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Catholic social teaching is 'fundamental' to tackling world issues, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2020 / 05:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday the Church is not an expert in the global health crisis, but Catholic social teaching is fundamental to healing the issues faced by the world today.

“Although the Church administers the healing grace of Christ through the sacraments, and although she provides health services in the most remote corners of the planet, she is not an expert in the prevention or treatment of the pandemic,” Pope Francis said at his general audience Aug. 5.

Speaking via livestream from the library of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, the pope stated that the Church “helps with the sick, but she is not an expert. Nor does she give specific socio-political indications.”

“However, over the centuries, and in the light of the Gospel, the Church has developed some social principles that are fundamental principles that can help us move forward, which we need to prepare the future,” he continued.

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, who heals not only physical ailments, but also spiritual.

He pointed to the Gospel’s many accounts of miraculous healings performed by Jesus during his public ministry, including the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum, who had to be lowered through a hole in the roof by his friends.

Quoting the Gospel of Mark, Francis said: “Jesus, having regard to their faith, said to the paralytic: Son, your sins are forgiven.”

“And therefore, Jesus heals,” he noted, “but does not simply heal paralysis: Jesus quashes everything, forgives sins, renews the life of the paralytic and his friends.”

“So, we ask ourselves: how can we help heal our world today? As disciples of the Lord Jesus, physician of souls and bodies, we are called to continue ‘his work, a work of healing and salvation’ in a physical, social and spiritual sense,” Francis said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The pope said this work of healing is facilitated through the closely related principles found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; he listed the principles of the dignity of the person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, and care for the earth.

“All these principles express, in different ways, the virtues of faith, hope and love,” he explained.

“In the coming weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing issues that the pandemic has highlighted, especially social diseases,” he said.

“And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, the theological virtues, and the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious diseases.”

 

Pope Francis prays for victims of 'tragic' Beirut explosion as death toll climbs

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2020 / 03:48 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has asked for prayers for Lebanon and for the victims of yesterday's Beirut explosions, which have killed over a hundred people and caused serious destruction to the city.

Speaking after his general audience address on Wednesday, the pope noted the “massive explosions” which occurred near the port in Beirut Aug. 4.

“Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon, so that, through the dedication of all its social, political, and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing,” he said via livestream from the Vatican.

The blast, which occurred at a warehouse at Beirut’s port, has killed at least 100 and injured thousands, flooding hospitals. The death toll is expected to climb further as emergency personnel search for an unknown number of people still missing in the rubble.

The explosion ignited fires and most of the city is without electricity. Sections of the city, including the popular waterfront area, were flattened in the blast. Crowded residential neighborhoods in eastern Beirut, which is predominately Christian, also sustained severe damage from the explosion, which was felt as far as 150 miles away in Cyprus.

Officials said it appears the explosion may have been caused when a fire detonated more than 2,700 tons of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in a warehouse on the docks since 2014 after being confiscated from a cargo ship, the New York Times reports.

A Lebanese Catholic priest asked believers around the world to pray for the people of his country after the blasts.

“We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, and that the Lord will protect Lebanon from evil through your prayers,” Fr. Miled el-Skayyem of the Chapel of St. John Paul II in Keserwan, Lebanon, said in a statement to EWTN News Aug. 4.

 

Vatican-funded projects in Latin America to focus on coronavirus

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2020 / 09:59 am (CNA).- A Vatican foundation for Latin America will fund 168 projects in 23 countries, with most projects focusing on the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had in the area.

According to a press release, 138 of the social projects of the Populorum Progressio Foundation this year will be aimed at helping to mitigate the short and medium term effects of COVID-19 in communities in Latin America.

An additional 30 food aid projects, requested by Pope Francis, are already in operation and being organized in collaboration with the Vatican’s COVID-19 commission.

The foundation’s board of directors met in virtual meetings July 29 and 30 to approve all of the projects.

“In the face of this crisis of global proportions that we are experiencing, these projects are intended to be a tangible sign of the Pope’s charity, as well as an appeal to all Christians and people of good will to practice the virtue of charity and solidarity ever better, ensuring that during this pandemic ‘no one is left behind,’ as the Holy Father Pope Francis has asked,” the press release said.

The Populorum Progressio Foundation for Latin America and the Caribbean was established by St. John Paul II in 1992 “to help the poor campesinos and to promote agrarian reform, social justice and peace in Latin America.”

John Paul II founded the charitable institution during the fifth centenary of the beginning of the evangelization of the American continent.

In his founding letter, he said the charity “is to be a gesture of the loving solidarity of the Church towards the most abandoned and those most in need of protection, such as the indigenous peoples, peoples of mixed racial backgrounds, and Afro-Americans.”

