Pope: People expect priests to be models, guides

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People have high expectations for priests to be good spiritual and moral guides, to be active in helping the community and families, and to be someone young people can look up to, Pope Francis told bishops and priests from Sicily.

“To be supportive, close by, this is how we are called to live; out of God’s faithfulness, out of his love, we are there for others to the end, up to extreme consequences,” which lead to “justice, reconciliation, honesty and forgiveness,” he said.

“Closeness, compassion and tenderness: this is God’s style, and it is also the style of a priest,” the pope said during an audience at the Vatican June 9 with priests and bishops from the Italian island of Sicily.

The audience was part of the commemorations of the island’s patroness, Our Lady of the Way, whose feast is the Tuesday after Pentecost, as well as the lives of their compatriots, Blesseds Pino Puglisi and Rosario Livatino, two so-called “Mafia martyrs.”

Father Puglisi, Palermo’s most outspoken anti-Mafia priest, was assassinated in 1993, and Livatino, an anti-Mafia judge, was murdered by Mafia hitmen in 1990 when he was 37.

During the audience, the pope brought to light some issues that “worry me quite a bit,” particularly whether priests and bishops in Sicily were implementing the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Popular piety needs to be safeguarded, but also informed and guided so that it is free from all “superstitious gestures,” he said.

The liturgy, too, needs attention starting with the homily, which should be under eight minutes and leave people with “a thought, a feeling and an image” that will stick with them “all week,” he said. He asked the priests to consider whether “they preach in such a way that people go out for a cigarette and then come back” because the homily talks “about everything and nothing.”

Liturgical vestments were another issue, he said, particularly the abundance of lace and birettas.

“Where are we? Sixty years after the council! Some updating even in liturgical art, in liturgical ‘fashion'” is needed, he said. “Yes, sometimes wearing some of grandma’s lace works, but only sometimes.”

“It’s nice to pay homage to grandma, but it’s better to celebrate the mother, the holy mother church and in the way the mother church wants to be celebrated,” he said.

Do not let “insularity prevent the true liturgical reform that the council sent forward” and do not be passive, he told his audience.

Pope Francis highlighted the extraordinary beauty, culture and history of the island, as well as its extreme insularity and contradictions, which mean “we witness in Sicily behaviors and gestures marked by great virtues as well as vicious brutality.”

“It is no accident that so much blood has been shed thanks to the hands of the violent,” he said, but it also is no accident that there have been many cases of “the humble and heroic resistance of the saints and the righteous, servants of the church and the state.”

The many challenges in Sicily require the help of everyone, but priests and bishops are especially called to offer their “full, total and exclusive service,” he said. The church, too, faces its own challenges such as the decline in vocations and the increased detachment of young people from the church, he added.

“Young people are finding it hard to see parishes and ecclesial movements as helpful in their search for the meaning of life, and they do not always see any clear distancing from old, erroneous and even immoral ways of behaving that would be decisively taking the path of justice and honesty,” he said.

The pope added that he was “saddened” after receiving “some files” sent to Vatican offices and requiring “some judgment on priests and people of the church. But why? Why did it go along this road of injustice and dishonesty?” he asked without elaborating any further.

Pope Francis praised the numerous priests and lay people who have fully dedicated themselves to others, being faithful to Christ and the people. “How can we ignore the silent, tenacious and loving work of so many priests in the midst of people who are disheartened or jobless, in the midst of children or the increasingly lonely elderly?”

Priests who are good and close to their people are important, he said, “because in Sicily, people still look to priests as spiritual and moral guides, people who can also help improve the civil and social life on the island, support families and be a point of reference for growing young people,” he said.

“Sicilians have high and demanding expectations of priests,” he said, urging them not to be stuck “in the middle of the road!”

“Faced with the awareness of our weaknesses, we know that Christ’s will places us at the heart of this challenge. The key to everything is in his call, upon which we lean to set out to sea and cast our nets again,” the pope said.

Reminding them of the passage in Deuteronomy (4:7), which asks, “What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us,” the pope said their ministry must be one of “closeness, which is compassionate, forgives everything, is tender. It embraces, it caresses.”

