The pope is setting aside a special day for those in their ‘Golden Years’

VATICAN CITY — Celebrate Grandparents’ Day with Pope Francis at the Vatican!

The Vatican is inviting the world’s older generation to a special day and Mass with the pope in St. Peter’s Square.

All you have to do is “apply” to request attendance by writing to events@family.va or by sending a fax to +39.06.698.87272.poster elderly

 

“The Blessing of Long Life” event will be held Sunday Sept. 28 — the world day of prayer for the synod of bishops on the family — and a few weeks after National Grandparents’ Day in the U.S. (a number of countries celebrate Grandparents’ Day sometime in September or October).

The Pontifical Council for the Family, which is organizing the event, has chosen verse 18 from Psalm 71 as the theme for the day:

“Now that I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, God,
That I may proclaim your might
to all generations yet to come…”

 

Pope Francis very forcefully reminds people of the untapped riches our elders have to offer with their life experiences, faith and wisdom. He has said communities that do not care for and respect the elderly don’t have a future because they’ll be rootless without their memories.

Pope accepts kiss from elderly woman during general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman in a wheelchair during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 5, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope once said that, when he is feeling blue, he loves to read chapter 26 of Deuteronomy, which talks about God’s plan of letting new generations reap the fruits of their elders.

“To look at the elderly is to recognize that that man made his life’s path toward me…to realize that I am just one more link, that I have to honor those who have preceded me and that I have to allow myself to be honored by those who are going to follow.

…The wisdom of the elderly has helped me a lot and that’s why, time and again, I tend to venerate them.”

– then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in the book, “On Heaven and Earth”

 

Planting seeds of hope

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Screengrab of Vatican TV footage of today’s private audience between Pope Francis and U.S. President Barack Obama.

VATICAN CITY — One of the many moments pool reporters look forward to when a head of state meets the pope is the gift exchange.

The Vatican most often offers a unique piece of artisan art with a spiritual or Vatican theme. But when it comes to gifts from visiting dignitaries, it’s anything goes: chess sets, sacred or secular art, traditional and native crafts, books and rare manuscripts or teddy bears.

Today U.S. President Barack Obama gave Pope Francis a small chest full of fruit and vegetable seeds that are used in the White House Gardens.

“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” the president said.

“Como no!” the pope replied in Spanish, “Why not?” or “Of course.”

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The seeds were inside individual blue velvet pouches.

“These I think are carrots,” the president said as he opened one of the pouches.

The president said the idea for the seeds came after he heard that Pope Francis had decided to open to the public the gardens at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The custom-made box the seeds came in is made from reclaimed wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore — the first cathedral in the United States and an international symbol of religious freedom.  [UPDATE: read this story by the Archdiocese of Baltimore's The Catholic Review for more interesting background on the box!]

The basilica’s cornerstone was laid by Jesuit Father John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States.

According to the White House, the inscription on the chest reads:

Presented to His Holiness Pope Francis
by Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
March 27, 2014

In addition to the seeds for the papal gardens, the U.S. president was also passing on a donation from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, which is donating enough seeds to yield several tons of produce to any charity the pope chooses.

“The gift honors the commitment of your Holiness to sow the seeds of global peace for future generations,” a White House statement said.

 

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The gifts the president received from the pope included a large bronze medallion of an angel representing solidarity and peace. The angel is “embracing and bringing together the northern and southern hemispheres of the earth, while overcoming the opposition of a dragon,” the Vatican said.

However, Pope Francis specified that the gift was actually a personal gesture from him, “from Jorge Bergoglio. When I saw it, I said: ‘I’ll give it to Obama; it’s the angel of peace,” he told the U.S. president.

The other medal, which the pope said, “is from the pope,” is a replica of a 17th-century medallion commemorating the laying of the first stone of Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

“I will treasure this,” Obama said.

He also received a copy of the pope’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World, “Evangelii Gaudium,” a gift the pope has been giving visiting heads of state.

The president said with a smile: “I actually will probably read this in the Oval Office when I’m deeply frustrated. I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down.”

