San José, Costa Rica, Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Floribeth Mora, the 50-year-old Costa Rican woman whose miraculous healing paved the way for the canonization of John Paul II, is taking to the Vatican a suitcase filled with handwritten letters for Pope Francis.
Mora was cured of a brain aneurysm in 2011 thanks to the intercession of the then-recently beatified John Paul II. The approval of this miracle allowed John Paul’s path to sainthood to move forward.
In statements to the newspaper “La Razon,” Mora said that she is preparing to travel to the Vatican to attend the canonization this Sunday and that “the most significant thing I am bringing is a suitcase with letters addressed to Pope Francis.”
“I know I am going to cry when I see him. He is a humble pope, and I want to tell him that if he has the chance to visit America, that he should go to Costa Rica,” she said.
Among the petitions she is brining with her, four stories particularly struck her: “a lady who suffered a stroke, a 5-year-old boy with a brain tumor, a baby with tubes connected all over his body, and a pregnant woman suffering because her unborn child has a disease.”
During the canonization, Mora will also carry a vial containing the blood of John Paul II.
According to her husband, Mora’s story was an incredible experience. “(She) has received many positive messages from the people. Every day we have different guests at home,” he said.
In addition to the petitions, Mora will also be bringing books written by priests, and among the letters she will carry is one from a Venezuelan family praying for peace for their country.
Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A fundraising campaign to create a movie about the notorious Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell has surpassed $1.2 million in donations, more than halfway to its goal.
“We have to keep the momentum going,” film producer Phelim McAleer said at an April 22 briefing at the Heritage Foundation.
The filmmaker considers Gosnell “the biggest serial killer in American history.”
In May 2013, Gosnell was convicted of three first-degree murder charges for killing babies who had been born alive after his failed abortion attempts. Testimony had indicated that Gosnell and his staff snipped the necks of more than 100 infants who survived abortion.
McAleer, his wife and co-producer Ann McElhinney, and fellow filmmaker Magdalena Segienda have asked thousands of donors to contribute $2.1 million or more by May 12 to help make a made-for-TV movie about Gosnell.
By the afternoon of April 23, the movie had more than $1,274,000 in donations from over 13,000 funders on the collaborative fundraising site IndieGogo. The fundraiser is an example of “crowdfunding,” relying on the ability to find many donors on the internet who are interested in the same kinds of projects.
If the moviemaking effort does not raise $2.1 million by midnight Pacific Time on May 12, all contributions will be returned to donors and the movie will go unfunded.
According to McAleer, the Gosnell movie project is “the most successful” crowdfunded movie hosted on IndieGogo. He believes it is presently about the fourth most successful crowdfunded movie project ever.
He also believes that the project is attracting first-time donors to a crowdfunded project. He said that the number of individual funders is almost as important as the donation amount to encourage wider media attention.
“If we have 20 to 30,000 people who have funded this movie to make it happen, it’s a ready audience, and their family and their friends, that’s difficult for them to ignore,” he said. “(Even) if people give only one dollar, it’s important for us and this project.”
National media covered the Gosnell case only after pro-life advocates launched a grassroots social media campaign to raise awareness about the gruesome case.
“We’re getting funded probably because the story was covered up,” McAleer said. “The media cover-up is a great part of the story too, it’s a great part of the media drama.”
Gosnell's clinic had not been inspected by the state of Pennsylvania since 1993. A federal drug raid in 2010 uncovered blood-stained rooms and filthy equipment.
According to reports, the clinic stored aborted human fetuses in a basement freezer in plastic food containers and bags next to staff lunches. Gosnell kept severed feet of unborn babies preserved in specimen jars, allegedly for future identification or DNA samples.
The abortion doctor was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose in 2009. He is currently serving a life term in prison.
McAleer said the Gosnell case has many elements of a great story: whistleblowers who were ignored, a “passionate” prosecutor, and a “fascinating” trial.
Gosnell “was allowed to keep killing because of indifference, bureaucratic inertia, politics too,” McAleer said. He noted that Gosnell committed most of his crimes under a Republican governor, Tom Ridge, who had been elected after opposing restrictions on abortion access in Pennsylvania that could have stopped Gosnell.
“The word went down from on high that abortion facilities were not to be inspected,” McAleer charged. “They weren’t inspected. So he kept killing and he kept killing and he kept killing.”
