith and saying that “we pray for him to come.”
The cardinal then went on to state briefly the history of the missionaries of South Korea, with the historically unique role of the laity. “South Korea is a country that received missionaries of the faith, and now sends missionaries out into the world,” he noted.
In the early 17th century, Catholicism was introduced by lay people, who traveled to Beijing, China, to be baptized by priests connected to the missions of the Jesuit Matteo Ricci. Christianity grew through the resilient practice of the people before it was outlawed in 1758.
Cardinal Yeom described how the first Mass was celebrated in the country on Easter night in 1791 by a priest who fell victim to the Catholic Persecution of 1801. The first Christians actually formed a village separate from civilization in order to be able to live as a Christian community.
Now, more than 200 years later, the Church in South Korea experiences a boom in conversions to Catholicism. Today, the Catholic population numbers roughly 15 percent of the population, alongside about 17 percent Protestants.
Religious orders enjoy a vast number of vocations and orders like the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres send out missionaries to China, Vietnam and Indonesia, as well as France.
“Korea is facing a new era of missions. One thousand missionaries have been sent out into the world,” observed Cardinal Yeom.
“Spreading the good news is fueled by the love for our country – because the Evangelizers love their Korea, they want to spread the good news of Christ’s Resurrection,” he said.
The message of Christianity touches the heart, the cardinal continued. “It fills the life that is void with hope; God’s love fills the emptiness in the hearts.”
“The human heart needs grace,” he concluded proclaiming that he will serve the Church in Korea “with Peter and under Peter.”
Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Feb 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa, the newly-elevated cardinal from Ivory Coast, has said he wants to combat politicians' “verbal violence,” and is confident that his new role can advance peace in the nation.
The red biretta gives the Archbishop of Abidjan, the de facto capital of Ivory Coast, a greater weight in the country which has suffered two civil wars since 2002.
Cardinal Kutwa was born in 1945, and was ordained a priest of the Abidjan archdiocese in 1971.
He was then appointed Archbishop of Gagnoa in 2001. While there, he represented Ivory Coast in the 2005 Synod of Bishops.
Much of his time in Gagnoa was marked by the First Ivorian Civil War, which split the country largely along a north-south line.
A year before the war ended in 2007, Cardinal Kutwa was transferred to the Archdiocese of Abidjan.
When a second civil war broke out in Ivory Coast in 2011 following a disputed election, Cardinal Kutwa focused his efforts on interreligious dialogue and reconciliation.
Forces loyal to the presidential challenger, Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim from Ivory Coast’s north, marched on Abidjan at the end of March. Thousands of Ivorians were killed in the violence which lasted only a few weeks, and hundreds of thousands displaced. Cardinal Kutwa was himself forced into hiding.
After Ouattara had been installed as president following the violence, Cardinal Kutwa, on April 24, 2011, encouraged Ivorians “to receive and to give pardon so that we may live in peace.”
“Yes, Ivory Coast must be a land of friendship and fraternity, whether you are Muslim or Christian, from the North or the South, white or black, from here or elsewhere … Today more than ever, we must seek to love others.”
Early in 2012, Cardinal Kutwa indicated his continued commitment to reconciliation, asking that Ouattara release political prisoners who had supported the previous president, a Catholic from the south of the country, according to Le Nouveau Courier. He also lamented the continuing exile of many Ivorians.
In a homily delivered in October 2013, he reminded Catholics of their call “to share with the poor and oppressed of every kind,” adding that “engagement for peace, justice, human rights, and the promotion of the human person must be a preoccupation for all Christians.”
The ordained, he said, should take up “courageous and prophetic positions in the face of the corruption of political and economic power … using what the Church possesses for its service to the poorest.”
It was announced Jan. 12 that Pope Francis would elevate him to the college of cardinals, and in an interview with Abidjan’s daily, Nord-Sud, shortly after, the prelate again emphasized his commitment to healing the wounds of Ivorians.
“What I'd like to combat precisely is the verbal violence of politicians … It isn't just the truth which matters, but the form in which it's proposed. If the truth isn't pronounced with good form, the person you speak it to will feel aggression and refuse what's offered.”
Cardinal Kutwa was one of 19 men added to the college of cardinals in the Feb. 22 consistory. He was one of two Africans, alongside Cardinal Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso. His two predecessors as Archbishop of Abidjan were also named cardinals.
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a letter written to families, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of family life in the Church, stating their prayers are crucial for the upcoming synod which is dedicated to the unique challenges they face.
“I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task,” the Pope requested of families in his Feb. 25 letter, adding that “your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church.”
