Thursday, March 10, 2011










VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2011 (VIS REPORTS) - "Today, with the austere symbol of the ashes, we enter the period of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey which prepares for a worthy celebration of the Paschal mysteries. The ashes ... are a sign reminding us of our status as created beings and inviting us to penance, to intensify our commitment to conversion so as to continue following the Lord", said the Pope in his general audience today, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 faithful. (IMAGE: RADIO VATICANA)

"Lent is a journey, it means accompanying Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection is to be fulfilled. It reminds us that Christian life is a 'road' to be travelled, consisting not so much in a law to be observed as in the person of Christ Himself, Who must be encountered, welcomed and followed".

"It is above all in the liturgy, in participation in the holy mysteries, that we are drawn into following this path with the Lord, ... reliving the events that have led us to salvation; but not as a simple commemoration, a recollection of things past", the Holy Father explained. "There is", he said, "a keyword to indicate this, which is often repeated in the liturgy: the word 'today', which must be understood not metaphorically but in its original concrete sense. Today God reveals His law and we have the opportunity to chose between good and evil, between life and death".

On Sundays during Lent we experience "a baptismal itinerary" which helps to conform "our lives to the requirements and duties of that Sacrament, which lies at the foundation of our Christian life".

"The first Sunday [of Lent], called the Sunday of temptation because it presents us with the temptation of Jesus in the desert, invites is to renew our definitive choice for God, and courageously to face the struggle that awaits us in remaining faithful to Him". The second Sunday is the Sunday of Abraham and the Transfiguration and, "like Abraham, father of believers, we too are invited to depart, to leave our own land, to abandon the certainties we have constructed and place our faith in God. We may glimpse our goal in the transfiguration of Christ, the beloved Son, in Whom we too become 'children of God'".

On the third Sunday we encounter the Samaritan woman. "Like Israel in the Exodus, in Baptism we too received the water that saves. Jesus, as He tells the Samaritan woman, has the water of life which satisfies every thirst; this water is His Spirit. ... The fourth Sunday leads us to reflect on the experience of the man 'blind from birth'. In Baptism we are freed from the shades of evil and receive the light of Christ in order to live as children of light. ... Finally, the fifth Sunday presents us with the raising of Lazarus. In Baptism we pass from death to life and become capable of pleasing God, of causing the old man to die so as to live in the spirit of the Risen One".

In Church tradition the period of Lent is characterised by practices such as fasting, almsgiving and prayer, said Pope Benedict, explaining how fasting "means abstaining from food, but it also includes other forms of privation for a more abstemious life". It "is closely linked to almsgiving ... which under the one name of 'mercy' embraces many good works". Moreover, during this period the Church "invites us to a more trusting and intense prayer, and to prolonged meditation on the Word of God".

"On this Lenten journey", the Pope concluded, "let us be attentive to welcoming Christ's invitation to follow Him more decisively and coherently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, so as to abandon the old man who is in us and clothe ourselves in Christ, thus reaching Easter renewed and being able to say with St. Paul 'it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'".

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VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father sent a Message to Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha of Mariana, president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, for the Fraternity Campaign traditionally promoted by the Brazilian Church during Lent.

The theme of the 2011 campaign is: "Fraternity and life on the planet", and its motto is: "the creation groans with labour pains. This, the Pope writes, "is an echo of the words used by St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans. One of the reasons for these groans is the damage caused to creation by human selfishness", he says.

Benedict XVI affirms that "the first step towards a correct relationship with the world around us is the recognition by humans of their status as created beings. Man is not God; he is His image. For this reason he must seek to be more sensitive to the presence of God in his surroundings. In all creatures, and especially in human beings, there is an epiphany, or manifestation, of God".

"The human being will be capable of respecting other creatures only if he keeps the full meaning of life in his own heart. Otherwise he will come to despise himself and his surroundings, and to disrespect the environment, the creation, in which he lives. For this reason, the first ecology to be defended is 'human ecology'. This is to say that, without a clear defence of human life from conception until natural death; without a defence of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman; without an authentic defence of those excluded and marginalised by society, not overlooking, in this context, those who have lost everything in natural calamities, we will never be able to speak of authentic protection of the environment".


CNA REPORT - As Roman Catholics begin Lent with the traditional distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, dioceses in the U.S. are seeking to pass on the ancient practices of the liturgical season in new ways.

Two young people participating in an Ash Wednesday Service in Westminster Cathedral. Credit: MazurThe three traditional “pillars of Lent” – for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, as well as some Protestants who observe the tradition – are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Through these three essential practices, Pope Benedict XVI said in his 2011 Lenten message, “Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way.”

Fr. Randy Dollins of the Archdiocese of Denver and Auxilary Bishop Robert F. Hennessey of Boston spoke with CNA about initiatives that help Catholics focus on the meaning of the penitential season, and benefit spiritually from its traditions.

