Monday, March 10, 2014



POPE FRANCIS on Lent Retreat - Humbly takes bus and sits among curia at services


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is in the hillside town of Ariccia just south of Rome for a week-long Lenten retreat with members of the Curia. The Pope left the Vatican Sunday afternoon by bus – just a few hours after reciting the Angelus prayer with the faithful in St. Peter’s square.

Breaking from a long-held tradition of holding them in the Vatican, Pope Francis decided to organize this year’s annual retreat from March 9-14 at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat and conference center in Ariccia. The small medieval town is not far from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. And, in choosing to get away from the Vatican and the daily pressures of curia work and duties, Pope Francis is telling us silence and prayer can have a transforming power in one’s life and relationships with others.

In an interview last week in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said annual retreats should be given more importance and “everyone has a right to spend five days in silence and meditation." And, speaking to a group of spiritual directors in audience in the Vatican, the Pope said those who go on an “authentic” retreat "experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships."

Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, pastor of a parish in the center of Rome, is preaching for the Pope and curia officials this week. A respected spiritual director of priests and seminarians, Msgr De Donatis is reflecting on the theme of "the purification of the heart" in his mediations throughout the week.

The Pauline Fathers' complex in Ariccia, House of the Divine Master, is nestled in the forests of the hills overlooking Lake Albano. It boasts 124 rooms and five chapels, a large dining area, gardens and meeting rooms. The Pope and senior officials will undoubtedly be enjoying the brisk but sunny weather predicted for this week, also by following the outdoor Way of the Cross and Rosary trails set out through the woods for quiet meditation and prayer.

But just what is the Pope doing every day? He and is top aids begin their day with Mass, breakfast and a meditation by Msgr De Donatis. Then, there’s lunch and free time before another mediation at 4 p.m. That’s followed by vespers, Eucharistic adoration and dinner.

On the final day, March 14, those participating in the retreat will celebrate Mass together, have breakfast, listen to the last meditation, and then leave for the Vatican at 10:30 a.m.

Text from Vatican Radio website 

Breaking Megachurch Leader Ulf Ekman from Sweden converts to Catholic Church

Ulf Ekman founder of Word of Life, a megachurch in Uppsala, Sweden He announced that he and his wife, Birgitta, are converting to Roman Catholicism.  Word of Life has nearly 3,000 members and 12 pastors. They run a church school with about 1,000 students. Ekman launched Scandinavia’s largest Bible school, built Scandinavia’s largest free church building, started a TV program on all continents, and published books in 60 languages.
This conversion will have significant affects on the entire country due to this man's vast influence. Here is the Ulf Ekman Official Site statement and video:
During our last Sunday service, pastor Ulf Ekman shared the news that he and his wife Birgitta will be received into the Catholic Church. A process of many years of prayer and reflection led to this decision.

During the last ten years, Ulf and Birgitta have had contact with catholics and catholic faith, mostly internationally but also in Sweden. This has made them reflect more on the catholic faith and on the spiritual life they have seen in their catholic brothers and sisters.

- For Birgitta and me, this has been a slow process were we have gone from discovering new things, to appreciating what we have discovered, to approach and even learn from our fellow Christians, Ulf Ekman says.
- We have seen a great love for Jesus and a sound theology, founded on the Bible and classic dogma. We have experienced the richness of sacramental life. We have seen the logic in having a solid structure for priesthood, that keeps the faith of the church and passes it on from one generation to the next. We have met an ethical and moral strength and consistency that dare to face up to the general opinion, and a kindness towards the poor and the weak. And, last but not least, we have come in contact with representatives for millions of charismatic Catholics and we have seen their living faith, Ulf Ekman explains.
- All this has been both attractive and challenging. It really challenged our protestant prejudices, and we realized that we in many cases did not have any basis for our criticism of them. We needed to know the Catholic faith better. This led us to the realize that it was actually Jesus Christ who led us to unite with the Catholic Church, Ulf Ekman says.
Ulf and Birgitta Ekman emphazises that this is about a personal journey.
- It has not been our agenda to lead Word of Life in this direction, or to collectively unite the church with the Catholic Church. That would be unreasonable.
In his speech to the church this Sunday, Ulf Ekman stressed that this step was not going from something, but more importantly going towards something else.
- We love the church that we have been a part of building and serving for the last thirty years, and we could never be anything but grateful for the time we have had together, but we have felt a clear calling from the Lord to take this new step. Now, when we do so, we are convinced that the Word of Life church is in good hands and will keep prospering and bear fruit in it’s on vision.


