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Pope, President Trump speak of hopes for peace

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 24, and as the president left, he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said."

The atmosphere at the beginning was formal and a bit stiff. However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband "potica," a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland. There were smiles all around.

Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump is "a symbol of peace."

Speaking in Spanish, the pope told Trump, "I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace."

The president responded, "We can use peace."

Pope Francis also gave the president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017 and told him, "I signed it personally for you." In addition, he gave Trump copies of three of his documents: "The Joy of the Gospel"; "Amoris Laetitia," on the family; and "Laudato Si,'" on the environment.

Knowing that Pope Francis frequently has quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump presented Pope Francis with a large gift box containing five of the slain civil rights leader's books, including a signed copy of "The Strength to Love."

"I think you will enjoy them," Trump told the pope. "I hope you do."

After meeting the pope, Trump went downstairs to meet Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister. He was accompanied by Rex Tillerson, U.S. secretary of state, and H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. The meeting lasted 50 minutes.

Tillerson later told reporters that climate change did not come up in the meeting with the pope, but that U.S. officials had "a good exchange on the climate change issue" with Cardinal Parolin.

"The cardinal was expressing their view that they think it's an important issue," Tillerson said. "I think they were encouraging continued participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange (on) the difficulty of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy."

Asked how Trump responded to Cardinal Parolin's encouragement to stick with the Paris climate agreement, Tillerson said: "The president indicated we're still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister (Paolo) Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It's an opportunity to hear from people. We're developing our own recommendation on that. So it'll be something that will probably be decided after we get home."

Tillerson also told reporters he did not know what Trump meant when he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said."

The Vatican described the president's meetings with both the pope and with top Vatican diplomats as consisting of "cordial discussions," with both sides appreciating "the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience."

"It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican said.

The discussions also included "an exchange of views" on international affairs and on "the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities."

Because of the pope's weekly general audience, Pope Francis and Trump met at 8:30 a.m., an unusually early hour for a formal papal meeting. The early hour meant Pope Francis still could greet the thousands of pilgrims and visitors waiting for him in St. Peter's Square.

Many of those pilgrims, though, had a more difficult than normal time getting into the square. Security measures were tight, with hundreds of state police and military police patrolling the area and conducting more attentive searches of pilgrims' bags.

Reaching the St. Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where the U.S. flag flew for the morning, Trump was welcomed by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, and a formation of 15 Swiss Guards.

Accompanied by the archbishop up an elevator and down a frescoed hallway, the president passed more Swiss Guards in the Clementine Hall.

Although the president and Pope Francis are known to have serious differences on issues such as immigration, economic policy and climate change, the pope told reporters 11 days before the meeting that he would look first for common ground with the U.S. leader.

"There are always doors that are not closed," the pope told reporters May 13. "We have to find doors that are at least a little open in order to go in and speak about things we have in common and go forward."

After leaving the Vatican, the president was driven across Rome for meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Asked by reporters there how his meeting with the pope went, Trump responded, "Great."

"He is something," Trump said. "We had a fantastic meeting."

Meanwhile, the first lady went to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu children's hospital -- right next door to the Pontifical North American College, which is where U.S. seminarians in Rome live. Trump's daughter, Ivanka, went to the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay movement, for a meeting on combating human trafficking.

The United States and the Vatican have long partnered on anti-trafficking initiatives, a common effort White House officials had said Trump hoped to discuss with the pope. The White House also pointed to a shared commitment to promote religious freedom around the world and to end religious persecution.

The evening before Trump met the pope, the Vatican newspaper carried two articles on Trump policies. One, echoing the U.S. bishops, praised the Trump administration's decision to extend by six months the Temporary Protected Status program for Haitian citizens in the United States.

The second article was about the budget plan the Trump White House released May 23. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, noted that it contained cuts in subsidies "for the poorest segments of the population" and "a drastic -- 10 percent -- increase for military spending."

What is more, the newspaper said, "the budget also includes financing for the construction of the wall along the border with Mexico. We are talking about more than $1.6 billion."

The border wall is an issue where Pope Francis and President Trump have a very clear and public difference of opinion.

In February 2016, shortly after celebrating a Mass in Mexico just yards from the border, Pope Francis was asked by reporters about then-candidate Trump's promise to build a wall the entire length of the border.

"A person who thinks only of building walls, wherever it may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian," the pope said.

