From the Vatican

Pope Francis on Pentecost: The Holy Spirit Changes Hearts

Pope 052018By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

May 20, 2018 (Vatican Media) In his homily on Pentecost Sunday delivered before thousands of the faithful gathered in St Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis focused on the action of the Holy Spirit expressed in the Scripture readings from the Acts of the Apostles, St Paul's letter to the Galatians, and St John’s Gospel.

The Holy Spirit changes hearts

The Spirit transforms the hearts of the timid disciples from fearful men, “huddled behind closed doors”, to bold men who “bear witness to [Jesus]” (Jn 15:27), the Pope said. His action frees hearts, impels service, guides people in new directions, and makes “the lukewarm thrill to new dreams. That is what it means to change hearts”, Pope Francis said.

The Holy Spirit gives life

Pope Francis suggests that since the Holy Spirit provokes change that we turn to Him for a “powerful ‘jolt’ ” when “we are in need of real change”. He is “the power of God” and the “giver of life”. “How good it would be for us each day to feel this jolt of life!  To say when we wake up each morning: ‘Come, Holy Spirit, come into my heart, come into my day’ ”, the Pope said.

The Holy Spirit changes situations

The Holy Spirit “penetrates the most unimaginable situations”, Pope Francis continued. He does so today just as he did in the Acts of the Apostles, in which He is the “main character”. He drives Philip from Jerusalem to Gaza, then to Azotus, then to Caesarea (Acts 8:26-40), “in constantly new situations to spread God’s newness”. Paul is “compelled by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22), traveling “far and wide” to bring the Gospel, the Pope said.

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church

Pope Francis recalled that as the soul of the Church, the Holy Spirit renews her with hope, fills her with joy, and causes her to blossom with new life. Even after 2000 years, “the Spirit reminds the Church that…she is always the youthful bride with whom the Lord is madly in love”.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that the Spirit acts on the Church with “centripetal and centrifugal” forces. We are centered deep within with His centripetal force which brings unity, peace and strength amid affliction and temptation, he said. The Holy Spirit pushes us outward toward the peripheries with a centrifugal force. Thus, in the Pope’s words, “those who live by the Spirit…find themselves pulled both towards God and towards the world".


Oscar Romero to Be Recognized as Saint

Pope 051918By Philippa Hitchen

May 19, 2018 (Vatican Media) A consistory of cardinals took place here in the Vatican on Saturday during which the canonization of six new saints was officially announced.

Of those six names, the two best known figures are Pope Paul VI and the assassinated Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero. The two men will be proclaimed saints on 14 October during the Synod of Bishops on young people.

Romero was shot dead on March 24th 1980 as he was saying Mass in the cancer hospital in El Salvador where he had chosen to live. In his three years as archbishop, he had become an outspoken voice for the poorest people of his country, caught up in a conflict between the military government and guerilla groups that claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives.

Today, Romero is widely acclaimed as a saint and martyr across the Christian world and beyond. Last year the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams preached at a special Evensong, in Westminster Abbey, attended by leaders of many faith groups in the United Kingdom The service included a new anthem written by Scottish composer James MacMillan to mark the centenary of Romero’s birth.

Julian Filochowski is chair of the Archbishop Romero Trust, set up to promote greater knowledge of the saint’s life and legacy, as well as to support human rights efforts in Latin America today.

Canonized in Salvadoran hearts

He says the people of El Salvador canonized Oscar Romero in their hearts soon after his assassination. In 2015, he notes, the local Church celebrated Romero’s beatification in San Salvador, “one of the highest profile non-papal beatifications in history, with well over half a million people present”.

Canonization, Filochowski continues, is one step further, “recognising him as a saint of the Universal Church, not just a saint for Salvadorans or Latin Americans” so it is “right and proper” for the celebration to take place in the Vatican.

Martyr of Vatican II

Commenting on the fact that Romero will be raised to the altar together with Pope Paul VI, Filochowski says it was the latter “who implemented the Second Vatican Council, while the archbishop was “the first martyr of the Council”, assassinated for implementing its teaching on the preferential option for the poor.

He notes that while Romero came under attack, “including by his fellow bishops”, Paul VI gave him “unconditional support”.

Opposition in the Church

In past decades, he says there was strong opposition to his beatification and canonization by bishops in the Church in Latin America, and even in the Roman Curia, since many people feared that “the canonization of Romero would be the canonization of liberation theology”.

Today, he adds, we have a more balanced evaluation of “authentic liberation theology”, beginning with the visit of Pope John Paul II to the tomb of Romero which “changed the atmosphere in the Church”.

Model of apostolic courage

Romero, Filochowski says, was a man “who said what he thought and meant what he said, he talked the talk and walked the walk”. He didn’t just love the poor, he adds, since “that’s relatively easy”, but he also defended the poor with “apostolic courage” and became a model for bishops, priests and all Christians.