When the remark was interpreted for the pope, he smiled, said “I hope,” and chuckled, too.

 

 

A special blessing in Rome

VATICAN CITY — Catholic News Service was proud to have U.S. Cardinal J. Francis Stafford bless the new office of the Rome bureau, which is now just a short sprint from St. Peter’s Square.

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

CNS Rome bureau’s new office on the Via della Conciliazione near the Vatican in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS has had a presence in Rome since the 1920s and the bureau’s new location, with a view of the basilica, places us “on the final leg of the pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter,” the cardinal said, a pilgrimage in search of the truth and communicating that truth.

Here is a an excerpt from the cardinal’s lovely and reflective remarks to us during the office blessing March 3. His full text will be republished by CNS’ documentary service, Origins.

“You are engaged in communication. Within the church your work on behalf of the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops would be described as ministry, a holy calling, a response to a divine welcome. Communications is your sacred profession. It requires an inner spiritual maturity and a search for more than hard facts. It requires a seeking after the truth.”

– Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, retired head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, former bishop of Baltimore, Memphis and archbishop of Denver

office blessing stafford

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford blessing the CNS Rome bureau’s new office March 3. He is surrounded by CNS director and editor-in-chief Tony Spence, the staff of the Rome bureau and family members. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

 

After the blessing, CNS hosted a small party, inviting Vatican officials, religious involved in communications, journalists and friends from the United States and around the world.

Here is one of the many distinguished guests who stopped by:

cardinal burke spence rocca

From left, U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signature; Tony Spence, CNS director and editor-in-chief; Francis X. Rocca, Rome bureau chief.

An intern’s farewell to CNS & Rome

By Caroline Hroncich

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During my first week in Rome, I attended Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace in Syria (CNS Photo/ Caroline Hroncich)

VATICAN CITY — When I got off the bus before heading into the office on Thursday, I walked down Via della Conciliazione and ended up in St. Peter’s Square. I stopped for a while in front of the Christmas tree, and looked around the square. Over the past four months I’ve been in St. Peter’s Square on many occasions, but there’s something about doing it for one last time that really makes you think.

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in my professor’s office at Villanova University discussing the possibility of interning with the Catholic News Service Rome bureau for the semester. I’d never so much as been outside of the United States before, and was unsure what to expect when I set foot in Rome for the first time. But four months later, I can safely say I’ve learned so much about journalism, the Vatican and myself.

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My “paparazzi” photo of Jennifer Lopez leaving a store near the Vatican (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

I felt truly welcomed by the CNS staff and honestly felt like this was a place where I could be creative and explore my own ideas. I’ve met so many wonderful people and explored so many new things I could go on for hours about how great each opportunity has been. I took paparazzi shots of Jennifer Lopez, I sat in the ‘VIP’ section at the papal audience, I helped out with the office move, just to mention a few of my many adventures.

When I arrived at Villanova two and a half years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to be. With so much pressure to decide, the infamous “undeclared” loomed on my transcript until about the last possible second. Once I decided on communications I faced a bigger challenge: What exactly did I want to do with my life? I’d tried my hand in a few areas, but none seemed to fit.

Writing has always been something that I’ve enjoyed, and interning at CNS really helped me realize that. With the help of the entire CNS staff, I conducted my first interview, wrote my first news story, and my first blog post.

Capture

A photo I took of Pope Francis arriving at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 20 (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

This semester has made me realize that regardless of what I end up doing in the future, if I don’t get to write, I won’t truly be happy. I’m thrilled that I’ve been one of the lucky few to have had this experience.

When I board my flight back to the United States on December 21, I will be filled with many mixed emotions. When I think about the things I will miss about Rome (most of which will involve food), CNS trumps it all. In the future, if I return to Rome, I know one of the first places I will visit is the CNS office on Via della Conciliazione.

Editor’s note: Caroline Hroncich is a student at Villanova University and she interned at Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau for the semester.

