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My John Paul II Memories

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I have many memories of April 2, 2005, when St. John Paul II died after a lengthy illness and much suffering.

I remember the succession of news reports the evening before his death,  people praying in St. Peter’s Square and the shared sense of concern and sadness that most people felt; this was not limited just to the faithful.

A few days earlier, on March 30, he made his last public appearance. It was a quick glimpse with no words, but only a breath. Amid all the suffering, there was also profound dignity, as he maintained his position and role, in any way he could, until the last moment. I was at home when the news of his death was made official by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls on Saturday, April 2, after 9:30 pm.

The funeral followed six days later. There was a unanimous cry, and strong desire among people to see Karol Wojtyla made a saint. I remember this chant everywhere; in newspapers, shouting from the crowds – a continuous repetition.

Three million mourners descended upon Rome for the biggest funeral ever, and the capital city responded perfectly, with an efficiency never before seen. I remember the chaos around the city. It was impossible to take the subway enroute to school as Termini Station was sieged by pilgrims and people trying to navigate their way through the Vatican. A huge crowd converged at St. Peter’s Square, to give a final farewell to the beloved Pope. The day of the funeral, Friday, April 8th, was declared a day of mourning in Rome. Schools were closed and all eyes turned to the Vatican where the future pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, celebrated the funeral.

Among the many recollections I have of Pope John Paul II, there are two that particularly stand out from my childhood.The first dates back to 1997, a few weeks after my first communion, in the same parish where I received the Eucharist, the Holy Father came to visit. For us children, but especially for those of us who just recently received our first communion, there were special seats near the altar. What a great privilege to be in such close proximity that I had a chance to shake hands with the Pope, who greeted me with a smile on his face.

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The second moment occurred three years later, on the occasion of World Youth Day at Tor Vergata. It took place in front of the  home where I would eventually spend my  wonderful years at university.

I remember the human tide that was able to fill the vast plain of Tor Vergata, as well as the steady stream of young people who passed by me on their journey to see the Pope that night.

As residents in the area, our family had received a special pass three days earlier from mayor Francesco Rutelli, a pass that allowed us to move freely in our neighborhood without restriction and among areas designated for young faithful.
I remember that long night of August 19th at Tor Vergata,  sitting on the lawn with my father and my aunt. I remember a smiling and joyful Pope John Paul II  and  the contagious, youthful passion, music and incredible party atmosphere we took in.

For eighteen years of my life, he was Pope. He was a man, who unlike others, had such impact on contemporary history and changed the course of events. In Krakow, where the next World Youth Day will be held in his honor, the feeling of his presence is felt everywhere.  One can sense his imposing spirituality, charisma, and ability as an incredible religious leader.

In 27 years of his pontificate,  he has been able to accomplish a huge breakthrough for the Church, as well as to how to live within the church. It is hard to think that there might be someone equally decisive in so many aspects that will be a future Pope.  It is hard to believe that there may be someone who could make a mark on  world  history as Karol Józef Wojtyla from Wadowice did.


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Matteo Ciofi is an Italian producer for Salt + Light. Follow him on Twitter!

 

Thank you, John Paul II!

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A video tribute to a great saint who walked among us on the 11th Anniversary of his death.

Message for Saint Patrick’s Day 2016 from Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland

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March 16, 2016

Although a small number of people attempt to drag Ireland back to unrest and violence, people from across our communities are strongly committed to building bridges towards lasting peace. Following the example of Patrick, I call on Irish people, at home and abroad: open yourselves up to a personal friendship with Christ and to an experience of God’s mercy in your lives.  This experience will change your life, as it did for Saint Patrick, and it will  inspire you, in turn, to reach out in mercy and charity to those who are suffering and in need.

EamonFrom the Cathedral City of Armagh, I send warm Saint Patrick’s Day greetings to all Irish people at home and abroad and to all who join us in celebrating our patron saint.  Conscious that our National Apostle first encountered Ireland as a migrant, I offer special greetings to the ‘new Irish’ – the many migrants who have made their home among us.  Céad míle fáilte romhaibh!
Saint Patrick’s Day, Lá ‘le Pádraig is both a day of celebration and challenge. In this 1916 centenary year, as we reflect on all that we have become and achieved as a people and a nation, we have much to thank God for.  Although a small number of people attempt to drag Ireland back to unrest and violence, people from across our communities are strongly committed to building bridges towards lasting peace.  Ireland remains the land of a thousand welcomes: visitors to our shores remark on our friendliness, generosity and kindness.  We are renowned the world over for our music, dance, literature and for the breathtaking beauty of our landscapes and coasts.  Our Christian roots run deep, and Irish homes and families are largely characterised by the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity.

