Pope Francis was in his element when he opened the ‘Door of Charity’ for the poor

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

ROME — Years from now, records will show that the special jubilee Year of Mercy decreed by Pope Francis began on Dec. 8, 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. If you ask the pontiff himself, however, he’d probably tell you it really got underway on Friday.
That afternoon, Francis headed across town to visit a hostel for the homeless run by Caritas, the main diocesan charity in Rome, in order to open a “holy door of charity.” In a sense, it was the natural follow-up to what happened on Dec. 8, when Francis threw open an ornate door to St. Peter’s Basilica that’s otherwise bricked up when jubilees aren’t underway.
That gesture traditionally is how jubilee years commence, but Friday’s rite was a novelty — a pontiff opening a door not to a church, where spiritual indulgences are on offer, but rather a charity center, where the “grace” dispensed is more tangible and this-worldly.

The fact that Francis was at home there, however, didn’t mean all was sweetness and light. On the contrary, the pontiff sounded almost like an Old Testament prophet in warning affluent and comfortable Romans about the consequences of indifference.
“Jesus has told us how our judgment will be,” Francis said. “He won’t say: ‘You, come with me because you gave lots of beautiful offerings to the Church, you were a benefactor of the Church, so come into Heaven.’ No, you can’t buy your way into Heaven,” Francis said.
“Jesus won’t say: ‘You were very important, you studied a lot and earned many honors, come into Heaven.’ No. Honors don’t open the door of Heaven.

“What will Jesus say? ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was homeless and you gave me a place to live; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to see me’.”
Francis offered up a prayer that the Lord will help everyone grasp that “the paths of presumption, of wealth, of vanity, of pride, are not the ways to salvation.”
Looking out at a group of people typically seen as “discarded” by society, Francis said that feeling of being tossed aside is actually a “grace.”
“It would be beautiful if every one of us, all Romans, felt discarded, and thus felt the need of God’s help,” the pontiff said.
Francis celebrated the Mass along with four other priests, including the Rev. Tommas Fanti, who, at 96, is still going strong in serving Rome’s poor. The readings and prayers of the faithful were presented by the people whom Caritas serves; the prayers were actually written by a young mother with a disabled child, a refugee requesting asylum in Italy, and a homeless person living in the hostel Francis was visiting.
Basically, the pope’s message was that these folks are not only what the Year of Mercy is all about, but also the Christmas season.
“In choosing how he’d lead his [human] life, the Lord didn’t pick a great city with a grand empire, he didn’t pick a princess or a countess for his mother, somebody important, and he didn’t choose a luxurious palace,” Francis said.
“It seems that it was all done intentionally,” he said, referring to the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, in order that the Lord would be “hidden” by the usual worldly standards.
Upon leaving the hostel, Francis urged people to go forward during the jubilee year in an “embrace of mercy.”
Over the coming days, Francis will conduct any number of important engagements: his annual speech to the Roman Curia, the Christmas liturgies, his New Year’s Day Urbi et Orbi blessing, a meeting with the diplomatic corps, and so on.
In terms of getting to the core of what he wants his jubilee year to be about, however, it’s hard to imagine that for him anything will top Friday’s encounter with the “hidden” and “discarded” who clearly form this pope’s comfort zone.


Taken from: http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/12/19/pope-francis-was-in-his-element-when-he-opened-the-door-of-charity-for-the-poor/


Pope Francis approves sainthood for Mother Teresa

Canonisation of Albanian nun who cared for the poor in India may take place on her death anniversary next year.

18 Dec 2015 18:10 GMT | Religion, Pope Francis,

Pope Francis has signed off on the miracle needed to make Mother Teresa a saint, giving the Albanian nun who cared for the poor in India one of the Catholic Church’s highest honours just two decades after her death.

The Vatican said on Friday that Francis approved a decree attributing a miracle to Mother Teresa’s intercession during an audience with the head of the Vatican’s saint-making office on Thursday, his 79th birthday.

No date was set for the canonisation, but Italian media have speculated that the ceremony will take place in the first week of September – to coincide with the anniversary of her death and during Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy.

“This is fantastic news. We are very happy,” said Sunita Kumar, a spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity in the eastern city of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, where Mother Teresa lived and worked.