Praying for conversion of hearts

Commenting on the violence in El Salvador today, he says the Church is trying to combat it and people are praying for the example of Romero to change people’s hearts and minds.

As a personal friend of Romero, Filochowski says “he has kept me strong in my faith at moments of difficulty and doubt”. He concludes: “I never believed I’d live to see his canonization, it’s beyond my dreams and I’m just very happy”.


Pope at Mass: ‘Don’t Waste Time Being a Busybody’

Pope 051818May 18, 2018 (Vatican Media) In his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Friday morning, Pope Francis reminds bishops and all pastors to “love, tend the sheep, and prepare oneself for the cross”, not wasting time meddling in the lives of others.

Pope Francis at Mass on Friday had words of advice for all pastors. He told them to “love, shepherd your flock, and prepare oneself for the cross” and not to fall into the temptation of “sticking their nose in other people’s business.”

His advice was drawn from the Gospel of John, which recounts the last encounter between Jesus and Peter.

‘Follow me’

Pope Francis said Jesus leads Peter on a mental journey through their relationship. Jesus, the Pope said, wants to do the same for each of us, so that we “recall our shared journey.”

The Holy Father transformed Jesus’ last words to Peter – “Follow me” – into concrete attitudes and behaviors, giving Peter three directives: “love me, tend my sheep, and prepare yourself.”

Love is identity of pastor

The first step towards being true disciples of the Son of God, he said, is love. The Pope then said tending the Lord’s sheep and caring for them is an essential part of the pastor’s identity. “The identity of a bishop and of a priest is to be a shepherd,” he said.

“Love me, tend my sheep, and prepare yourself. Love me more than all others. Love me however you can, but love me. This is what the Lord asks of pastors and of all of us. ‘Love me.’ The first step in dialogue with the Lord is love.”

‘Carry you where you don’t want to go’

Pope Francis reminded the faithful that those who embrace the Lord fully are destined for “martyrdom” and “to carry the cross”, that is, to be led where they do not want to go. But this, he said, is the compass directing the pastor.

“Prepare for trials; prepare to leave everything behind, so that another may come and do different things. Prepare yourself for this obliteration in life. And they will carry you along paths filled with humiliation, possibly even to martyrdom. Those who praised you and spoke well of you when you were a pastor will now speak poorly of you because another has come who they like more. Prepare yourself for the cross when they carry you where you do not want to go. Love, tend, and prepare yourself. This is a pastor’s directional map, his compass.”

‘Don’t be a busybody’

In conclusion, Pope Francis focused on one final, pervasive temptation: the desire to meddle in the lives of others, without being content with minding one’s own business.

“Put yourself in your own shoes, and don’t stick your nose in other people’s business. The pastor loves, tends, and prepares himself for the cross… Don’t waste time being a busybody, even regarding ecclesiastical rumors. Love, tend my sheep, and prepare yourself not to fall into temptation.”


Pope at Mass: ‘May True Unity Be Our Goal’

Pope 051718By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

May 17, 2018 (Vatican Media) The first reading from Acts 23:6-11 and the Gospel from John 17:20-26 demonstrate two styles of unity Pope Francis said during his homily at Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Thursday morning.  One type of unity he called “true” unity; and the other, “false” unity.

False unity divides

Pope Francis sees a false unity binding Paul’s accusers together. It is false because it leads to division he said. The Sadducees and Pharisees are at first united in their accusation against Paul. But Paul lays bare the “stone that divides” them, observing that he was on trial because of his “hope in the resurrection of the dead”.

In this case, as well as on Palm Sunday, a single people has turned into an anonymous mob. Pope Francis calls this an exploitation of the people [which] is also contempt for the people because it converts them into an anonymous mob. It is an element which often repeats itself. Let’s think about this. On Palm Sunday everyone acclaims him: ‘Blessed are you, who comes in the name of the Lord.’ The Friday after, the same people cry out ‘Crucify him.’ What happened? They brainwashed them, and they changed everything. They became an anonymous mob which destroys.

This is the dynamic beneath any condemnation, calumny, or defamation. Even at the parish level, the Pope said that:  when two or three begin to criticize another and begin to talk behind the person’s back… They create a false unity to condemn. They feel safe and condemn. They condemn mentally, then they act it out; then they end in accusing each other because they are divided. In this way gossip is a behavior that kills because it destroys people, it destroys their reputation.

True unity

“Let’s think of the greatness of the vocation to which we are called: to be one with Jesus, and the Father”, Pope Francis concluded. That should be our goal:  men and women who are united and who always seek to progress along the path of unity—not a false unity, which has no substance, which only serves to get ahead and condemn people, and promotes interests which are not ours: the interests of the prince of this world, which is destruction. May the Lord give us the grace of walking always along the path of true unity.