by Paul Dakiki
The release took place around midnight, hours after the news first broke. The Lebanese and Qatari security chiefs Abbas Ibrahim and Ghanim al- Kubaisi were key mediators. The nuns were held on the second and third floor of a house controlled by the Al Nusra Front rebels for two months. Great publicity and media alerted ahead of release.

Beirut ( AsiaNews) - The group of Orthodox nuns kidnapped last December in Maaloula were released last night around midnight. In return, the Syrian regime released 153 rebels held prisoners.
The 13 nuns and three of their assistants were received by a convoy of cars that had arrived in Rahoua in Syria from Arsal in the Bekaa district of Lebanon.
The news of their imminent release had broken yesterday morning. All day, a Lebanese security convoy, headed by Security Chief Gen. Abbas Ibrahim waited on the Syrian border for hours for the go ahead to collect the nuns. According to Lebanese media sources, the kidnappers had second thoughts , but in the end the sisters were brought to safety. It is assumed - but not certain -that they were brought to Damascus.
Their first statements described how they had "arrived late" and were "tired", but that they were "well treated" by their kidnappers .
In recent days it became clear that the nuns had been kidnapped by the Al Nusra Front, a rebel group linked to al Qaeda, fighting with the Syrian government but also with other rebel groups to head the opposition. The Al Nusra Front has been branded as "terrorist" even by Saudi Arabia, the main sponsor of the Syrian rebels.
There were many mediators for the nuns' release. The most important were Gen. Ibrahim and the Gen. Ghanim al- Kubaisi, Qatari Chief of Security, another strong rebel supporter, both present at the release. The two had already worked effectively for the release of a group of Shiite pilgrims from Iran last October.
Abducted on 3 December Maaloula , north of Damascus, the sisters were brought to Yabroud , about 20 km to the north, currently under fire from the Syrian regular army . According to Bishop Louka Khouri the Greek - Orthodox patriarch of Syria, the Syrian army's pressure on Yabroud facilitated the nun's release.
George Hasouani, another mediator who had negotiated in vain with the Al Nusra Front, said that the nuns were held for two months in a house he owned in Yabroud , living together in the second and third floor, while the first was occupied by the rebels. In this way they could receive food, clothing, blankets and medicines, as some of them are suffering from hypertension and diabetes.
Many Lebanese were surprised by the media clamor that surround the nun's release.  A large number of journalists and broadcasters were summoned to the border between Syria and Lebanon.

Two bishops of Aleppo, Greek - Orthodox bishop Boulos Yazigi , and Syrian Orthodox bishop Youhanna Ibrahim, and some priests are still in the hands of their kidnappers, including Italian Jesuit missionary Fr. Paolo dall'Oglio.


Catholic clergy take position on the ground in Crimea

Communications Office, Friday 7 March 2014
BISHOPS called for prayers for peace, but a priest in the naval port of Sevastopol said the families of Catholic troops serving with Ukrainian and Russian forces were "deeply confused and worried" about the military confrontation in the Crimean peninsula.
Fr Jerzy Ziminski, rector of the St Clement, Pope and Martyr Parish in Sevastopol, told Catholic News Service that he had had no contacts with Russian commanders in the city, but said he had been "treated politely" and allowed through by occupying Russian units when he visited Ukrainian troops March 3 in their local barracks.