Trump, asked by reporters to comment on that, said Mexico was "using the pope as a pawn," and he said it was "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question someone's faith.

On the eve of the pope's meeting with Trump, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of an influential Italian Jesuit journal, noted that the differences between the two were drawing a lot of attention. However, he wrote, "Francis, the pope of bridges, wants to speak with any head of state who asks him to because he knows that in crises" like the world faces today "there are not only absolute 'good guys' and absolute 'bad guys.'"

"The history of the world is not a Hollywood film," Father Spadaro wrote on his blog May 23.

The pope's approach, he said, is "to meet the major players in the field in order to reason together and to propose to everyone the greatest good, exercising the soft power that seems to me to be the specific trait of his international policy."

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Contributing to this story were Junno Arocho Esteves and Carol Glatz at the Vatican.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

After years of cramped spaces, Ukrainian Catholics bless chapel in Odessa

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mariana Karapinka

By Mariana Karapinka

ODESSA, Ukraine (CNS) -- When Anastasia Voinikova joined the local Ukrainian Catholic community more than 20 years ago, liturgies were celebrated at the basement of the Roman Catholic church.

Later, in 2005, the community was able to purchase a private house and reconstruct it into a small chapel, which served as the cathedral for the Odessa Exarchate, which covers huge territory of southern Ukraine and at that time, Crimea.

But about 10,000 Ukrainian Catholics lived in Odessa, and the chapel could not house more than 100 people at a time.

On May 21, local Ukrainian Catholics blessed a new chapel at the outskirts of Odessa. With the help of Dutch and German aid agencies -- and some financial support from Ukrainian Catholics in the United States -- parishioners were able to buy abandoned Soviet-style construction materials and construct the chapel.

The faithful were really engaged in this project, because they waited so long for more suitable place to pray, said Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy of Odessa.

"We dreamed of a golden-domed church," he told Catholic News Service. "This is very important in our circumstances in Odessa, where we are often not considered as a 'real' church. A dome is a sign."

"It's hard to be a Greek (Ukrainian) Catholic in Odessa," said Voinikova, "because the Orthodox majority doesn't recognize us as a canonical church, they just reject us."

For more than dozen years community members sought a parcel of the land from the local authorities to build the proper church, as allowed by law. But because of the harsh opposition from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -- affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate -- their demands were rejected.

The Orthodox hierarchy considers southern Ukraine part of its "canonical territory" and objects to the right of other communities to establish their structures there. Roman Catholics and some Protestants have had it easier than Ukrainian Catholics, because those churches were present from the establishment of the port and the city.

Ukrainian Catholics came later, explained Bishop Bubniy.

"During the times of the Soviet Union and after Ukraine got independence, many people from the Western part of the country, who were traditionally Greek (Ukrainian) Catholic, moved to Odessa. We just followed our faithful, who invited us," he said.

"But it would be wrong to say that only Western Ukrainians are members of our community," he added. "There are many locals who are joining our church."

The May blessing of the new parish also included members of the Roman Catholic and Armenian Catholic communities; different Protestant denominations; even the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine.

One priest who had worked in Odessa for 13 years said that opening such a small chapel in Odessa was a much bigger event than opening a huge cathedral in Western Ukraine.

"Every church is a house of God, but for our city, new church is a true blessing," said Roman Catholic Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki, "because Odessa needs God's word, faith, and mercy."

Bibhop Bubniy dreams of a parish "in every area of Odessa" and plans construction of a pastoral center with a school and kindergarten.

The parish already has a catechetical program, but U.S.-born Father Roman Mirchuk, administrator of the parish, sees the real work as just beginning.

"It is easy to build the church of stones, but much harder to 'build churches' in the hearts of people," he told CNS.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Border bishops call for dignity regardless of 'migration condition'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry W. Smith, EPA

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a joint statement, Catholic bishops whose dioceses are along the U.S.-Mexico border spoke of the "pain, the fear, and the anguish" they're seeing in immigrants and vowed to follow the example of the pope in building "bridges, rather than the walls of exclusion and exploitation."

The Feb. 14 statement was read at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in Texas after a visit by the bishops to an immigration detention center as well as to a humanitarian respite center at Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen, Texas, in the Brownsville Diocese. 

The statement came after two days of a gathering of bishops whose dioceses are along the U.S.-Mexico border. The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, also attended. The meeting of about 20 bishops included Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio.