But the Ireland of 2016 faces many challenges – including poverty, homelessness and huge pressures on family life – which can so easily lead to a sense of despair and hopelessness for many of our people.  I am reminded today of the words which Pope Saint John Paul II spoke many years ago to the late President of Ireland, Dr Patrick Hillery, when he said:

‘Modern Ireland was founded on a vision of a society capable of responding to the deepest aspirations of its people and ensuring respect for the dignity and rights of all its citizens.  That vision is linked to a profound yearning for the effective realisation of the profound human values that have never ceased to resound in the minds and hearts of the Irish people.’

As we reflect on Saint Patrick’s life and mission in the Year of Mercy, we remember Patrick’s deep personal sense of God’s mercy and his desire to spread that mercy to others.  In bringing the message of Christianity he was sustained by his friendship with God the Father and a profound sense of Christ’s presence surrounding him – so eloquently expressed in the beautiful prayer: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate.  Following the example of Patrick, I call on Irish people, at home and abroad: open yourselves up to a personal friendship with Christ and to an experience of God’s mercy in your lives.  This experience will change your life, as it did for Saint Patrick, and it will  inspire you, in turn, to reach out in mercy and charity to those who are suffering and in need.saint-patrick

As Irish people, we cannot think of Patrick – the captive, the slave in exile, the undocumented, the migrant – without acknowledging the enormous humanitarian and pastoral challenges facing growing numbers of people who find themselves displaced and without status in our world.  This is so shockingly exemplified by the refugee crisis here in Europe.  I ask you to pray for refugees and for all displaced families at this time.

On the feast of our national patron, I wish to highlight in particular the plight of Irish emigrants throughout the world.  This past year, following the tragedies at Berkeley, we have become especially aware of the great work undertaken by Irish emigrant chaplaincies in the United States, Britain and Australia.  Inspired by the teaching of the Gospel, they provide essential pastoral outreach to many Irish people as they try to establish a foothold in a new society.

Guím idirghuí Naomh Pádraig ar ár lucht imirce scaite ar fud na cruinne.  Ba dheoraí Naomh Pádraig é féin tráth.  Tuigeann sé ár n’uaigneas agus ár m’briseadh chroí.  Guím beannacht, rath agus séan ár bPatrúin oraibh uilig.

Please see www.catholicbishops.ie for a special Saint Patrick’s Day feature which includes a reflection on Saint Patrick the Migrant by Father Alan Hilliard, a prayer for emigrants and immigrants and a video reflection of Lúireach Phádraig (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate).          

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444

Source:

http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2016/03/16/message-for-saint-patricks-day-2016-from-archbishop-eamon-martin/

Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ: Viva Cristo Rey!

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During the Pope’s brief meeting at the Apostolic Nunciature last evening with Jesuits in Mexico, his confrères gave Pope Francis a relic of Blessed Miguel Pro, a Martyr killed in 1927, during the anti-clerical regime of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. (1891-1927). Born January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe Zacatecas, Mexico, Miguel “Miguelito” Pro was the son of a mining engineer and a pious and charitable mother. From his earliest days, Miguel had a special affinity for the working classes which he kept all of his life. At age 20, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and shortly thereafter was exiled because of the Mexican revolution. He traveled to the United States, Spain, Nicaragua and Belgium, where he was ordained a priest in 1925. Father Pro suffered from chronic stomach ailments and when, after several operations his health did not improve, his Jesuit superiors allowed him to return to Mexico in 1926 despite the horrible religious persecution underway in Mexico.

Churches were closed and priests fled into hiding. Father Pro spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to Mexican Catholics. He strengthened people in their faith and was deeply involved in serving the poor in Mexico City. He was known for wearing all kinds of disguises that enabled him to work quietly among the poor. Miguel would dress as a beggar and go during the night to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to wealthy neighborhoods to provide for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable executive with a fresh flower on his lapel. His was the stuff of a modern spy movie or award winning television series! However in all that he did, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.

Miguel Pro martyrdom

He was falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president and declared a wanted man. Handed over to the police, he was sentenced to death without recourse to any legal process. On the day of his execution by a firing squad, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey”, “Long live Christ the King!”