The miracle responsible for Mother Teresa’s canonisation concerned the inexplicable cure of a Brazilian man suffering from a viral brain infection that resulted in multiple abscesses.

By December 9, 2008, he was in a coma and dying, suffering from an accumulation of fluid around the brain.

The Reverend Brian Kolodiejchuk, the person spearheading Mother Teresa’s canonisation case, said in a statement on Friday that about 30 minutes after the man was due to undergo surgery that never took place, he sat up, awake and without pain, and was a day later declared to be symptom-free.

The Vatican later attributed the cure to the prayers to Mother Teresa’s intercession by the man’s wife, who at the time of his scheduled surgery was at her parish church, praying alongside her pastor.

Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, died on September 5, 1997, aged 87.

At the time, her Missionaries of Charity order had nearly 4,000 nuns and ran roughly 600 orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics around the world.

Work in India

Al Jazeera’s Nidhi Dutt, reporting from New Delhi, said it was a “much-anticipated news” in India, a country of an estimated 20 million Catholics.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia.

She joined the Loreto order of nuns in 1928 and in 1946, while traveling by train from Kolkata to Darjeeling, was inspired to found the Missionaries of Charity order. She became an Indian citizen in 1951.

Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work with Kolkata’s destitute and ill – work which continued even after she herself became sick.

While Mother Teresa is known and admired by many around the world, she was not beloved by all.

She was criticised for taking donations from Haiti’s ruler Jean-Claude Duvalier and disgraced American financier Charles Keating.

Detractors opposed her stance against birth-control use in Kolkata’s slums, which was nevertheless in keeping with church teaching opposing artificial birth control.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies



Pope Francis: God is merciful and steadfast in His love

The Pope speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday – OSS_ROM

10/12/2015 12:16

(Vatican Radio) During morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday, Pope Francis spoke of God’s love and encouraged the congregation to allow themselves to be “embraced by God’s mercy”.

Pope Francis opens St Peter’s Holy Door to launch jubilee

Pope Francis pushed opened the huge bronze Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome to launch the Catholic Church’s “Year of Mercy”.

Tens of thousands attended a Mass in St Peter’s Square for the start of the Pope’s “revolution of tenderness”.

It took place place amid tight security with extra police and soldiers deployed, and a no-fly zone imposed.

Under the year’s theme of mercy, the Pope has said priests can absolve women who have had abortions.

During the jubilee celebrations, one of the most important events in the Roman Catholic Church, pilgrims travel to Rome and religious sites around the world.

At the end of the Mass, Francis opened the basilica’s Holy Door. He said that by passing through it, Catholics should take on the role of the Good Samaritan.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Pope Francis, centre, has long signalled his wish for the Church to be more forgiving and understanding of its flock
Image copyright AFP/Reuters
Image caption Workers had to reveal the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica, which had been behind a brick wall

It is the first time the Holy Door has been opened since the Great Jubilee in the 2000 called for by St John Paul II. It has been bricked up since then.

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, 88, attended Tuesday’s event.

Jubilee Years:

Jubilee years are rooted in the Old Testament tradition of freeing slaves and prisoners once every 50 years, a concept that died out within Judaism but was taken up by Pope Boniface VIII for the Catholic Church in 1300.

Pilgrimages to Rome were at the heart of the original jubilee years, and attracted hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the city, many willing to pay for “indulgences” – the eradication by the Church of the spiritual debt arising from sin.

It was a tradition that not only contributed copious cash to the Vatican’s coffers, but also contributed to the theological turmoil that led to the establishment of rival Protestant churches across much of northern Europe.

The last Jubilee was called by St John Paul II to mark the millennium, and this Holy Year of Mercy starts on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 2015 and will end on the Feast of Christ the King on 20 November 2016.

What is the Catholic Year of Mercy? – by Caroline Wyatt, BBC Religious affairs correspondent

Italian security forces are on high alert following recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

Visitors to St Peter’s Square had to pass through metal detectors and under go bag and body checks.