The biannual meetings began in 1986 "to address the life and pastoral needs of our migrant brothers and sisters," the statement said, adding that "in this difficult moment in our history, we hear the cry of our migrant brothers and sisters whose voices reflect the voice of Christ himself."

They spoke of the plight of the Holy Family as they sought refuge and a compassionate human response, and said they saw the same in immigrants they met. The suffering immigrants face is the result of "a broken immigration system caused by political structures and economic conditions that result in threats, deportations, impunity and extreme violence," they said. Migrants are the result of these conditions and also are victims of those who seek to extort them in their work and under the threat of deportations that can lead to their separation from family and friends.

"We can sense the pain of the separation of families, loss of employment, persecutions, discrimination, racism and unnecessary deportations that paralyze the development of persons in our societies," they said. "Immigration is a global phenomenon that arises from economic and social conditions, and the poverty and insecurity that directly displaces entire populations, causing families to feel that migration is the only way to survive."

Migrants have the right to be respected "regardless of their migration condition," the bishops added, because every person has the right to dignity, yet migrants are "subjected to punitive laws and often mistreated by civil authorities both in their country of origin, the countries through which they travel and the country of their destination. It is essential that governments adopt policies that respect the human rights of migrants and undocumented residents."

In the church, they said, "there are no strangers," and vowed to continue to support services to migrant families "including spiritual, legal, and material assistance."

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope Francis: Jesus journeys with us even in bad times

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has told pilgrims that God walks with us always, “even in the most painful moments” of our lives as he did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. 

Pope Francis continued his series of reflections on Christian hope at his Wednesday General Audience shortly after his meeting with US president Donald Trump. The Pope spoke about the disciples’ meeting with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus, in Luke’s Gospel, as “a journey of hope”. 

He told pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square that Christians today are a bit like those two disciples: so often we find ourselves “a step away from happiness” but then experience sadness and disappointment.

The Pope said Jesus’ accompaniment of the two disciples shows a “therapy of hope” which “gradually opens us to trust in God’s promises”. Hope, the Pope said, is “never a small price” to pay and always involves defeats and sufferings. However, walking with the disciples in a discreet way, he said, Jesus is able to rekindle their hope.

Pope Francis explained that it was only when the disciples witnessed Jesus breaking the bread that he is revealed to them as the Risen Lord, who is present in their midst. This, the Pope said, “shows us the importance of the Eucharist in which, like the bread, Jesus ‘breaks our lives’ and offers them to others”.

Noting how the disciples return to Jerusalem after their encounter with the Risen Lord to proclaim the good news, the Pope said that “we too are sent forth to encounter others, to hear their joys and sorrows, and to offer them words of life and hope, based on God’s unfailing love.”

“All of us,” the pope said, have had difficult and dark times, when there is “just a wall in front” of us. But “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm our hearts and say, "Go forward, I'm with you. Go forward.”

Listen to Richard Marsden’s report here:

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope and Trump discuss peace, dialogue, support for immigrants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump met in the Vatican on Wednesday, discussing issues of peace, interfaith dialogue and religious freedom, as well as the role of the American Church in education, healthcare and support for immigrants.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

The American leader spent half an hour in conversation with the Pope behind closed doors in the Apostolic Palace, before meeting with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States or foreign minister.

Press office statement

A statement from the Vatican press office said during the course of the cordial encounter, the two men discussed the good bilateral relations that exist between the U.S. and the Holy See. They also spoke of their “joint commitment in favour of life, religious liberty and freedom of conscience”.

The statement expressed the hope for a “serene cooperation between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States", which is engaged in service to people "in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants".

Dialogue and negotiations

It said the Pope and the President also exchanged views on international affairs and on the promotion of peace through political negotiations and interfaith dialogue, mentioning especially the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.

Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania, as well as his daughter and son-in-law, is on the third leg of a nine day presidential tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine.

Sistine chapel visit

After the papal audience, Trump was taken on a tour of St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, before meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Melania Trump, meanwhile, visited Rome’s 'Bambin Gesù' Children’s Hospital, while the president's daughter, Ivanka, was scheduled to meet with victims of trafficking together with members of Rome's Sant’Egidio lay Catholic community.

Please find below the full statement from the Holy See press office:

This morning, Wednesday 24 May 2017, the Honorable Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, was received in Audience by the Holy Father Francis and subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience. It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.