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for an audience with bishops and priests from Sicily June 9, 2022, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. The pope told them that Catholics expect their priests to be spiritual and moral guides, advocates for a better world and a reference point for young people. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Health care must be accessible to all, not select few, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Health care is a fundamental right for all and not a privilege for the rich while the poor and disadvantaged are left to the wayside, Pope Francis said.

“When a country loses this wealth that is public health care, it begins to make distinctions within the population between those who have access, who can have paid health care, and those who are left without health care services,” the pope said June 4 to representatives of the Italian health care association, Federsanità.

According to its website, Federsanità is a confederation of local health care facilities and hospitals that seek to promote policies “strongly oriented toward a new concept of ‘taking care’ of patients based on proximity, proactivity, personalization and participation.”

In his address, the pope said closeness to patients is “the antidote to self-referentiality” that “breaks the chains of selfishness” and allows health care professionals to view patients “as brothers and sisters, regardless of language, geographical origin, social status or health condition.”

“Being close to others also means breaking down distances, making sure that there are no first- and second-class patients, and committing energies and resources so that no one is excluded from receiving health care,” he said.

Medical professionals, he said, should adopt a more holistic approach to health care that takes into account not only a patient’s illness but also “his or her psychological, social, cultural and spiritual condition.”

“When Jesus heals someone, he not only eradicates the physical ailment from the body, but also restores dignity, reintroducing him or her into society, giving them a new life. Of course, only he can do this, but the attitude, the approach to the person is a model for us,” he explained.

Placing the dignity of the person at the center, he added, helps to counter the “throwaway culture” that views the sick “as a burden and a cost.”

“Illnesses may mark the body, confuse thoughts and take away strength, but they can never nullify the value of human life, which must always be protected, from conception to its natural end,” he said.

Lastly, Pope Francis said health care professionals must seek the common good to counter “the pursuit of partisan interests” in which “the economic or political interests of one group prevail at the expense of the majority of the population.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he said, has proven that “’every man for himself’ translates rapidly into ‘everyone against all,’ thus widening the gap of inequality and increasing conflict.”
“It is necessary to work to ensure that everyone has access to care, that the health care system is supported and promoted, and that it continues to be free of charge,” the pope said. “Cutting resources for health care is an outrage to humanity.”

Pope Francis accepts a copy of the children’s book, “La luna di Kiev” (The Moon of Kyiv), during an audience with representatives of the Italian health care association, Federsanità, at the Vatican June 4, 2022. The pope said that health care is a fundamental right for all and not a privilege for the rich while the poor and disadvantaged are left to the wayside. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Papa: La gente espera que sacerdotes sean ejemplos, guías

Por Carol Glatz

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – La gente tiene grandes expectativas de que los sacerdotes sean buenos guías espirituales y morales, que sean activos para ayudar a la comunidad y las familias, y que sean alguien a quien los jóvenes puedan admirar, expresó el papa Francisco a los obispos y sacerdotes de Sicilia.

“Ser solidarios, cercanos, así estamos llamados a vivir; por la fidelidad de Dios, por su amor, estamos ahí para los demás hasta el final, hasta las últimas consecuencias”, que llevan a “la justicia, la reconciliación, la honestidad, y el perdón”, señaló.

“Cercanía, compasión, y ternura: este es el estilo de Dios, y también es el estilo de un sacerdote”, dijo el papa durante una audiencia en el Vaticano con sacerdotes y obispos de la isla italiana de Sicilia el 9 de junio.

(Sofia, Bulgaria – 6 May, 2019 by BigStock)

Esta audiencia fue parte de las conmemoraciones de la patrona de la isla, Nuestra Señora del Camino, cuya festividad es el martes después de Pentecostés, así como de la vida de sus compatriotas, los beatos Pino Puglisi y Rosario Livatino, dos denominados “mártires de la mafia”.

El padre Puglisi, el sacerdote antimafia más abierto de Palermo, fue asesinado en 1993, y Livatino, un juez antimafia, fue asesinado por sicarios de la mafia en 1990, cuando tenía 37 años.

Durante la audiencia, el Santo Padre sacó a la luz algunos temas que “me preocupan bastante”, particularmente con respecto a si los sacerdotes y obispos de Sicilia estaban implementando las reformas litúrgicas del Concilio Vaticano II.

