Thursday, March 21, 2013






Vatican City, 20 March 2013 (VIS) – Early this afternoon in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received fraternal delegates, that is, representative envoys of Churches, Ecclesial Communities, and international ecumenical organizations, as well as representatives of non-Christian Religions, who have come to Rome for the inauguration of his ministry as Bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter.
On behalf of those present, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, greeted the Pope, recalling the “elevated, serious, and difficult task” that his ministry bears with it. He also reiterated the need for the Churches to shun worldly distractions and to work on the unity between Christians.
Francis, who listened to the words of the Patriarch seated on an armchair rather than the throne that is customarily used in the Clementine Hall, thanked Bartholomew I, calling him “my brother Andrew”, since the patriarchs of Constantinople are considered the successors of the Apostle Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. He then said that, thanks to the presence at yesterday's Mass of representatives of the various communities, he felt “in an even stronger way, the prayer for unity among the believers in Christ and [glimpsed] prefigured in some way, its full realization, which depends on God's plan and our sincere cooperation.”
“I begin my apostolic ministry,” he continued, “in this year that my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with a truly inspired intuition, proclaimed the Year of Faith for the Catholic Church. With this initiative, which I wish to continue and which I hope serves as a stimulus for each of us in our journey of faith, he wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, proposing a type of pilgrimage to what is essential for every Christian: a personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died and rose again for our salvation. The heart of the Council's message lies precisely in the desire to proclaim this ever-valid treasure of the faith to the persons of our time.”
Francis then recalled the image and words of Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Council: “The Catholic Church considers it her duty to actively work so as to bring about the great mystery of that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven on the eve of his sacrifice.” He continued saying: “Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we all feel intimately joined in our Saviour's prayer at the Last Supper, to his call: 'ut unum sint'. Let us call on our merciful Father that we may fully live that faith that we received as a gift on the day of our Baptism and to be able to witness to it freely, joyfully, and courageously. This will be the best way we can serve the cause of unity among Christians, a service of hope for a world that is still marked by divisions, differences, and rivalries.”
“For my part, I wish to assure you, following in the path of my predecessors, of my firm will to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue ... I ask you to take my cordial greetings and assurance of my remembrance in the Lord Jesus to the Churches and Christian Communities that you represent here. I also ask of you the kindness of a special prayer for myself, so that I might be a Pastor in harmony with Christ's heart.”
Then, addressing the representatives of the Jewish communities, he emphasized “the very special spiritual bond” that they have with Christians. Quoting the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, he said: “'The Church of Christ acknowledges that ... the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets.' … I am confident that, with the help of the Almighty, we can profitably continue that fraternal dialogue that the Council hoped for and that has been carried out, bearing not few fruits, especially over the last few decades.”
The Pope then greeted those belonging to other religious traditions, first of all the Muslims who “adore the one, living, and merciful God and who call upon Him in prayer.” Then, addressing all those gathered, he said: “I really appreciate your presence. In it I see a tangible sign of the desire to grow in mutual respect and cooperation for the common good of humanity.”
“The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions. I want to repeat this: the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions.”.. The Church “is also aware of the responsibility that we all bear to this our world, to all of creation, which we should love and protect. And we can do much for the good of the poorest, of the weak and suffering, to promote justice and reconciliation, to build peace. But, above all, we must keep alive the thirst for the Absolute in the world, not allowing a one-dimensional vision of the human person, in which humanity is reduced to that which it produces and consumes, to prevail. This is one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our times.”
“We know how, in recent times, violence has produced an attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the value of witnessing in our societies to the original openness to the transcendent that is inscribed in the human heart. In this, we also feel close to all men and women who, although not claiming to belong to any religious tradition, still feel themselves to be in search of truth, goodness, and beauty, God's Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and who are our precious allies in the effort to defend human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples, and in carefully protecting creation.”

Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – To protect with tenderness. That is the call to each of us. It is the new Pope's message. Perhaps it will be the directive of his government. Clear, simple, deep, compelling. Spoken in Italian and lasting no more than twenty minutes. The crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square remained attentive throughout the celebration, which lasted just under the two hours that had been planned.
“This is a punctual Pope. Even a bit ahead of schedule. At least that's how it was today,” said a German pilgrim, advanced in age, who had been waiting for hours in front of a giant screen set up in Via della Conciliazione, the street that runs in front of the Vatican. He had been watching as, little by little, thousands more gathered in the square. He was right. The Pope's Jeep appeared in St. Peter's Square around 8:50am. Standing up in the back, Pope Francis in his white cassock, his mozzetta, his black shoes, and his pectoral cross (the one he has had since being appointed bishop) smiled as he greeted and blessed those he passed. People began to run to him with their flags, their children, their friends, their sick... And then Francis picked up a baby in his arms and, to everyone's astonishment, got down from the car. What was going on? He had seen a handicapped man and wanted to embrace and bless him. 
This is the new Pope: the Argentine, the first Pope from the Americas, the first Francis, leader of the Catholic Church who was presented to the world today and who, in the few days since his election, has excited so many. People already know him as the “close” Pope, the “simple” Pope, the Pope who “is like a father”, who greets the crowds with a “good afternoon” and says goodbye with an “enjoy your lunch”. He is the Pope who, first thing this morning, made a phone call to his native land where his countrymen and women had gathered in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo. Surprising everyone with the call, live over the phone, he left them with a message: “Do not be afraid.” They were the same words spoken by one of his predecessors in 1978, the Polish Pope Karol Wojtyla, Blessed John Paul II.
This is the first time that Pope Francis has taken the Popemobile through the square and the people wanted to see him better, closer... The new Pope moved through them and then went back around again in what was, perhaps, the longest trip that a Roman pontiff has ever made around the square. He travelled over the ground that, twenty-one centuries earlier, had been occupied by the Circus of Nero. The ground where modern investigators have confirmed the tradition of the site of St. Peter's martyrdom: Peter the fisherman, the first Pope of the Catholic Church, whose remains are still conserved in the same place. Of that ancient vista perhaps the only thing that remains is the great obelisk, brought to Rome from Heliopolis by order of the emperor Caligula. It is the same obelisk that hundreds of workers have been toiling around all night to prepare for the historic event.
Today, twenty-one centuries later, there are other witnesses and the spectacle is different but the protagonist is again a “common man”. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Argentine, 76 years-old, a chemical technician. His followers may number over 1,165,714,000: the number of Catholics in the world, which is, approximately, one out of every six. In the “bleachers” this time are men and women who have come from over 132 countries around the world. They have come “because they wanted to”, as the Holy See emphasized: “There were no 'invitations' sent out. All who wish to come are warmly welcomed. It must be made clear that no one has privileged status or will be refused.” And so they have come: six sovereigns, three crown princes, 31 heads of state, 11 heads of government... more than 250 Catholic bishops and 1200 priests and seminarians... But those numbers do not count the men, women, youth, elderly, those of every type, faith, language, culture, class, status, and opinion who also came.
On the terrace of the Charlemagne Wing (the left-hand side colonnade of the square, if you are facing the Basilica) were positioned the cameras of some of the nearly 6000 journalists covering the event. Some of them saw the dawn; others were even there at 4:00am. For many of them, this will be their final event to cover after following developments day-by-day, including the almost-daily press conferences held by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, who yesterday was presented with a plaque and press pass by the Italian Agency for the Associated Press as a thank you on behalf of all the journalists.
But the ceremony begins. Within the Basilica, the Holy Father Francis venerates St. Peter at his tomb. At this important moment he chose to be accompanied by the ten Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches who were in attendance. Why? Perhaps to demonstrate the universality of the Catholic Church with its two rites, Oriental and Latin, that are equal in essence and dignity. From the Confession, the tomb of St. Peter, the Pope reascended to the main floor of the Basilica, following the Book of the Gospels, the papal pallium, and the new Fisherman’s Ring.
Outside in the square, ecclesiastics who are not concelebrating have been seated to the left of the altar (always if you are facing the Basilica) and, to the right, political and civil authorities. Beauty is present in the splendour of the chants intoned by the Sistine Chapel Choir and the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. The first Gregorian chant is the “Laudes Regiae” (Christ is King). At the Offertory during the Mass a motet composed by Pierluigi da Palestrina precisely for the Inauguration of the Pontificate will be sung: “Tu es pastor ovium” (You Are the Shepherd of the Sheep). At the conclusion of the Mass will come the “Te Deum” with verses alternating between Gregorian chant and a melody by Tomas Luis de Victoria.