 The discussions then enabled an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: ‘a Church without martyrs breeds distrust’

(Vatican Radio) On the second anniversary of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed in 1980 by military squadrons linked to the Regime in San Salvador as he defended the poor, Pope Francis recalled Romero’s religious fervor and passion for justice while warning the faithful against a ‘lukewarm’ Church. 

The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Listen to Linda Bordoni's report: 

Pope Francis exhorted believers to leave comfort to the side and embrace an energetic lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with joy. 

He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day which tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi where they were followed by a slave girl with an oracular spirit who was shouting “These people are slaves of the Most High God”. This seemed like praise, the Pope said, but Paul became annoyed and cast out the spirit.  Paul understood, the Pope explained, that that was not the path to conversion of that city; it was not the Church of Christ. Everyone there accepted the doctrine, there were no conversions.

Similar situations, the Pope continued, have been repeated in the history of salvation: when the people of God are quiet, they do not take risks, but are servants of ‘worldliness’.

Then the Lord, he said, sent the prophets who – like Paul - were persecuted "because they made people uncomfortable." 

“In the Church when someone cries out against the many ways of worldliness, they are given ‘the crooked eye’ as if something were wrong with them, and then they are distanced” he said.

Francis spoke of personal memories from his own homeland recalling many men and women, whom he said, were not supporters of an ideology but  “were good consecrated people” who spoke out saying “No, the Church of Jesus is like this....: they were branded as communists and persecuted” he said.

“Think of the Blessed Romero.What happened to him for having told the truth? And so many others in the history of the Church, even here in Europe. Why? Because the evil spirit prefers a tranquil, risk-free Church, a business-like Church, a comfortable and lukewarm Church” he said.

In chapter 16 of the Acts it is also said that the slaves of the slave were angry: they had lost their hope of earning money because the slave could no longer divine. 

"The evil one, the Pope warned, always starts from the pocket. When the Church is lukewarm, quiet, organized, when there are no problems, look to where business is to be made" he said.

Pope Francis also focused his homily, on joy. In fact, he told of how Paul and Silas were dragged by the slaves to the magistrates who ordered them to be beaten and then thrown into jail. The jailer threw them into the innermost part of the jail where the two men broke into song. Towards midnight a tremendous earthquake flung all the gates of the prison open.  The jailer was about to take his life because he would have been killed if the prisoners had escaped but Paul urged him not to do so because, he said, “we are all here”. Then the jailer asked for explanations and converted. He washed their sores, was baptized, and “was filled with joy”. 

This, the Pope said, is the path of our daily conversion: “to move from a worldly, tranquil, safe, Catholic” lukewarm yes, to the true proclamation of Jesus Christ; to the joy of ' Christ's announcement. We must move, he said, from a religion that looks too much to earnings, to faith and to the proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Lord'.

This, Francis continued, is the miracle performed by the Holy Spirit, and he invited the faithful to read Chapter 16 of the Acts in order to see how the Lord “together with his martyrs” makes the Church move forward.

The Pope concluded his homily saying that a Church without martyrs breeds distrust; a Church that doesn’t take risks breeds distrust; a Church that is afraid of proclaiming Jesus Christ and of chasing out demons, idols and the lord of money is not Christ’s Church.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace for renewed vigor in faith and conversion from a lukewarm way of life so we are able to make the joyful proclamation that Jesus is the Lord” he said.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: condolences to Manchester victims

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing condolences to the victims of Monday night's bombing of a concert venue in Manchester, England, and condemning the attack, in which at least 22 people were killed and 59 thers injured. Please find the full text of the telegram, below... 

*******************************

His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. He commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel, and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died. Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God’s blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.

(from Vatican Radio)

At farewell Mass, bishop honors seafarers and those who minister to them

By Rhina Guidos

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Diocese of Coimbra concluded its phase of the sainthood cause of Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917.

Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.

The ceremony included the sealing of 50 volumes -- 15,000 pages -- of evidence and witness testimonies detailing the life of Sister Lucia. The documents sealed at the ceremony were to be shipped to the Congregation for Saints' Causes at the Vatican.

After a thorough review of the materials and a judgment that Sister Lucia heroically lived the Christian virtues, her cause still would require the recognition of two miracles -- one for beatification and another for canonization -- attributed to her intercession.

The Marian apparitions at Fatima began on May 13, 1917, when 10-year-old Lucia, along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the Virgin Mary.

