The long & winding road…to sainthood!

VATICAN CITY — Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a saint?

Pope Francis gave us a thorough list of the secrets to holiness on the Feast of All Saints last year.

“Saints aren’t superheroes nor were they born perfect,” he said. It’s just that “when they experienced the life-changing encounter with God,” they never left his side.

But what about “the bureaucratic” aspect of saint-making? What needs to happen to declare someone a blessed, a martyr or a saint?

Well, we drew up a handy, super simplified flowchart to walk you through the sainthood process.

Click here or on the image below to get a large-screen view.

 

sainthood flowchart

Remembering murdered Jesuit confrere, pope appeals for peace in Syria

UPDATE: Full story on the pope’s remarks and more.

VATICAN CITY — Here is our translation of Pope Francis’ remarks today about the murder of Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt and the continuing war in Syria:

Monday in Homs, Syria, Father Frans van der Lugt, my 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit confrere, was assassinated. He arrived in Syria about 50 years ago and always did his best for everyone with graciousness and love, and so was loved and held in esteem by Christians and Muslims.

Father Frans van der Lugt (CNS/Reuters)

Father Frans van der Lugt (CNS/Reuters)

His brutal murder filled me with with deep sadness and made me think again of all the people who suffer and are dying in that martyred country, already too long a victim of a bloody conflict that continues to sow death and destruction. I also remember the numerous people who have been kidnapped — Christians and Muslims, Syrians and people from other countries, among whom there are bishops and priests. We ask the Lord to grant that they may quickly return to their loved ones and families and communities.

From my heart, I ask you all to join my prayer for peace in Syria and in the region, and I launch a heartfelt appeal to Syrian leaders and to the international community: Silence the weapons! Put an end to the violence! No more war! No more destruction! May there be respect for humanitarian law, care for the people who need humanitarian assistance and may the desired peace be reached through dialogue and reconciliation.”

Papa’s got a brand new bag

VATICAN CITY — Parishioners in Rome gave Pope Francis a brand new black bag in the hopes that it would hold up for many years of traveling and serving as the successor of St. Peter.

black-bag

An unidentified parishioner at the church of St. Gregory the Great presents Pope Francis April 6 with a new leather bag, similar to the one he already uses for trips outside the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“We hope that you have a long and fruitful pontificate, therefore, we thought that the bag you have may not be enough,” Father Renzo Chiesa told the pope.

The pope got the gift when he went to hear confessions and celebrate Mass at the church of St. Gregory the Great in the outskirts of Rome this Sunday.

Father Chiesa told the pope that they stuffed the bag full of letters and notes from parishioners so as “not to clog up the Vatican post office” with more mail for the pope.

Pope Francis holds personal bag as he boards plane at airport in Rome

Pope Francis holding his personal bag as he boarded a plane at airport in Rome July 22, 2013. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

The bag is practically identical to the one the pope carries along with him on trips outside the Vatican.

He revealed to journalists on the plane to Brazil last July, what was inside:  “It wasn’t the key for the atom bomb,” he told them. There was a razor, a breviary, an appointment book, a book to read (about St. Therese).

He said, “I have always taken a bag with me when traveling — it’s normal.”

Planting seeds of hope

agreet

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.”

agift2

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.

 

agifts3

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.

 

 

U.S. presidents and popes: A look back and a look at tomorrow

U.S. PRESIDENT ARRIVES AT VATICAN FOR MEETING WITH POPE

U.S. President Barack Obama arriving at the Vatican July 10, 2009, when he met Pope Benedict XVI. (CNS photo/Dario Pignatelli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — With tomorrow’s encounter between Pope Francis and Barack Obama, there will have been 28 U.S. presidential-papal meetings either in the Vatican or in the United States over the past 100 years.

On his blog, Luis Badilla gave a great run-down [click link or see below] of every encounter starting in 1919 between Woodrow Wilson and Pope Benedict XV. A total of 11 presidential-papal meetings took place before the United States and the Vatican finally established formal diplomatic ties exactly 30 years ago.

