Vatican City, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
It was made known Thursday that Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, has been made second personal secretary to Pope Francis.
The position is among the Pope’s closest collaborators, and this marks the first time that an Eastern Catholic priest has been appointed to the position.
The vacancy filled by Msgr. Lahzi Gaid March 17 was created when Msgr. Alfred Xuereb was transferred from his position as Pope Francis’ personal secretary to being prelate secretary general of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Msgr. Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz, who had been second to Msgr. Xuereb and is a priest of the Buenos Aires archdiocese, is now first secretary to the Pope, and Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will assist him.
As second secretary, Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will aid the Holy Father in his daily life, with such tasks as translating and answering personal correspondence in the Pope’s name.
Msgr. Lahzi Gaid currently serves in the Secretariat of State, and is known for reading the Gospel, and summarizing the Pope’s comments, in Arabic at his General Audiences. He has also served as translator for the Pope’s meetings with Arabic-speaking delegates, including at his encounter with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the State of Palestine.
He has lived for some time at St. Martha guesthouse in the Vatican, according to Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli.
He was born in 1975 in Cairo, and is one of eight siblings. In addition to his native Arabic, he speaks Italian, French, and English.
He attended the Coptic Catholic seminary in Cairo, and then the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, earning a doctorate in the canon law of the Eastern Churches.
Msgr. Lahzi Gaid has worked at the nunciatures to Congo, Gabon, Iraq, and Jordan.
In 2011, following attacks against the Coptic Orthodox community in Alexandria which killed 21 and injured eight, he wrote an open letter to the imam of Al Azhar University, who regarded Benedict XVI’s condemnation of the attacks as an interference.
He has also served in St. Domitilla parish in Latina, a city south of Rome.
Fr. Gianni Toni, pastor of St. Domitilla, has said that “when Fr. Yoannis was called by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and was told of the Pope’s choice, Fr. Yoannis sent me a three word text message: ‘Pray for me.’”
“I believed that he had been appointed secretary of some nunciature,” Fr. Toni said.
Yangon, Myanmar, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his Easter message, Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, emphasized the hope of the holy day and encouraged the country to seek forgiveness and reconciliation amid past and present conflict.
“Easter breaks forth like a dawn. Its message is soaked in hope. Even the longest night ends in dawn. Every human suffering has an expiration date. The beacon of human journey is hope,” he said.
His Easter message was provided to CNA by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The archbishop said that the Resurrection is “not just a dogma” for those in Myanmar, given the country’s troubled recent history.
“We went through our Way of the Cross for the last five decades,” he said, noting the “long, cruel years” of dictatorship, war, displacement, poverty and oppression, which were “brutally inflicted by men who were agents of darkness.”
“Conflict welded with injustice and made this nation a virtual hell,” he continued. “We were a Good Friday people, without a hope of Holy Saturday and Easter was a distant dream.”
However, Archbishop Bo noted “streaks of hope” in present-day Myanmar, also known as Burma. He encouraged the country to look back and say “the Lord has done marvels for us, blessed be his name.”
He praised a greater willingness among Myanmar’s leaders to experiment with “incremental democracy” and to debate diverse views, as well as greater openness to civil society and a “bolder” media.
“We hope and pray that this is not a false dawn,” he said. He acknowledged remaining problems, including land-grabbing by “cronies” and companies, “collective religious hatred” that is fanned by “neo-Nazi movements,” continued conflict and displacement in ethnic areas, a “sinister” economy that favors the rich and powerful, and the “arrogant march of a heartless neo-liberal economy.”
The archbishop said the only way to avoid a “false dawn” is to follow “the path of reconciliation” shown by Jesus.
“Christians have a special duty for reconciliation. Easter bestows on each one of us to carry on this message of reconciliation,” he said.
“Christ reminds us of our awesome responsibility: just as he has reconciled us to himself by forgiving us, we are to go and seek reconciliation with those who have sinned against us,” Archbishop Bo said. “We, following God's example, are to forgive those who have hurt, troubled, and wronged us! Just as God took the initiative to forgive us - we are to take the initiative to forgive others.”
He said that God expects Christians to forgive those who have wronged them “and to let them know it by the way we show it in our lives.”
The archbishop urged reconciliation within disunited families, between enemies, and across communities. He advocated that Myanmar overcome ethnic divisions and injustice with love. He also advocated a reconciliation with God’s creation and the avoidance of environmental exploitation.
“Reconciliation with our neighbor is the direct result of our forgiveness. There can be no genuine reconciliation without genuine forgiveness,” he said.
