Vatican City, Jun 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi S.J. has announced that Pope Francis canceled his meetings today in order to rest following prayer for peace in the Vatican gardens last evening.
“Pope Francis canceled the meetings of the second part of the morning because of a minor indisposition,” the spokesman told journalists in a June 9 press conference, noting that “yesterday the Pope was very tired because of the prayer for peace in the Middle East.”
Fr. Lombardi revealed that the Pope celebrated Mass in the Saint Martha guesthouse at 7 a.m. as usual, and afterward met with Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy.
However, his meeting with the Italian Superior Council of the Magistracy, the largest Italian governmental body, will be re-scheduled for a later date in order to allow the pontiff to rest.
Last night’s prayer in the Vatican between Pope Francis, the presidents of Israel and Palestine, and the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, was proposed by the Roman Pontiff during his visit to the Holy Land last month.
Joining together in the Vatican gardens for the unprecedented “Invocation for Peace,” the three leaders prayed in English, Italian, Hebrew and Arabic, and each offered their own words expressing the desire of their people for peace.
“This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions,” Pope Francis noted during the event, “they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication.”
“It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies.”
“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare,” the pontiff remarked, encouraging those in attendance to “break the spiral of hatred and violence” with the word “brother.”
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis centered his daily homily on the Beatitudes, stating that they are Jesus’ practical guide on how to live the Christian life, which often goes against what the world tells us.
The beatitudes are a “program,” the “identity card of a Christian,” the Pope explained in his June 9 daily Mass, adding that they are “few words, simple words, but practical for all.”
“Because Christianity is a practical religion: it is not just to be imagined, it is to be practiced.”
Addressing those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Roman Pontiff focused his words on each of the beatitudes taken from the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Wealth, he observed, gives us no true certainty, but rather suffocates the need for God and his Word, because the heart that is rich and self-satisfied has no room for them.
“Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted…The world tells us that happiness, joy and entertainment are the best things in life,” the pontiff continued, but “it looks the other way when there are problems of disease or pain in the family.”
Explaining how the world often “covers up” suffering because it prefers to “ignore painful situations,” the Bishop of Rome noted that “Only the person who sees things as they are, and whose heart mourns, will be happy and will be comforted. Thanks to the consolation of Jesus, not to that of the world.”
“Blessed are the meek in this world which is filled with wars, arguments, hatred. And Jesus says: no war, no hatred. Peace and meekness,” he went on, observing that often “if you are meek in life, people will think you are not clever.”
“But you are meek because with this meekness you will inherit the Earth.”
Moving onto the beatitude of those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Pope Francis pointed out how easy it is to become corrupt and to take on the attitude of “everything is business.”
Lamenting the many injustices that are created on account of this mentality, the Pope stated that “Blessed are they who fight against injustice” and “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”
The merciful are “those who forgive and understand the mistakes of others,” he noted, adding that Jesus does not tell us “blessed are they who seek revenge.”
“Blessed are they who forgive, who are merciful. Because we are all part of an army of people who have been forgiven! We have all been forgiven. That is why blessed is he who undertakes this path of forgiveness.”
Going on, the Roman Pontiff drew attention to the beatitude “blessed are the pure of heart,” those who “have a simple, pure heart without dirt, a heart that knows how to love with purity.”
“Blessed are peace-makers,” he said, lamenting that “it is so common amongst us to be war-makers or perpetrators of misunderstandings!”
“When I hear something from one person, and I go and say it to someone else in a second, enlarged, edition,” this is “the world of gossip,” the Pope observed, explaining that “people who gossip, who do not make peace, are enemies of peace. They are not blessed.”
Turning to the beatitude of those that are “persecuted for the sake of righteousness,” the Bishop of Rome called to mind the many who have been and who “continue to be persecuted simply for having fought for justice.”
All the beatitudes together, he explained, signify “a program for life offered to us by Jesus,” a program that is “so simple and yet so difficult.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told those present that “if you have some time at home today, take the Gospel, Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 5. At the beginning there are the Beatitudes; in Chapter 25 the rest.”
“It will do you good to read them once, twice, three times,” he said, “read this program for holiness. May the Lord give us the grace to understand his message.”
Following his Mass, Pope Francis met with Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and then canceled his appointments for the rest of the morning due to tiredness following last night’s invocation for peace with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents.
Cleveland, Ohio, Jun 9, 2014 (CNA) -
In an effort to help more Catholics return to the practice of their faith, the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, will eliminate all fees for marriage annulments effective immediately, Bishop Richard Lennon has announced.
“This is an effort to promote the common good for the faithful of Cleveland,” Bishop Lennon said June 5.
Bishop Lennon said he hopes and prays the change will encourage greater participation among men and women in irregular marriage situations, such as those who have civilly divorced and remarried.
The diocesan tribunal will no longer charge fees for cases of marriage annulments, the Diocese of Cleveland said. A typical annulment case costs petitioners about $450. The diocesan marriage tribunal will assume the cost of the cases.
The decision also applies to pending annulment cases, whose remaining fees will be waived.