- – -

Be sure to check out some of the other stories Caroline wrote during her time here:

English photographer strives to capture spirituality of the homeless

A Jesuit promotes human dignity, from Central America to the Holy See

Vatican official says not to expect papal encyclical on poverty

From New Jersey to the Vatican, opening a dialogue with the Gospel

A trip down under: Exploring the Vatican necropolis

Analog popes taking tentative taps in a digital age

POPE READS BOOK AT CASTEL GANDOLFO

Retired Pope Benedict XVI working at a desk at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, July 23, 2010. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Though he prefers to use pencil and paper, the pope emeritus is fascinated by high-tech tools.

Retired Pope Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, told reporters yesterday that the pope shows great interest in the archbishop’s iPad.

“When I show him something on the iPad, and I’m making the information slide by on the screen with my fingers, these new technologies pique his interest from time to time,” he said.

The 57-year-old archbishop said the retired pope “doesn’t think these things are ruled out for an elderly person” like himself.

In fact, some may remember, Pope Benedict became the first pope in history to own an iPod when Vatican Radio staff gave him a 2-gigabyte white nano in 2006.

When the head of the radio’s technical and computer services department identified himself and handed the pope the boxed iPod, the pope was said to have replied, “Computer technology is the future.”

It’s doubtful he’s ever used the iPod, even though it was loaded with works by his favorite composers, like Mozart.

He never used the laptop he got as a gift just a few days after he broke his right wrist in 2009, preferring to use a voice recorder instead to put down his thoughts and ideas.

POPE SENDS FIRST TWITTER MESSAGE DURING GENERAL AUDIENCE AT VATICAN

Pope Benedict posting his first tweet on his Twitter account @Pontifex Dec. 12, 2012. (CNS photo/L ‘Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

But he tapped away with no problems when presented with a tablet launching the very first @Pontifex Twitter accounts and tweets almost exactly one year ago today, and when he inaugurated the Vatican’s online news portal, news.va in 2011.

POPE BENEDICT LIGHTS UP ELECTRONIC CHRISTMAS TREE IN ITALIAN TOWN USING TABLET AT VATICAN

Pope Benedict lights up one of the world’s largest electronic Christmas trees in Gubbio, Italy, using an electronic tablet at the Vatican Dec. 7, 2011. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

He also lit the world’s largest electronic Christmas “tree” from a Sony S Tablet two years ago from his papal apartment.

Though he isn’t immersed in the digital world, Pope Benedict repeatedly endorsed it as the new frontier for evangelization.

Pope Francis, too, is no digital native. As most people know, he prefers phonecalls and letters to IM and email.

Pope Francis launches smartphone app Missio featuring Catholic news, papal homilies, missionary efforts

Pope Francis launching the Missio app with national directors of pontifical mission societies May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photo)

Though he launched the Pontifical Mission Societies’ Missio App in May, he, like his predecessor, needed close coaching to figure out what to press on the iPad’s smooth button-less screen.

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he once said that he would try to start using the Internet when he retired.  Obviously a plan that now may be delayed.

Most mentions? Check out our ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ wordcloud

Wordle: The Joy of the GospelVATICAN CITY — “God,” “church,” and “people” get the most mentions in Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.”  Click on either image to enlarge.

With this handy word cloud, you can see “life,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “new,” “one,” and “Gospel” are all close behind. In case you’re wondering what “AAS” is, it’s for “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” which appears often in the footnotes in reference to other official texts. SnipImage

book coverIf you haven’t got your copy of “The Joy of the Gospel” yet, remember you can:

And in case you missed it, yesterday we posted:

Happy reading! And a have blessed Thanksgiving!

Pope Francis ranks #1 most talked about name on the net

VATICAN CITY — Of the 1.83 billion people chatting and posting in English on the Internet, guess what they’ve been talking about most ?

Pope leads general audience at Vatican

Crowd captures Pope Francis on their mobile devices as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Not only is Pope Francis the most talked about name of 2013, his twitter handle @Pontifex ranks in the top-five “top words” on the World Wide Web.

The Austin, Texas-based Global Language Monitor combs the web and ranks the words, phrases and names that get the heaviest and widest usage in the English language worldwide.