La piedad popular necesita ser protegida, pero también informada y guiada para que esté libre de todo “gesto supersticioso”, acotó.

La liturgia también necesita atención, comenzando con la homilía, que debe durar menos de ocho minutos y dejar a las personas con “un pensamiento, un sentimiento, y una imagen” que permanecerán con ellos “toda la semana”, indicó. Pidió a los sacerdotes que consideraran si “predican de tal manera que la gente sale a fumar un cigarro y luego vuelve” porque la homilía habla “de todo y de nada”.

Las vestiduras litúrgicas son otro problema, dijo, en particular la abundancia de encajes y birretas.

“¿Dónde estamos? ¡Sesenta años después del concilio! Se necesita alguna actualización incluso en el arte litúrgico, en la ‘moda’ litúrgica”, dijo. “Sí, a veces usando algunos de los encajes de la abuela, pero solo a veces”.

“Es lindo rendir homenaje a la abuela, pero es mejor celebrar a la madre, a la santa madre iglesia y de la forma en que la madre iglesia quiere ser celebrada”, manifestó.

No dejen que “la insularidad impida la verdadera reforma litúrgica que el concilio propuso” y no sean pasivos, dijo a su audiencia.

El papa Francisco destacó la extraordinaria belleza, cultura, e historia de la isla, así como su extrema insularidad y contradicciones, lo que hace que “seamos testigos en Sicilia de comportamientos y gestos marcados por grandes virtudes y también por la crueldad”.

“No es casualidad que se haya derramado tanta sangre a manos de los violentos”, dijo, pero tampoco es casualidad que haya casos de “resistencia humilde y heroica de los santos y los justos, servidores de la iglesia y del estado”.

Los numerosos desafíos en Sicilia requieren la ayuda de todos, pero los sacerdotes y obispos están especialmente llamados a ofrecer su “servicio completo, total, y exclusivo”, expresó el Sumo Pontífice. La iglesia también enfrenta sus propios desafíos, como la disminución de vocaciones y el creciente desapego de jóvenes de la iglesia, agregó.

“A los jóvenes les cuesta ver las parroquias y los movimientos eclesiales como una ayuda en su búsqueda del sentido de la vida, y no siempre ven en ellos un claro desprendimiento de viejas formas de actuar, erróneas e incluso inmorales, para emprender con decisión el camino de la justicia y la honestidad”, dijo.

El papa agregó que estaba “triste” después de haber recibido “unos expedientes” enviados a las oficinas del Vaticano, que requerían “algún juicio sobre sacerdotes y gente de la iglesia. ¿Pero por qué? ¿Por qué se fue por este camino de injusticia y deshonestidad?” preguntó sin dar más detalles.

El papa Francisco elogió a los numerosos sacerdotes y laicos que se han dedicado plenamente a los demás, siendo fieles a Cristo y al pueblo. “¿Cómo ignorar el trabajo silencioso, tenaz, y amoroso de tantos sacerdotes en medio de personas desanimadas o desempleadas, en medio de niños o ancianos cada vez más solos?”

Los sacerdotes que son buenos y cercanos a su gente son importantes, dijo, “porque en Sicilia, la gente todavía ven a los sacerdotes como guías espirituales y morales, personas que también pueden ayudar a mejorar la vida civil y social en la isla, apoyar a las familias, y ser un punto de referencia para los jóvenes en crecimiento”.

“Los sicilianos tienen altas y exigentes expectativas de los sacerdotes”, dijo, instándolos a no quedarse atrapados “en medio del camino”.

“Ante la conciencia de nuestras debilidades, sabemos que la voluntad de Cristo nos sitúa en el centro de este desafío. La clave de todo está en su llamada, en la que nos apoyamos para embarcarnos al mar y volver a echar las redes”, indicó el papa. Recordándoles el pasaje de Deuteronomio (4:7), que pregunta: “¿Qué nación grande hay que tenga dioses tan cercanos a ella como el Señor, nuestro Dios, a nosotros?”, el papa dijo que su ministerio debe ser uno de “cercanía, que es compasiva, perdona todo, es tierna. Abraza, acaricia”.

