Pope Francis
The enigma is, imho, Pope Francis.  That we have been and continue to be locked in an epic battle with satan and his minions should, to all believers, go without saying.
In a meeting with all of Rome’s seminarians, Pope Francis spoke frankly of the challenges of community life, including the temptation to gossip and the importance of prayer.

“Seminary life, that is, community life, is very important. Community life is not paradise: rather, it’s purgatory,” he admitted as nearly 6,000 seminarians and priests laughed and cheered in agreement.

“Gossip is the plague of a community,” Pope Francis stressed to the men gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall on May 12. “One speaks to (someone’s) face, always…don’t go a friend’s room to badmouth (someone else).”

He went on to note that “some say that gossip is a thing of women; but it’s also of men, of us! We gossip enough and that destroys community.”

The Pope’s meeting with the many seminarians from around the world who are studying in Rome was held in a casual style: he responded in an impromptu manner to their questions, at times with humor but at other moments quite seriously.

Fr. Eamon O’Higgins, a professor and spiritual father at the Maria Mater Ecclesiae International Seminary, told CNA, “the honesty with which the Holy Father spoke, spoke of his own experience, moved me considerably.”

Pope Francis used his own experiences to illustrate several pieces of advice he gave to the men.

Once when he was a young student of philosophy, the Pope recounted, he had gone to his spiritual father to confess that he was angry with someone. “And he asked me only one question: ‘Tell me, have you prayed for him?’ Nothing more. And I said, ‘no.’ And he remained silent. ‘But we have finished,’ he said to me.”

The seminarians laughed and then the Pope grew more serious.

“Pray, pray for all the members of the community, but pray especially for those with whom I have problems or for those to whom I don’t wish well, because to not a wish a person well sometimes is a natural thing, instinctive, but pray: and the Lord will do the rest,” he urged them.

The first question of the meeting had concerned academic formation. The Pope was quick to warn the men, who are studying for different academic degrees in Rome, against the danger of allowing the intellectual life to overshadow other areas of the priesthood.

“There is a danger of ‘academinanism,’” he cautioned, which must be avoided by living the “four pillars of priestly formation” - spiritual, academic, community, and apostolic.

“It’s true that here, in Rome, the intellectual formation is emphasized,” he acknowledged, “that’s why you were invited - but the other three pillars must be cultivated.”

The Pope said he could not understand a seminarian or priest who comes to study in Rome but “does not have a community life - who doesn’t work at, or does not care for- his spiritual life (in) daily Mass, daily prayer, lectio divina, personal prayer with the Lord - or an apostolic life.”

It is this integrated approach to priesthood that allows the ordained to truly understand the Church. “Studies are necessary, but also prayer,” the Pontiff affirmed.

“Understand the Church with the eyes of a Christian,” he urged the men. “Understand the Church with the mind of a Christian; understand the Church with the heart of a Christian; understand the Church with the action of a Christian. Otherwise, the Church is not understood, or is badly understood.”

One seminarian from Uganda who attended the audience told CNA that he was particularly struck by Pope Francis’ remarks regarding the dangers of intellectualism.

He said he would remember “the first challenge he posed us as seminarians who are studying here in Rome, not to look at only the academic part of it, but also to have… an integral formation so as to better serve the church of God back in our places, to carry the world back to God and God back to the world.”

Pope Francis also spoke at length about the importance of asking Mary’s intercession in life.

In difficult times, “the child goes to the mother, always. And we are children, in the spiritual life: never forget this!”

“In times of turbulence, go to seek refuge under the mantel of the Holy Mother of God. This is what the Russian monks say, and it’s true.”

Such intercession will help priests in their ministry in the Church, he explained. “A relationship with Mary helps us to have a good relationship with the Church: both are mothers.”

The Pope then joked, “To say it in another way: if you don’t want the Madonna as a mother, surely you will have her as a mother-in-law, eh? And this is not good!”

During his General Audience address Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke on the gift of fortitude, explaining that it helps us to remain faithful not only with the big things, but also in our daily activities.

“We shouldn't think this gift is only for extraordinary circumstances,” the Pope noted in his May 14 audience, because “For most of us, the gift of fortitude is exercised in our patient pursuit of holiness in the circumstances of our daily lives.”