The results of their annual survey of top terms used during 2013 rank “Pope Francis” as the #1 proper name most talked about on the web ahead of “ObamaCare” and “NSA” — the U.S. National Security Agency.

@Pontifex ranked fourth in the list of top words being used.

http 404Coming in first for top words on the Internet, according to GLM, was “404″ — an HTTP code that appears after trying to follow a broken link; second  goes to “fail,” which was a popular catchphrase and Internet meme depicting failed outcomes; and third is “hashtag” — the pound sign that turns any word or phrase into a kind of metadata tag #LookItUp.

Some past top words and names from other years include “Apocalypse,” “Occupy,” “Newtown,” and “Steve Jobs.”

GLM said it determines the top words, names and phrases by analyzing “global discourse” on the Internet, blogs, media outlets and social media.

 

Powerful pictures should make more than headlines

VATICAN CITY — It was to have hands and be able to touch and heal people that Christ became human, Pope Francis has said.

Pope greets man with disability after Mass in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greeting a man with a disability after celebrating a Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“God meddles in our miseries, he approaches our wounds and heals them with his hands; it was to have hands he became man.”

“God does not save us only by decree, with a law, he saves us with tenderness, he saves us with caresses, he saves us with his life given for us.”

Pope Francis Oct. 22 homily

Pope Francis' General Audience

Pope Francis embracing a man at the Nov. 6 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

This passage seemed appropriate to accompany the pictures of Pope Francis embracing and kissing a man disfigured by neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder resulting in numerous, often painful, tumors.

The gesture at yesterday’s general audience has grabbed people’s attention, as well as news headlines.

But, every time we are struck by such poignant and moving movements, we should also consider something else the pope has said.

Pope visits St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro

Pope Francis greeting a young man as he visits St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro July 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The people behind the picture aren’t just an image to be digested and forgotten with the next news cycle; they are people who need to be heard every day:

“In the people we find the wounds of Jesus. Jesus hidden in the Eucharist and Jesus hidden in these wounds. They need to be heard!

Maybe not so much in newspapers as news; there they take notice for one, two, three days, then something else comes up, and another thing. The wounds should be heard by those who call themselves Christian.

Pope Francis meeting with children Oct. 4 in Assisi

As gestures often communicate more powerfully than words, we’re sharing some of our favorite Francis moments and inviting people to think about the message: What is it that needs to be heard and then lived?

Pope embraces young woman during encounter with youth in Cagliari, Sardinia

Pope Francis embraces a young woman during an encounter with youth in Cagliari, Sardinia, Sept. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope greets people in wheelchairs after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets people in wheelchairs after celebrating a Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope greets woman during general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets a woman during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 2. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope leads Benediction during vigil to pray for peace in Syria

Pope Francis leading Benediction during a vigil to pray for peace in Syria Sept. 7 in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses boy during visit to slum complex in Brazil

Pope Francis blessing a boy in the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope greets young man after spin in popemobile chair during general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets Alberto di Tullio, 17, after letting him sit and spin around in the popemobile chair during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Child waves a flag as Pope Francis arrives at the Caritas residence in the Italian pilgrimage town of Assisi

A child waves a flag as Pope Francis arrives at the Caritas residence in the Italian pilgrimage town of Assisi Oct. 4. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope Francis embraces emeritus Pope Benedict XVI at papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo

Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI embracing at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, March 23. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis kisses foot of prisoner at prison for minors in Rome

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a prison inmate during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Rome’s Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility March 28. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis poses with youths during meeting with young people in St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican

Pope Francis during a meeting with young people from the northern Italian diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio in St. Peter’s Basilica Aug. 28. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis touches the head of a child during special event for families in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis touches the head of a child during a Year of Faith celebration of the family in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 26. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis I leads prayer as he appears for first time on balcony of St. Peter's Basilica

Pope Francis bowing and asking people to pray for him after he appeared for the first time on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after his election March 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS “nuclear football” prevents news coverage gaps during historic move

VATICAN CITY — After 19 years located in an apartment building half mile from the Vatican, Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau was ready for a move — to fresher digs and closer to the action.