Pope: Christian politics must be marked by love, respect

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – For politics to be “the highest form of charity,” as Catholic social teaching promotes, it must be exercised with full respect and even love for those who disagree, Pope Francis said.

“We are called to live the political encounter as a fraternal encounter, especially with those who least agree with us; and this means seeing in the one with whom we dialogue a true brother or sister, a beloved child of God,” the pope told an international group of young adults May 16.

The young people, ages 18-35, are part of the lay Chemin Neuf community’s “Politics Fraternity,” which brings together prayer, direct service to the poor and a commitment to the common good and to political activity “according to the heart of God,” the group’s website said.

Pope Francis waves to members of the “Political Fraternity” project of the Chemin Neuf lay movement at the end of an audience May 16, 2022, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“Encounter, reflection, action: This is a program for politics in the Christian sense,” the pope told them.
For a Christian, a political encounter and debate must go beyond “respectful dialogue,” he said. “Since the Gospel asks us to love our enemies, I cannot settle for a superficial and formal dialogue, like those often-hostile negotiations between political parties.”

Instead, the pope said, with mutual respect and a solid commitment to finding common ground, political adversaries must listen to each other and seek the good of all rather than the promotion of their pet project or position.

Virtuous politics also involves “common reflection in search of this general good, and not simply by the confrontation of conflicting and often opposing interests,” the pope said. “In short, ‘the whole is superior to the part,’ and our compass for elaborating this common project is the Gospel, which brings to the world a profoundly positive vision of the human person loved by God.”

Pope Francis praised the Chemin Neuf project and its participants for recognizing that prayer, dialogue and reflection are not enough.

A politics grounded in reality and aiming to make concrete contributions to people’s lives must include the experience of serving the poor, he said, like the group does with its work with migrants, its care of creation and the small community of young adults who have chosen to live in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Paris.

At the end of the audience, Chemin Neuf members gathered around Pope Francis, who was seated in a wheelchair because of ongoing knee pain, and prayed for him while laying hands on him.

“In prayer let us all ask God to bless us,” he said. “Lord Jesus, bless all of us who work close to you. Bless our ideas. Bless our hearts. Bless our hands.”

Pope tells Russian patriarch they are not ‘clerics of the state’

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Warning that the Russian Orthodox patriarch should not “turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” Pope Francis also said he would like to go to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin in an attempt to end the conflict in Ukraine.

The pope reiterated that he would not be going to Kyiv “for now,” but “I first must go to Moscow, I must first meet Putin,” he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, published May 3. Vatican News also published most of the interview.

Pope Francis said he sent a message through Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, “20 days after the war” started, to be delivered to Putin telling him, “I was ready to go to Moscow.”

“We still have not had a response, and we are still being persistent, even though I am afraid Putin may not be able to and may not want to have this meeting right now,” the pope said. “I am doing what I can. If Putin were to open the door. …”

“But so much brutality, how do you not try to stop it? We saw the same thing with Rwanda,” he said, referring to the genocide against members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group in 1994, when at least 500,000 people were killed in about 100 days.

Pope Francis also provided more details about a video call he had with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in mid-March. “I spoke with Kirill for 40 minutes via Zoom. He spent the first 20 minutes holding a piece of paper reading all the reasons for the war.”

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis pose for photos at the beginning of their meeting at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana in this Feb. 12, 2016, file photo. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, published May 3, 2022, Pope Francis warned that the Russian Orthodox patriarch should not “turn himself into Putin’s altar boy.” He also said he would like to go to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin in an attempt to end the conflict in Ukraine. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I listened to him, and I told him, ‘I don’t know anything about this. Brother, we are not clerics of the state, we cannot use the language of politics, but of Jesus. We are shepherds of the same holy people of God. That is why we must seek the path of peace, to cease the blast of weapons,’” he said.
“The patriarch cannot turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” he said.

The meeting that had been planned between the pope and patriarch in Jerusalem June 14, and has since been canceled, had nothing to do with the conflict in Ukraine, the pope said. But even the patriarch now sees that any kind of meeting of theirs could send “an ambiguous sign.”

Patriarch Kirill has been an outspoken supporter of Putin’s war on Ukraine, and the Vatican’s diplomatic team believed such a meeting could lead to “much confusion,” Pope Francis had told La Nación, the Argentine newspaper, in an April 21 interview.

When Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, the pope called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he told Corriere della Sera.

“Instead, I didn’t call Putin. I had heard from him in December for my birthday, but this time, no, I didn’t call him,” he said. He explained that he preferred to make a more “clear gesture that the whole world could see and that is why I went to the Russian ambassador” to the Holy See, Aleksandr Avdeyev, Feb. 25.

He said he asked the ambassador “that they explain, (and) I told him, ‘Please, stop this.’”
The pope said the conflict is not just affecting the Donbas region, but there is also “Crimea, it is Odesa – it is taking away the port of the Black Sea from Ukraine, it is everything. I am a pessimist, but we must do everything possible so that the war can end.”

“There is not enough will for peace. The war is terrible, and we have to shout out” against it, he said.

Light of risen Christ dispels darkness of fear

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Young people should not allow the darkness of fear to overwhelm them and instead allow the light of Easter to illuminate their lives and give them courage, Pope Francis said.

Fears “must be brought to light. And when fears, which are in darkness, come into the light, the truth bursts out. Do not be discouraged: If you are afraid, put it to the light and it will do you good!” the pope told thousands of young men and women gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The April 18 event, titled “Seguimi” (“Follow Me”), was organized by the Italian bishops’ conference and brought young teens from all of Italy for a prayer vigil in Rome. While initial projections expected 57,000 people at the event, the Vatican said an estimated 100,000 young people were present.

It was the first large-scale gathering of its kind in St. Peter’s Square since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered all public events in the country in 2020.

Pope Francis gives the thumbs up as he arrives for a meeting with thousands of young people taking part in a pilgrimage organized by the Italian bishops’ conference in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 18, 2022. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

After riding around and greeting the crowd on his popemobile, Pope Francis welcomed them and said the “square has long been waiting to be filled with your presence, your faces, and your enthusiasm.”

“Today, all of you are together, coming from Italy, in the embrace of this square and in the joy of the Easter that we have just celebrated,” he said.

However, the pope said that although Jesus’ resurrection “conquered the darkness of death,” there are still dense clouds “that darken our time.”

“In addition to the pandemic, Europe is experiencing a terrible war, while injustices and violence continue in many regions of the earth that destroy humankind and the planet,” he said. “Often it is your peers who pay the highest price: Not only is their existence compromised and made insecure, but their dreams for the future are trampled on. Many brothers and sisters are still waiting for the light of Easter.”

Reflecting on a Gospel reading from St. John, in which the risen Christ appears to his disciples while they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee, the pope said young people, like the disciples, can experience moments in life that “put us to the test” and “make us feel naked, helpless and alone.”

In those times of uncertainty, he continued, young people must not keep to themselves, because “fears must be said, fears must be expressed in order to be able to drive them away.”

“Darkness puts us in crisis; but the problem lies in how we manage this crisis,” the pope explained. “If I keep it only for myself, for my heart, and I don’t talk about it with anyone, it doesn’t work. In times of crisis, you have to talk, talk with the friend who can help, with your dad, your mom, your grandfather, your grandmother, with a person who can help. Crises must be illuminated to overcome them.”

He also encouraged the young men and women present to not be afraid of life and all that it entails but instead to be afraid “of the death of the soul, of the death of the future, of the closure of the heart.”

“Life is beautiful, life is meant to be lived and to give it to others; life is meant to be shared with others, not to close it in on itself,” he said.

Like children who call on their mother when in need, Pope Francis said Christians can call upon Mary who, in her adolescence, “accepted her extraordinary vocation to be the mother of Jesus.”

“May Our Lady – the mother who was almost your age when she received the angel’s announcement and became pregnant with him – teach you to say: ‘Here I am!’” the pope said.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Blood of Bucha massacre victims ‘cries out to heaven’

By Junno Arocho
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis once again pleaded for an end to the bloodshed and violence in Ukraine after images of innocent civilians apparently executed in Bucha sparked outrage and horror around the world.

“The recent news of the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, attest to new atrocities, such as the massacre of Bucha,” the pope said April 6 before concluding his weekly general audience.