There exists very powerful images of Blessed Miguel Pro, boldly kneeling before his executioners and forgiving them, before proclaiming the real kingship of the non-violent Lord. Christian faith is rooted firmly in Jesus of Nazareth who was declared a king at his execution. He was not a king who craved for power, nor a dictator who dominated and trampled underfoot those who encountered him. In his kingdom, his poor subjects were cherished and loved; they were his friends, the little ones, his brothers and sisters who partook in his very life. Worldly kingdoms will come and go. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will never pass away. Together with Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, Pope Francis and Christians throughout the world acclaim their King: Viva Cristo Rey!

St. Josephina Bakhita – Model of True Emancipation

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Called the “Madre Moretta” (the Black Mother), Josephina Bakhita was a former slave who became a Canossian Sister (Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa) in Italy. She was born in the Sudan, in northeastern Africa, about 1870, and at the age of nine was stolen by slavers. The slave traders gave her the name Bakhita, meaning “the Lucky One.” She escaped from these slavers only to be caught by another, who took her as a gift to his daughter in El Obeid. There she was treated well until she broke a vase. Then she was sold to a Turkish officer who sold her again in the market in Khartoum. She was brought by the Italian vice-council, who returned to Italy, taking Josephine with him. There she was given to a Signora Michieli in Genoa. She was sent to a convent by her new owner, to be educated in the school operated by the Daughters of Charity of Canossa. Josephina became a Christian on January 9, 1890, and was baptized by the cardinal patriarch. She refused to leave the convent after discovering her religious vocation, despite the demands of Signora Michieli, who claimed ownership. The cardinal patriarch and the king’s procurator were called upon to mediate the matter, and they decided in favor of Josephina’s vocation. Josephina was welcomed into the Canossian convent, and she made her novitiate and took religious vows. Her holiness and devotion were demonstrated in her labors as a cook, gate keeper, and keeper of linens. It was obvious that God had brought Josephina out of Africa to glorify him among the Europeans. With this in mind, Josephina, the Madre Moretta, traveled throughout Italy to raise funds for the missions. She served as a Canossian for half a century, dying in Schio, Italy, on February 8, 1947, and was revered by the people of her adopted land. She has not been forgotten by the Sudanese either. Her portrait hangs in the cathedral at Khartoum.

Pope John Paul II beatified Josephina on May 17, 1992, in the presence of three hundred Canossian Sisters and pilgrims, many from the Sudan. The Holy Father declared:

In our time, in which the unbridled race for power, money, and pleasure is the cause of so much distrust, violence, and loneliness, Sister Bakhita has been given to us once more by the Lord as a universal sister, so that she can reveal to us the secret of true happiness: the Beatitudes….Here is a message of heroic goodness modeled on the goodness of the Heavenly Father.

During his homily at her canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II said that in St. Josephine Bakhita:

We find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
Former National Director and C.E.O., World Youth Day 2002
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada

Connect5: Pierluigi Molla, on his mother, St. Gianna

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Pierluigi Molla, son of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, shares memories of his mother and the lessons Catholics can learn from her life.


How are you going to spend the next five minutes of your time?  You could browse social media or check your email, but how about meeting a fascinating person and learning something relevant that will broaden your perspective?  Sit down with host Sebastian Gomes and his various guests, and go straight to the heart of the matter.  It will be five minutes well spent…

Connect5 airs on our network every Friday at 8:25 pm ET, immediately following Vatican Connections. Catch a new episode of Connect5 online every Wednesday.

Behind Vatican Walls: Apple vs. Android?

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This week the Pope’s message for the World Day for Social Communication was released with some fanfare at the Vatican. The real fanfare, however, was going on inside the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis met with Apple CEO Tim Cook. The meeting comes one week after the pope met with Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The meetings have set off a storm of speculation: Is the Vatican hoping to work with the two tech giants in some capacity? If so, what is this project?

Both executives are also philanthropists: Schmidt and his wife founded the Schmidt Family Foundation to support initiatives focused on renewable energy, ecological agriculture and human rights. Meanwhile Cook quietly announced in 2015 that he plans to give away most of his fortune and has reportedly spoken about human rights, immigration reform and HIV transmission as issues he is passionate about.

Much ado was also made about the fact that Cook is openly gay, with some reporters saying it is the first official audience the pope has held with an openly gay person. Such statements ignore a big part of the Church’s message on sexuality issues: a person is not defined by that one trait. Almost certainly Cook’s sexuality had nothing to do with the whatever was discussed during his meeting with Pope Francis.

What is clear though is that something is brewing involving the digital world. Whatever it is should be very interesting.