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it’s usually not a pretty sight. Not only because a few of us (mostly me) have pack-rat tendencies, there are paper files and valuable archive materials going back to the Second Vatican Council and earlier as CNS has had a full-time presence in Rome since 1948.

suitcase

The CNS “nuclear football” contained every item that might be needed to cover normal and unusual news events at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Moving a news organization is also challenging because “the show must go on!” The pope and the rest of the Vatican don’t stop working and CNS client papers still need to go to press.

The day before the office was set to be boxed up and shipped off, CNS’s senior correspondent, Cindy Wooden, and I started filling a small cardboard box and wheelie suitcase with essential items that would supply our “mobile newsroom” for the next few days.

Dubbed “the nuclear football” by Rome bureau chief Francis Rocca, the suitcase needed to get us through not just a couple of typical workdays, but also had to cover us in case of some unforeseen news Armageddon.

suitcase contents

Contents of the CNS “mobile newsroom” to be used while the Rome bureau moved to a new office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Essential items included aspirin, gaffer tape, half a bar of chocolate, a safety pin, USB drive, telephone books, personal contacts, recording devices, notebooks and pens. It had started out as a full chocolate bar…

inside box

Books about Pope Francis, style-books, College of Cardinal statistics, batteries, recording equipment were part of the CNS mobile newsroom. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

We did pack a laptop, but it decided to give out on the first day we were office-less so I feel it doesn’t deserve to be included it in the photo-lineup. iPad minis and our booth in the Vatican press hall provided us with connectivity.

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CNS senior correspondent Cindy Wooden and senior photographer Paul Haring surveying the new, yet unpacked newsroom. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Luckily we were spared an “extreme” news event during the move. However, the “atomic suitcase” has ended up being more of a lifesaver than anticipated since we still are not completely unpacked.

Thanks to the wheelie suitcase contents, we’ve been able to have all the essentials as we continue to settle into our new office — now located next door to the Vatican press hall and 50 yards from St. Peter’s Square.

Enjoy some of these shots of our new home in Rome.

As always, CNS clients and fans are more than welcome to stop by. We still may have a box for you to sit on when you visit!

CNS's new office

CNS correspondent Carol Glatz digs out something useful during a move to the Rome bureau’s new offices on Via della Conciliazione. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS's new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

A nice view of the courtyard from one of the rooms in the new CNS Rome bureau. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

The CNS Rome bureau has moved offices to a renovated building on Via della Conciliazione, just a few yards from St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

CNS has had a full-time presence in Rome since 1948. Its new offices on Via della Conciliazione put CNS right at the heart of the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Decoding Francis: Vatican media adviser offers “10 things to know”

VATICAN CITY — If people are still unsure about what to make of Pope Francis, the Vatican’s media adviser offered his take on decoding the pontiff.

GREG BURKE, MEDIA ADVISER TO VATICAN, PARTICIPATES IN PRESS CONFERENCE ABOUT POPE'S PRESENCE ON TWITTER

Greg Burke, media adviser to the Vatican, participating in a Vatican press conference Dec. 3, 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Pope Francis is not a politically-correct pope,” rather, he is “a loyal son of the church” who presents the hard truths with a heavy dose of mercy, said Greg Burke, senior communications adviser to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The former U.S. journalist, who’s been based in Rome the past 25 years, gave a behind-the-scenes talk last week to hundreds of benefactors celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

U.S. Msgr. Peter Wells — another top official at the Secretariat of State — also spoke at the same Oct. 18 event in the apostolic palace, where he gave his take on the reform of the curia and how they counteract secular media manipulating the pope’s message.

In trying to describe his papally-appointed role as the Vatican’s chief media strategist, Burke (an unabashed soccer fan) said, “We kick the ball to Francis and Francis scores the goals.” “We let the pope do his thing.”