He criticized ethnic Russians who were staging independence demonstrations in the streets.

"They were sitting here like cowards, like rats under a broom -- but as soon as the Russian army arrived, they went out into the streets," he said. "What's the point of being here if you can only live behind a cordon, supported by a foreign army from beyond the Kerch Strait, and only occasionally appearing as an assembled rabble?" 


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese RELEASE
10 Mar 2014
Commission Chair, Justice Peter McClellan
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began a two-week hearing in Sydney today focussing on the Church's Towards Healing procedure and sex abuse victim John Ellis.
A lawyer, Mr Ellis was sexually abused between 1974 and 1979 when he was aged between 13 and 17 years old by a Fr Aiden Duggan, a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Sydney at the time.
Eventually in 2002 Mr Ellis approached the Professional Standards Office (PSO) to discuss the pastoral and redress options available under Towards Healing.
However when mediation failed Mr Ellis in 2004 sued the priest, Fr Duggan, Cardinal George Pell in his capacity as Archbishop of Sydney and the body corporate, The Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Sydney, established under the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act 1936 (NSW) to hold property on trust for the diocese and its parishes.
Fr Duggan died soon after. The action failed with the Court of Appeal finding neither Cardinal Pell nor the body corporate could be liable for Fr Duggan's criminal conduct.
Apart from covering the response of the Catholic Church to the complaint of child sexual abuse by John Ellis under Towards Healing, this case study #8 will also look into the review of the Towards Healing process in relation to Mr Ellis's complaint and the civil action commenced by him.
This hearing will also examine the Towards Healing process and its review in relation to this complaint and the civil action commenced by Mr Ellis.
In her opening address to the hearing, Gail Furness SC, counsel advising the Commission, outlined Mr Ellis's journey through Towards Healing to litigation.
John Ellis
"The manner in which this litigation was conducted caused harm and suffering to Mr Elllis," Ms Furness told the hearing.
Also quoting a section from a statement tendered to the Commission by Cardinal Pell, Ms Furness said  Cardinal Pell notes  "Whatever position was taken by the lawyers during the litigation, or by lawyers or individuals within the Archdiocese following the litigation, my own view is that the Church in Australia should be able to be sued in cases of this kind."
In the hearing room today Mr Ellis, quietly spoken and often visibly upset, either read or was taken through his statement by Ms Furness.
He spoke about being regularly abused by Fr Duggan when he was an altar boy at his parish church - mostly in the presbytery but also while Fr Duggan was on holiday. He said he was ashamed of what was happening but knew it was meant to be a secret. Mr Ellis said the sexual activity with Fr Duggan continued after he left school and was studying and although less frequent than at school continued until he was 26 years of age.
Ellis said the conduct was unwelcomed at all times, but he found it difficult to stop Fr Duggan from touching him.
It was not until 1996 and after Mr Ellis and his first wife had divorced that Mr Ellis recognised Fr Duggan's conduct towards him was abusive and wrong. However he could not speak about the abuse to anyone until 2001.
Mr Ellis then described that from then on he experienced a severe decline in his emotional and physical wellbeing including episodes of anger, rage, depression and confusion.
He inquired about the Church's Towards Healing. However mediation was not successful. Mr Ellis told the hearing he would have settled for $100,000 compensation.
Ms Furness said evidence from Cardinal Pell would say he was not aware Mr Ellis had nominated a settlement of $100,000 and he understood he was pursing a claim for "many millions of dollars".
Ultimately Mr Ellis sought reparation through the court but lost on appeal with costs awarded to the Archdiocese.
Senior Counsel Gail Furness SC
Following a meeting with Cardinal Pell, Ellis was assured the Archdiocese and its insurers would not attempt to recover any costs. Mr Ellis also received payments up to October 2012 totalling $568,000 from the Church for financial assistance and counselling.
The Commission will again hear from Mr Ellis tomorrow. There are eight  other witnesses including the former Director of Professional Standards (NSW/ACT), Mr John Davoren; the current Director, Mr Michael Salmon; Facilitator, Professional Standards Office (NSW/ACT; Former Vicar General and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Msgr Brian Raynor; the current Chancellor, Msgr John Usher and Cardinal Pell.
For further details including full opening address by Ms Furness and transcripts go to,
Truth, Justice and Healing Council at  and Catholic Talk at