There are three important moments of the ceremony inaugurating the new pontiff's Petrine ministry before the Mass begins. The first is the imposition of the pallium made from lamb's wool. Cardinal proto-deacon Jean-Louis Tauran, the one who made the “habemus Papam” announcement from the Basilica’s loggia last Wednesday, today will place the pallium on the Holy Father's shoulders. It represents the “lost, sick, or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life”.
Then the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, will bestow the Fisherman's Ring on Francis. It bears the image of Peter holding the keys and is made of gold-plated silver. It was designed by the Italian artist Enrico Manfrini for Pope Paul VI but was never cast in metal. Its wax cast was conserved by Paul VI's personal secretary Archbishop Pasquale Macchi and, on his death, by Archbishop Macchi's colleague Msgr. Ettore Malnati who had it cast and proposed it, through Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, as one of the choices for the new Roman Pontiff.
Thirdly, six cardinals, two from each of the Orders, will make a symbolic act of obedience on behalf of all the other cardinals. This act of obedience was already made, by the Cardinal electors at the end of the Conclave and by the rest of the College of Cardinals when they met with him the next day. The people of God will be represented in the act of obedience made by the faithful who are present when the Pope takes possession of the Cathedral of Rome—St. John Lateran—in the next few days.
Now the Mass begins. It is the Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. Concelebrating are all the cardinals present in Rome, joined by six Patriarchs and Major Eastern Rite Archbishops; the Secretary of the College of Cardinals; Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M., superior general of the Order of Friars Minor; and Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus. In total they will be around 180 concelebrating with Pope Francis.
The Gospel, the culminating moment of the Liturgy of the Word is proclaimed in Greek, in deference to the Eastern Rite. Afterwards, Pope Francis gives his homily in Italian. The square is silent and the Holy Father is calm. “It seems like he has always been Pope,” someone remarks as soon as they hear his first words. The text was given to journalists beforehand with the warning, “Be attentive! This Pope loves to improvise!” But in this moment he stuck with the prepared text.
The Pope speaks of St. Joseph, the example he gives us, of his vocation, his fidelity, his availability, of how he knew how to listen to God, of how he was attentive to everything going on around him. This is the preamble of his homily, then he arrives at its heart, connecting St. Joseph's vocation to that of us all, each of us, and to the Pope's own vocation as well. He concludes with a resounding entreaty: our responsibility to protect with tenderness, to not destroy what we have received. From creation to ourselves and those around us, and especially the poorest. “We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!” Pope Francis exhorted. We are all called “so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!” So ended the homily of the new Bishop of Rome, the homily of the Mass inaugurating his pontificate.
In the square a young man says of the quiet: “We were silent but a seething volcano is within us.” He was one of the many young Italians who have come with their children, some of which are just babies. Beside him is a group from Lebanon who remember John Paul II and Benedict XVI's trips to their land. “Francis will come too. We're sure of it!”
At the end, after the Mass, the Pope went to pray before the statue of the Virgin that stood next to the altar. Then, amidst the crowd's cries of “Francesco, Francesco, Francesco”, the Gregorian chant, and the thundering bells of St. Peter's, the new Holy Father returned to the Basilica. After removing his liturgical vestments, he went to the Altar of Confession, standing in front of which he received the greetings of the diplomatic representatives of the 132 countries and various organizations that had attended the Mass.
In the next few days, Pope Francis will have to figure out how to answer the millions of email messages that have already been received, despite the fact that he still doesn't have an official address.
Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – Following is the complete text of the homily that Pope Francis gave during the Mass inaugurating his Petrine ministry. Beginning with the image of St. Joseph, the “protector”, the Pope stressed that the vocation to protect creation and humanity concerns everyone. He urged all to not be afraid of goodness or even of tenderness. 
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.”
“I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.”
“In the Gospel we heard that 'Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife' (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission that God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the 'custos', the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: 'Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model' (Redemptoris Custos, 1).”
“How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly, and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.”
“How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by humans, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the heart of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!”
