Vatican City, Mar 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
This coming Friday Pope Francis is slated to preside over a prayer vigil for victims of mafia violence and their families, which takes place the night before the national day commemorating the lives lost.
“For the families of innocent victims, this meeting with the Pope is a gift,” Fr. Luigi Ciotti expressed in a March 15 article on Vatican Radio.
“The availability of the Pope to accompany these family members in this moment, laden with suffering but also marked by hope, is a sign of attention and sensitivity, which they seized from the first moment.”
Fr. Ciotti, an Italian priest from the Archdiocese of Turin, is president of the Libera Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to fighting organized crime across Italy, and is hosting the March 21 prayer vigil.
Set to take place in Rome at the Church of Saint Gregory VII, the event is expected to draw close to 700 family members of mafia victims from all across Italy, who represent the near 15,000 who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to mafia violence.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., the vigil will conclude at 7 p.m. and takes place the evening before the national memorial day commemorating the innocent victims, Vatican Radio reports.
Referring to the Pope’s presence as “an attention to our fragile and wounded humanity,” Fr. Ciotti noted that it is “also attention to the specific issue of the mafia, of corruption, of the many forms of injustice that deny human rights.”
Founded in 1995 with the goal of encouraging society to fight against organized crime and to promote justice, the Libera Foundation, meaning “free,” is compiled of more than 1500 organizations, groups, and schools who are committed to building a political and cultural dynamic that promotes the sense of lawfulness within society.
According to the Transcrime research center, the mafia has its strongest presence in the North-Western and central regions of Italy, and is responsible for the majority of the illegal activity in the country, the most important of which include sexual exploitation, firearms trafficking, drugs, counterfeiting, gambling, illegal waste trafficking, illegal tobacco trafficking, usury and extortion.
Transcrime estimates that combined together, mafia activities generate a turnover of between 24 to over 46 billion dollars, with an average equivalent to 1.7% of the country’s national GDP.
With the main illegal activities being involvement with drugs, extortions, sexual exploitation and counterfeiting, Transcrime estimates that the annual mafia revenue falls between a minimum of 11.5 – 18 billion dollars.
Vatican City, Mar 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his visit to the Roman parish of Our Lady of Oration on Sunday, Pope Francis emphasized the necessity of listening to God, and encouraged attendees to make time every day to read the Bible.
“What are the responsibilities of a Christian?” the Pope asked in his March 16 homily.
“Maybe you tell me: go to Mass on Sundays, fast and abstain during Holy Week, do this...But the first responsibility of a Christian is to listen to the Word of God, listen to Jesus, because he speaks to us and he saves us with his Word.”
On Sunday Pope Francis traveled to the Roman parish of Our Lady of Oration, which is in the Setteville neighborhood outside of the city, to celebrate Mass and meet with various groups within the parish community.
Emphasizing in his homily the importance of listening to the Word of God, the pontiff explained that by doing so the Lord “makes our faith stronger and more robust.”
“'But Father, I listen to Jesus, I listen to him so much!'” he stated, imitating what some might say. “Yeah? What do you listen to?” he mocked, stating “'But I listen to the radio, I listen to the television, I listen to people's gossip...'”
Observing how there are “So many things we listen to during the day,” the Pope asked the parishioners if they could “take a little time, every day, to listen to Jesus, to listen to the Word of Jesus?”
Echoing part of his Angelus address earlier that day, Pope Francis encouraged the congregation to carry a small Bible with them in their “pocket” or their “purse,” so that they can read it whenever they “have a little bit of time,” suggesting “maybe in the bus.”
“When you can in the bus, because many times in the bus we are a little forced to maintain balance and also to defend our pockets, no?” he noted, “But when you sit, here or there, also read during the day, bring the Gospel and read two little words. The Gospel always with us!”
Highlighting how we are “invited to listen to Jesus,” the pontiff observed that “with his Transfiguration” the Lord “invites us to look at him,” and that “to look at Jesus purifies our eyes and prepares them for eternal life, for the vision of Heaven.”
“Maybe our eyes are a little darkened because we see so many things that are not from Jesus” and that “counter Jesus: mundane things, things that damage the light of the soul,” the Pope continued.