“The Foundation is aimed towards collaborating with all those who, conscious of the suffering condition of the Latin American peoples, wish to contribute to their integral development, according to a just and appropriate application of the social teaching of the Church,” the pope wrote in 1992.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development oversees the foundation. Its president is Cardinal Peter Turkson. It receives substantial support from the Italian bishops.

The foundation’s operations secretariat is located in Bogota, Colombia.

Pope Francis appoints Spanish layman as secretary general of Vatican's economy office

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2020 / 05:28 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed a Spanish layman with a long career in finance economics to the number two position in the Secretariat for the Economy.

Maximino Caballero Ledo, 60, is from Merida, Spain, but has lived in the United States since 2007, where he is vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company.

As secretary general, Caballero joins prefect Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero, SJ, who has led the Vatican’s economy office since January.  

Guerrero and Caballero are childhood friends who grew up in the same city in Spain. Caballero told Vatican News Aug. 4 they were close friends through university and have remained in contact.

Caballero will start as secretary general in mid-August, according to Vatican News. He has degrees in economics and business administration, and has worked for businesses in Spain and the United States in positions of international finance.

“When Father Guerrero called me and proposed this project to me, a long list of reasons why I could not accept passed through my head,” Caballero told Vatican News.

He said his two adult children will remain in the United States, where they are working, and his wife of 31 years will move to Rome with him.

“My wife, Immaculada, and I, knew from the first moment that God’s call comes in many different ways, and this was ours. Therefore, there was only one response: ‘fiat,’” he said.

Caballero said the laity “have a very important task to carry out within the Church. We are all members of the same body and we all have our mission.”

“My experience and my work are my ‘talents,’ and I hope that with them I can do my part to collaborate in the economic transparence of the Holy See,” he stated.

Vatican: Benedict XVI health 'not serious' concern

Vatican City, Aug 3, 2020 / 10:26 am (CNA).- The Vatican said Monday the health problems of Benedict XVI are not serious, though the pope emeritus is suffering from a painful disease.

The Vatican press office said according to Benedict's personal secretary, Archbishop George Ganswein, "the health conditions of the pope emeritus are not of particular concern, except for those of a 93 year old who is going through the most acute phase of a painful, but not serious, disease."

German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse (PNP) reported Aug. 3 that Benedict XVI has facial erysipelas, or facial shingles, a bacterial infection of the skin which causes a painful, red rash.

Benedict biographer Peter Seewald told PNP the former pope has been "very frail" since his return from visiting his older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, in Bavaria in June. Georg Ratzinger died July 1.

Seewald saw Benedict XVI at his Vatican home in the Mater Ecclesia monastery Aug. 1 to present him with a copy of his latest biography of the retired pope.   

The journalist said despite his illness, Benedict was optimistic and stated he might take up writing again if his strength returns. Seewald also said the former pope’s voice is now “barely audible.”

PNP also reported Aug. 3 that Benedict has chosen to be buried in the former tomb of St. John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. The body of the Polish pope was moved into the upper part of the basilica when he was canonized in 2014.

Like John Paul II, Benedict XVI has written a spiritual testament which can be published after his death.

After the former pope's four-day trip to Bavaria in June, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg described Benedict XVI as a man "in his frailty, in his old age and in his finiteness."

"He speaks in a low, almost whispering voice; and he clearly has trouble articulating. But his thoughts are perfectly clear; his memory, his combination gift phenomenal. For practically all everyday life processes, he depends on the help of others. It takes a lot of courage but also humility to put yourself in the hands of other people; and to show up in public," Voderholzer said.

Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

In a letter published in an Italian newspaper in February 2018, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”

Benedict XVI is ill since visit to Germany

Rome Newsroom, Aug 3, 2020 / 03:21 am (CNA).- The Vatican press office offered an update Monday on the health of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, which can be found here.

 

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is sick with a bacterial infection and “very frail,” according to a German newspaper report.

Citing Benedict biographer Peter Seewald, German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse (PNP) reported Aug. 3 that the 93-year-old pope emeritus is suffering from facial erysipelas, or facial shingles, a bacterial infection of the skin which causes a painful, red rash.

The infection can also result in fever, headaches, and lymphedema. It is treated with antibiotics.

Seewald told PNP that Benedict has been “very frail” since his return from visiting his ailing older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, in Bavaria in June. Georg Ratzinger died July 1.

Seewald saw Benedict XVI at his Vatican home in the Mater Ecclesia monastery Aug. 1 to present him with a copy of his latest biography of the retired pope.

The journalist said despite his illness, Benedict was optimistic and stated he might take up writing again if his strength returns. Seewald also said the former pope’s voice is now “barely audible.”

PNP also reported Aug. 3 that Benedict has chosen to be buried in the former tomb of St. John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. The body of the Polish pope was moved into the upper part of the basilica when he was canonized in 2014.