The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

Father Romano Gambalunga, postulator of the visionary's cause, said that while "Lucia is already a saint in the eyes" of many people, "the prudent path of the church is that she is proposed to all, not just those who believe."

"Lucia became holy over the years, not because of the apparitions," Father Gambalunga told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops' conference. Without providing details, he said she had a "spiritual experience" in the convent.

While many hope her heroic virtues will be recognized by the church soon, it is important "not to do things in a hurry," he said Feb. 13.

The evidence and testimonies gathered for Sister Lucia's cause, he said, provide "a great occasion for spiritual and theological deepening," and the material will help "illuminate the history of the church over the last 100 years."

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Fatima May 12-13 and many people hope he will use the occasion to canonize Sister Lucia's cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, who were beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima told Radio Renascenca, the Portuguese bishops' radio station, that while nothing is certain, he is "deeply hopeful" the canonization will take place this year, the centenary of the apparitions.

"We are waiting and continue to pray to the Lord. But I hope that, during the centenary, we will have the grace and joy to participate in the canonization," he said.

Bishop Marto also admitted that "he is a convert," who, as a priest, was initially skeptical of the Marian apparitions in Fatima.

"I was a skeptic. I didn't care; I did not take an interest nor did I take a position. I understood it as something for children," Bishop Marto said.

The skepticism changed into belief after attending a conference on the apparitions and reading Sister Lucia's memoirs, he told the radio station. "I was deeply impressed, both by the authenticity of the testimony she gave and by the seriousness of the problems she dealt with. I read her memoirs three times to find the historical and ecclesial context" of the apparitions.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican canon law official explains provisions of 'Amoris Laetitia'

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By John Mulderig

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The provisions of "Amoris Laetitia" allow people in irregular marriage situations access to the sacraments only if they recognize their situation is sinful and desire to change it, according to the cardinal who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

The fact that such a couple also believes changing the situation immediately by splitting up would cause more harm and forgoing sexual relations would threaten their current relationship does not rule out the possibility of receiving sacramental absolution and Communion, said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the pontifical council that is charged with interpreting canon law.

The intention to change, even if the couple cannot do so immediately, "is exactly the theological element that allows absolution and access to the Eucharist as long as -- I repeat -- there is the impossibility of immediately changing the situation of sin," the cardinal wrote.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio's short booklet, "The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia," was published in Italian by the Vatican publishing house and presented to journalists Feb. 14. It includes material compiled from articles and speeches the cardinal has given about the pope's document on marriage and family life.

The cardinal was unable to attend the presentation because of a meeting at the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican publishing house.

"To whom can the church absolutely not concede penance and the Eucharist (because) it would be a glaring contradiction?" the cardinal asked in the book. "To one who, knowing he or she is in a state of serious sin and having the ability to change, has no sincere intention of carrying it out."

Cardinal Coccopalmerio quoted "Amoris Laetitia" to make his point: "Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the church teaches ... such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion."

Father Maurizio Gronchi, a theologian and consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters Feb. 14 that Cardinal Coccopalmerio's reading of "Amoris Laetitia" is the same as the bishops of Malta, Germany and the church region of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Those bishops have issued guidelines that include the possibility of eventually allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics access to the sacraments without first requiring an annulment of their sacramental marriage or a firm commitment to abstaining from sexual relations.

Dozens of other bishops around the world, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, head of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee for implementing "Amoris Laetitia," have insisted church teaching prohibits persons in an objective state of mortal sin from receiving the Eucharist and those who, in the eyes of the church, are not married to a person they are having sex with are in such a state of sin.

Father Costa told reporters the cardinal's book is not "the Vatican response" to the challenges posed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals to the supposed lack of clarity and potential misunderstanding of "Amoris Laetitia." Rather, he said, it is an "authoritative" reading of the papal document and a contribution to the ongoing discussion.

In his document, Pope Francis affirms the constant teaching of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the sinful state of those who cohabit and those who form a second union while one or both of them are still bound sacramentally in marriage to another person, Cardinal Coccopalmerio wrote.

The only time such persons would not be in a state of mortal sin, he wrote, is if they were ignorant of church teaching, were unable to understand church teaching or "knew the norm and its goodness, but were unable to act as the norm indicates without incurring another fault."