“The vocation of being a 'protector', however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”
“Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and our hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are 'Herods' who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.”
“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political, and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany our world's journey! But to be 'protectors', we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy, and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up or tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”
“Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness; it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”
“Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete, and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgement on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!”
“In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, 'hoping against hope, believed' (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God that has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock that is God.”
“To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!”
“I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.”
Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – The thousands of people who spent a sleepless night in the main square of Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, to watch the Mass inaugurating former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio's Petrine ministry had a pleasant surprise. At 7:32am Rome time—that is, 3:32am in Argentina—the speakers placed outside the cathedral in the square began to carry the voice of Pope Francis. He was calling, from the Vatican, to greet them.
As reported by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, the Pope had called the cell phone of one of his aides, Fr. Alejandro Russo, rector of the cathedral. From the archdiocesan television centre they were then able to connect the call to Plaza de Mayo, so that the pontiff might say hello to his parishioners. Shortly afterwards, the rector announced that he had a special surprise and those gathered began to hear Francis' voice. “Dear sons and daughters, I know you have gathered in the square. I know that you are saying prayers, I need them very much. It is beautiful to pray because we look to heaven and know that we have a good Father who is God.”
A huge wave of applause greeted the Pope's words and he continued: “I want to ask a favour of you. I want to ask for us to walk together, to care for one another, for you to care for each other. Do not cause harm. Protect life. Protect the family; protect nature; protect the young; protect the elderly. Let there not be hatred or fighting. Put aside envy.” And, in the city's slang, he added: “No le saquen el cuero a nadie [literally, “don't flay or skin anyone alive”, that is, don't gossip, don't criticize one another]. Talk with one another so that this desire to protect each other might grow in your hearts. And draw near to God. God is good. He always forgives and understands. Do not be afraid of him. Draw near to him and may the Virgin bless you. May she, as a mother, protect you. Please do not forget this bishop who is far away but who loves you very much. Pray for me!”
“Through the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin, and each of your guardian angels, the glorious patriarch St. Joseph, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and each of your protector saints, may God All-mighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you,” Francis concluded, imparting the papal blessing to all present before closing the connection.
Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – This is the history of the Fisherman’s Ring that, beginning today, Pope Francis will wear on the ring finger of his right hand.
Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, the personal secretary of Pope Paul VI, kept the wax cast of the ring that had been designed for Paul VI by the Italian artist Enrico Manfrini. (He also made several medals and other artistic objects for Paul VI.) The ring depicts St. Peter holding the keys. It was never cast into metal therefore Paul VI never wore it. Instead, he always wore the ring that was commissioned at the time of the Second Vatican Council.
When he passed away in 2006, the cast, along with other objects, was left by Archbishop Macchi to Monsignor Ettore Malnati, who had worked closely with him for many years. Msgr. Malnati made a ring of gold-plated silver from the wax cast. This ring was offered to Pope Francis, along with several other possible options, by the Papal Master of Ceremonies, through the auspices of Cardinal Re. Pope Francis chose it for his Ring of the Fisherman and it was bestowed upon him at this morning's Mass of the Inauguration of his Petrine Ministry.
Vatican City, 20 March 2013 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, Pope Francis made a phone call to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to express his well wishes on the Pope emeritus' saint's day—St. Joseph. Again he also declared his, and the Church's, gratitude for the Pope emeritus' service. It was a long and cordial call. The Pope emeritus has attentively followed the events of recent days, in particular the Mass of inauguration of the new pontiff's Petrine ministry, and he assured his successor of his continued closeness in prayer.
Vatican City, 20 March 2013 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:
- Her Excellency Dilma Vana Rousseff, president of Brazil, with an entourage,
- His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople,
- Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and
- Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress.