Forty Martyrs of Sebaste
Feast: March 10

Feast Day:March 10
Died:320 AD, Sebaste
A party of soldiers who suffered a cruel death for their faith, near Sebaste, in Lesser Armenia, victims of the persecutions of Licinius, who, after the year 316, persecuted the Christians of the East. The earliest account of their martyrdom is given by St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (370-379), in a homily delivered on the feast of the Forty Martyrs (Hom. xix in P.G., XXXI, 507 sqq.). The feast is consequently more ancient than the episcopate of Basil, whose eulogy on them was pronounced only fifty or sixty years after martyrdom, which is thus historic beyond a doubt. According to St. Basil, forty soldiers who had openly confessed themselves Christians were condemned by the prefect to be exposed naked upon a frozen pond near Sebaste on a bitterly cold night, that they might freeze to death. Among the confessors, one yielded and, leaving his companions, sought the warm baths near the lake which had been prepared for any who might prove inconstant. One of the guards set to keep watch over the martyrs beheld at this moment a supernatural brilliancy overshadowing them and at once proclaimed himself a Christian, threw off his garments, and placed himself beside the thirty-nine soldiers of Christ. Thus the number of forty remained complete. At daybreak, the stiffened bodies of the confessors, which still showed signs of life, were burned and the ashes cast into a river. The Christians, however, collected the precious remains, and the relics were distributed throughout many cities; in this way the veneration paid to the Forty Martyrs became widespread, and numerous churches were erected in their honour.
One of them was built at Caesarea, in Cappadocia, and it was in this church that St. Basil publicly delivered his homily. St. Gregory of Nyssa was a special client of these holy martyrs. Two discourses in praise of them, preached by him in the church dedicated to them, are still preserved (P. G., XLVI, 749 sqq., 773 sqq.) and upon the death of his parents, he laid them to rest beside the relics of the confessors. St. Ephraem, the Syrian, has also eulogized the forty Martyrs (Hymni in SS. 40 martyres). Sozomen, who was an eye-witness, has left us (Hist. Eccl., IX, 2) an interesting account of the finding of the relics in Constantinople through the instrumentality of the Empress Pulcheria. Special devotion to the forty martyrs of Sebaste was introduced at an early date into the West. St. Gaudentius, Bishop of Brescia in the beginning of the fifth century (d. about 410 or 427), received particles of the ashes of martyrs during a voyage in the East, and placed them with other relics in the altar of the basilica which he had erected, at the consecration of which he delivered a discourse, still extant (P. L., XX, 959 sqq.) Near the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua, in the Roman Forum, built in the fifth century, a chapel was found, built, like the church itself, on an ancient site, and consecrated to the Forty Martyrs. A picture, still preserved there, dating from the sixth or seventh century, depicts the scene of the martyrdom. The names of the confessors, as we find them also in later sources, were formerly inscribed on this fresco. Acts of these martyrs, written subsequently, in Greek, Syriac and Latin, are yet extant, also a "Testament" of the Forty Martyrs. Their feast is celebrated in the Greek, as well as in the Latin Church, on 9 March.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia)


127 min - Drama - 25 February 2004 (USA) Blockbuster hit movie that made over $600 million in the box office. It is about the final hours and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was made entirely in the language of Christ Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin with subtitles.
Director: Mel Gibson
Writers: Benedict Fitzgerald (screenplay), Mel Gibson (screenplay) Stars: Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern


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