Madrid, Spain, Jun 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The first successor of St. Josemaria Escriva as leader of Opus Dei, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid at a ceremony that is expected to bring together nearly 100,000 faithful.
The prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, will preside at the beatification. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid will concelebrate, along with the current prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria,
The spokesperson of the organization committee for the beatification, Teresa Sabada, and the vice postulator of the cause, Father Jose Carlos Martin de la Hoz, outlined numerous details about the event.
Sabada said 100,000 people from more than 50 countries are expected to attend the beatification. In addition, 3000 families have opened their homes to welcome those traveling to Madrid from abroad, and 2000 young people have already signed up to work as volunteers for the event.
Father Martin de la Hoz said thousands of people wish to come to Madrid for the bishop’s beatification “to express thanks for his example and for the pastoral dedication of this man of peace and communion.”
“Alvaro del Portillo motivated many laypeople to embody the Gospel in social initiatives that today serve the poorest of the poor.”
On Sept.28, the day after the beatification, a Mass of Thanksgiving will be held at the same site presided by Bishop Echevarria.
Father Martin de la Hoz said Bishop Alvaro del Portillo “was a pastor who helped thousands to discover their vocations to holiness in the Church. As the first success of St. Josemaria and the first prelate of Opus Dei, he carried out evangelization though personal contact with all kinds of people in the five continents.”
He also thanked the Holy See, the Bishops’ Conference of Spain and the Archdiocese of Madrid for collaborating in the preparations for the beatification. He thanked the religious institutions, ecclesial movements and parishes that “are collaborating and participating in this beatification, which is a celebration for the entire Church, as was the very life of Alvaro del Portillo, who was authentically in love with the entire Church.”
Sabada explained that upon learning of the date for the beatification, the Prelate of Opus Dei sent a letter to all the cloistered and contemplative nuns in Spain asking for their prayers.
Vatican City, Jun 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his Friday meeting with the Carabinieri, Italy's national police-military corps, Pope Francis referred to Salvo D'Acquisto, a fellow Carabiniere who gave his life to save 22 others during World War II.
“Dear Carabinieri, your mission is expressed in service to others and requires you daily to live up to the trust and esteem which the people place in you,” Pope Francis said June 6 at St. Peter's Square. “This requires constant availability, patience, a spirit of sacrifice and a sense of duty.”
“I think of the servant of God Salvo D'Acquisto who, 23 years old, here near Rome, at Palidoro, spontaneously offered his young existence to save the life of innocent person from Nazi brutality.
D'Acquisto is a national hero of Italy, having been posthumously awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor. He was born in Naples in 1920, the eldest of eight children, and he volunteered in 1939 to join the Carabinieri.
The next year, shortly after the beginning of World War II, he left for Libya. Although he suffered a leg wound, he remained with his division until he contracted malaria.
In 1942 he returned to Italy, attended officer school, and graduated as a vice-sergeant. He was then assigned to an outpost in Torrimpietra, not far from Rome.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was overthrown July 25, 1943, and the new Italian government – headed by General Pietro Badoglio – signed an armistice with the Allies Sept. 3, which was made public Sept. 8.
German troops then remaining in Italy took efforts to take control of the territory, and an SS division camped near Torre di Palidoro, within the jurisdiction of D'Acquisto's Torrimpietra station.
An explosion took place Sept. 22 when the SS were inspecting boxes of abandoned weapons; one was killed, and two more were wounded.
The German commander blamed the explosion on local Italians, and rounded up at random 22 locals the next day, demanding the assistance of the Carabinieri.
All of the arrested declared they were innocent. Asked to name of those in charge of the explosion, D’Acquisto reiterated that there could not be anyone responsible, because the explosion was accidental, and so all the local residents had to be considered innocent.
Wanda Baglioni, an eyewitness to the incident, explained that the Germans separated D’Acquisto from the arrested while these latter were under interrogation, and “even though he had been beaten up and sometimes even beaten by his guards, he kept a calm and dignified countenance.”
After the interrogation, the arrested people and D’Acquisto were transferred outside of the town and were given spades with which to dig a common grave in the vicinity of the Tower of Palidoro.
They were all to be executed by firing squad for the explosion which had killed a German soldier.
Angelo Amodio, one of those who were arrested, has said that “at the very last moment, against all odds, we were all released, with the exception of Salvo D’Acquisto.”
“We were already resigned to our destiny when D’Acquisto talked with a German official through an interpreter. We do not know what D’Acquisto said.”
D'Acquisto had “confessed” to causing the explosion, saving the lives of the 22 others.
Amodio saw D'Acquisto shot, and heard him yell “Viva l'Italia!” before his corpse fell to the ground.
His body is kept in Naples' parish of Santa Chiara.
St. John Paul II has also referred to D'Acquisto as a model for the Carabinieri.
At a Feb. 26, 2001 meeting with the Carabinieri of Lazio, he said their history “shows that the heights of holiness can be reached in the faithful and generous fulfilment of the duties of one's state. I am thinking here of your colleague, Sergeant Salvo D'Acquisto, awarded a gold medal for military valour, whose cause of beatification is under way.”
In 1983, Archbishop Gaetano Bonicelli, then of Italy's military ordinariate, opened the cause for D'Acquisto's canonization. The investigation was concluded in 1991, and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints awaits a miracle through his intercession so as to advance his cause.
Vatican City, Jun 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis has sent a letter to the participants of an international conference on criminal law, encouraging them to consider a fuller understanding of justice that moves beyond mere punishment.