John 8:
 31 - 42

31Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
33They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, `You will be made free'?"
34Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.
35The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever.
36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
37I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.
38I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father."
39They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did,
40but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did.
41You do what your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."
42Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.



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Smith_Richard-2012This Tuesday, March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate the formal inauguration of the Petrine ministry of Francis, Servant of the Servants of God. Saint Joseph is both patron of the universal Church, and principal patron of Canada.
On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of our country, I invite each member of our Church and everyone of good will to share in this moment of joy. Let us pray that God support and strengthen our new Pope in his ministry of universal pastor. May he lead, encourage and teach us all to give glory to God, and thus peace and good will to the world.
Pope Francis takes on the role of the Apostle Peter shown to us in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles: helping the disciples recognize Jesus and be a communion of love, strengthening us in the faith, witnessing to Jesus’ resurrection, and continuing Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching (Mark 8.29,16.7; Matthew 16.18; Luke 22.32; John 20.6; Acts 2.14-49,3.2-10). He now serves, by the grace of God, as our “rock”.
From the outset, Pope Francis has invited us to turn to Mary, Mother of God, for her protection and intercession. This was manifested symbolically the day after his election, when he prayed to Our Lady at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and left a bouquet of flowers on the altar.
Mary heard God and believed. She received into her very womb the Word made flesh. With Saint Joseph, she welcomed Jesus, and introduced him to the world. She learned from Jesus, and kept faith with him to the last. From the Cross, Jesus made Mary our mother in faith, and we her sons and daughters (John 19.26-27). With Mary, we introduce Jesus to our world, and are called to imitate Mary’s steadfast fidelity to our Lord, even in moments of betrayal, ignorance and suffering, so as to be effective witnesses to God’s life-giving glory.
With gratitude to God, let us welcome Pope Francis as he leads the Church into a new stage along the journey of evangelization and encounter. Just a few days ago, he told the Cardinals, “Do not give in to pessimism and discouragement…. [T]he Holy Spirit gives the Church… the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it responds to the deep needs of human existence, convincingly announcing that Christ is the only Saviour of the whole person and of all persons.”
Together, with Pope Francis, let us move forward into the future, following the way of Christ, filled with the faith, hope and love we share with Mary, journeying to the Father, emboldened, inspired and united in the Holy Spirit.
+ Richard SmithArchbishop of Edmonton and
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
18 March 2013


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT - SHARE
20 Mar 2013

Faith, prayers, music and the arts celebrated by young pilgrims at Gracefest 2012
More than 700 young people from parishes, universities and schools across Sydney will gather to celebrate Gracefest at St Mary's Cathedral Hall this Saturday for an evening of music, prayer and reflection.
Gracefest 2013 brings youth together in an outpouring of faith and joy and also offers those present the unique chance to hear a first-hand account by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell of the momentous events of the past week when Pope Francis was elected and installed as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
His Eminence, who returns to Sydney from Rome on Friday, less than 24 hours before the start of Gracefest, will deliver the main presentation and will also talk informally with participants at the festival over dinner.
A fiesta dinner with a South American theme will kick off Gracefest. Prepared by the Knights of the Southern Cross, the menu of mouth-watering Latin American dishes was planned as a celebration of World Youth Day in Rio later this year.
"Now with a new Pope and the first-ever to come from Latin America, Saturday night's Latin American feast will have even more meaning," says Bernard Toutounji, Director of Catholic Youth Services (CYS).
The first Gracefest was held in July last year in the open air courtyard of the University of Notre Dame and attracted a huge crowd of young people on the final night of SCENE (the Sydney Congress Embracing the New Evangelism).
"Gracefest was one of the highlights of SCENE and so popular we want to make it an annual event," says Jake Ryan, the organiser of this year's as well as last year's festival.