More forgiving

Announcing the extraordinary jubilee in March, the Pope said the Holy Door was a “Door of Mercy, through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope”.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI (centre) was among those to pass through the Holy Door as Pope Francis (left) looked on
Image copyright AP
Image caption Ten of thousands of people packed into St Peter’s Square for the Mass before the Holy Door was opened

For the first time, he has instructed churches and cathedrals to take part in the tradition of the Holy Door, to help Catholics mark the jubilee at home rather than coming to Rome.Pope Francis has long signalled his wish to change the Church’s approach from condemnation of wrongdoing to a Church that is more forgiving and understanding of its flock, our correspondent says.

This extraordinary jubilee year is seen as a practical way of giving expression to that wish.

Pope Francis took many by surprise when he announced in September that, as part of the jubilee, parish priests across the world would be allowed to absolve repentant women who asked for forgiveness for having an abortion, even though Church teaching still terms abortion a grave sin.


Taken from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35037740

Francis announces wide indulgences for mercy Jubilee, grants Lefebvrites faculties

  • Pope Francis celebrates Mass at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, at the Vatican Sept. 1. (CNS/ L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)

Pope Francis has announced he is widely expanding the traditional indulgences available to Catholics during his upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, opening them to anyone who performs just one of the traditional works of mercy and to prisoners who pray at chapels available to them.The pontiff has also said that he will allow all priests around the world to absolve women who confess to having had abortions, an ability normally reserved only to bishops.

And in a striking move for church unity in expressing God’s mercy, the pope has even granted priests of the schismatic and traditionalist Society of St. Pius X faculties to offer absolution of sins “validly and licitly” to those who approach them for confession.

Francis made the announcement of the new indulgences and abilities in a letter sent Tuesday to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is organizing the holy year on his behalf.

The letter, published by the Vatican in seven languages, is striking for the global scope the pontiff envisions the Jubilee year taking, with availability for pardon and mercy seemingly available to all.

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It also addresses women who have had abortion in a respectful way, blaming abortion not so much on them but on “a widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life.”

Regarding the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist sect of priests and bishops who widely reject the changes of the Second Vatican Council, the letter says bluntly: “This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one.”

“I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity,” states Francis.

“In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins,” he continues.

On abortion, Francis calls it a “tragedy” that is “experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails.”

“Many others,” he writes, “on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option.”

“I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion,” states the pope. “I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.”

“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father,” he continues.

“For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it,” writes Francis.

“May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence,” he asks.

Francis opens his letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella by saying that he wants the holy year to be “for all believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God.” He then offers an indulgence, or remission of the punishment for sin, for those that during the year are able to make a pilgrimage to the papal basilicas in Rome or to their local cathedral.

As is traditional, those making those pilgrimages will be asked to make confession, celebrate the Mass, and pray for the pope’s intentions.

But the pope then extends the possibility of indulgence in a special way to those that are sick or imprisoned.

For sick or elderly persons unable to travel, he says: “Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.”

For those in prison, he states: “The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it.”

“May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness,” writes the pope. “They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons.”

The pontiff also extends the possibility for forgiveness of sin to anyone who performs one of the traditional spiritual or corporal works of mercy during the year.

“I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” he writes.

“The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us,” states the pope. “Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.”

Francis has called the special Jubilee year for mercy to begin this Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. It will close on Nov. 20, 2016, the day celebrated that year as the feast of Christ the King.

In his official proclamation of the year, released in April, the pontiff powerfully called on the entire Catholic church to refashion itself as a place not of judgment or condemnation but of pardon and merciful love.

Granting of special indulgences for the remission of sins during Catholic holy years is a traditional practice, but in the past normally required a visit to one or more of the papal basilicas in Rome. Francis’ letter Tuesday greatly expands the availability of the practice.

The Society of St. Pius X was founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 as a response to objections he and others had to the reforms of the Council.

Pope Benedict XVI had sought to repair relations with the group, lifting the excommunications of four of their bishops in 2009. Those efforts ultimately failed when the group’s current superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, rejected a doctrinal statement drafted by the Vatican for the group to sign.