Like John Paul II, Benedict XVI has written a spiritual testament which can be published after his death.

Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

In a letter published in an Italian newspaper in February 2018, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”

 

Pope Francis tells youth at Medjugorje: be inspired by the Virgin Mary

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2020 / 07:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has urged young people gathered in Medjugorje to imitate the Virgin Mary by abandoning themselves to God.

He issued the appeal in a message to an annual youth meeting in Medjugorje, read out Aug. 1 by Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, Apostolic Nuncio in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The great example of the Church that is young in the heart, ready to follow Christ with new freshness and fidelity, always remains the Virgin Mary,” the pope said in the message, sent in Croatian and released by the Holy See press office Aug. 2.

“The power of Her ‘Yes’ and Her ‘Let it be unto me’ which she said before the angel, delights us at all times. Her ‘Yes’ means to participate and take risks, without any guarantee except knowing that she is the bearer of the promise. Her ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’ (Luke 1:38), the most beautiful example that tells us what happens when a man, in his freedom, surrenders himself into God’s hands.”

“Let this example inspire you and be your guideline!”

Pope Francis approved Catholic pilgrimages to Medjugorje in May 2019, but he has not made a deliberation on the authenticity of the alleged Marian apparitions reported at the site since 1981. 

His message to young people gathered at the site did not mention the alleged apparitions, which began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town that was then part of communist Yugoslavia, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the “seers,” the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

The alleged apparitions at the site in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while others claim the visions are not authentic.

In January 2014, a Vatican commission concluded a nearly four-year-long investigation into the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the Medjugorje apparitions, and submitted a document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

When the congregation has analyzed the commission’s findings, it will finalize a document on the site, which will be submitted to the pope, who will make a final decision.

In his message to youngsters at the 31st International Prayer Encounter of the Youth in Medjugorje, which takes place Aug. 1-6, Pope Francis said: “The annual encounter of the youth in Medjugorje is the time filled with prayer, reflections and fraternal meeting, time that gives you the opportunity to meet the living Jesus Christ, in a special way in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

“It thus helps you discover a different way of life, different from the one offered by the culture of the temporary, according to which nothing can be permanent, the culture that knows only the pleasure of the present moment. In this atmosphere of relativism, in which it is difficult to find true and sure answers, the motto of the Festival: ‘Come, and you shall see’ (John 1:39), the words used by Jesus to address his disciples, are a blessing. Jesus is also looking at you, inviting you to come and stay with Him.”

Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015 but declined to stop in Medjugorje. En route back to Rome, he indicated that the process of investigation into the apparitions was nearly complete.

On the return flight from a visit to the Marian shrine of Fatima in May 2017, the pope spoke about the final document of the Medjugorje commission, sometimes referred to as the “Ruini report,” after the head of the commission, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, calling it “very, very good,” and noting a distinction between the first Marian apparitions at Medjugorje and the later ones.

“The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts,” the pope said.

Pilgrimages to Medjugorje have declined in numbers due to the coronavirus crisis. Radio Free Europe reported March 16 that the pandemic had diminished significantly the number of visitors to the town, especially from Italy.

The pope concluded his message to the youth meeting by quoting from Christus vivit, his 2019 post-synodal apostolic exhortation to young people. 

He said: “Dear youth, ‘keep running attracted by that face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters. May the Holy Spirit urge you on as you run this race. The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith.’”

“In this race for the Gospel, inspired by this Festival as well, I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoking the light and the power of the Holy Spirit so that you may be true witnesses of Christ. Therefore, I pray and I bless you, asking you to pray for me, too.”

Pope Francis urges Catholics to follow ‘God’s logic’

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis urged Catholics Sunday to follow “God’s logic” by taking responsibility for the welfare of others.

In his Angelus address Aug. 2, he reflected on Sunday’s Gospel, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21).

He noted that at sundown the “practical” disciples had urged Jesus to send away the hungry crowd to find food. But Jesus replied: “You give them something to eat.” 

“Jesus wants to use this situation to educate His friends, both then and now, about God’s logic,” the pope said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See press office.

“And what is God’s logic that we see here? The logic of taking responsibility for others. The logic of not washing one’s hands, the logic of not looking the other way.” 

“No. The logic of taking responsibility for others. That ‘let them fend for themselves’ should not enter into the Christian vocabulary.”

Pope Francis recalled that, after the disciples had presented Jesus with five loaves of bread and two fish, Christ performed a miracle enabling everyone to eat as much as they wanted. 

He said: “With this gesture, Jesus demonstrates His power; not in a spectacular way but as a sign of charity, of God the Father’s generosity toward His weary and needy children. He is immersed in the life of His people, He understands their fatigue and their limitations, but He does not allow anyone to be lost, or to lose out: He nourishes them with His word and provides food in plenty for sustenance.”