The Diocese of Cleveland marriage tribunal heard 512 cases in 2013, the diocese told the Ohio newspaper The Plain Dealer.
Costs for processing and paperwork of marriage dispensations and marriage permissions required for Catholics entering into marriage with a non-Catholic will also be assumed by the diocese.
The Cleveland bishop said the decision came after consultations with staff, the judicial vicar, and several pastors.
An annulment is church recognition that a previous marriage was invalid. Criteria for a valid marriage include intention to marry permanently and faithfully, intention to be open to children, and ability to give free consent to the union, according to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Father Craig Hovanec, pastor of the Church of St. Peter in Lorain, Ohio, told the Morning Journal that each annulment process costs the diocese between $1,200 and $1,300.
He said a desire for money was “never a motivating factor” for the fees, which offset some of the costs to the tribunal.
The Diocese of Cleveland cited Pope Francis’ efforts to encourage ministry to divorced and separated Catholics “so that they do not feel excluded from the mercy of God.”
Erbil, Iraq, Jun 9, 2014 (CNA) -
Iraq's Kurdistan region is enjoying peace relative to the rest of the country, which has led thousands of Christian families to migrate there, straining the local Church.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Arbil told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need June 6 that in recent years, more than 12,000 Christian families have settled in his eparchy, from Baghdad, Mosul, and other Iraqi cities.
“Although we don't have the appropriate infrastructure to deal with such a growth in the Catholic communities, the people continue to come,” he said.
While parishes in Baghdad and Mosul have been shut down as Catholic emigrate, priests of the Arbil archeparchy have been celebrating Liturgy in tents.
“In their home parishes they have become accustomed to taking part every day in prayers, services or catechesis. They don't give up. We must therefore urgently build new churches and premises for catechesis and other activities of Church life.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church is a Church of the East Syrian rite native to Iraq's Assyrian population and headed by the Patriarch of Babylon.
Arbil is the capital of Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan, which has been peaceful in recent years, relative to southern and western Iraq. Christian families wishing to flee violence, yet remain in their home country, have sought out the region.
“In Baghdad and elsewhere local Christians are under constant fear that they may fall victim to bomb blasts, murders and abductions,” said Archbishop Warda.
In recent weeks, the Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant have seized portions of the central cities of Ramadi and Falluja, and militants attacked Samarra June 5.
Also on June 5, three persons were killed in bombings in Baghdad, and four were murdered in Mosul, in northwest Iraq.
In addition to the influx of Christians from other parts of Iraq, the nation's Kurdistan has also received a large number of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. The region has received tens of thousands of Syrians in recent years; Archbishop Warda commented that Iraq's proximity to countries suffering conflicts of their own has meant that his nation “was often not fighting its own wars.”
Archbishop Warda said the situation in Iraq is a mixture of “historical, economic, social and political problems … if I try to explain today what is happening, the reality tomorrow may be completely different.”
He added that the U.S.-led invasion had split Iraqi society, causing “unresolved conflicts from the past to re-emerge.”
The Arbil archeparchy's six priests served some 30,000 faithful in 2012, in seven parishes.
Rome, Italy, Jun 9, 2014 (CNA) -
Speaking to reporters for the first time after her victory on The Voice Italy, Sister Cristina Scuccia said that she now plans to return to the two priorities in her life, which are “Jesus and prayer.”
“My future is in the hands of my superiors. I trust in Providence,” the 25-year-old Ursuline Sister of the Holy Family said in an interview with the Italian website TGcom24.
Sister Cristina captured the attention of the world when she appeared on the Italian version of The Voice. Her performance of Alicia Keys’ song “No One” has attracted more than 50 million views on YouTube.
On June 5, she won the 2014 season of the show with 62 percent of the final vote.
Upon being announced as the winner, Sister Cristina voiced thanks to God and led the crowd in praying an Our Father, explaining, “I want Jesus to enter into here.”
Asked about inviting the studio audience to pray, Sister Cristina smiled and said, “Excuse me but if I did not do it here, then where should I do it?”
She said she is “very certain” that she will renew her vows in the coming weeks.
“In 2009, I began my journey as a postulant. I spent two years in Brazil for my novitiate and then made my first vows in 2012. I must renew them for three more years in order to make my perpetual vows. I will renew them for the second time at the end of July.”
Asked whether her victory on The Voice has changed her decision regarding religious life, Sister Cristina responded, “Absolutely not. This is the path for me.”
The Italian nun was awarded a contract with Universal Records after winning the singing contest. “That is in the hands of Providence,” Sister Cristina explained. “My superiors will decide what to do with that.”
Universal had planned a world tour with the winner of The Voice, but Sister Cristina told reporters, “I repeat, that will be decided later but for now I can say that evangelization is not bound by territorial limits. For this reason I will also be available.”
She said she decided to compete on The Voice because “the Lord has given me a gift and honestly it would have been just for me to have stayed hidden in a corner at home. So I wanted to also show that God has not taken anything away from my life, but rather he has given me so much more.”
Sister Cristina said she hopes the songs on her potential first album will be “simple songs that speak about the reality of daily life and have lyrics that talk about love.”