In the months since the Gosnell case, attention has been given to the state of abortion clinic inspections throughout the country. In early April 2014, the New York Post reported that some eateries and tanning salons in New York City undergo more regular inspections than the city’s abortion clinics do. In mid-April, a new Arizona law ended special health inspection restrictions for abortion clinics, bringing them up to the same standards as hospitals and dialysis centers.
While the Gosnell movie internet fundraiser has gained support from many pro-life advocates, it also has other support. McAleer told the Heritage Foundation briefing that one of the movie’s biggest funders is someone who favors legal abortion with limits but wants the Gosnell story to gain more attention.
“We get many emails from people who have had abortions and they want this film to be made because they regret it,” he added.
The movie producers had intended to use the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, but switched to IndieGogo after problems with the administrators of Kickstarter.
According to McAleer, Kickstarter objected to the use of the phrase “thousands of babies murdered” in its description of Gosnell, saying it was against its community guidelines. The filmmaker contended that the site was selectively enforcing its community standards, citing other objectionable and obscene projects that the site hosts.
McAleer said one reason for poor media coverage of the effort is that the Gosnell case raises “too many awkward questions.”
“I’m not saying what the answers are, but they don’t want the questions asked,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing, I’m going to ask some questions.”
The website for the movie’s fundraising campaign is GosnellMovie.com.
Rome, Italy, Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On April 26, the evening before the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, English speaking pilgrims from across the globe will gather at San Marco al Campidoglio in Rome.
The Church is one of 11 Roman parishes that will hold prayer vigils ahead of the canonizations.
In addition to the parish dedicated for English-speaking pilgrims, San Angese in Agone will have a vigil in Polish; San Anastasia in Portuguese; Santissimo Nome di Gesu all’Argentina in Spanish; San Andrea della Valle in French; and San Bartolomeo all’Isola Tiberina in Arabic.
A further six parishes will hold vigils for Italian speakers.
Each prayer vigil will include the opportunity for Confession, and will begin at 9 p.m. on April 26. They follow a 6 p.m. vigil at the Basilica of St. John Lateran being held for pilgrims from Bergamo, the home diocese of John XXIII.
San Marco al Campidoglio is located on the Piazza San Marco, and is the only parish in Rome dedicated to St. Mark the Evangelist.
It was constructed in the fourth century by Pope St. Mark, whose relics are located under the altar along with those of the martyrs Abdon and Sennen.
It was rebuilt in the fifth and eighth centuries, and was restored in the ninth after it was flooded when the Tiber burst its banks. A bell tower in the Romanesque style was added in the 12th century.
San Marco was again restored by its cardinal-priest, Pietro Barbo, who was elected Pope in 1464. Cardinal Barbo, who took the name Paul II, was a native of Venice and declared it the national church of Venetians in Rome.
It was later given a baroque interior, which was completed in the 1750s under its cardinal-priest, Angelo Maria Quirini.
San Marco retains ninth century mosaics in its apse, in which Pope Gregory IV is shown being presented to Christ by St. Mark the Evangelist. The mosaic was commissioned by Gregory IV, who was responsible for its restoration at the time.
In the mosaic, the Pope is shown with a square halo, showing that he was alive at the time of the mosaic’s production, and he is holding a church, symbolizing his care in restoring the flooded building.
San Marco is both a titular parish for cardinals, a minor basilica, and the station church for the Monday of the Third Week in Lent.
It has been a titular church since at least the 12th century, and is traditionally given to the Patriarch of Venice; several of its cardinal-priests have been elected Pope, including Albino Luciani, who in 1978 was elected as John Paul I.
Its current cardinal-priest is Marco Ce, who was Patriarch of Venice from 1979 to 2002.
Vatican City, Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Media frenzy over an alleged phone call Pope Francis made to a divorced and remarried woman allowing her to receive Communion has seen a rise in conflicting details – and has been lamented by the Vatican as causing “confusion.”
Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said today that the Holy See will not officially comment on the alleged phone call Pope Francis made to an Argentinean woman this week, as the pontiff's “personal pastoral” relationships “do not in any way form part of the Pope's public activities.”
“That which has been communicated in relation to this matter,” he stressed in an April 24 statement, “and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion.”
The story of a woman in Argentina that allegedly received a phone call from Pope Francis on Easter Monday, giving her “permission” to receive Communion since she is married with a divorced man, has become more complex and doubtful in some of its details.
The situation involves Jaquelina Lisbona, 47, and Julio Sabetta, 50, of San Lorenzo – a small city 185 miles North West from Buenos Aires.