Tomorrow will be Obama’s second visit to the Vatican since his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, but it will be his first meeting with Pope Francis.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB has a commentary here about US-Vatican relations and tomorrow’s visit. Here’s a snippet:

Francis will have the opportunity to touch the heart of President Obama. President Obama will have the opportunity to advise the leading churchman of what the Land of the Free can do to improve life for many more of humankind.

Both pope and president have high hopes for the meeting, and given the will that exists, something good can come from it. It’s worth a prayer.

 

Swiss Guards and Vatican officials accompanying U.S. President Barack Obama when he arrived at the Vatican July 10, 2009. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Swiss Guards and Vatican officials accompanying U.S. President Barack Obama when he arrived at the Vatican July 10, 2009. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

John Carr, the former secretary of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the USCCB and now director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, has his analysis of what might transpire during tomorrow’s historic meeting, which, he says:

…will be full of symbolism and substance—and contrasts: a young president growing older and more frustrated and an old pope who seems to be growing younger and more empowered. The pope and the president could have a unique discussion on how to keep “hope and change” alive in their demanding offices amid challenging times.

 

Here’s Badilla’s list:

Of the 28 meetings between popes and U.S. presidents, 21 were held at the Vatican, 1 at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo and 6 in the United States. Blessed John Paul II met the most U.S. presidents with 15 encounters while George W. Bush holds the record for the U.S. president with the most papal audiences, 6 in all. Only Blessed John Paul and Benedict XVI have been hosted at the White House.

1. Woodrow Wilson – Benedict XV
Vatican – Jan. 4, 1919
2. Dwight D. Eisenhower – Bl. John XXIII
Vatican – Dec. 6, 1959
3. John F. Kennedy – Paul VI
Vatican – July 2, 1963
4. Lyndon Johnson – Paul VI
New York City – Oct. 4, 1965
5. Lyndon Johnson – Paul VI
Vatican – Dec. 23, 1967
6. Richard Nixon – Paul VI
Vatican – March 2, 1969
7. Richard Nixon – Paul VI
Vatican – Sept. 29, 1970

8. Gerald Ford – Paul VI
Vatican – June 3, 1975

Former U.S. President Gerald Ford with Pope Paul VI, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former first lady Betty Ford at the Vatican in this 1975 file photo. (CNS photo/KNA)

Former U.S. President Gerald Ford with Pope Paul VI, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former first lady Betty Ford at the Vatican in this 1975 file photo. (CNS photo/KNA)

9. Jimmy Carter – Bl. John Paul II
White House – Oct. 6, 1979
10. Jimmy Carter – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – June 21, 1980
11. Ronald Reagan – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – June 7, 1982
12. Ronald Reagan – Bl. John Paul II
Fairbanks, Alaska – May 2, 1984
13. Ronald Reagan – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – June 6, 1987
14. Ronald Reagan – Bl. John Paul II
Miami, Sept. 10, 1987
15. George H.W. Bush Sr. – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – May 27, 1989
16. George H.W. Bush Sr. – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – Nov. 8, 1991
17. Bill Clinton  – Bl. John Paul II
Denver, CO - Aug. 12, 1993

Former President Bill Clinton standing with Pope John Paul II during a welcoming ceremony in Denver Aug. 12, 1993. (CNS photo)

Former President Bill Clinton standing with Pope John Paul II during a welcoming ceremony in Denver Aug. 12, 1993. (CNS photo)

18. Bill Clinton  – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – June 2, 1994
19. Bill Clinton  – Bl. John Paul II
Newark, N.J. – Oct. 4, 1995
20. Bill Clinton  – Bl. John Paul II
St. Louis - Jan. 26, 1999
21. George W. Bush – Bl. John Paul II
Castel Gandolfo – July 23, 2001
22. George W. Bush  – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – May 28, 2002
23. George W. Bush – Bl. John Paul II
Vatican – June 4, 2004

Former President George W. Bush with Pope John Paul II during a meeting June 4, 2004 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Former President George W. Bush with Pope John Paul II during a meeting June 4, 2004 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Reuters)