A sign of sacrifice

Fr. Dollins, a priest in Frisco, Colorado, began his “Sacrificium” campaign last year, and is now expanding it throughout the Archdiocese of Denver. Its message is in keeping with Pope Benedict XVI's recent call for a radical conversion away from “selfishness” and materialism during Lent.

Participants receive a black rubber bracelet, similar to those that have been used in recent years to promote awareness of various causes. But this one, imprinted with the Latin word for “sacrifice,” is primarily meant to maintain one's own awareness of the Lenten season and its meaning.

“People, including myself, seem to lack staying power during Lent,” Fr. Dollins explained. “I thought, what if there were a way to help people make a commitment?”

The bracelet comes with a “commitment card,” which has two parts. One part of the card, which the faithful keep for their own reference, lists the Church's requirements for fasting and abstinence from meat during Lent. The portion that they fill out, and give to their priest as a sign of commitment, tells what they plan to give up, or take on, as a meaningful Lenten sacrifice.

Besides serving as a reminder of the minimum requirements for fasting and abstinence, the sacrifice card gives weight to a Lenten practice that is sometimes trivialized – giving up something enjoyable and otherwise good, as a sacrifice to make more room for God and other people in one's life.

“You hand out the cards before Ash Wednesday, and people come back with the commitment card filled out,” said Fr. Dollins. “If they told the priest they were going to do something, I thought they would be more likely to follow through.”

After receiving ashes on their foreheads, the faithful can also receive the bracelet meant to carry the same message throughout the season. The Archdiocese of Denver plans to distribute over 100,000 of the bracelets throughout its parishes.

Fr. Dollins originally considered making the bracelets purple, the liturgical color associated with Lent. But he settled on black, as a lasting reminder of Ash Wednesday's solemn message. “It becomes like an outward sign of ashes, for the entirety of Lent,” he explained.

Coming home to Confession

In his 2011 Lenten message, Pope Benedict described Lent as a “favorable time to recognize our weakness – and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance.”

After overwhelmingly positive feedback from priests and the faithful last year, the Archdiocese of Boston will continue its campaign entitled “The Light is On For You.” This year, the initiative will join forces with Boston's “Catholics Come Home” campaign, which is launching a new TV campaign in time for Lent.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 16, priests will be available to hear confessions in every church of the archdiocese – over 300 in total – on every Wednesday evening of Lent, from 6:30 to 8:00pm.

Bishop Robert Hennessey, who is is charge of the Confession initiative, especially hopes that those who have been away from the sacrament – and perhaps even the Church – will feel welcomed back. He estimates that up to 26,000 Boston-area Catholics returned to Confession last year, through the simple but effective initiative.

“Many of the priests had many people coming back, after being away for several years,” he said. “I would expect more of that, this year, because this is being done in conjunction with the 'Catholics Come Home' campaign.”

“I'm expecting it to be a great partnership,” said Bishop Hennessey.

The bishop recalled receiving a phone call from one archdiocesan priest who jokingly “accused” him of being responsible for an entire evening's worth of confessions during Lent of 2010.

“One priest called me up and left a message on my voicemail. He said, 'It's a quarter of ten, and I just left the confessional. It's all your fault!'”

“He had been there since 6:30, hearing confessions. He thought it was wonderful.”

Even if Confession seems intimidating, the bishop said, no one should pass up the experience of receiving Jesus' forgiveness through the sacrament.

“We are incapable of doing anything that is larger than God's capacity to forgive,” Bishop Hennessey explained. “Some people think, 'God won't forgive me' – or, 'It's been so long, God has forgotten who I am.'”

“I remind them: no matter how long it's been, no matter what has happened, you can receive the forgiveness of Jesus.”


ASIA NEWS REPORT: Violence breaks out during a demonstration organised by Copts to demand the rebuilding of a Church demolished by Muslims in Soul last Saturday. The army intervenes to stop the violence. In Upper Egypt, a Christian hospital for the disable is at risk of demolition. A number of Christian-owned homes are torn down.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Tensions between Copts and Muslims are growing following violent clashes in Cairo’s Abbasiyya neighbourhood. Fr Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Catholic Church of Egypt, said that six people died and 42 sustained injuries during the incident. Violence broke out during a Christian demonstration in favour of the rebuilding of the Saints Minas and George Coptic Church destroyed by Muslims last Saturday. The clergyman said the country’s military-led government might speed up the process of rebuilding the church to avoid an escalation.

Sources told AsiaNews that clashes began yesterday when thousands of Copts, backed by a number of Muslims, blocked two roads leading to Tahrir Square, raising the ire of car drivers.

Groups of radical Muslims came to the place and began a brawl with demonstrators, forcing the army to step in.