“It seems to me that the big challenge that we must all face is that the measures taken against evil do not stop with suppression, discouragement and isolation for those who caused it, but help them to reconsider, to walk in the paths of good, to be genuine people far from their miseries, becoming merciful themselves,” he said in a letter to the participants of the 19th International Conference of the International Association of Penal Law and the 3rd Congress of the Latin American Association of Penal Law and Criminology.
“Therefore, the Church recommends a justice that is humanizing, genuinely reconciling, a justice that leads the offenders, through an educational way and through inspiring penance, to complete their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.”
The letter, written in Spanish and dated May 30, focused on the three “steady elements” in the understanding of justice after sin: satisfaction or reparation for damage; confession; and contrition.
The Pope pointed to the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of satisfaction which focused on “justice for the victim” rather than “executing the aggressor.”
“In our society we tend to think that crimes are solved when the offender is captured and sentenced,” he noted, “without sufficient attention to the situation the victims are in.”
“But it would be a mistake to identify reparation only with punishment, to confuse justice with revenge, which only helps to increase violence, even if it is institutionalized,” he warned.
Instead, “we must move forward and do everything possible to correct, improve, and educate the person to mature in all aspects.”
Criminals must be helped to “recognize and regret” their faults with an attitude of confession, he explained, since it is not infrequent that “crime is rooted in economic and social inequalities, networks of corruption and organized crime (who are) seeking accomplices amongst the most powerful and victims among the most vulnerable.”
Pope Francis insisted that it is not enough to have just laws, but “responsible and capable people to implement them.”
Criminal law “requires a multidisciplinary approach” aimed at helping individuals to be “fully human, free, conscious, and responsible,” he stressed. We must also remember that “we are all sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness.”
The pontiff also referenced the parable of the Good Shepherd, the Prodigal Son, and the story of Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman as examples of God’s generous forgiveness.
“God welcomes us and offers us another chance, if we open ourselves to the truth of penance and allow ourselves to be transformed by His mercy,” he reminded the recipients of his letter.
“Forgiveness, in fact, does not remove or diminish the requirement of rectification, proper justice, or dispenses with the need for personal conversion, but goes further, seeking to restore relationships and reintegrate people into society.”
Pope Francis concluded his missive with an appeal to take the necessary steps to create “an inclusive society” where unnecessary suffering may be avoided “especially among the most vulnerable.”
Vatican City, Jun 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
President Enrique Peña Nieto on Saturday announced that Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to visit Mexico.
“Without doubt, this is cause for great joy,” President Peña Nieto declared after telling reporters the Pope “has accepted the invitation.”
The president made the announcement after his private meeting with the pontiff in the Apostolic Palace.
The dates for the visit are not known, but could come near the Pope’s hoped-for visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting for Families in late September 2015. Such a visit to the U.S. has not been confirmed by the Vatican.
President Peña Nieto said he told the Pope that the people of Mexico are mostly Catholic. The Pope reportedly replied “they are Catholic but especially Guadalupano,” referring to their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Pope also said that he has “a special affection for the Mexican people,” the Mexican president added.
The Mexican president and the Pope’s 25-minute private meeting discussed constitutional reform, especially as it relates to religious freedom.
President Peña Nieto said the Mexican government reaffirmed an interest in “a respectful and cordial relationship with the Vatican” and said that Mexico’s nature as a secular state “does not mean an anti-religious state.”
Pope Francis also voiced concern about migrants, both those entering Mexico from Central America and those entering the U.S. from Mexico.
Vatican City, Jun 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Youth from around Italy turned St. Peter’s Square into a giant playing field on Saturday as they ran relays, played basketball and performed karate on a day dedicated to the celebration of sports.
As the Pope arrived in the overflowing square participants welcomed him as their “captain.” He thanked them for the honor.
“As captain I urge you not to block yourselves off in defense, but to come on the offense, to play together our match, which is that of the Gospel,” he said May 7.
“Sports in the community can be a great missionary tool, where the Church is close to every person to help them become better and to meet Jesus Christ,” he told the enthusiastic crowds.
Pope Francis arrived in the early evening to witness performances of ballet and gymnastics. He also met with popular Italian sports figures and heard testimonies from those whose lives has been impacted positively by sports.
At one point, he met with members of an Italian amputee soccer team and posed for a group shot with one member’s iPhone as the theme song from the 1981 movie “Chariots of Fire” rang out over the square.
The Pope’s remarks focused on how sports can bring about good in the lives of young people. He noted that sports are like school and work in helping youth develop themselves and avoid addictions to drugs and alcohol.
He said that to belong to a sports team “means to reject all forms of selfishness and isolation--it is an opportunity to meet and be with others, to help each other, to compete in mutual esteem and grow in brotherhood.”
The pontiff acknowledged the “beauty” of team sports which do not allow for individualism.
“In my country,” he recounted to the youth, “when a player plays only for himself, they say, ‘this one wants to eat the ball!’”
Everyone who wants to join in sports should be welcomed, he said, “not just the best, but everyone, with the advantages and limitations that everyone has, indeed, focusing on the most disadvantaged, as did Jesus.”
He encouraged the young athletes to apply themselves in “the game of life” as they do in sports.
“Put yourselves in the game, in the search for good, in the Church and in society, without fear, with courage, and enthusiasm.”
“Don’t content yourselves with a mediocre ‘tie.’ Give the best of yourselves, spending your lives for that which is truly valuable and that which lasts forever.”
Pope Francis closed his remarks asking for prayers that he would be able to “play in the game” of life “until the last day when God calls me to himself.”
Saturday’s event was organized by the Centro Sportivo Italiano, on the occasion of its 70th anniversary.