Announced by the Vatican last autumn, this year's Synod of Bishops is slated to take place Oct. 5 – 19, and will explore the theme of “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”
Established by Paul VI in 1965, the Synod of Bishops meets in an extraordinary general assembly when the matter under consideration requires a rapid definition.
Referring to the “urgent pastoral needs” facing the life of the family today, the Roman Pontiff highlighted that the meeting will consist of bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay persons, who are all preparing “through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer.”
“Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever,” he emphasized, noting that the synod “is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society.”
Drawing attention to the Ordinary Assembly which will take place one year after the Synod of Bishops, and which will also focus on the theme of the family, as well as to the World Meeting of Families which is to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015, Pope Francis called on families to pray that “through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.”
Highlighting how he chose to write this letter on the Feast of the Presentation, Pope Francis recalled how Simeon took Jesus “in his arms and thanked God that he had finally 'seen' salvation,” and how “Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigor and began to speak to everyone about the Baby.”
“It is a beautiful image,” he reflected: “two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations!”
“He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness.”
“In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support,” continued the Pope, emphasizing that “if there is no love” in these acts “then there is no joy,” and “authentic love comes to us from Jesus.”
Concluding his letter, the Bishop of Rome explained to families that their prayers for the upcoming events are “a precious treasure” for the Church, and thanked them for their offerings.
“I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love,” he stated, asking that the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph “always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another.”
“I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord.”
Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A spiritual focus on generous service and community is the key to success for the Trappist monks, not only in their business ventures but in all of their pursuits, said a businessman closely acquainted with the order.
Trappist monks build a culture of “service and selflessness” in their monasteries, which explains “why the monks are so successful not just in their business practices but in everything that they do,” said August Turak at a recent address to young professionals at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.
“There's no such thing for the monks as balancing your personal life and your spiritual life: it's all one,” he explained.
Turak is a businessman who has worked for MTV, software companies, and various other corporations. He is also successful writer, contributing to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Forbes.com, among other publications, as well as winning the Templeton Foundation’s Power of Purpose essay contest.
He has also been a frequent visitor at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina for more than 17 years, and credits his time living and working at the abbey for much of his professional success.
The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as Trappists, is a branch of Cistercian monks who follow the Rule of St. Benedict strictly. Located throughout the world, monasteries typically support themselves by producing and selling products including bread, chocolate and cheese, as well as coffins and other items. Trappist beer is particularly famous and admired by connoisseurs across the globe.
Turak explained that the core of the monastery life focuses both on an intense prayer life and a focused work life. “For a Trappist monk, prayer and work are indistinguishable,” he said, pointing to the monastic motto of “ora et labora”- a command to pray and work.
“They're always praying; they're always working,” he continued, and the two practices are very much related. “Prayer is work – it's hard work to pray” and “work is prayer.”
This focus teaches the monks not “to make success happen but how to let success happen” by cultivating an atmosphere centered on service and selflessness that transforms the person.
Within the “self-supporting” monasteries, the monks focus not only on how to “make their daily bread” and support themselves through production and trade, but also on creating a community.
“The monastery is built on community,” Turak said, explaining that communal encouragement and teamwork within monastery walls “buoys everyone up” and creates a culture of virtue and work.
“Everything is about putting someone else first,” he added, and this culture is very much attuned to quality that springs from service.
“The monks are unbelievably famous for the quality of their stuff,” he noted, pointing to world-renowned Trappist beers, breads, and other products. This quality arises, he said, because the monks are “fanatically focused on serving.”
This focus carries over to quality in the secular world as well, he continued, suggesting that the best businesses are focused on serving the customers' needs rather than on profit, promotion or advancement for their own sake.
Paradoxically, he observed, “it is in your own self-interest to forget your self-interest.”
This dedication to radical service, rooted in a prayer life, is transformative. Both the human person and his work will thrive through the cultivation of passion, Turak explained, because people have a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.
“What you really need is a mission,” he stressed, commenting that the Trappists’ mission of selfless service to God and others is what makes them so inspirational.
However, this transformation and resultant passion and excellence is hard work. “It's easy to say, it's really hard to do. The monks spend their whole lives working toward it.”
The continued practice of striving toward one's mission, Turak said, emphasizes teachings from ancient Greek philosophers that “we are what we repeatedly do” and that “excellence is not a choice, it's a habit.”
For the Trappists, he said, the habit of excellence ties both work and spiritual success together.
“The monks are not successful despite the fact that they have the highest ethical standards but because they do.”
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2014 (CNA) -
Today the Italian newspaper La Stampa has published excerpts of a letter from Benedict XVI, who wrote to affirm the existence of only one Pope, Francis.