According to the sources, when Copts from some of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods, victims of Muslim violence in the past, joined the melee the demonstration got further out of hand.

“Tensions remain in the neighbourhood,” the sources said. “You can hear shots and many families kept their children from school.”

Egypt’s Coptic community has had to endure injustice and violence at the hands of Muslims for centuries, especially in Upper Egypt, scene of 21 of 59 incidents of sectarian violence registered last year.

Recently, the governor of Minya (Upper Egypt) ordered without reason the demolition of a hospital for disabled run by the Coptic Church in the village of Deir Barsha. On 28 February, some 10,000 Copts demonstrated against the governor, preventing him from completing the demolition job.

In the village of Saeed Abdelmassih, the same governor ordered the army to demolish the homes of members of the local Christian community after they refused to pay a voluntary contribution to the governorate.,-six-dead-and-42-injured-20982.html


CATH NEWS REPORT: One of the nuns at the convent, Isabel Guerra, is a painter whose work is highly valued. Image from


Spanish police are investigating the theft of just over $2 million in cash that was kept in plastic bags by nuns at a convent, said a report on "The sisters called us on February 28 to say that several doors in the convent had been broken and that a large amount of cash had disappeared," a police spokeswoman in the northern city of Zaragoza said.

The nuns kept the 1.5 million euros in cash in plastic bags - money they are said to have saved over several years. One of the nuns, Isabel Guerra sells paintings, which the regional newspaper Periodico de Aragon said are highly valued and can sell for up to $66,000.

The sisters at the Santa Lucia convent in Zaragoza live largely in seclusion and spend much of their time working on book-binding, according to their website.




Worked under government surveillance until hampered by illness
Bishop Andrew Hao Jinli of Xiwanzi (deceased)

“Underground” Bishop Andrew Hao Jinli of Xiwanzi, northern Hebei province, died at Gonghui village church at the age of 95.

He died on March 9 shortly after receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, Church sources said. The police soon sealed off all roads leading to the village and Catholics from outside cannot pay their last tribute.

Funeral arrangements are unknown yet as all information is blocked, the sources continued, adding that a few priests who have obtained government recognition may preside over the funeral.

Bishop Hao, who was not recognized by the Chinese government, had been in poor health and was confined to a wheelchair for years.

Church sources said his health worsened last month, but police did not allow laypeople to send him to a hospital. They even installed surveillance cameras at his residence and forbade anyone to visit him.

“Bishop Hao died on Ash Wednesday. He had suffered hardships with Jesus Christ throughout his life and will resurrect with Him too,” one of the sources said.

Another described the prelate as “warm-hearted and loyal to his episcopate.” He had brought up a batch of young priests, who could do pastoral work independently.

Thus the sources believed regular Church activities would not be affected, though personnel arrangements and decisions on Church affairs would become difficult due to the vacant see as Auxiliary Bishop Leo Yao Liang had also passed away in 2009.

Bishop Hao was born into a Catholic family in 1916 – his two brothers were also priests – and ordained in 1943. He was sentenced to 10 years’ jail because of his faith in 1958. Then he was sent to Gonghui for reform-through-labor. Upon his release in 1981, he returned to serve as a parish priest.

He was clandestinely ordained as a bishop in 1984 and succeeded Bishop Melchior Zhang Kexing as the ordinary of Xiwanzi four years later. Since then he had worked under government surveillance until hampered by serious diabetes and deafness in the last decade.

Catholicism was introduced to Xiwanzi more than 300 years ago. In the 19th century, the village became the center of Mongolia’s apostolic vicariate and the missionary base of the Congregation of Immaculate Heart of Mary to the extensive region beyond the Great Wall.

The open Church merged Xiwanzi and neighboring Xuanhua diocese to form Zhangjiakou diocese in 1980, but the two underground communities continue to operate despite difficulties.


CATH NEWS REPORT: The announcement of the construction of a 1500-bed detention centre on the outskirts of Darwin reveals, once more, Australia's 'hard-hearted' response to asylum seekers, says the Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) in a media release.

"The $9 million to be spent constructing a new detention centre and $74 million over three years for leasing the land will be in addition to the hundreds of millions spent on the detention of just over 6,650 asylum seekers in mainland and offshore centres."The matter of concern surrounding the decision to build the new detention centre is not, as suggested by some politicians, that the government has failed to 'stop the boats' but rather that the Australian Government continues to incarcerate desperate people who have fled violence and persecution," Bishop Christopher Saunders said.

"Our prolonged detention of asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat is simply adding further trauma to the lives of vulnerable individuals and families - at great cost to the Australian tax-payer. The Government has useful alternatives to detention including working bridging visas which allow asylum seekers to contribute to society and be self-reliant.