24. George W. Bush – Benedict XVI
Vatican – June 9, 2007
25. George W. Bush  – Benedict XVI
White House – April 16, 2008
26. George W. Bush – Benedict XVI
Vatican – June 13, 2008
27. Barack Obama – Benedict XVI
Vatican – July 10, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI greeting U.S. President Barack Obama at the Vatican July 10, 2009. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI greeting U.S. President Barack Obama at the Vatican July 10, 2009. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

28. Barack Obama – Francis
Vatican – March 27, 2014

 

A Polish priest, a pistol and a plane

VATICAN CITY — In an era of such heightened airport security, it seems impossible a regular passenger would ever be allowed to board a plane with a handgun.

the priest

Polish Father Dariusz Ras, director of the John Paul II museum in Wadowice, Poland. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

But if you’re on a flight tonight from Rome to Poland, that young blond priest with an unusual black carry-on case just might be packing a pistol — the very same pistol Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, used in his assassination attempt of Blessed John Paul II.

Polish Father Dariusz Ras is the director of the John Paul II museum, which is located in the pope’s childhood home in Wadowice.

He was in Rome today to attend a formal handing-over ceremony to receive the gun Ali Agca used to shoot the pope May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square.

During a visit to the Vatican press office, the priest told a small group of us journalists that he’ll be circled by special agents at the airport and will have to hand the case over to the pilot, who will keep it locked up during the flight.

It took a year to get permission and the necessary permits to receive and transport the gun over national borders. The gun will be on a three-year loan to the museum, which will celebrate a special April 9 inauguration ceremony.

The museum’s 16 exhibits each focus on a particular aspect of the Polish pope’s history, helping visitors “get inside the life” of Pope John Paul, Father Ras told me. They were “very interested,” he said, in having the gun on display in the section on the assassination attempt.

the gun

A photograph taken of a photograph — courtesy of Italian journalist Franco Bucarelli — of the handgun used by Ali Agca to shoot Pope John Paul II.

The gun is in the custody of the Italian Ministry of Justice in its archive of criminal evidence. According to the Lateran Pacts, any crime committed in St. Peter’s Square, an open area that borders on Italian territory, falls to the Italian police, which is why Italians took over the investigation and trial of Ali Agca.

Father Ras said the Gemelli hospital, where popes go for hospitalized treatment and care, is donating the hospital room furniture, including hospital bedsheets, used by Blessed John Paul during his time there.

Biggest downside of being pontiff is the paperwork, Pope Francis says

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

(CNS/Paul Haring)

(CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The thing Pope Francis dislikes most about his job as pontiff is the paperwork, he told residents of an Argentine slum in which he used to minister.

“Paperwork, office work, it’s the thing I always struggled with,” the pope said in response to the question, “What’s the thing you like least about your mission as pope?”

The pope’s remarks came during a pre-recorded televised video message to the residents of Village 1-11-14 — a Buenos Aires’ shantytown inhabited mostly by South American immigrants.

Members of the community radio station, Radio FM 88 of Bajo Flores, conducted the interview with the pope at the Vatican before he left for a Lenten retreat outside of Rome March 9.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published small portions of the interview March 14.

The station broadcast the question-and-answer interview for residents on large screens after a March 13 Mass celebrating the one-year anniversary of the pope’s election.

As Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, the pope used to minister in the slums of the city: sharing simple meals with residents, celebrating the sacraments in their parishes and taking Communion to the elderly in their homes.

He encouraged and supported priests to minister in the “peripheries” where the city’s poorest and most marginalized lived, the newspaper said.

The pope was asked in the interview about the work of these “curas villeros,” or priests ministering in the shanties, and whether they represented leftist ideals.

The pope said the priests’ work “wasn’t something ideological but rather (is) an apostolic mission.”

In reference to a question about a priest slain in 1974 and other priests similarly accused of being communist, the pope said, “They were not communist.” Instead, they were “great priests who fought for life: They worked to bring the Word of God to the marginalized. They were priests who listened to the people of God and fought for justice.”

The pope also pointed out the need to have an approach “of poverty, service and helping others” while also letting oneself be helped by others. He asked his audience to pray for him, saying he “needed the support of the people of God, especially through prayer.”

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