“And here this light slowly fades and without knowing it we finish in interior darkness, in spiritual darkness, in the darkness of faith: a darkness because we are not used to looking at, imagining the things of Jesus.”
Concluding his homily, the Pope repeated his petition for those present to read the Bible, and encouraged them to listen to and watch Jesus, imagining “how he was and how he did things,” so that both intelligence and heart can go forward on the path of hope.
Following the celebration of the Liturgy, Pope Francis met with various groups from the parish, including the sick and disabled, children who made either their first communion or confirmation the previous year, members of the Neocatechumenal Way who attend the parish, and the families of children who were baptized in the last year.
The pontiff heard confessions before he celebrated the Mass, and afterwards greeted the families of the priests serving in the parish. He also took a moment to climb up to the church’s terrace, and greet the crowds from above before returning to the Vatican.
Vatican City, Mar 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Returning to the Vatican after a week of Lenten spiritual exercises, Pope Francis emphasized that we should not be discouraged by sin, but rather renew our commitment to following Christ.
“We are all sinners but we want to follow Jesus,” the Holy Father said upon departing from the annual retreat for the Pope and members of the Curia.
The retreat took place outside the Vatican for the first time this year; it was held in the nearby town of Ariccia.
Pope Francis thanked Father Angelo de Donatis, who preached the Lenten retreat on the subject of “purification of the heart.”
“I would like offer you thanks on my behalf and on behalf of all those present for your help during these days, for accompanying us and listening to us,” the Pope said. “We now return home with a good seed: the seed of the Word of God.”
Now, he continued, “the Lord sends us the rain that will make the seed grow.”
“Let us thank the Lord for the seed and for the rain that he sends us, and let us also thank the sower. Because he has done the sowing and knows how to do so, yes he knows.”
“And I ask you to keep praying for this 'syndicate of believers',” the Holy Father said with a smile.
“We are all sinners but we all have the desire to follow Jesus more closely, without losing hope in the promise and also without losing a sense of humor.”
Birmingham, England, Mar 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis has named Fr. Robert Byrne as a new auxiliary bishop of the Birmingham archdiocese, leading the Oratorian priest to praise the examples of the Pope and of Bl. John Henry Newman.
Fr. Byrne said he is “deeply honoured and humbled” by the appointment, adding that Pope Francis’ example “will continue to inspire and shape my ministry in Birmingham, especially to serve the poor, the marginalised and those who may feel alienated from God and society.”
“In the spirit of St. Philip Neri – the founder of the Oratory and a saint with a great sense of humour – I am committed to helping share the joy of the Gospel message with others,” he said March 15, the day of his appointment.
“I began my priestly ministry in Birmingham twenty nine years ago and I look forward to renewing my friendships and to making my home once again in this great city. I have a great love for the Malvern Hills and the music of Elgar, so (I) was particularly pleased when I learned that my ministry would include the pastoral care of the Worcestershire deaneries.”
He also cited Bl. John Henry Newman -- who was ordained a priest of the Oratorians in 1847 -- as an inspiration, saying, “I hope in some way to be able to follow his example, particularly in the care and love that he showed for his priests and people.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said he was “immensely grateful” to Pope Francis for the appointment, saying Fr. Byrne will bring “considerable pastoral, theological and administrative skills.”
“Above all I am grateful that he brings the spirituality of St. Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratory, to enrich his ministry among us,” the archbishop said March 15.
The Oratorians are communities of priests who live together without taking vows. St. Philip Neri founded the first such community in Rome in the 1500s.
Fr. Byrne was born in Manchester Sept. 22, 1956, to Sidney and Monica Byrne. He studied at King’s College London and at the Pontifical College of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
In 1980 he entered the Birmingham Oratory, which was founded by Bl. John Henry Newman in 1849. He was ordained a priest of the oratory in 1985.
In 1990 he helped found the Oxford Oratory at St. Aloysius parish. He has served as a parish priest in Oxford and as a chaplain to both schools and prisons; he was also the national ecumenical officer for the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.
After his consecration at St. Chad’s Cathedral on May 13, Fr. Byrne will work to strengthen Catholic life in his pastoral area, which includes the Birmingham and Worcestershire deaneries.