Christians are most like Christ when they are forgiving, he stated, also calling for more religious tolerance and a “positive approach” to promoting religion, refraining from attacking other faiths.
In addition, Archbishop Bo noted that Easter week coincides with the Burmese New Year Water Festival, saying that both holidays “point towards a new creation, a new humanity cleansed of all sin and hatred.”
“Hatred has no place in a new nation,” he said. “Myanmar's destiny is Peace and Prosperity.”
The archbishop closed his message by wishing everyone a happy Easter.
Myanmar’s 55 million people are predominantly Buddhist. The Archdiocese of Yangon serves about 76,000 Catholics out of a population of 14 million, according to Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
Vatican City, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The papacies of John XXIII and John Paul II are connected in their dedication to God and to lives of priestly service, a cardinal who worked with both of the pontiffs stressed.
“The two Popes are linked above all by the fact that they were Popes, and Saint Popes, and this is connected with the deepness of their ministry, of a life totally dedicated to their priestly service,” said Cardinal Paul Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Cardinal Poupard worked at the Secretariat of State beginning in 1959, the second year of John XXIII’s papacy.
In 1980, John Paul II appointed him head of the Secretariat for Non-Believers, and he was president of the Pontifical Council for Culture from 1988 to 2007.
In an April 15 interview with CNA, the cardinal stressed the deep spirituality of both Popes.
He noted that Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the man who became Pope John XXIII, chose as his episcopal motto “Oboedientia et pax,” which means, “Obedience and peace.”
“When you read ‘Journal of the Soul,’ the daily diary Roncalli sketched, you read at one point that he stated: ‘Obedience and peace: this is the secret of my life,’” he said.
Cardinal Poupard underscored that John Paul II lived the same trust in God, so much so that he chose the episcopal motto “Totus tuus,” which means, “All yours.”
“The motto came from the treatise on the true devotion to the Virgin Mary, written by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, which John Paul II read and meditated on while he was working at the chemical factory Solvay and also attending the clandestine seminary,” he recounted.
In addition, the cardinal said, while Pope John Paul II’s work against communism is remembered today, it is sometimes forgotten that “in an era of cold war, John XXIII started to tear down the Iron Curtain, and also gained the Balzan Prize for peace, unanimously voted by a jury which included a member of the Soviet Union.”
Cardinal Poupard said he is “very grateful to Pope Francis for joining the two Popes in one only act of canonization, since, if there had not been John XXIII, there would not have been John Paul II. And I can testify to it.”
The two Popes are linked, while at the same time being very different from one another, the cardinal observed.
“These differences are the beauty of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Poupard concluded. “The Lord prepares every saint His own way.”
Vatican City, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Following the presentation of a new stamp of Pope Francis, Philippine postmaster Maria De la Cruz revealed that they will also release stamps honoring Bl. John Paul II and John XXIII for their canonization.
“We’re actually issuing a very special commemorative stamp of the canonization of Pope John Paul, and Pope John XXIII,” Maria Josefina De la Cruz told CNA on April 16 after the official presentation of their new stamp of Pope Francis.
“You see, Pope John Paul is also very popular in the Philippines” she said, noting that “he came to visit us twice.”
Recalling her experience attending World Youth Day as a child, De la Cruz explained that “You feel you want to cry when you see the Holy Father. Its tears of joy, really. So now we are coming out with those two stamps” for the canonizations this week.
Speaking of the significance of the Pope to the Philippines, De la Cruz expressed that “it’s the only Catholic country in Asia,” therefore “the Pope is always so important for us.”
“In fact there’s a very big delegation of Filipinos coming for the canonization” she observed, “So you can see there’s a very strong relationship between the Filipinos people and the Vatican.”
Recounting her experience of meeting Pope Francis earlier that morning during the presentation of their new stamp of him, which features a smiling image of the pontiff along with the words “Pope Francis year II – 2014,” De la Cruz explained that “We are really so blessed.”
“Really so blessed that we were able to kiss his hand and that we were at such close distance with him and relay to him that our country is waiting for his visit.”
Meeting the Pope, she said, was like being there as “any regular Catholic wanting to have a look to see the Pope, and it’s still the same experience I have now. You feel like you want to cry.”
“There is something about the Pope that touches you. And seeing him really go out of his way talking to the old, the sick one by one, the extra effort he gives reaching out to the people is so moving,” the postmaster expressed.
De la Cruz stated that she was particularly struck by Pope Francis’ response to her declaration that “The Philippines love you Holy Father,” noting that he “only had one answer: ‘please pray for me.’ Beautiful.”