Continuing his catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Roman Pontiff observed how in the past few weeks “we have seen that the first three gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding and counsel – enable us to contemplate God’s loving plan and to know his will.”

Now “we turn to the gift of fortitude” he said, through which “we receive the strength to do God’s will in spite of our own natural weakness and limitations.”

“In our lives we frequently experience fragility, our limitations and shortcomings;” however “with the gift of fortitude, the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome weakness, so that we are able to respond to the love of the Lord.”

Drawing attention to the Gospel parable of the sower and the seed, the Bishop of Rome recalled how Jesus taught that “the seed of God’s word sown in our hearts can encounter not only interior resistance, but also be choked by life’s sufferings and trials.”

By the gift of fortitude “the Holy Spirit enables us to remain faithful amid every difficulty and – as the experience of so many Christians around the world shows – even amid persecution and martyrdom,” he observed, but “this is only possible by the action of the Holy Spirit that infuses fortitude and trust.”

“In our everyday lives the Holy Spirit also makes us feel the closeness of the Lord, sustains us and fortifies in the fatigues and trials of life, so that we won't be led into the temptation of discouragement,” the Bishop of Rome observed.

“But for all of this to be a reality, it is necessary that humility of heart be united to the gift of fortitude.”

Concluding, Pope Francis explained that whenever we feel tired or burdened on our journey, we can “ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of fortitude, to refresh us and to guide our steps with renewed enthusiasm.”

"We ask the Virgin Mary that by her intercession, the Holy Spirit grants us the gift of fortitude so that we may always follow Jesus with joy and perseverance.”

Following his catechesis Pope Francis lamented the climbing death toll, currently at 17, of those migrants who lost their lives while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea earlier this week when a boat carrying around 400 migrants capsized, exclaiming that these “shameful carnages” need to stop.

He also offered prayers and solidarity to the victims of a mine explosion yesterday in Soma, Turkey and their families. So far more than 200 miners have been confirmed dead, while many are still trapped in the underground tunnels where the fire is still burning, obscuring rescue efforts and stifling the hope of finding survivors.

Entreating those in attendance to also offer their prayers, the Pope asked that "the Lord receive the deceased in his house and give comfort to their families

Pope Francis reflected in his daily Mass on how the apostles evangelized by first telling the history of God’s people, explaining that it’s impossible to understand a Christian without this association.
“You cannot understand a Christian outside of the people of God. The Christian is not a monad,” but “belongs to a people: the Church,” the Pope observed in his May 15 homily.

“A Christian without a church is something purely idealistic, it is not real.”

Beginning by looking to the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the Roman Pontiff addressed those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse by recalling how when Paul preached in Antioch, he did so by first recounting the whole of Israel’s salvation history.

“Jesus does not make sense without this history” because he “is the end of this story, (the end) toward which this story goes, toward which it walks,” he noted, so “you cannot understand a Christian outside of the people of God.”

“You cannot understand a Christian alone, just like you cannot understand Jesus Christ alone” the Pope went on to say, explaining that “Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us.”

No. Jesus Christ has a history. And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because He wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without His history.”

Pope Francis then described how a Christian without a history, a nation or the Church “is incomprehensible,” saying that it’s “a thing of the laboratory, an artificial thing, a thing that cannot give life.”

Drawing attention to the importance of remembering this “dimension of history,” the Bishop of Rome observed that a Christian is “a living memory of his people’s journey, he is the living memory of his Church.”

“Then, where is this people going? Toward the ultimate promise. It is a people walking toward fullness; a chosen people which has a promise for the future and walks toward this promise, toward the fulfillment of this promise.”

In order to do this Christians within the Church must be men and women “with hope: hope in the promise,” the Pope went on, noting that “It is not expectation: no, no! That’s something else: It is hope.”

“Right, on we go! (Toward) that which does not disappoint.”

Explaining how a Christian is also someone who remembers, the pontiff encouraged all present to “seek the grace of memory, always” so that by doing so and also looking forward with hope they might be a Christian who “follows the path of God and renews the covenant with God.”