Jake Ryan is not only organiser of Gracefest but vocalist for the Grace Band
The Archdiocese of Sydney's Project and Events Officer for the Year of Grace and a member of the Sydney WYD2013 in Rio Committee, Jake took the decision to organise Gracefest as a celebration of prayer, music and the arts in a bid to capture the mood, emotion and inspiration he experienced along with 140,000 other pilgrims during Barangaroo's "Receive the Power: Live" event during WYD08.
Although Gracefest is on a much smaller scale he says last year's festival triggered the same feelings of joy and those who attended came away enriched, inspired and filled with joy.
This Saturday's Gracefest has been designed to be equally fulfilling, enriching and inspiring.
Held at St Mary's Cathedral Hall which can accommodate more people than the relatively small courtyard at the University of Notre Dame's city campus, the festival organisers will also be free of worry no matter whatever the weather.
The program begins with the Latin American fiesta dinner. Not only is the meal free to participants but will provide an informal atmosphere for people to meet one another and to mingle and chat with Cardinal Pell as well as the Archdiocese's well known auxiliary bishops, Bishop Julian Porteous, Bishop Peter Comensoli and Bishop Terry Brady.
The evening then gets underway with a program of prayer, reflection, the showing of videos on WYD Rio together with a testimony by Alfio Stuto, best known as the actor who played Christ in the live performance of Stations of the Cross during WYD in Sydney.
This will be followed by a short introductory address from Bernard Toutounji about CYS, plans for the up coming year and to introduce six members of the National Evangelisation Team who will be based in the Archdiocese for the remainder of the year, visiting schools, speaking about faith formation, running encounter groups and engaging with youth ministries and other Catholic youth groups.
At 8.15 pm, Cardinal Pell will deliver his homily which will be followed by Adoration with the opening prayers led by Bishop Porteous who will also lead the Benediction towards the end of the evening.

prayer and reflection at last year's Gracefest
Music will be a big feature throughout the evening with the Grace Band which was such a hit Gracefest in July 2012, reforming specially for the event.
"Music is a universal language and speaks directly to the heart. Everyone no matter what language they speak or what their culture might be, responds to music and for those of faith, music brings us closer to God," Jake says.
Jake has not only organised Saturday night's Gracefest but he will also be one of the event's leading performers.
The Grace Band with its six musicians and 21-year-old Jake on vocals will perform the much loved music of Canada's internationally-acclaimed Catholic songwriter-composer, Matt Maher and other contemporary works. Originally trained as a classical pianist and on leaving school Jake was offered a scholarship to study at the Conservatorium of Music. Despite his love of music, the former student of St Mary's Cathedral College decided at the last moment not to take up this rare honour and instead chose to devote his life to the Church. But music remains a passion whether classical, rock, r & b, blue grass or pop.
Gracefest begins at 6.30 pm at St Mary's Cathedral Hall on Saturday, 23 March. All are welcome. For more information see


Catholic Youth Ministry Federation National Congress | Catholic Youth Ministry Federation, National Congress to the North East, CYMfed’s short history.
At the end of an exciting week in the Church, following the election of Pope Francis, the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation brought its Congress to the North East for the first time. The Sage, one of the region’s most iconic landmarks, was the setting for the third CYMfed National Congress. 650 young people, youth ministers, teachers, chaplains, clergy, consecrated religious and parishioners from all over the country gathered to gain inspiration and support for their own ministry with young people. The programme included inspiring liturgies with music by young volunteers well worthy of the famed Sage acoustics.
Started in 2009, and based on inspiration from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry in the USA, CYMFed has seen great success including, three congresses for Youth Ministers, along with organising ‘The Flame’ Congress in 2012 which gathered over 8000 young people in Wembley Arena for a day of prayer, reflection and celebration. The National Youth Symbol, a key feature of the liturgies at the Congress, was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI at the CYMFed led events for the papal visit in Westminster Cathedral and Hyde Park. The launch of two publications, ‘Mapping the Terrain’ and ‘Called to a Noble Adventure’ has been another part of CYMFed’s work and this was added to last Saturday with the launch of its latest publication ‘The Story’. This book, a reflection on the four pillars of the Catechism and containing faith stories of young people from across England and Wales, has been put together as a celebration of the Year of Faith.

The Congress was a great celebration of faith by inspirational speakers from different generations. Bishop Luc van Looy, the Bishop of Ghent, reminded us of the need for a culture of scripture and the huge power of symbolic acts in our lives. He affirmed the power of stories and reflected upon the number of messages shown through parables and the influence of the Father in all our faith stories. Bishop Luc spoke of the importance of letting young people know that they are loved; rather than being something which can be taught, “Education is a question of the heart”.