Pope Francis: Let grace of Baptism Bear Fruit in Your Lives

Pope 051718By Philippa Hitchen

May 16, 2017 (Vatican Media) At his general audience on Wednesday Pope Francis concluded his series of reflections on the sacrament of Baptism, speaking of the spiritual fruits that it brings to each believer.

Baptismal garment

The Pope noted that right from the first centuries of Christianity, it became a tradition to dress those who had received the waters of Baptism in a new, white clothes to symbolize the new and transfigured life received through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

If we are clothed in Christ, St Paul reminded the early believers in his letter to the Colossians, we must take on the virtues of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. Bear with each other, he said, and forgive each other as the Lord forgave you. Above all, put on the virtue of love, which binds all together in perfect unity.

Baptismal candle

Those being baptized are also given a candle, lighted from the Easter candle, as the priest says the words, “Receive the light of Christ”. These words, the Pope said, remind us that we are not the light, but rather we are called to receive the light of Christ who has risen from the dead and overcome the shadows of evil.

Just as the Easter candle gives light to all our individual candles, so the love of the Risen Lord inflames the hearts of all the baptized. That is why, in the first centuries, Baptism was known as the sacrament of Illumination.

This is our Christian vocation, Pope Francis continued, to walk as sons and daughters of the light, persevering in faith. If children are being baptised, then it is the task of parents and godparents to nurture the flame, helping them to persevere in their faith. Christian education, he said, is a right of each child so that they can gradually come to know the plan of God for them.

The living presence of Christ in us, the Pope said, is the lamp which lights our way, guides our decision-making and warms our hearts as we travel together towards our encounter with the Lord. On that day, he said, there will be no more night and we will no longer need our lamps because the light of God will illuminate everything.

Calling on God in the Our Father

The sacrament of Baptism, the Pope said, concludes with the Our Father, as those who are newly baptized learn to call God ‘Father’ as they receive the fullness of his Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis concluded his catechesis with the words of his recent Apostolic Exhortation ‘Rejoice and Be Glad’, urging his listeners to let the grace of Baptism bear fruit in their lives.


Pope at Mass: Be Bishops for Your Flock, Not for Your Career

Pope 051518By Susy Hodges

May 15, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis says he prays all bishops follow the example of the Apostle Paul with his obedience to the Holy Spirit and his love for his flock. His words came during his homily at Mass celebrated on Tuesday morning in the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence.

Pope Francis focused his reflections on the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Paul, “compelled by the Holy Spirit,” takes his leave from the Church Elders at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem. “It’s a decisive move, a move that reaches the heart, it’s also a move that shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’s time to take his leave and step down,” he said.

Paul’s examination of conscience

Retracing the biblical account of how Paul summoned the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus to take his leave of them, Pope Francis noted how the Apostle made an examination of his conscience, telling the Elders what he had done for the community and leaving them to judge his work. Paul seemed “a bit proud,” said the Pope, but in actual fact “he is objective.”  He only boasts about two things: “his own sins and the Cross of Jesus Christ which saved him.”

The Apostle is listening to the Holy Spirit

Describing how Paul feels “compelled by the Holy Spirit” to go to Jerusalem, Pope Francis said: “This experience by the bishop, the bishop who can discern the Spirit, who can discern when it is the Spirit of God speaking to him and who knows how to defend himself when spoken to by the spirit of the world.”

In some way, the Pope said, Paul knows that he is going “towards trials, towards the cross and this recalls for us Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, doesn’t it?”

The Apostle, he went on, “is obediently offering himself up to the Lord. That (expression) compelled by the Holy Spirit. The bishop who always goes forward but according to the Holy Spirit.  This is Paul.”

His farewell: watch over the flock

Turning next to Paul’s farewell words, Pope Francis noted how Paul takes his leave amidst the pain of those present by giving them advice in a testament which is not a worldly testament “about leaving belongings to this person or that person.”

Paul’s great love, said the Pope, “is Jesus Christ.  His second love is for his flock. Take care of each other and of the entire flock. Keep watch over the flock: you are bishops for your flock, to take care of it and not in order to advance your ecclesiastical career.”

Paul’s testament

Noting how Paul entrusted the Elders to God, knowing that He will take care of them, the Pope stressed that the Apostle spoke of having no desire to have any money or gold for himself. He described Paul’s testament as “a witness, as well as an announcement and a challenge.” This was no worldly testament, said Pope Francis because Paul had nothing to leave to others, “only the grace of God, his apostolic courage, Jesus Christ’s revelation and the salvation that Our Lord had granted him.”