This type of Christian constantly tells the Lord “Yes, I want the commandments, I want your will, I will follow you” he continued, adding that “He is a man of the covenant, and we celebrate the covenant, every day” in the Mass, therefore a Christian is “a woman, a man of the Eucharist.”

Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis encouraged all present to “think about our Christian identity,” stating that “Our Christian identity is belonging to a people: the Church.”

“Without this, we are not Christians” he observed, noting how “we entered the Church through baptism: there we are Christians.”

“For this reason, we should be in the habit of asking for the grace of memory, the memory of the journey that the people of God has made,” the pontiff said, and “also of personal memory: What God did for me, in my life, how has he made me walk…”

Praying, the Roman Pontiff asked “for the grace of hope, which is not optimism: no, no! It's something else,” and asked “for the grace to renew the covenant with the Lord who has called us every day.”

“May the Lord give us these three graces, which are necessary for the Christian identity.”

In his May 18 Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis reflected on the first reading from Sunday Mass (Acts 6:1-7) and discussed how the Holy Spirit helped resolve the Church’s earliest division.

In the earliest days of the Church, he said, the unity of Christians was fostered by “a single ethnicity,” “a single culture”-- a Jewish one. As Christianity opened to Greek culture, there were “complaints, rumors of favoritism and unequal treatment. This also happens in our parishes!”

The apostles, the Pope continued, did not pretend that the problem did not exist, but addressed the problem by convoking a large gathering of the disciples and discussing the issue. The apostles proposed a division of labor in which they would devote themselves to the ministry of the Word, while seven deacons would serve the poor. These deacons were not chosen because they were “experts in business,” but because they were “honest men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom.”

Thus by “confronting, discussing, praying,” rather than by gossip, envy, and jealousy, conflicts in the Church are solved.

Those who welcome the Holy Spirit will have a solid and endless peace, unlike those who choose to “superficially” trust in the tranquillity offered by money or power.

This was Pope Francis’ message in his homily at Mass on Tuesday morning in Casa Santa Marta.

Reflecting on the peace offered by things -- money , power , vanity -- and the peace in the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father warned that the first is always in danger of vanishing. “Today you are rich and you are somebody, not tomorrow,” he said, adding that “no-one can take away the second because it is a definitive peace.”

The Pope’s homily, which centered on one of the greatest desires of mankind of all times, was inspired by a passage from the Gospel of John, in the liturgy of the day. Jesus is about to face the Passion and before he takes leave of the disciples, he announces: "My peace I give you".

It is a peace, the Pope said, which differs completely from the "peace that the world gives us" which is “somewhat superficial”, offering a “degree of calm, even a certain joy", but only "up to a certain point.

"For example, it offers us the peace of wealth: 'I am at peace because I have everything I need, everything organized for my whole life, I do not have to worry ... ',” the Pope reminded. “This is a peace that the world gives. Do not worry, you won’t have any problems because you have so much money ... the peace of wealth.

“And Jesus tells us not to trust this peace because, with great realism, he tells us: 'Look, there are thieves ... thieves can steal your wealth!' Money does not give you a definitive peace,” the Pope continued. “Just think, metal also rusts! What does it mean? A stock market crash and all your money is gone! It is not a secure peace: It is a superficial temporal peace".

Pope Francis also examined two other types of worldly peace. The first, the peace of "power", does not work either because “a coup can take it away". Think what happened to the "peace of Herod", the Pope said, when the Magi told him that the King of Israel was born. “That peace vanished immediately". Or the peace of "vanity", which Pope Francis termed an "peace of conjecture": today you are greatly appreciated and tomorrow you will be insulted, "like Jesus between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Instead, the peace that Jesus gives is of a completely different substance.

"The peace of Jesus is a Person, the Holy Spirit!,” Francis said. “On the same day of the Resurrection, He comes to the Upper Room and His greeting is: 'Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit'. This is the peace of Jesus: it is a Person, it is a great gift. And when the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, no one can remove His peace. No one! It is a definitive peace!

“So what is our task? To take custody of this peace. Safeguard it! It is a great peace, a peace that is not mine, it belongs to another Person who gives it to me, another Person who is in my heart and accompanies me all the days of my life. The Lord has given it to me".