He said Pope Francis clearly knows how to communicate and his effectiveness comes from his authenticity. “It’s not charm. It’s Christian charity, which is a whole lot more attractive than charm.”

He also said “Pope Francis is not a politically-correct pope, in my opinion.”

Pope greets people in wheelchairs after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greeting people in wheelchairs after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

There’s been a lot of spin in the press about what the pope has been saying, but “I believe the pope wants to get beyond left and right” by getting people to focus on the Gospels, on God and his truth and mercy.

“He’s a loyal son of the church” who sees its task as being like “a field hospital” that runs to and helps people who are hurting, he said.

The pope is not advocating a “feel-good” religion of “I’m OK-you’re OK-Catholicism,” but talks about the truth of the Gospel that includes mercy and forgiveness.

“The Gospel is not there to make us feel good. The Gospel is there and makes very practical demands on us,” and one of those demands is to “tell people the truth and walk with them to the Lord,” Burke said.

Burke said, “the pope’s picture should have one of those warning labels” on it, much like a pack of cigarettes does, but with the words: “Danger: This man could change your life.”

Here’s Burke’s Top Ten List to describe and better understand the Argentine pontiff:

Pope greets man as he meets with patients, others at hospital in Rio

Pope Francis greeting a man at Rio de Janeiro’s St. Francis of Assisi Hospital — a clinic for recovering drug addicts. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (July 24, 2013)

1. Mercy — The story of the Prodigal Son is a recurring theme and the pope repeatedly says that God never tires of forgiving and welcoming his lost children back home.  “The church is waiting here for you with open arms,” is the message, Burke said.

2. Moxie/courage — “We’re all going to get challenged by Pope Francis. Get ready!” People who live comfortably or live in developed nations will be especially challenged, Burke said, adding, “This is good. This is the Gospel.”

3. Margins, missions — Francis is continuing with his predecessors’ criticism of a world divided by haves and have-nots. The pope “is not a fan of cheap grace and feel-good religion. He wants to see Christians who are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” Burke said.

Woman prays as pope leads vigil to pray for peace in Syria

A woman in prayer as Pope Francis led a vigil to pray for peace in Syria in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

4. Prayer — Non-believers often don’t notice how important prayer is for religious life. For example, Blessed Mother Teresa was often looked upon by the secular press as “a social worker wearing a habit.” But, Burke said, the pope has constantly been stressing the importance of prayer and urging people to pray.

5. Encounter — The pope is asking people to embrace a “culture of encounter” where they experience God and meet with others, including non-believers. This attitude of encounter and communion also starts at home, with your family, Burke said.

Pope Francis gives thumbs as he leaves St. Peter's Square after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass

Pope Francis giving a thumbs up after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican March 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

6. Joy — The pope “gets a thumbs’ up on that,” he said, as he’s able to show his joy so plainly. He said that according to Pope Francis, the biggest dangers and temptations in life are “discouragement, discord, the doldrums and the devil.”

7. Service — By paying his hotel bill in person (even though he had just been elected pope), phoning people who write to him and other do-it-yourself tasks, the pope is leading by example with the message that “it’s not about power or privilege; if we’re here, we’re here to serve.”

Pope Francis steps off a plane in Rome, returning from his trip to Brazil

Pope Francis stepping off a plane after returning to Rome July 29 from his trip to Brazil. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

8. Simplicity/Humility — Living in a Vatican guest house instead of the apostolic palace, carrying his own briefcase on a trip… that’s just how the pope is and people will have to “get used to it because we’ll see more of it,” Burke said.

9. Compassion — Burke, who’s a numerary member of Opus Dei and went to Jesuit-run St. Louis University high school in St. Louis, said he used to joke with people “that everyone should have a Jesuit education. Now with Pope Francis, everyone is getting the benefits of a Jesuit education.”

“Compassion and suffering with others is something Pope Francis has a knack for” and it’s especially evident when he embraces people and is totally present one-on-one with an individual, even in large crowds.

10. Energy — Burke said for a 76-year-old, the pope “has a lot of energy and we’re going to be in for an interesting ride!”

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