Fr. Byrne said he owes an “enormous debt of gratitude” to his Oratorian community for their “priestly example, friendship and support, adding, “I have been richly blessed … by the people that I have met and the work that I’ve been asked to do.”
“I look forward to building upon this experience and to working closely with other Christians and people of all faiths and none.”
He will be the first Oratorian bishop in England since 1874, when Fr. Edward Bagshawe of the London Oratory was appointed Bishop of Nottingham.
The Archdiocese of Birmingham serves about 286,000 Catholics out of a population of about 5.4 million.
In other pontifical acts, on March 15 Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Nel Beltran Santamaria of Sincelejo, in Colombia, at the age of 72; and appointed Bishop Romulo de la Cruz as Archbishop of Zamboanga, in the Philippines; and appointed Fr. Jose Garita Herrera as Bishop of Cuidad Quesada, in Costa Rica.
Awali, Bahrain, Mar 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics in the Arabian peninsula look forward to building a new cathedral in Bahrain, creating a permanent home for the Church and a place to help support Catholics coming to the region.
“Our mission is to form a better society, to witness with our love that God loves all,” said Bishop Camillo Ballin, Vicar Apostolic of Northern Arabia, in a March 13 interview with CNA.
The Northern Arabia vicariate apostolic serves Catholics in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. It was recently given permission to build a cathedral, named Our Lady of Arabia, on land donated by Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah.
Bishop Ballin said he hopes construction "will start in October," for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Catholics in the area began raising money for the cathedral around two years ago, and local Catholics from the region raised about $3 million - a testament to the generosity of the local Catholic Community, Bishop Ballin said.
The vicariate remains in need of $30 million by 2016 to complete the cathedral, however, as well as other auxiliary buildings for housing visiting priests and the bishop, a catechist training center, and multipurpose halls. The cathedral is projected to accommodate some 2,600.
"We're looking for help everywhere," the bishop said.
The episcopal seat of the vicariate -- an ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the Church where there is no fully organized hierarchy -- is located in Bahrain. The cathedral will oversee the territories 10 parishes and more than 100 underground communities.
Mass is often said at a foreign embassy or a private home, as there are few churches permitted in the region.
In order to respect the laws of the Islamic countries under which the vicariate operates, it does not try to gain converts but instead focuses on religious freedom and ministering to the approximately 2.5 million Catholics in the region, many of whom are migrant workers.
Workers, Bishop Ballin said, are "coming from many countries," including neighboring Arabic countries, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and "the number is always growing."
Currently, approximately 2.5 million Catholics live within the Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Arabia. The vicariate has 50 priests, all of whom speak more than one language. On Sundays, Mass is offered in 5 rites and 13 languages.
The vicariate plays a crucial role for migrant workers, Bishop Ballin said, by helping "them to remain faithful to the faith” through Masses, sacraments, Eucharistic Adoration, Bible studies, and prayer groups.
However, the vicariate's "mission is not only spiritual, but also to give them human company," said Bishop Ballin.
He explained that when coming to the Arabian Peninsula, "many people have difficulties" in their daily lives, especially since many come alone, leaving their family in their home country.
"A challenge for all is the Arabic language," the bishop said, explaining that mastering the language takes years of study, and migrant workers picking up the language only through hearing face challenges and social missteps due to their mistakes.
Migrant workers also face many challenges arising from their working situation, Bishop Ballin said.
"In the Gulf in general, there are no laws to protect the worker," he explained, saying that often they can be fired for any reason, and without warning.
"We need laws that protect the worker," he stressed, adding that the "presence of these workers" plays a crucial role in the functioning of society. One thing the Church can do to help is to explain the role workers play in helping the country to "go forth" and advance, the bishop said.
Bishop Ballin added that Catholics in the region "help our country with its needs," and having a more visible center for the Church in Northern Arabia will help the Church to "collaborate for the good of the country."
Bishop Ballin hoped that the faithful would turn to Mary for her assistance, because "she knows where the benefactors are," particularly because the new cathedral will be dedicated to Our Lady of Arabia. He asked that supporters would "pray for us and our spiritual life and that the Virgin Mary would send benefactors."
Those wishing to assist in the construction of a cathedral for Catholics on the Arabian peninsula may visit here for more information.