This peace is received at Baptism and Confirmation, but above all "we receive it like a child who receives a gift", the Pope said, " without conditions, with an open heart". We must take custody of the Holy Spirit without “imprisoning Him”, asking for help from this "great gift" of God.

The Pope added: "If you have this peace of the Spirit, if you have the Holy Spirit within you, and you are aware of this, let not your heart be troubled. Be sure! Paul told us that we must first pass through many tribulations to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But we all, all of us, we have so many, everyone! Some bigger, some smaller ... 'But let not your heart be troubled', and this is the peace of Jesus. The presence of the Spirit that makes our heart be at peace. Not anesthetized, no! At peace! Aware, but at peace with the peace that only God's presence gives".

A Vatican official has revealed that Pope Francis was displeased by an extravagant banquet at a Vatican office during the recent canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, Italian media are reporting.

“I can’t reveal what he said (the Pope). I informed him about it and I can only say that he was not pleased, so to speak. But I can assure you that these incidents will not happen again,” said Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Vatican Prefecture for Economic Affairs, during an interview on the Italia 1 television network.

Photos of the event appear to depict some 150 guests – including businessmen, journalists and some Italian religious – gathered on the veranda of the Vatican Prefecture for Economic Affairs during the April 27 canonization ceremony for a VIP banquet that reportedly cost private sponsors nearly $25,000.

Cardinal Versaldi said he was not aware of the celebration on the veranda of the prefecture and the he had only granted permission for a few people to have access to view the canonization ceremony.

Photos of the party published on the website Dagospia appear to show numerous guests including well-known Italian journalists such as Bruno Vespa, Maria Latella and Marco Carrai, who is a close collaborator of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, as well as the president of the Vatican’s Institute for Religious Works, Ernst von Freyberg.

According to L’Espresso, the Pope was also displeased at how Communion was distributed on the balcony during the Mass using a regular glass cup instead of a ciborium or paten.

The photos appear to show Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the prefecture and member of the commission charged with overseeing the Holy See’s economic and administrative bodies, distributing Holy Communion to attendees at the banquet.

“I’m not talking about the veranda,” Msgr. Vallejo Balda said in response to questions about the banquet. “Thank God we have other problems.”

L’Espresso said that in the wake of Pope Francis’ displeasure, officials are seeking to determine who was responsible for the event, which was held on one of the verandas at the Vatican while thousands spent the night waiting to attend the ceremony.

“Like many of you, I was also surprised and outraged by this. I have immediately begun the search for an explanation, which is still in progress, and I have informed all of the chief authorities in order to try to find the person responsible for all of this, which clashes with the spirit of a canonization and especially with the style Pope Francis wanted for this celebration, one of sobriety and participation by the people,” Cardinal Versaldi said.

L’Espresso claims the “host” and “organizer” of the banquet was Francesca Chaouqui, an Italian woman who also sits on the Vatican financial oversight commission.

The magazine also published what it said was the invitation to the event sent on behalf of the prefecture, which includes the names of the banquet’s two sponsors, identified as Assidai – the medical insurance company used by many executives - and Italian petroleum giant Medoilgas.

The report included messages allegedly from Chaouqui thanking the sponsors for the collaboration.

Chaouqui said she was not the organizer of the banquet and that the report by L’Espresso was an attempt to “discredit her” before the Pope.

From the outset of his pontificate, Pope Francis has often stressed the need for austerity and has voiced his concern for the poor and those most in need, always fostering a culture of global solidarity.

As he celebrated Sunday Mass at Manger Square in Bethlehem, Pope Francis denounced acts of inhumanity against children and said that children “need to be welcomed and defended from the moment of their conception.”

On his way to the Mass, the Pontiff made an unscheduled stop at the Israeli West Bank barrier, where he prayed in silence for several minutes.

“The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is the sign given by God to those who awaited salvation, and he remains forever the sign of God’s tenderness and presence in our world,” he preached in his May 25 homily.

“Today too, children are a sign,” he continued. “They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a ‘diagnostic’ sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human.”

“The Child of Bethlehem is frail, like all newborn children,” Pope Francis preached. “He cannot speak and yet he is the Word made flesh who came to transform the hearts and lives of all men and women. This Child, like every other child, is vulnerable; he needs to be accepted and protected. Today too, children need to be welcomed and defended, from the moment of their conception.”