The world is witnessing “ever-more horrendous acts of cruelty done against civilians, unarmed women and children, whose innocent blood cries out to heaven and implores, ‘End this war. Silence the weapons. Stop sowing death and destruction,’” he said.

Pope Francis meets Ukrainian refugees during his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican April 6, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Videos and photographs released April 3, after Russian troops retreated from Bucha and other towns, showed dead bodies in the streets and in the yards of homes. Many appeared to have been shot in the head, execution style, and the hands of many of the corpses were bound.

Although Russia dismissed the accusations of war crimes as “fake news,” evidence of mass executions sparked outrage, prompting several countries to expel Russian diplomats from their lands and leading to renewed calls for tougher actions against Russia.

After leading pilgrims in a silent prayer for the country, Pope Francis held up a Ukrainian flag that was sent to him “from that tormented city of Bucha.”

The pope then invited to the stage several Ukrainian children who recently arrived in Italy and asked the crowd to “greet them and pray together with them.”

The children, accompanied by two women, went up to the pope. One young boy held a hand-made poster of the Ukrainian flag, with a smaller Italian flag in the center and outlines of small hands.
The pilgrims present at the audience hall applauded loudly as the pope welcomed the children, with one shouting, “Slava Ukraini” (“Glory to Ukraine”).”

Gently rolling up the Ukrainian flag, the pope reverently kissed it before handing out chocolate Easter eggs to the children, prompting one of the women, holding a baby in her arms, to wipe away tears from her eyes.

“These children were forced to flee and come to a foreign land. This is one of the fruits of war,” Pope Francis said. “Let us not forget them and let us not forget the Ukrainian people.”

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

Pope prays for an end to war in Ukraine

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Asking God to forgive all people tempted by violence, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the war in Ukraine and the fratricidal killing of both combatants and civilians caught in the crossfire.

“Forgive us Lord if we continue to kill our brother. Forgive us, Lord, if we continue to kill our brother, if we continue, like Cain, to take the stones from our field to kill Abel,” the pope prayed March 16 before concluding his weekly general audience.

“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, we implore you to stop the hand of Cain, enlighten our conscience, let not our will be done, do not abandon us to our own doing,” he prayed. “Stop us, Lord, stop us, and when you have stopped the hand of Cain, take care of him also. He is our brother.”

The prayer for peace in Ukraine that the pope recited was composed by Italian Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples and titled, “Forgive us for the war, Lord.”

The prayer compared the suffering of Jesus to those who were “born under the bombs of Kyiv,” those lying “dead in the arms of a mother in Kharkiv” and the “20-year-olds sent to the front line.”

“Forgive us if, not content with the nails with which we pierced your hand, we continue to drink from the blood of the dead torn apart by weapons,” said the prayer recited by the pope. “Forgive us if these hands that you had created to protect, have been turned into instruments of death.”

Pope Francis prays during a meeting with students from Milan in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 16, 2022. The pope prayed for children in Ukraine who are forced to flee from bombings. (CNS photo/Stefano Dal Pozzolo, pool)

He concluded the prayer by asking forgiveness from God for those who “legitimize cruelty” through violence and prayed for an end to the war through divine intervention.

“O Lord, stop the violence. Stop us, Lord,” he prayed.

Before the general audience, Pope Francis met with students from the “La Zolla,” a lay-run Catholic school in Milan. After addressing the children, the pope departed from his prepared remarks and asked the young students to think about the boys and girls suffering in Ukraine.

“They are like you – 6, 7, 14 years old,” he said. “You have a future ahead of you, the security of growing up in a peaceful society. Instead, these little ones must flee from the bombs, they are suffering so much with the cold weather there.”

Asking the students to join him in prayer, Pope Francis closed his eyes and lowered his head, praying to God to protect the children caught in the war who “do not have anything to eat” and are forced to flee their homes.

“Lord Jesus, look at these children, these boys and girls. Look upon them and protect them. They are the victims of our pride, of us adults. Lord Jesus, bless these children and protect them,” Pope Francis said before leading the students in praying a Hail Mary.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Papa consagra Ucrania y Rusia a María

Por Junno Arocho Esteves

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) — Mientras la violenta invasión rusa, que ya cumplió un mes, continuaba devastando Ucrania, el papa Francisco puso el destino de ambos países en manos de María, con la esperanza de que finalmente reinara la paz.