* * * *

A more usual type of audience happened at the Apostolic Palace: Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Congregation for Saints Causes. As usual Cardinal Amato came with a list of potential saints whose heroic virtues, holy deaths, or miracles need to be recognized by the pope. Among the causes that moved forward as a result of this audience:

-Blessed José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero

 Brochero was a diocesan priest from Córdoba, Argentina who is often referred to as the “gaucho priest”. He founded a house for spiritual exercises and dedicated himself to being available to all the faithful wherever they lived and in whatever circumstances they lived. He got the nickname “gaucho priest” precisely because he would travel by mule, as far as needed, to minister to whomever needed him. Pope Francis recognized the miraculous healing of an eight year old girl who suffered a stroke and should have been left severely, permanently brain damaged.

– Blessed José Sanchez del Rio

The fourteen year old Mexican was put to death during the Cristero war after refusing to renounce his faith. A miracle attributed to his intercession was approved by the Congregation for Saints Causes and accepted by Pope Francis.

-Venerable Engelmar Unzeitig

The Czech born priest was a member of the Marianhill Missionary Society. Ordained in 1939 he was sent to Austria and assigned to a parish. In 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. Unzeitig ultimately died in Dachau of Typhoid, which he contracted after volunteering to live in the Typhoid barrack so that he could minister to those in need. Pope Francis recognized his martyrdom.

-Takayama Ukon

Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of this Japanese Samurai who died in 1614. Takamaya refused to give up his faith, which led him to disobey his chief. His decision led to him being forced into exile. He led a group of 300 Catholics to the Philippines, but died shortly after settling in Manila as a result of the journey.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below!

Photo/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/incredibleguy/5979571763)


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Move WYD – City of Saints

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Check the new Move WYD (Mów ?DM) video with Fr. Jonathan Kalisch O.P. Fr. Jonathan talks about how he found his vocation in Kraków, memories from previous WYD, the Knights of Columbus and their mission during WYD, St. John Paul II and the people who were healed thanks to St. Faustina.

The interview was recorded during II International Preparatory Meeting in Wadowice in November 2015.

Behind Vatican Walls: Saint Mother Teresa

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Call it an early Christmas Gift, call it a message about the kind of mercy Pope Francis wants us to show to the world. Whatever you want to call, the end result is the same: Mother Teresa is going to be canonized. A second miracle attributed to her intercession has been approved by Pope Francis.

The miracle involves the unexplainable healing of a then-35 year old man suffering from “multiple cerebral abscesses with hydrocephalus obstruction.”  He had undergone a kidney transplant and was on immune suppressors. He was in a coma with little hope for survival when his wife and family began praying to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

According to a report in the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, the man was scheduled to undergo surgery. There was a 30 minute delay in the surgery and when the surgeon finally arrived in the operating room the man was awake and asking what was going on. Upon examination the surgeon found no sign of any major health problem. His family was in the hospital chapel praying to Blessed Mother Teresa.

Vatican officials travelled to the diocese of Santos, Brazil where the man lives to study the case. It was forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints Causes where a medical panel found there was no explanation for the man’s healing. A Theological panel also approved the miracle. Pope Francis accepted the congregation’s report on the miracle in a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the congregation, December 18.

No date was announced for Blessed Mother Teresa’s canonization, but Archbishop Rino Fisichella who is overseeing Jubilee Year events, stated earlier in the year that she could be canonized September 4, 2016. That would be one day before the anniversary of her death on September 5, 1997.

Fraudulent Blessings

This week 3,500 fake papal blessing parchments were seized from souvenir shops around the Vatican. While blessings cannot be sold or purchased, an official commemorative parchment communicating the blessing can be purchased. Those parchments are sold only by the Office of the Papal Almoner. The money from the sale of these parchments goes to the papal charity fund and helps finance the various projects the pope undertakes to help the poor.

There are several ways to order a papal blessing: in person, by fax, by mail (regular mail, not e-mail). Typically a papal blessing costs between 13 and 25 euros, depending on the type of parchment chosen. If you’re ordering a blessing for a special event, i.e. wedding, anniversary, ordination, be sure to do so several weeks in advance.

For full details on ordering a papal blessing visit the website for the Office of the Papal Charities.

CNS photo/Paul Haring

This week’s episode of Vatican Connections will be available below shortly.


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

 

Fr. Rosica on CNN: Mother Teresa’s Second Miracle

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On Friday, December 18, 2015, Fr. Thomas Rosica appeared on the CNN International Desk to discuss Pope Francis’ recent announcement on the approved second miracle for Mother Teresa, confirming her path to sainthood. See the full clip here.

Read more about Mother Teresa.