Going on, the postmaster revealed that many in the Philippines are “looking forward to the possibility that the Pope can visit them,” especially following his prayers and solidarity in wake of the typhoon that ravaged the country in November.
“Our country has gone through a lot over the past months. In fact the reconstruction is not going to be easy,” she observed, adding that “I have been there myself, and you can really see the devastation.”
“But I really think the hope of having the Pope there would give them so much inspiration as they try to move on with their lives. Because so many people have died. So many families have suffered. Up to now, people are still missing.”
“It’s a very difficult time,” De la Cruz emphasized, “but as I said we will move on, and the visit of the Holy Father will be something very, very special for them, I’m sure.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis sent 150 Easter eggs to the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital as an Easter gift to children hospitalized with cancer.
According to hospital officials, a van from the Vatican filled with chocolate eggs arrived at the facility during Holy Week, and the eggs were given to the children in the oncology unit.
The Bambino Gesu Hospital, known as “the Pope's Hospital,” was founded in 1869 and is the oldest pediatric hospital in Italy.
Families in Italy traditionally give chocolate eggs to their children during Easter. The eggs are often elaborately decorated and specially packaged at bakeries and candy shops.
Pope Francis met with children at the hospital during a Christmas visit last Dec. 21.
Pope John XXIII – who will be canonized April 27 – visited the hospital on Christmas Day in 1958. Pope Paul VI continued the tradition by visiting the hospital, as did Pope John Paul II, who will also be canonized April 27. Pope Benedict XVI made his own visit to the hospital during the first days of his pontificate.
Shrewsbury, England, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, has warned that a British proposal to legalize assisted suicide would change “long-established laws which uphold the sanctity of human life” and put the weakest in society at risk.
“It is hard to understand that, at a time when there has been so much public concern about the care of the most vulnerable in our hospitals and care homes, we would be contemplate weakening, rather than strengthening the legal protection offered to some of the weakest and most vulnerable,” the bishop said in his Easter Morning homily at Shrewsbury Cathedral.
The assisted suicide bill, currently in the House of Lords, would change the law in England and Wales, which presently punishes assisted suicide by up to 14 years in prison. The proposed legislation is a private bill from Lord Falconer, a peer with the Labour Party. It will be debated in upcoming weeks. It would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to seriously ill patients who request them.
Opponents of the law include those who say that suicide and assisting in it is morally wrong. Some opponents say it would damage the doctor-patient relationship and enable abuse like that witnessed in countries that permit assisted suicide or euthanasia, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports.
Critics also warn of pressure to expand eligibility for assisted suicide, as in Belgium which recently allowed children to request euthanasia.
Backers of the bill said there are safeguards to prevent abuse. The bill would require doctors who prescribe lethal drugs to certify that their patient is unlikely to live longer than six months. Proponents claim that the bill will not put pressure on vulnerable elderly and disabled people to kill themselves.
Leaders of several major parliamentary parties will allow a free vote on the bill, which could increase its likelihood of success, the Telegraph reports. However, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will not support the bill.
Bishop Davies said that many consciences “struggle amid the shadows as they try to distinguish good and evil in everything which concerns the value of human life itself.”
“In the light of the Easter faith, the English people came to recognize the eternal value and dignity of every human person,” he added.
Citing the Second Vatican Council, he said that once God is forgotten, “we are left in darkness and without this faith respect for the inherent sanctity of human life and the God-given dignity of every person cannot long survive.”
Bishop Davies said that the Christian faith is “a change from darkness to dawn.” He called for people to follow “the true way of love and mercy” that is enlightened by Jesus Christ.
Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics in Papua New Guinea honored the evangelization, 80 years ago, of the remote interior of the nation's main island by making a pilgrimage in the steps of its first missionaries.
“After 80 years, the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Mount Hagen felt it is time to say thank you and to acknowledge all the blessings from God through the missionaries,” said Paul Petrus, a social researcher and a layman of Papua New Guinea, in an April 21 interview with CNA.
Some 500 Catholics, including three priests and nine seminarians, trekked through the mountainous highlands of New Guinea from March 28 until April 13, Palm Sunday.
They began in the vicinity of Madang, on the coast, and arrived at the Mount Hagen chancery, where they were greeted by Archbishop Douglas Young, who told them, “the pilgrimage was sign of a family walking together and sharing the Gospel, as a Church alive in Christ.”
The Wahgi Valley, in which Mount Hagen is located, was unknown to Westerners until aerial reconnaissance discovered it in 1933.
The following year, Divine Word Missionaries traveled to the Highlands to evangelize its native inhabitants. They were commissioned by the vicar apostolic of Eastern New Guinea, who was himself a member of the Society of the Divine Word.