“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,” wrote Benedict XVI in a letter published on Feb. 26.
His letter was a response to La Stampa’s inquiries regarding “various interpretations that have been circulating in the press and on the web regarding his gesture,” the article noted. Some have questioned whether or not Benedict XVI’s resignation was valid, a speculation the retired Pontiff roundly rejected.
“The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculations regarding its validity are simply absurd,” he wrote.
The article’s author, Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli, described Benedict XVI’s words as “brief and to the point.”
The retired Pontiff recently made a surprise appearance at last Saturday’s consistory creating 19 new Cardinals. He sat slightly apart and wore his customary white garments, rather than the red of a typical Cardinal.
Benedict XVI’s letter to La Stampa addressed his choice of clothing and the speculation surrounding what it might indicate.
“I continue to wear the white cassock and kept the name Benedict for purely practical reasons. At the moment of my resignation there were no other clothes available. In any case, I wear the white cassock in a visibly different way to how the Pope wears it. This is another case of completely unfounded speculations being made,” he wrote.
According to today’s article, the Italian newspaper had also queried Benedict XVI about a letter he had written to Swiss theologian Hans Kung regarding Pope Francis.
Kung had quoted a passage of Benedict XVI’s letter as reading, “I'm grateful to be bound by a great identity of views and a heartfelt friendship with Pope Francis. Today, I see my last and final job to support his pontificate with prayer.”
Benedict XVI responded to La Stampa’s question about the accuracy of such a quote by writing, “Professor Kung quoted the content of my letter to him word-for-word and correctly.”
The retired Pontiff concluded by expressing that he hoped he had answered La Stampa’s questions in a “clear and adequate way.”
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2014 (CNA) -
In his Wednesday general audience Pope Francis gave a brief catechesis on the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, noting that its purpose is to bring Christ close to the recipient.
“Every time we celebrate this sacrament, the Lord Jesus, in the person of the priest, comes close to those who suffer and are gravely ill or elderly,” explained the Pope on Feb. 26.
“The special grace of this sacrament” should not cause us to fall into an “obsessive search for a miracle” or “the presumption that it can always obtain healing,” cautioned the Pontiff. Rather, “it is the certainty of the closeness of Jesus to the sick, the elderly.”
Pope Francis then went on to explain to the crowd of nearly 50,000 in St. Peter’s Square that the practice of this sacrament comes from Christ himself who “taught his disciples to have the same predilection for the sick and the suffering, and handed down to them the ability and the responsibility to continue to offer (it) in his name after his own heart of comfort and peace.”
The biblical image that shows the Anointing of the Sick “in all its depth (and) the mystery that shines through” it is the parable of the Good Samaritan, noted the Pontiff.
A man who has been beaten, robbed, and left lying for dead on the side of the road is ignored by everyone except for a Samaritan man who not only stops to care for him, binding up all his wounds, but then takes the sick man to an inn and pays for him to be cared for there.
“The Good Samaritan takes care of the suffering man, pouring oil and wine on his wounds,” recounted Pope Francis.
“The oil makes us think about what is being blessed by the Bishop each year, at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, just ahead of the Anointing of the Sick,” he explained.
“The wine, however, is a sign of the love and grace of Christ that comes from the gift of his life for us, and which expresses itself in all its richness in the sacramental life of the Church.”
“Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he can continue to take care of him, no expense spared,” continued the Pope.
“Now, what is this inn? It is the Church, the Christian community, it is we to whom every day the Lord Jesus entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we can continue to bestow upon them, without measure, all his mercy and salvation.”
Pope Francis noted that sometimes the sick or elderly are afraid to call the priest for anointing of the sick because they think “it brings bad luck,” or they have “the idea that when there is a sick person and the priest comes, after (his visit) comes the funeral.”
“That is not true!” exclaimed the Pope.
“The priest comes to help the sick or the elderly. This is why it is so important for priests to visit the sick. Call him!” he urged.
“Because it is Jesus who comes to lift up (the sick person), to give him strength, to give hope, to help him. And to forgive his sins. And this is beautiful!"
At the end of the audience, Pope Francis made an appeal for peace in Venezuela, where violent clashes between police and those protesting the 10 month old government have led to at least 13 deaths.
“I sincerely hope that violence and hostility will cease as soon as possible, and that the whole Venezuelan People, beginning with political leaders and institutions, will endeavor to promote reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and a sincere dialogue, respectful of truth and justice, that is capable of dealing with concrete issues for the common good,” he said.
“As I assure you of my constant prayer, especially for those who lost their lives in the fighting and for their families, I invite all believers to lift up prayers to God, through the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto, so that the country might quickly find peace and harmony.”