“Madre de Dios y madre nuestra, a tu Inmaculado Corazón nos encomendamos y consagramos solemnemente, la iglesia y toda la humanidad, especialmente Rusia y Ucrania”, expresó el Santo Padre el 25 de marzo, presidiendo el acto de consagración después de haber dirigido un servicio de penitencia de Cuaresma en la Basílica de San Pedro.

Rezando ante una estatua de María, que fue prestada por el Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Fátima en San Vittoriano, en las afueras de Roma, el papa suplicó a la Madre de Dios que “acepte este acto que llevamos a cabo con confianza y amor. Haz que la guerra termine y que la paz se extienda por todo el mundo”.

Sentado frente a la estatua, que fue colocada ante los escalones del altar mayor sobre una plataforma roja y adornada con rosas blancas, el Sumo Pontífice proclamó el acto de consagración. Durante la oración, el papa se detuvo en varios momentos para mirar la estatua de María antes de continuar.

“A ti te consagramos el futuro de toda la familia humana, las necesidades y expectativas de cada pueblo, las angustias y esperanzas del mundo”, oró.

Después de la consagración, el papa, acompañado por un niño y una niña, colocó un ramo de rosas blancas a los pies de la estatua. Luego permaneció ahí unos momentos, con los ojos cerrados y la cabeza inclinada en oración, en silencio.

Según el Vaticano, se estima que 3,500 personas llenaron el interior de la Basílica de San Pedro, mientras que 2,000 personas vieron el evento en pantallas de video desde la Plaza de San Pedro. La policía pidió a los peregrinos que entraron a la Basílica de San Pedro portando o llevando banderas ucranianas que las guardaran, ya que el evento era un servicio de oración.

Entre los presentes en la liturgia estaba Andrii Yurash, embajador de Ucrania ante la Santa Sede. La consagración, tuiteó el 25 de marzo, es “otro intento (del papa) de defender a Ucrania de la guerra del diablo”, refiriéndose a los ataques de Rusia contra el país.

Joe Donnelly, quien pronto presentará sus credenciales al Santo Padre como embajador de Estados Unidos ante la Santa Sede, también asistió al servicio.

El Vaticano anunció el 18 de marzo que el papa Francisco también pidió a los obispos de todo el mundo que se unieran a él para consagrar Ucrania y Rusia al Inmaculado Corazón de María.

El cardenal Konrad Krajewski, limosnero papal, dirigió un acto similar de consagración en el Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Fátima en Portugal.

Obispos de todo el mundo habían anunciado servicios especiales para coincidir con el momento de la consagración en Roma, incluso en las primeras horas de la mañana.

En la Catedral-Basílica Dulce Nombre de María en Hagatña, Guam, el arzobispo Michael Byrnes dirigió a los fieles en el rezo del rosario antes de recitar el acto de consagración a las 2 a.m. (hora local) del 26 de marzo.

El arzobispo Georg Gänswein, secretario privado del papa emérito Benedicto XVI, había dicho a los periodistas que el retirado papa se uniría a la consagración desde su residencia.

En un video publicado antes de la liturgia, el arzobispo Sviatoslav Shevchuk de Kyiv-Halych, jefe de la Iglesia Católica ucraniana, manifestó que se uniría a la consagración “porque hoy necesitamos mucho la victoria del bien”.

El papa Francisco venera una estatua mariana antes de consagrar el mundo y, en particular, Ucrania y Rusia al Inmaculado Corazón de María durante un servicio de penitencia de Cuaresma en la Basílica de San Pedro en el Vaticano el 25 de marzo de 2022. (Foto CNS/Paul Haring)

La consagración, señaló el arzobispo Shevchuk, “significa que nunca es posible llegar a un acuerdo y cooperar con este mal que emerge de Rusia hoy”.

“Y es por eso que debemos orar por su conversión, por la erradicación de ese mal, ‘para que’, como dijo la Madre de Dios de Fátima, ‘no destruya otros estados, no provoque otra guerra mundial’. Nosotros, como cristianos, tenemos el deber de orar por nuestros enemigos”, acotó.

En Roma, las campanas de la Basílica de San Pedro sonaron después de que el papa Francisco concluyera el acto de consagración.