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope pointed out the connection between the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and the Eucharist.

“It is noteworthy how close the link is between the Eucharistic bread, nourishment for eternal life, and daily bread, necessary for earthly life,” he observed. 

“Before offering Himself to the Father as the Bread of salvation, Jesus ensures there is food for those who follow Him and who, in order to be with Him, forgot to make provisions. At times the spiritual and the material are in opposition, but in reality spiritualism, like materialism, is alien to the Bible. It is not biblical language.”

He continued: “The compassion and tenderness that Jesus showed towards the crowds is not sentimentality, but rather the concrete manifestation of the love that cares for the people’s needs.” 

The pope said that Catholics should approach the Eucharist with the same compassionate attitude that Jesus displayed during the feeding of the 5,000. 

“Compassion is not a purely material feeling; true compassion is ‘patire con’ (to suffer with), to take others’ sorrows on ourselves,” he said. 

“Perhaps it would do us good today to ask ourselves: Do I feel compassion when I read news about war, about hunger, about the pandemic? So many things... Do I feel compassion toward those people? Do I feel compassion toward the people who are near to me? Am I capable of suffering with them, or do I look the other way, or ‘they can fend for themselves’?” 

He concluded: “Let us not forget this word ‘compassion,’ which is trust in the provident love of the Father, and means courageous sharing.” 

After reciting the Angelus, the pope expressed his sorrow at a firebomb attack on a cathedral in Nicaragua on July 31.

He also highlighted the feast of the Pardon of Assisi, which is celebrated on August 1-2. The Pardon of Assisi, or Porziuncola Indulgence, enables Catholics to gain a plenary indulgence, removing all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

Describing the indulgence as a spiritual gift that St. Francis of Assisi received from God through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Pope Francis noted the conditions for obtaining the indulgence. They consist of Confession, reception of the Eucharist, visiting a parish or Franciscan church, recitation of the Creed and Our Father, and prayer for the pope and his intentions. The indulgence may be applied to the living or the dead. 

He said: “How important it is to always put God’s forgiveness, which ‘generates heaven’ in us and around us, back at the center, this pardon that comes from God’s heart who is merciful!”

Looking at pilgrims gathered in the square below, the pope greeted a group from Palosco, in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, Brazilians holding their national flag, and those devoted to Mary Immaculate. 

He said he hoped that in the coming days everyone would be able to rest, spend time in nature, and be spiritually refreshed.

“At the same time I hope that, with the converging commitment of all political and economic leaders, work might resume: families and society cannot continue without work. Let us pray for this,” he said. 

“It is and will be a problem in the aftermath of the pandemic: poverty and lack of work. A lot of solidarity and creativity will be needed to resolve this problem.”

Pope Francis deplores firebomb attack on Catholic cathedral in Nicaragua

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2020 / 04:35 am (CNA).- Pope Francis deplored a firebomb attack on a cathedral in Nicaragua Sunday.

Speaking after his Angelus address Aug. 2, he condemned the incident in which an unidentified man threw a firebomb into a chapel of Managua’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, severely damaging the chapel and a devotional image of Christ more than three centuries old.

The attack took place July 31 amid rising tensions between the Church and the Nicaraguan government. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua described the attack as “a terrorist act.”

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said: “I am thinking of the people of Nicaragua who are suffering because of the attack in the Cathedral of Managua, where an image of Christ that is highly venerated, that has accompanied and sustained the life of the faithful people for centuries, was greatly damaged -- almost destroyed.”

“Dear brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, I am near you and am praying for you.”

Pope Francis appoints new personal secretary

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2020 / 03:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed an official from the Vatican Secretariat of State as his new personal secretary on Saturday.

The Holy See press office said Aug. 1 that 41-year-old Fr. Fabio Salerno would succeed Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who had served in the role since April 2014. 

Salerno currently works in the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations with States, also known as the Second Section. In the new role he will become one of the pope’s closest collaborators. 

Gaid, a Coptic Catholic priest born in the Egyptian capital Cairo, was the first Eastern Catholic to hold the position. The 45-year-old will now focus on his work with the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, a body formed after the pope and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar signed the Document on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in February 2019.

Salerno was born in Catanzaro, the capital of Italy’s Calabria region, on April 25, 1979. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Catanzaro-Squillace on March 19, 2011. 

He acquired a doctorate in both civil and church law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Following studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he served as secretary of the apostolic nunciature in Indonesia and of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. 

In his new role, Salerno will work alongside Fr. Gonzalo Aemilius, a Uruguayan who formerly worked with street children. The pope named Aemilius as his personal secretary in January, replacing the Argentine Mgsr. Fabián Pedacchio, who occupied the post from 2013 to 2019, when he returned to his position at the Congregation of Bishops.