"In 2008, this Government committed to using detention for the shortest possible time and only then to establish that asylum seekers posed no health or security risk. Those posing no danger to the community would be able to remain in the community while their visa status was resolved. It is time for the Government to keep that promise.

"The Department of Immigration and Citizenship reports that 5,235 asylum seekers - 79% - have been in detention for longer than three months. These people are in need of compassion and security.

"The appallingly long time it takes to process their claims is a sad condemnation of our moral worth as a people who pride ourselves in always preserving a spirit of fairness," Bishop Saunders concluded.


St. Dominic Savio


Feast: March 9


Feast Day:March 9

April 2, 1842(1842-04-02), San Giovanni, a frazione of Riva presso Chieri, Piedmont, Italy

Died:March 9, 1857, Mondonio, a frazione of Castelnuovo d’Asti (today Castelnuovo Don Bosco), Piedmont, Italy


12 June 1954 by Pope Pius XII
Major Shrine:The Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians in Turin (his tomb)
Patron of:choirboys, falsely accused people, juvenile delinquents, Pueri Cantores

EWTN: Here is a boy-saint who died at the age of fifteen, was one of the great hopes of St. John Bosco for the future of his congregation, and was canonized in 1954.

He was one of ten children of Carlo and Birgitta Savio. Carlo was a blacksmith and Birgitta was a seamstress. When Don Bosco was looking for young men to train as priests for his Salesian Order, his parish priest suggested Dominic Savio. Dominic became more than a credit to Don Bosco's school—he single-handedly organized those who were to be the nucleus of Don Bosco's order.

St. Dominic Savio was twelve when he met Don Bosco and organized a group of boys into the Company of the Immaculate Conception. Besides its religious purpose, the boys swept and took care of the school and looked after the boys that no one seemed to pay any attention to. When, in 1859, Don Bosco chose the young men to be the first members of his congregation, all of them had been members of Dominic's Company.

For all that, Dominic was a normal, high-spirited boy who sometimes got into trouble with his teachers because he would often break out laughing. However, he was generally well disciplined and gradually gained the respect of the tougher boys in Don Bosco's school.

In other circumstances, Dominic might have become a little self-righteous snob, but Don Bosco showed him the heroism of the ordinary and the sanctity of common sense. "Religion must be about us as the air we breathe," Don Bosco would say, and Dominic Savio wore holiness like the clothes on his back.

He called his long hours of prayer "his distractions." In 1857, at the age of fifteen, he caught tuberculosis and was sent home to recover. On the evening of March 9, he asked his father to say the prayers for the dying. His face lit up with an intense joy and he said to his father: "I am seeing most wonderful things!" These were his last words.

Thought for the Day: "I can't do big things," St. Dominic Savio once said, "but I want everything to be for the glory of God." His was the way of the ordinary: cheerfulness, fidelity in little things, helping others, playing games, obeying his superiors. This heroism in little things is the stuff of holiness.



St. Frances of Rome


Feast: March 9


Feast Day:March 9

1384, Rome

Died:March 9, 1440, Rome


1608, Rome by Pope Paul V
Major Shrine:Santa Francesca Romana Church, Romea
Patron of:Benedictine oblates; automobile drivers

One of the greatest mystics of the fifteenth century; born at Rome, of a noble family, in 1384; died there, 9 March, 1440.

Her youthful desire was to enter religion, but at her father's wish she married, at the age of twelve, Lorenzo de' Ponziani. Among her children we know of Battista, who carried on the family name, Evangelista, a child of great gifts (d. 1411), and Agnes (d. 1413). Frances was remarkable for her charity to the poor, and her zeal for souls. She won away many Roman ladies from a life of frivolity, and united them in an association of oblates attached to the White Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria Nuova; later they became the Benedictine Oblate Congregation of Tor di Specchi (25 March, 1433) which was approved by Eugene IV (4 July, 1433). Its members led the life of religious, but without the strict cloister or formal vows, and gave themselves up to prayer and good works. With her husband's consent Frances practiced continency, and advanced in a life of contemplation. Her visions often assumed the form of drama enacted for her by heavenly personages. She had the gift of miracles and ecstasy, we well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel, had revelations concerning purgatory and hell, and foretold the ending of the Western Schism. She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience, exemplified on the occasion ofher husband's banishment, the captivity of Battista, her sons' death, and the loss of all herproperty.

On the death of her husband (1436) she retired among her oblates at Tor di Specchi, seeking admission for charity's sake, and was made superior. On the occasion of a visit to her son, she fell ill and died on the day she had foretold. Her canonization was preceded by three processes (1440, 1443, 1451) and Paul V declared her a saint on 9 May, 1608, assigning 9 March as her feast day. Long before that, however, the faithful were wont to venerate her body in the church of Santa Maria Nuova in the Roman Forum, now known as the church of Santa Francesca Romana.

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