Sabetta was married into the Catholic church in 1985, but got legally divorced in 1992. In 1994, he was re-introduced to Jaquelina – they had been boyfriend and girlfriend in their teens – and the two started to live together in a civil union. Since then, they had two children, Candela and Josefina, aged 17 and 14, respectively.
Six years ago, during Candela's preparation for her confirmation – both daughters have been baptized, received first Holy Communion and have been confirmed – the local pastor at that time, who has been erroneously described as having left the priesthood by some news sources, told Jaquelina that she could not receive Communion because of her marital status.
Last September, encouraged by a friend, she decided to write Pope Francis about her situation and her desire to receive Communion.
The story of the Pope's “permission” to Jaquelina to receive Communion was first posted on Monday evening by Sabetta on his Facebook Page when he wrote: “Today one of the most beautiful things happened to me since the birth of my two daughters, I got a call in my home from none other than Pope Francis, it was a big emotion, we cannot figure it out yet, this call was originated by my wife who sent him a letter and he took his time to call her and talk to her and I can assure you that when he talks, he gives you total peace. Thanks God for this blessing!”
The story was originally picked up by local radio station “La Red,” and local newspaper “La Capital.” It was then mentioned by the national Argentinean News Agency TELAM and by Wednesday the news story spread globally, including the Drudge Report.
What the Pope exactly told Jaquelina is a matter of controversy. Speaking to La Red, Jaquelina said that after talking for about ten minutes with the Pope, he allegedly told her that there are some priests that are “more Papist than the Pope” and that she should “go to confession and start taking Communion at a different parish.”
In a second interview, overwhelmed by the international attention and the phone calls from around the world, she stated that she received “permission” to receive Communion by the Pope, but she complained: “this was supposed to be discrete, now I don't think I will be able to go anywhere now.”
Since Wednesday, Jaquelina has not been available for comments.
A call from CNA at their home was responded by her daughter Candela, who confirmed that “Pope Francis called, we are overjoyed and humbled as a family.” But she said that her mother was overwhelmed and was neither taking calls nor working at the small grocery store that the family owns across the street.
Sabetta instead has been happy to respond to the press. According to his version: “Francisco told my wife that she was free from all sin, that she should go to communion, that she should go with peace of mind, since a divorced who goes (to Communion) is doing nothing wrong.”
“He only told her to go to communion to another parish to avoid frictions (with the pastor.)”
But the pastor of San Lorenzo's church, Fr. José Ceschi, said late on Wednesday that the alleged “permission” to receive communion given by the Pope is “absurd.”
Speaking to local radio station La Ocho, Fr. Ceschi said that “first of all, I am very happy to know that the Pope called someone in San Lorenzo, the Pope surprises with these calls and people are so surprised, and that makes me happy. I do believe in the call, but what is hard to believe is that he gave her permission to go to Communion.”
“The Pope would never do that, (it) is impossible. If he is coming from a previous sacrament and they are living together (it) is absolutely impossible,” Fr. Ceschi told the radio station.
“What happens is that the Pope, like all bishops and priests, needs to be father, mother and teacher, always with an open heart, while telling things as they are.”
Speaking of his predecessor, who told Jaquelina that she could not receive communion, the priest noted that “Fr. Sergio was right, if a previous sacrament of marriage is involved, the Church cannot go beyond what Jesus has taught.”
“If Fr. Sergio would have given absolution, it would have been like someone writing you a check for an empty bank account, (it) is worthless!” he said.
“Again, I believe that the call happened, I just don't believe the Pope would go over the head of the (local) bishop – it is absurd,” he reiterated.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi concluded his statement Thursday emphasizing that “consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.”
Vatican City, Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis rebuked Christians who are “afraid of joy” and “mournful,” encouraging them to remember that Jesus Christ accompanies them.
“We’re afraid of being close to Jesus because this gives us joy,” he said in his homily during Easter Thursday Mass at the Santa Marta Residence in the Vatican, Vatican Radio reports.
He said there are Christians whose lives “seem to be a perpetual funeral” and who “prefer sadness to joy.”
“They move about in the shadows, not in the light of joy,” he said, comparing them to night-time animals like bats.
The Pope joked that there are “Christian bats who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord.”
Instead, the Pope advised, Christians should look to the joy of the Resurrection.
“Do you talk with Jesus? Do you say to Jesus: ‘I believe that You are alive, that You are risen, that You’re near me. That You will never abandon me’?” the Pope asked.
“A Christian life should be this: a dialogue with Jesus, because – this is true – Jesus is always with us, always there alongside us with our problems and our difficulties, with our good works.”
