Avila, Spain, Mar 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis received a letter Wednesday from the president of the Spanish region of Castile and Leon, Juan Vicente Herrera, inviting him to visit Spain to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila.
The invitation was delivered Feb. 26 to the Holy Father during an audience held with a delegation from the Foundation for the Commemoration of the 500th Centenary of St. Teresa of Jesus, the government of Castile and Leon, and the city of Avila. The Holy Father was also presented with the pastoral, cultural, and scientific program for the event.
The delegation included Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila; Jose Martinez Gonzalez, vicar general of the Discalced Carmelite Order; Alicia Garcia, culture and tourism adviser of Castile and Leon; and Miguel Garcia Nieto, mayor of Avila.
According to EFE news agency, the delegation met with the Father General of the Carmelite Order in Rome, Friar Saverio Cannistra, and with Spain's ambassador to the Holy See, Eduardo Guitierrez Saenz de Buruaga.
The foundation hopes Pope Francis will travel to Avila in 2015 to preside at the closing ceremony of the centenary, which is being officially celebrated by the Spanish government.
Castile and Leon, where Avila is located, will play a key role in the celebrations, as the region where St. Teresa was born and died, and where she founded 17 convents.
St. Teresa was born in Avila March 28, 1515, and was largely responsible for the reform of the Carmelite Order, along with St. John of the Cross.
“Teresa of Jesus had no academic education but always set great store by the teachings of theologians, men of letters and spiritual teachers,” Benedict XVI said of her during his Feb. 2, 2011, General Audience. “As a writer, she always adhered to what she had lived personally through or had seen in the experience of others, in other words basing herself on her own first-hand knowledge.”
“Teresa had the opportunity to build up relations of spiritual friendship with many Saints and with St John of the Cross in particular. At the same time she nourished herself by reading the Fathers of the Church, St Jerome, St Gregory the Great and St Augustine.”
“It is far from easy to sum up in a few words Teresa’s profound and articulate spirituality,” he continued. “In the first place St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life and in particular, detachment from possessions, that is, evangelical poverty, and this concerns all of us; love for one another as an essential element of community and social life; humility as love for the truth; determination as a fruit of Christian daring; theological hope, which she describes as the thirst for living water.”
“Secondly, St Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical figures and eager listening to the word of God. She feels above all closely in tune with the Bride in the Song of Songs and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with Christ in the Passion and with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Saint then stresses how essential prayer is. Praying, she says, 'means being on terms of friendship with God frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us.'”
Rome, Italy, Mar 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Feb. 18 Maria Franziska von Trapp passed away after spending her life as a performer alongside her six siblings, and later as a lay-missionary with her step-mother in Papua New Guinea.
Maria von Trapp was the third child and second oldest daughter of Austrian Naval Captain Georg von Trapp and his first wife Agathe Whitehead von Trapp. She was the last surviving member of the original seven children in the Trapp Family Singers.
The group became famous in the 1959 Broadway musical and 1965 film “The Sound of Music” which recounts their story, and in which Maria was portrayed as the character Louisa.
Loosely based on a book written by Georg's second wife, Maria Augusta von Trapp, the movie details the story of an Austrian woman who was going to be a nun, but married the widower after being a nanny to his seven children and teaching the family music.
After fleeing Nazi-Germany in 1938 for fear of reprisals after declining to sing at Hitler's birthday party as well as Georg von Trapp's refusal to accept a commission in the German Navy, the family eventually settled down in Vermont in the early 1940s and opened a ski lodge in Stowe.
The family's website recalls how Maria grew up surrounded by music, and that before the family left Germany they would travel across Europe giving concerts and special tours.
Maria and her six siblings, who are now all deceased, were born to Capt. von Trapp and his first wife Agathe, and are survived by half-siblings Rosemarie, Eleonore, and Johannes, who are the children of Georg and his second wife Maria, but who were not portrayed in the film.
The family continued to perform and give tours together until 1955, at which time Maria and her step-mother, Maria Augusta, decided to become lay-missionaries in Papua New Guinea, where Maria eventually adopted a son named Kikuli Mwanukuzi.
According Fox News, Maria's half-brother Johannes von Trapp said that she died at her home in Vermont, noting that “She was a lovely woman who was one of the few truly good people...There wasn't a mean or miserable bone in her body. I think everyone who knew her would agree with that.”
Johannes lives in Vermont along with his two sisters, and is currently the president of the Trapp Family Lodge, which still operates, while.
Sister Eleonore von Trapp-Campbell is currently living in Waitsfield, Vermont, while the eldest of the three, Rosemarie von Trapp, is a retired teacher and also travels extensively as a missionary.
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The restoration of the Bernini colonnade and other historic pieces in St. Peter’s Square will be finished by Easter, in time for the canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
According to an article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano by Vatican Museums director, Prof. Antonio Paolucci, “the time schedule…provided for the completion of the construction in time for Easter of 2014 and for the great spring canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, events that will bring millions of pilgrims to Rome, was observed even in advance.”
The intensive project was begun in November 2008, and included restoration of 284 columns, 140 statues, and 44,000 cubic meters of travertine.
Paolucci, who oversaw the project, noted that in addition to cleaning all the surfaces, the restoration secured many elements of the construction that were “disjointed and in most cases unsafe.”