The Pope continued:

Sadly, in this world, with all its highly developed technology, great numbers of children continue to live in inhuman situations, on the fringes of society, in the peripheries of great cities and in the countryside. All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we feel shame before God, before God who became a child.

And we have to ask ourselves: Who are we, as we stand before the Child Jesus? Who are we, standing as we stand before today’s children? Are we like Mary and Joseph, who welcomed Jesus and care for him with the love of a father and a mother? Or are we like Herod, who wanted to eliminate him? Are we like the shepherds, who went in haste to kneel before him in worship and offer him their humble gifts? Or are we indifferent? Are we perhaps people who use fine and pious words, yet exploit pictures of poor children in order to make money? Are we ready to be there for children, to “waste time” with them? Are we ready to listen to them, to care for them, to pray for them and with them? Or do we ignore them because we are too caught up in our own affairs?
The Pope continued:

"This will be a sign for us: you will find a child…”. Perhaps that little boy or girl is crying. He is crying because he is hungry, because she is cold, because he or she wants to be picked up and held in our arms… Today too, children are crying, they are crying a lot, and their crying challenges us. In a world which daily discards tons of food and medicine there are children, hungry and suffering from easily curable diseases, who cry out in vain. In an age which insists on the protection of minors, there is a flourishing trade in weapons which end up in the hands of child-soldiers, there is a ready market for goods produced by the slave labor of small children. Their cry is stifled: the cry of these children is stifled! They must fight, they must work, they cannot cry! But their mothers cry for them, as modern-day Rachels: they weep for their children, and they refuse to be consoled (cf. Mt 2:18).

In a courtesy visit to President Shimon Peres of Israel, Pope Francis called for freer access to Jerusalem’s holy places, to which Palestinian Christians say at times they have been denied access.

“The holy places are not monuments or museums for tourists, but places where communities of believers daily express their faith and culture, and carry out their works of charity,” the Pope said. “How good it is when pilgrims and residents enjoy free access to the holy places and can freely take part in religious celebrations.”

“Mr. President, you are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker,” Pope Francis said as he turned to Israeli-Palestinian relations. “I appreciate and admire the approach you have taken.”

“Peacemaking demands first and foremost respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined to eternal life,” the Pope continued. “This shared conviction enables us resolutely to pursue peaceful solutions to every controversy and conflict. Here I renew my plea that all parties avoid initiatives and actions which contradict their stated determination to reach a true agreement and that they tirelessly work for peace, with decisiveness and tenacity.”

The Pope added:

There is likewise need for a firm rejection of all that is opposed to the cultivation of peace and respectful relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims. We think, for example, of recourse to violence and terrorism, all forms of discrimination on the basis of race or religion, attempts to impose one’s own point of view at the expense of the rights of others, anti-Semitism in all its possible expressions, and signs of intolerance directed against individuals or places of worship, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
Pope Francis also called the nation’s Christian communities “an integral part of society … Christians wish, as such, to contribute to the common good and the growth of peace; they wish to do so as full-fledged citizens who reject extremism in all its forms and are committed to fostering reconciliation and harmony.”

“The presence of these communities and respect for their rights – as for the rights of all other religious groups and all minorities – are the guarantee of a healthy pluralism and proof of the vitality of democratic values as they are authentically embodied in the daily life and workings of the State,” he said.

Five hundred children identified by the Italian education ministry as being at risk of dropping out of school traveled to Rome and met with Pope Francis on May 31.

The meeting took place under the auspices of the Pontifical Council of Culture’s “Courtyard of the Gentiles of Children” initiative.

In his conversation with the nine- and ten-year-olds, who presented him with dirt from the catacombs, Pope Francis spoke about the darkness of the dirt being brought to the light.

He added:

When the Apostle John, who was such a good friend of Jesus, wanted to say who God is, do you know what he said? “God is love.”

“God is love. And we go forward together toward the light to find the love of God. But is the love of God within us, even in moments of darkness? Is the love of God hidden there? Yes, always! The love of God never leaves us. It is always with us. Let us have faith in this love.


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