He suggested that mournful Christians have been “burnt by the drama of the Cross” and feel that it is better to keep God at a distance.
“We ask the Lord to do for all of us what he did for the disciples who were afraid of joy: to open our minds,” Pope Francis said, citing the Gospel reading from Luke in which Jesus opened their minds “to understand the Scriptures.”
“Let Him open our minds and help us understand that He is a living reality, that He has a body, that He is with us, that He accompanies us and He has won,” the Pope said.
“We ask the Lord for the grace to not be afraid of joy.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During a Thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of St. Jose de Anchieta, Pope Francis spoke Thursday on the theme of joy, saying that while it can be intimidating, it is a gift of God which ought to be spread.
St. Jose de Anchieta, the 'Apostle of Brazil', “found out how to communicate that which he experienced with the Lord,” Pope Francis said during a April 24 Mass said at Rome's St. Ignatius of Loyola parish.
“He had so much joy, so much happiness that founded a nation. He laid the cultural foundations for a nation, in Jesus Christ,” the Pope said, adding that his legacy is “his holiness.”
On April 3, Pope Francis extended the liturgical cult of three blesseds to the universal Church in a process known as “equivalent canonization.” In addition to Jose de Anchieta, Francois de Laval and Marie of the Incarnation were also recognized as saints that day.
St. Jose de Anchieta founded several Brazilian cities, including Sao Paulo. He was born in Spain's Canary Islands in 1534 and studied at the Jesuit College at Coimbra in Portugal. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1550 and arrived in Brazil three years later.
He built hospitals and educational institutions, with a primary focus on helping to teach and defend indigenous Brazilians, and served as the Jesuit superior in Brazil for 10 years. He died June 9, 1597.
Continuing his homily, Pope Francis noted that St. Jose “was not afraid of joy,” drawing attention to the Spanish Jesuit's strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“She wasn’t afraid of joy” either, he reflected, saying, “she is our companion on this pilgrimage, inviting all to rise, to renounce paralysis, to enter together into the peace and joy that the Resurrected Jesus has given to us.”
Pope Francis had begun his homily reflecting on the Gospel reading in which Christ appears to his disciples after his resurrection, saying that joy “is what we have seen in Scripture today. The joy of encountering Jesus Christ.”
When Christ first appeared to them, “many feelings erupt in the hearts of the disciples,” he said. “Fear, surprise, and at the end, joy: a great joy, a joy that they couldn’t imagine having.”
He drew attention to how Christ asked them for something to eat, and then began to slowly explain to them what was taking place “so that they can understand it,” and that “in this moment of stupor from the encounter with Jesus,” it is difficult for the disciples to savor “the pleasure and the joy” of the moment.
Calling to mind how the disciples at first thought Christ was a ghost, he noted that we often have the “temptation to refuge ourselves in the acceptance” that this joy isn’t that big, and explained that “it’s easier to believe in a fantasy than in the living Christ.”
It’s easier to have a romantic idea about the future “than to trust in hope, in Christ triumphant, in a Christ raised from the dead,” the Pope continued; “an idea, an imagination” is easier to believe “than the docility of this Lord who was raised from the dead and (goes to make known) to what he invites you.”
“The reality of the encounter with Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis said, “in a sense distills us … in the environment of fear, in the environment of excessive security, from wanting to control the encounter ourselves.”
“The disciples were afraid of joy. And we are too.”
He then reflected on Peter and John's encounter with a paralytic before the temple, whom they could give neither silver nor gold, but healed instead.
“He who (was outside) the door, now enters on foot, giving thanks, praising God, celebrating his marvels,” the Pope exclaimed, adding, “his joy is contagious.”
While at first we might have “so much fear” in receiving this great joy, “ it is contagious. And it screams the announcement” of the Risen Lord, the Pope highlighted, emphasizing that this gladness “makes the Church grow.”
The Church grows “because of attraction, the attraction of testimony, of this joy that Jesus Christ announced … the paralytic believed the Church. He didn’t believe because of prosthetics.”
“It grows because of attraction, the attraction of testimony, of this joy that Jesus Christ announced.”
Such joy is “the founding joy,” the Pope explained, adding that “without this happiness, without this joy, you cannot found a Church, you cannot found a Christian community. It’s an apostolic joy … that expands.”
Pope Francis then encouraged the congregation to question themselves, asking “am I capable of feeling together with a brother, and to explain slowly the gift of the Word I have received? Of infecting them with my joy?”