El obispo Kopacz presidió una Hora Santa hoy a las 11 am en la Catedral de San Pedro, que incluyó la Adoración del Santísimo Sacramento, el Rosario y una oportunidad para la Reconciliación con el Padre. Matthew Simmons, viernes 25 de marzo. Después de la Hora Santa fue la Misa por la Solemnidad de la Anunciación del Señor y la Consagración de Rusia y Ucrania al Inmaculado Corazón de María. La Consagración coincidió con la Consagración del Papa Francisco en Roma. Puedes encontrar esta ceremonia en youtube en

En su homilía durante el servicio de penitencia de Cuaresma, el Sumo Pontífice reconoció que la guerra en Ucrania, que “ha alcanzado a tanta gente y ha causado sufrimiento a todos, ha dejado, a cada uno de nosotros, temerosos y ansiosos”.

Si bien los llamados a “no tener miedo” pueden aliviar la impotencia de uno frente a la guerra, a la violencia y a la incertidumbre, el papa dijo que “el dar consuelo no es suficiente”.

“Necesitamos la cercanía de Dios y la certeza de su perdón, y una vez renovados por él, los cristianos pueden volverse también a María y presentar sus necesidades y las del mundo”, dijo.

El papa Francisco dijo que el acto de consagración “no es una fórmula mágica sino un acto espiritual” de confianza por “los hijos que, en medio de la tribulación de esta guerra cruel y sin sentido que amenaza a nuestro mundo, se vuelven hacia su madre, depositando todos sus miedos y dolores en su corazón y abandonándose a ella”.

“Significa poner en ese corazón puro e inmaculado, donde se refleja Dios, los bienes inestimables de la fraternidad y de la paz, todo lo que tenemos y somos, para que ella, la madre que el Señor nos ha dado, nos proteja y nos cuide”, indicó el papa.

En su oración, el papa Francisco pidió específicamente a María que permanezca con los que sufren directamente a causa de la guerra.

“Que tu toque maternal alivie a los que sufren y huyen de la lluvia de bombas”, rezó a María. “Que tu abrazo materno consuele a los que se ven obligados a abandonar sus hogares y su tierra natal. Que tu corazón afligido nos mueva a la compasión y nos inspire a abrir nuestras puertas y cuidar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas heridos y abandonados”.

Positive change comes from fixing one’s own failings first, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Positive change must begin with oneself and with acknowledging one’s own mistakes, Pope Francis said.

Such change also includes being attentive to how one communicates, because words carry weight and they can be used to “feed prejudices, raise barriers, harm and even destroy,” the pope told people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 27 for his Sunday Angelus address.

“Especially in the digital world, words travel fast; but too many of them convey anger and aggression, feed false news and take advantage of collective fears to propagate distorted ideas,” he said.

“Every fruitful, positive change must begin from ourselves. Otherwise, there will be no change,” he said.

The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Luke, in which Christ asks his disciples, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 27, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“What Jesus says is true: we always find reasons for blaming others and justifying ourselves,” Pope Francis said. “And very often we complain about things that are wrong in society, in the church, in the world, without first questioning ourselves and without making an effort to change ourselves first.”

Jesus asks people “to look within ourselves to recognize our failings. Because if we are not capable of seeing our own defects, we will always be inclined to magnify those of others,” he said.

When individuals acknowledge their own mistakes and flaws first, he said, “the door of mercy opens up to us,” providing a chance to experience God’s love and forgiveness.

Then, he said, “Jesus invites us to look at others as he does,” which is to “not see irredeemable errors in us, but children who make mistakes.”

“We know that God always forgives. And he invites us to do likewise: not to look for evil in others, but good,” he said.
It is important people be attentive to the way they speak because “you can tell straightaway what is in their heart” by the words they choose, he said.

Pope Francis asked people to reflect on whether they choose words that “express care, respect, understanding, closeness, compassion or words that aim mainly to make us look good in front of others? And then, do we speak mildly, or do we pollute the world by spreading venom: criticizing, complaining, feeding widespread aggression?”
“Jesus invites us to reflect on the way we look (at others) and the way we speak” and to purify “our gaze and our speech,” he said.