Designed and built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini from 1656-1673 for Pope Alexander VII, the colonnades that encircle St. Peter’s Square are intended to symbolize the universal embracing arms of the Catholic Church.
“It is an architectural structure that multiplies the vanishing points, and then the perspective effects, so that those who enter St. Peter's Square have the impression of being inside a forest of columns that embraces you from all sides without defining its borders,” explained Paolucci.
The saint statues atop the colonnade include various men and women founders, doctors, martyrs, confessors and virgins.
“They are the heavenly army of the Catholic Church, representing the eternal and triumphant Christianity that participates in the joy and faith of the people when the Pope of Rome gathers them in the square dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles.”
Paolucci noted that the travertine sculptures set against the backdrop of the Roman sky “change color according to the hours and seasons.”
This kind of dramatic effect was intended by Bernini, who saw the project as an opportunity to build the “great theatre of the colonnade” that would have “high symbolic value” and evoke “extraordinary emotional involvement.”
The years-long project has aimed to restore the edifice to its original grandeur.
Recent renovations, which include work on the two fountains in the square, have cost about 14 million Euro. According to a 2011 article in L’Osservatore Romano, Mr. Pier Carol Cuscianna, Director of Technical Services at the Governorate of the Vatican City State, which oversaw the work, said that the project was “undertaken thanks to generous sponsors and to Divine Providence.” In 2012, the Vatican issued a limited edition of papal stamps to raise revenue for the work.
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On the morning of March 1, Pope Francis resumed his usual commitments, after suspending his visit to the Roman Seminary the day before due to a mild fever.
The Press Office of the Holy See reported that after resting, the Holy Father decided to continue with his agenda for the morning in the Vatican, meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
Later, the Pope received the Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Viorel Ponta, who arrived at the Vatican accompanied by his wife and a delegation, and later the Ambassador of Chile to the Holy See.
By late morning, the Holy Father received the bishops who are part of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. They are in Rome from Feb. 24 to March 8 on their first visit “ad Limina Apostolorum” meeting with the Argentine Pontiff.
In the afternoon, Pope Francis is scheduled to receive the Catholic writer and political scientist George Weigel of the United State, author of the bestseller “Witness to Hope.” The book is a biography of Blessed John Paul II, who will be canonized on April 27, the feast of Divine Mercy, along with Blessed John XXIII, in St. Peter's Square.
Kyiv, Ukraine, Mar 1, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church issued a statement Feb. 28 praying for the people of Crimea and appealing for the unity of Ukraine, as Russia has reportedly deployed troops in the peninsula.
“The entire family of the UGCC faithful pleads to the compassionate Lord for his protection and assistance to peacefully overcome the deteriorating situation in Crimea, and that the unity of our country might be preserved,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halyc said.
Earlier that day, armed men in unmarked military uniforms took control of airports in Crimea, as well as the autonomous republic’s parliament building and state telecommunications and television centers. Flights from Crimean airports have been grounded.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Russia has flown hundreds, or even thousands, of troops into Crimea.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said any of his country’s military movements in Crimea are “within the framework” of long-standing agreements between Moscow and Kyiv – also known as Kiev; Russia’s Black See fleet has a base at the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
Oleksander Turchynov, Ukraine’s acting president, accused Russia of deploying its troops in Crimea, trying to provoke armed conflict.
“The UGCC faithful pray for the Krym exarchate and for the preservation of the unity of Ukraine,” said a statement from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
“In these days, we pray for peace and security for all residents of the Crimean peninsula, especially the clergy and laity of our Krym exarchate.”
The Krym exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was established only two weeks ago, on Feb. 13. It was split from the exarchate of Odesa, and serves the Ukrainian Catholics in Crimea.
These developments in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church come among profound political transition in the nation.
Protests in Kyiv began in November, when the government announced it would not sign a major economic partnership agreement with the European Union, in favor of a $15 billion bailout agreement with Russia. Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Kyiv, at times occupying government buildings.
Protests continued through February, until more than 80 people were killed – some of them by snipers – during protests at Maidan in Kyiv.
On Feb. 21, Viktor Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine, fled Kyiv; the next day, parliament voted to remove him from power. Turchynov was appointed acting president Feb. 23 by parliament.
Turchyov has already announced his desire to strengthen ties with the European Union, and formed a government Feb. 27, with Arseniy Yatsenyuk appointed as prime minister. Elections have been scheduled for May 25.
Ukraine’s acting president quickly warned against the dangers of separatism, a risk for the majority-Russian areas of eastern Ukraine, particularly Crimea.
Crimea is a southern peninsula of Ukraine where nearly 60 percent of the population are ethnic Russians, and more than 50 percent of the population speak Russian as their first language.
The territory was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 under the Soviet Union.
On Feb. 27, armed men raised a Russian flag over the Crimean parliament without opposition, and there had been reports of prior clashes of ethnic Russians with Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians on the peninsula.
On Feb. 28, US president Barack Obama stated, “we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties – and a military facility in Crimea. But any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing.”
“The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
On March 1, Russia’s upper house of Parliament voted unanimously to approve Russian military forces in Ukraine, after a request from Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking to normalize the “extraordinary situation in Ukraine.”
Turchynov stated on his party’s Twitter account that the nation “perceive(s) Russia's actions as direct aggression towards the sovereignty of Ukraine.”