“Am I capable of summoning around me an enthusiasm of … a new life born from an encounter with Christ?”
Vatican City, Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Holy See Press Office director Father Federico Lombardi said that as many as 150 cardinals and 1,000 bishops will concelebrate the April 27 canonization Mass for Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.
The concelebrants at the altar will include Vicar General of Rome Cardinal Agostino Vallini, former John Paul II aide Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, and Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo, Vatican Radio reports.
Fr. Lombardi told an April 24 press conference that Mass attendees will include more than 93 official delegations from countries and international organizations, plus 24 heads of state. Representatives of other major religions, including Orthodox Christian, Anglican, Jewish and Muslim officials, will attend.
Celebrations of the canonizations include a series of April 26 prayer vigils held in at least 11 churches around Rome.
The Canonization Mass itself will be held in St. Peter’s Square on the morning of April 27 at 10 a.m. Rome time. A recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy will begin at 9 a.m., while choirs from Karkow, Rome and the Sistine Chapel will perform at 9:30 a.m.
The canonization is expected to draw millions to Rome.
The Holy See Press Office director said that the prayer vigils will be attended by official delegations from more than 90 countries, with 24 heads of state or royalty.
Fr. Lombardi also noted that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was of course invited to attend the Canonization Mass and would be “very welcome.” However, he added, “we will have to wait and see.”
Benedict XVI resigned the papacy in February 2013 due to his advanced age and deteriorating strength.
Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
John Paul II’s upcoming canonization gives new impetus to his “ground-breaking” theology of the body, which has the potential to “completely transform” contemporary culture, one theology professor says.
“Catholics who have been presented with the teaching in its fullness have experienced profound conversions,” said Professor Mary Shivanandan.
She explained that the theology of the body has the potential to change what John Paul II called a “culture of death” into “a civilization of love.”
Shivanandan is a retired professor of theology at The Catholic University of America’s Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. She commented on Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body,” an explanation of marriage, family and human sexuality which was developed in 133 general audiences delivered between 1979 and 1984.
In an April 23 interview, Shivanandan told CNA that John Paul II’s theological work “has given a new breadth to the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage.”
The theology of the body focuses on “who the person really is,” she said. The person is “rooted in the body.” Both men and women are made in the “image of God.”
John Paul II’s work explains the Christian understanding of the human person as “destined body and soul for ultimate communion with the Trinity,” the professor said. This understanding affects all areas of life, especially Christians’ “call to communion in the one-flesh union of marriage.”
According to Shivanandan, the late pontiff stressed that God is “the author of love.” Central to this love is “the idea of gift.” In the Trinity there is a reciprocal “giving and receiving,” a relationship reflected in the self-giving marriage of a man and a woman.
Shivanandan said John Paul II was “under no illusions” about the difficulties of marriage, but he “elevated the vocation to a renewed call to holiness and sanctity.”
The Pope focused on the theology of the original creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as Jesus Christ did in his consideration of the Pharisees’ questions on divorce in Matthew 19, the professor observed. Although this original innocence has been damaged by the original sin that has caused “shame and disordered desires,” the redemption and grace of Jesus Christ now allow men and women to “once again receive each other as a gift.”
The Pope’s thought is also relevant to consecrated celibacy, which according to Shivanandan, “looks forward to the resurrected state” in which there is no marriage but where there are perfect relations between persons.
Shivanandan said John Paul II’s theology is rooted in Scripture and in the Pope’s experiences as chaplain to young couples.
His work was an effort to respond to how the sexual revolution undermined Church teaching on the goodness of marriage, family and procreation, she said. It was also a response to the “huge dissent” in the Catholic Church against “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical which reaffirmed Catholic teaching on sexual morality, including its recognition of the sinfulness of contraception use.
The late pontiff’s work is “critically important” because of flawed “dualist” contemporary views about man, woman and marriage, Shivanandan stated.
Instead of responding to the “call to communion,” she said, “modern secular man and woman treat the body as an appendage that they can manipulate.” This includes “blocking the natural fruitfulness of sexual love.”
Men and women “can never be used just as objects,” she stressed. “They must always be treated as persons who freely will to love.”
Modern approaches attempt to change the meaning of marriage and to justify “all kinds of relationships that are ultimately destructive to the true good of the human person in the name of a false freedom,” Shivanandan said.
She suggested that John Paul II’s approach does not accuse others, but rather it appeals to the “inner hunger for truth and freedom.”
The former Pope’s theology of the body “has provided a language to uncover the true meaning of such words as freedom,” she added.