Members of the schismatic group are considered not to be in full communion with Rome, and, in normal circumstances, its priests and bishops cannot exercise Roman Catholic ministry.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]



Taken from: http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-announces-wide-indulgences-mercy-year-grants-lefebvrites-faculties

Gentle revolution: Pope wants Year of Mercy to tenderly transform world


By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

12.3.2015 12:26 PM ET
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When Pope Francis planned the Year of Mercy and the opening of the Holy Door, he did not mean to give the starting signal for a frenzied wave of pilgrims to Rome.
More than call to sign up for an Eternal City package tour, the pope is inviting people to strike out on a yearlong spiritual journey to recognize a loving God who’s already knocking on their door.
He says he wants the Year of Mercy to usher in a “revolution of tenderness.”
Once people realize “I’m wretched, but God loves me the way I am,” then “I, too, have to love others the same way,” the pope said in an interview published just a few days before the Dec. 8 start of the jubilee year.
Discovering God’s generous love kick-starts a virtuous circle, which “leads us to acting in a way that’s more tolerant, patient, tender” and just, he said.
Speaking with “Credere,” an Italian weekly magazine run by the Pauline Fathers, the pope gave an in-depth look at why he sees such an urgent need to highlight God’s mercy.
“The world needs to discover that God is father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the path, that condemnation is not the path,” he said. “Because the church herself sometimes follows a hard line, she falls into the temptation of following a hard line, into the temptation of underlining only moral norms, but so many people remain on the outside,” he said.
The pope said the thought of all those people — sinners, the doubtful, the wounded and disenfranchised — conjured up that iconic image of seeing the church “as a field hospital after the battle.”
“The wounded are to be treated, helped to heal, not subjected to cholesterol tests,” he said, meaning a too narrow scrutiny of minutiae delays staving off the broader disease of conflict and indifference. He once illustrated the same concept by painting a visual image of pastors who prefer to coif and comb the wool of the tiny flock in the pews rather than seek the sheep that are outside in danger or lost.
“I believe this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, we all carry burdens within us. I felt Jesus wants to open the door of his heart,” he said in the magazine interview.
The opening of the holy doors in Rome and around the world will be a symbol of how Jesus is opening the door of his heart.
In fact, dioceses have been asked to designate and open their own “Door of Mercy” in a cathedral, an important church or sanctuary. The pope also will send out from Rome “missionaries of mercy” — priests mandated to the world’s peripheries to show patience and compassion in their ministry.
Such gestures suggest the pope still wants people to avoid the expense of travel — like his post-election suggestion to fans back home in Argentina to give to the poor the money they would have spent for a trip.
To help people at home feel “just like being there” in Rome, the Vatican television center will start broadcasting major papal events during the Holy Year in latest generation “Ultra HD 4K” resolution as well as HD, 3D and standard definition.
With the appropriate displays or TVs, people will be able to watch events with increased depth and detail, and, for the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8, 19 cameras were to be deployed to capture every angle, including a unique papal point of view.
The Vatican also planned to set up 4K screens in a prison in Milan, a hospital in Rome and possibly in the Holy Land so people who are physically confined could feel part of the opening ceremony.
From the very start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been showing what the way of mercy means.
The pope’s very first Angelus address and homily in 2013 centered on mercy, as he explained God always waits for that day of awakening and conversion, then forgives everything. The real problem is people — not God — who give up on forgiveness, he said.
But mercy changes everything, he said; it “makes the world a little less cold and more just.”
The pope’s own religious vocation is rooted in that concrete experience of mercy, when he — as a 17-year-old student — walked out of a confessional “different, changed.” It was the feast of St. Matthew, and like St. Matthew, he was overcome, feeling “God looked at me with mercy” and said, “Follow me.”
Realizing God knows he’s a sinner, but embraces him anyway lies at the heart of Pope Francis’ ministry and his motto: “By showing mercy, by choosing,” based on “The Call of St. Matthew.”
He said in the magazine interview that one Friday of every month during the Year of Mercy “I will make a different gesture” that shows God’s mercy. He had asked the world’s young people to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, like feeding the hungry and counsel the doubtful, and choose one to practice each month as they prepare for World Youth Day in July.
The “Credere” interview reveals that the pope has been championing a more merciful church for decades.
In a small group discussion during the 1994 ordinary Synod of Bishops on consecrated life and its role in the church and the world, then then-Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said it was necessary “to institute a revolution of tenderness,” to which one synod father countered, “with reasonable explanations,” how “it wasn’t good to use this kind of language.”
But now two decades later as leader of the universal church, the opening of the Year of Mercy may be his moment to set that revolution into motion…..

Taken from: http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2015/pope-wants-year-of-mercy-to-tenderly-transform-world.cfm