Divine Word Missionaries from America and Germany – Fr. Wilhelm Ross, Fr. Wilhelm Tropper, Br. Eugene Frank, Fr. Alphonse Schafer, and Fr. Henry Auefnanger – set out from Wilya together with 72 indigenous helpers to evangelize New Guinea's Highlands, eventually branching out and founding different missions.
“The first missionaries’ sole purpose was to evangelize the people, but services such as education and health seemed necessary in order to evangelize meaningfully,” Petrus reflected.
“Thus, schools and health services were established, and since then it has contributed much to the development of the region; and today about 40 percent of the health and education services in the Highlands is provided by the Catholic Church.”
Petrus recounting the walking pilgrimage, saying the first week was a “test of faith, and of physical strength.”
He described the pilgrims' suffering in walking through the tropical rainforest and steep terrain of the New Guinea Highlands, crossing valleys to highways, some of them without proper footwear.
Despite aching bodies and blistered feet, the pilgrims found “spiritual strength which motivated them to continue,” Petrus said.
“Some of the pilgrims are descendents of the helpers who assisted the first missionaries.”
They followed a stretch of the Chimbu river for a time, crossing the ridges of the Bismarck range – the highest peak of which, Mount Wilhelm, rises to more than 14,700 feet.
The pilgrims visited the memorials of Br. Eugene Frank at Anganere and Fr. Carl Morschheuser at Womatne. Both were martyred by indigenous Papuans, in 1934 and 1935.
The second week of the pilgrimage, from Mingende to Mount Hagen, a distance of more than 50 miles, continued on the old highway, a route that Fr. Ross and Br. Eugene had used.
Petrus described the arrival at Mount Hagen as filled with “tears of joy” for many of the pilgrims.
“It was a perfect spiritual exercise to strengthen their Catholic faith during the Lenten season,” he said of his fellow pilgrims, “and it was a good experience to feel a pain and suffering similar to that of the first missionaries who 80 years ago entered the Highlands region.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Basilica of St. John Lateran, cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, was filled Tuesday with thousands of youths who had come to learn more about the two Bishops of Rome who will be canonized Sunday.
Both John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized by Pope Francis April 27 at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
Fr. Giovanngiuseppe Califano, a Franciscan and the postulator of Bl. John XXIII, opened the April 22 event by remembering some of Good Pope John’s encounters with youth, for whom he searched "in the parishes of Rome, in the peripheries, hospitals and prisons."
“In those times we were all warned that the Pope used a new language, new gestures, and we felt his paternity. They were times of mercy.”
"Above all, Pope John opened new horizons for the Church. The Second Vatican Council … had an inspiration from above, and he understood … we all had to build bridges of dialogue through which the Word of God passes.”
Fr. Califano encouraged the youth to imitate the new saint, and affirmed that "the holiness of John XXIII is not impossible to imitate."
"The world loved the Pope for his goodness and his charity, but also for these surprising gestures in an elderly Pope who seemed transitional. The secret of his enduring youthfulness was his ability to renew their desire of belonging to God and to be fully realized in the light of God and his plan."
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, postulator for Bl. John Paul II’s cause, then recalled the Pope in his years of seminary, and spoke about the moment of calling in the life of a Christian.
Finally, Fr. Fabio Rosini, vocations director for the Diocese of Rome, gave a catechesis.
Amid the thousands of youth, CNA spoke with Daniele Adani, a 20 year old student, who said, "Even though I didn't know John Paul II well, I remember the images in which he hiked through the mountains, and his talks … but what I remember most are the images of the funeral. That is where I really discovered the faith, and today he has become a very important person in my life."
Among the youth were also hundreds of adults who grew up with John Paul II, such as Laura Ganinberti, a 40 year old mother who explained to CNA that she came to the encounter with the youth "to return a favor of John Paul II."
"I belong to a generation that grew up with him, and knew he gave us values and a single horizon, the capacity of reading the whole truth in the message of the Cross, to go hand in hand, and to know the most beautiful news of the world: Christ is risen. Today I came with some youth of the parish, 20 or 30, and we said, 'How can it be that people of such different ages are going to the same destination?'"
For her part, Sister Carlota, 32, from the Congregation of Mary Queen of the Apostles for Vocations, explained to CNA that she met John Paul II during World Youth Day in Paris, and in Canada.
“It's beautiful to be able to pray to a person that you have met … a person whose face you know and whom you have met. It's beautiful to have this encounter during which the youth announce that faith is something beautiful and joyful.”