The Pope thinks about when his time will come

“When I read this, I think about myself, he declared, “because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”

He concluded his homily with a prayer: “I am thinking of all bishops. May the Lord grant all of us the grace to be able to take our leave and step down in this way (like Paul), with that spirit, with that strength, with that love for Jesus Christ and this faith in the Holy Spirit.” 


Pope at Mass: Our "Destiny" is to Live in Friendship with Jesus

Pope 051418By Robin Gomes

May 14, 2018 (Vatican Media) In his homily at Mass, Monday morning, Pope Francis urged Christians in their vocation to live their friendship with Jesus, whose love, he said, is faithful, even to those who betray Him.

We have received our friendship with Jesus by “lot”, that is by “destiny”, not by “chance”, and our vocation is precisely to remain friends of the Lord. 

The Pope based his reflection on the word “lot” that occurs a few times in the day’s Mass readings and a prayer on the feast of St. Matthias, who was chosen by lots to fill the place of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.

Our destiny – friendship with Jesus

The Pope said we have received this gift of friendship with the Lord as our destiny and our vocation is to live as His friends.

All Christians, the Pope said, have received this gift of friendship, which the apostles received to a “stronger” degree.   It is a gift that the Lord always cherishes, faithful to this gift.

Jesus’ friendship even to those who betray

Many times, however, the Pope explained, we are not so faithful and distance ourselves from Him "with our sins, with our whims" but Jesus is “faithful to His friendship".

In the day’s Gospel, he said, Jesus no longer calls us "servants" but "friends" and keeps His word until the end because He is faithful.  The last word to Judas before his betrayal, the Pope recalled, was "friend" and not “get out”.

However Judas, the Pope pointed out, chose his new destiny freely, distancing himself from Jesus. The Pope called this apostasy – when a friend turns an enemy, indifferent or a traitor.

“Remain in my love”

The Pope recalled the election of Matthias in the Acts of the Apostles where he was chosen by lots to be a “witness of the Resurrection", "a witness of this gift of love" of Jesus who shares with His friends the secrets revealed to Him by the Father.  

Even those who distance themselves from Him, the Pope said, Jesus always awaits, faithful to his friendship.  The Pope thus urged Christians to ask Jesus for the grace to remain in His love, in his friendship.


Pope Prays for Victims of Indonesia Attacks

Pope 051318By Christopher Wells

May 13, 2018 (Vatican Media) At the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis prays for victims of attacks in Indonesia, and calls for prayers for an end to violence.

Pope Francis assured the “dear people of Indonesia,” and especially Christians in the city of Surabya, that he was “particularly close” to them in the wake of deadly attacks earlier on Sunday.

Three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city were bombed in apparently coordinated attacks, leaving at least 11 people dead and more than forty others injured. It’s the deadliest attack in Indonesia since 2005.

In his remarks following the weekly Regina Coeli in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said he is praying for the victims and their loved ones.

“Together,” he said, “let us call upon the God of peace, that He might bring these violent actions to an end; and that in the hearts of all, space might be found for feelings, not of hatred and violence, but of reconciliation and fraternity.”

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on Sunday.  In addition to the three bombings, local authorities claim to have thwarted other attempted attacks.



Cardinal Gracias: Peace Journalism Very Crucial for Today’s World

Pope 051218By Robin Gomes

(Vatican News) The Catholic Church is marking its World Communications Day on Sunday, May 13. In a brief interview, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias commented on the message of Pope Francis for the Church's World Communications Day on the theme, “‘The truth will set you free’--fake news and journalism for peace.”

The annual day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 to encourage Catholics to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication offer the Church to communicate the Gospel message.

World Communications Day is celebrated in most countries on the Sunday before Pentecost Sunday.  However, in some countries, the day is marked on the solemnity of Ascension.

Ahead of each World Communications Day, the Pope issues a message on a particular theme.  “‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32)--fake news and journalism for peace,” is the theme of the message of Pope Francis for this year’s observance.

In his message, the Pope warned of the “dire consequences” of disinformation spread through fake news, that is fueled by “greed” and the “thirst for power,” and thrives on the absence of a “healthy confrontation” necessary for “constructive dialogue.”  In today’s rapidly evolving world of communications, the Pope asked those working in the media to “promote a journalism of peace” that is truthful and helps to form others, but which is not harmful or sentimental, overlooking serious problems.

Journalism of peace - crucial

Vatican News approached Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and asked him how important “journalism of peace”  was  in today’s world, including in India. 

According to the cardinal who is president of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI) as well as of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), it is “very crucial” for “journalism for peace” to fight fake news. 

Cardinal Gracias expressed satisfaction that Pope Francis has chosen the theme of the truth setting one free.  God, he said, has given us the media, the facility to “communicate the truth”, and as the Holy Father says, “evil forces” have begun to use communications “to give not the truth but give falsehood,” which is fake news.