Cardinal Coccopalmerio cited the case of a woman who enters into a relationship with a man who, along with his small children, was abandoned by his wife. The woman knows the relationship is not in accordance with church teaching, but leaving the man and his small children would devastate him and leave the children without a maternal figure.

In writing that the church could admit such a couple to the sacraments with the "verification of two essential conditions -- that they desire to change that situation, but they cannot act on their desire," the cardinal said the verification must be done with "attentive and authoritative discernment" under the guidance of a priest.

Does "welcoming the sinner justify the person's behavior and renounce doctrine?" the cardinal asked. "Certainly not."

Father Gronchi told reporters "Amoris Laetitia" is not reaching out to couples who are "peaceful and tranquil" while living in situations that are not in harmony with the Gospel, rather it is offering guidance, hope and the possibility of sacramental grace to couples who know they are in sinful situations and want to change.

The papal document and the cardinal's book are "not saying, 'amnesty for all,'" Father Gronchi said. "It's about indicating possible paths to conversion, not to amnesty."

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Pope: Christians without tenderness, respect are serpents who divide

IMAGE: CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- The sin committed most frequently in Christian parishes and groups is bad-mouthing and backstabbing each other, which not only divides the community, it drives away people who come seeking God, Pope Francis said.

"Truly, this pains me to the core. It's as if we were throwing stones among ourselves, one against the other. And the devil enjoys it; it's a carnival for the devil," he told parishioners in his homily during an evening Mass at a parish on the outskirts of Rome May 21.

Pope Francis told parishioners at the church of San Pier Damiani how important their use of language was. As baptized members of the church, every Christian has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, he said.

People must continue to pray for and safeguard that gift, which includes using a "special language," not Latin, he said, but something else. "It is a language of tenderness and respect" that is also mirrored in one's behavior.

"It is so awful to see these people who call themselves Christians, but they are filled with bitterness" or anger, he said in a homily that was off-the-cuff.

The devil knows how to weaken people's efforts to serve God and safeguard the Holy Spirit's presence inside them. "He will do everything so our language is not tender and not respectful," the pope said.

"A Christian community that does not safeguard the Holy Spirit with tenderness and with respect" is like the serpent with the long, long tongue, who is depicted in statues as being crushed under Mary's foot.

Pope Francis said a priest once told him about some people in a parish whose tongues were so long from wagging gossip that "they could take Communion from the front door; they could reach the altar with the tongue they have."

"This is the enemy that destroys our communities -- chatter," he said, adding it was also "the most common sin in our Christian communities."

A language that boasts or shows off "out of ambition, envy, jealousy" not only divides those already gathered, it drives off newcomers, he said.

How many people step inside a parish in search of God's peace and tenderness, but instead they encounter gossip, competition and "internal fighting among the faithful."

"And then what do they say? 'If these are Christians, I'd rather stay pagan.' And they leave, disappointed," he said. "We are the ones pushing them away."

Before celebrating Mass in the parish, the pope heard the confessions of four penitents, greeted the sick, met with members of the Neocatechumenal Way and spent time with people receiving assistance from the local Caritas.

While poverty or not having enough to get by "is a terrible cross," the pope said, it is the way Jesus chose to come into the world and live.

"We have to pray for the wealthy, for the wealthy who have too much and do not know what to do with the money and want more. Poor things," he said.

It's not about hating the rich, because that is not Christian, but praying for them so they will not become corrupt and they will recognize the wealth "is not theirs, it is God's that he gave them to administer" by being generous, working honestly and living simply and austerely, he said.

Pope Francis also told them he understood why, because of all the red tape, their pastor built without legal permits the kitchen they use to make meals for those in need. Sometimes things are made so complicated as a way to bring in bribes, he said, since "bureaucracy, usually, loosens with payoffs."

Earlier, the pope sat down with children and young adults at the parish-run sports center for a brief Q&A outside in the warm sun.

He reminisced about growing up as one of five children who knew how to have fun.

Wanting to illustrate the happy times they had, he also had to preface his anecdote with a "Don't try this at home" warning, as he told them about a parachuting contest they had which involved jumping off a balcony with an umbrella. One brother went first, and escaped harm by a hair's breadth.

"These are dangerous games, but we were happy," he said, emphasizing how they should cherish having a family and relatives who care about them. They should also obey their parents, he added, because they make many sacrifices for their well-being.

"It's a beautiful thing, it is a beautiful vocation, to have a family," he said.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter @CarolGlatz

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.