Christopher Pilkington, an Executive Producer for Youth Programming for Endemol and an active volunteer with young people in his own church, inspired everyone to use the art of story as Jesus did and gave an insight into how television programmes ‘hook you in’ with the power of the story. He reminded us of how Jesus’ teaching draws us in: “If you know the resolution, what is the point of engaging?”

Throughout the day there was the opportunity to hear the faith stories of two young people, part of CYMFed’s latest publication, ‘The Story’, which features the faith stories of 53 young people.

Those working at every level within youth ministry felt encouraged and equipped to return home to inspire and affirm the young people with whom they work. Fr Dermott Donnelly, Chair of CYMFed said, “We gathered in a most beautiful venue as people of faith, to share it and celebrate it. It was a truly inspirational day hearing people of all ages and ministries in the church witness and encourage one another”.


A Khan al-Assal, in the province of Aleppo, 25 people die and 110 in serious condition from gas asphyxiation. Regime and rebels exchange blame over possession and use of chemical weapons. For the UN Secretary General "an outrageous crime." 

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Bashar Al-Assad regime and the rebels accuse each other of using chemical weapons on Khan al-Assal in provincial Aleppo, where yesterday a "dense smoke" killed 25 people and left 110 wounded, most of them with the principles of asphyxiation. Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the UN accuses "terrorist groups" of firing a rocket load of chemicals. Ghassan Hitto, Interim Prime Minister of the exiled opposition instead accuses Assad's forces of having used chemical agents since the beginning of the conflict.

It had emerged several times as one of the main risks of the conflict, but this is the first time in two years of war that bombs or missiles with chemical warheads have been used. Although at present there is still no evidence to accuse the regime or the rebels for such actions, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, defines the use of such weapons "as an outrageous crime." Üzümcü Ahmed, Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said that "we are deeply concerned about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria."

On the diplomatic front everyone is confused and depend on the statements, often tendentious, from both sides. Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry gave credence to the version of the Syrian government, saying in a statement "that weapons of mass destruction have fallen into the hands of rebel fighters."

The United States and Europe have criticized Moscow and are wary of the accusations against the rebels of the Free Syrian Army. Britain and France have recently confirmed their support to the armed anti-Assad militias see the problem of chemical weapons as a call to direct intervention in the conflict. Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations states that "if there really has been the use of chemical warheads, this requires a serious response by the international community."

In the chaos of the blame game between Syrian regime, rebels and the international community, the location of the chemical weapons, their size and dimension remains unknown. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service of the United States, in recent decades, the Assad regime has accumulated stockpiles of nerve agents such as sarin gas, VX and mustard gas.



St. Herbert
Feast: March 20

Feast Day:March 20
Died:20 March, 687
Date of birth unknown; d. 20 March, 687; an anchorite of the seventh century, who dwelt for many years on the little island still known as St. Herbert's Isle, in the Lake of Derwentwater. He was for long the friend and disciple of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Little is known about him, save that it was his custom every year to visit St. Cuthbert for the purpose of receiving his direction in spiritual matters. In the year 686, hearing that his friend was visiting Carlisle for the purpose of giving the veil to Queen Eormenburg, he went to see him there, instead of at Lindisfarne as was usual. After they had spoken together, St. Cuthbert said, "Brother Herbert, tell to me now all that you have need to ask or speak, for never shall we see one another again in this world. For I know that the time of my decease is at hand." Then Herbert fell weeping at his feet and begged that St. Cuthbert would obtain for him the grace that they might both be admitted to praise God in heaven at the same time. And St. Cuthbert prayed and then made answer, "Rise, my brother, weep not, but rejoice that the mercy of God has granted our desire." And so it happened. For Herbert, returning to his hermitage, fell ill of a long sickness, and, purified of his imperfections, passed to God on the very day on which St. Cuthbert died on Holy Island. It is said that the remains of St. Herbert's chapel and cell may still be traced at the northern end of the island on which he lived. In 1374 Thomas Appleby, Bishop of Carlisle, granted an indulgence of forty days to all who, in honour of St. Herbert, visited the island in Derwentwater and were present at the Mass of St. Cuthbert to be sung annually by the Vicar of Crosthwaite.
(Taken From Catholic Encyclopedia)

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