Scenes from the pope’s garden at Castel Gandolfo

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — Even though Pope Francis has decided not to head out to the cooler climes of Castel Gandolfo for the summer, members of the CNS Rome Bureau decided to spend a morning there.

The director of the papal villas, Osvaldo Gianoli, gave us a three-hour tour to promote the opening of the gardens to the public — when they buy a ticket and follow a guide.

In addition to our story and video about the visit, I thought I would share some more of the photos taken by our intern, Henry Daggett.


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Pope Francis on the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s death

Pope Paul VI VATICAN CITY — Holding his weekly general audience today in the Vatican’s air-conditioned Paul VI audience hall, Pope Francis reminded people that today is the 36th anniversary of the death of the pope who commissioned the hall. Pope Paul VI died Aug. 6, 1978, at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo. He was 80 years old.

“I remember him with affection and admiration, given how he lived a life totally dedicated to serving the church, which he loved wholeheartedly,” Pope Francis said today. “May his example as a faithful servant of Christ and the Gospel be an encouragement and stimulus for all of us.”

Pope Francis will highlight the holiness of Pope Paul, who led the church from 1963 to 1978, again Oct. 19 when he presides over his beatification. The ceremony will take place during the closing Mass for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

In addition to guiding the church through the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation, Pope Paul also is remembered for his encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” the 1968 teaching on the marriage, married love and procreation. The encyclical affirmed the church’s prohibition of artificial contraception.

Pope Paul also was the first pope in the modern era to travel abroad, making nine foreign trips, including to the Holy Land, India, the United States, Uganda and the Philippines.

Pope Francis, over the past several months, also has highlighted as extremely important and still very relevant two documents by Pope Paul: “Ecclesiam Suam” on the church in the modern world; and “Evangelii Nuntiandi” on the proclamation of the Gospel.

Last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of his election as pope, we created a video with images from his papacy. You can watch it here:

From Gaza, pain and weariness in the voice of a pastor

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM — I have not been able to reach Father Jorge Hernandez, the Argentine priest of Gaza’s Holy Family Parish, for some days now. In the morning yesterday I spoke with one of the Sisters of Mercy who have moved in with the priest together with the severally disabled children they look after. She told me they were fine, caring for the children and since it is the sisters’ policy not to give interviews to the press, she suggested I try to call Father Hernandez in the afternoon for more details about their situation.

Father Jorge Hernandez, a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, celebrates Mass at the Gaza parish in 2011.  (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Father Jorge Hernandez, a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, celebrates Mass at the Gaza parish in 2011. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

But when my call went through to his cell phone today — a phone call into the heart of war — I could hear the deep pain and weariness in his voice, something I had not heard in our previous conversations at the start of the fighting.

This afternoon, following the worst of the fighting in Gaza, Father Hernandez was apologetic to me. He could not answer my call, he said. There had been bombings near the parish church, he said, and he needed to attend to the people.

Hopes for a calm Eid al-Fitr holiday July 28 were shattered in the afternoon by heavy Israeli shelling that left 30 people dead, including 10 people — eight of whom were children from the Abu Shafaka and al-Mukdad families — in a park in the Al-Shati refugee camp and others at the Shifa Hospital.

The Israel Defense Forces denied responsibility for the attacks on the park and hospital, blaming them on misfired missiles from the Islamic Jihad, a claim Palestinians deny.

That same evening a number of armed Palestinians infiltrated into Israel through one of the tunnels the IDF says has been the target of their mission to destroy and a firefight ensued, killing one of the gunmen and wounding several of the soldiers. Israeli residents of the nearby communities were told to remain home and roads closed as soldiers searched the area to make sure no armed gunman remained in Israeli territory. A barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas into Israel reached all the way up the coast to the northern city of Haifa.

The tragedy of World War I and learning from past mistakes

By Henry Daggett

VATICAN CITY — Calling July 28 a day of mourning over the “tragic” outbreak of World War I 100 years ago, Pope Francis said he hoped the mistakes of the past would not be repeated.

“In particular, today, my thoughts go to three critical areas: the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine,” the pope said. Referring to the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine, the persecution of Christians and Muslims alike by radical Islamist movements in Northern Iraq and the political upheavals and violence in eastern Ukraine, the pope asked people to join him “in prayer that the Lord may grant to the people and authorities of those areas the wisdom and strength needed to push ahead on the path of peace by addressing each dispute with the tenacity of dialogue and negotiation with the power of reconciliation.”

Christopher Clark, a professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge, stated last week in the short Catholic News Service documentary, “1914-2014: Echoes of the Great War” that we, “should be anything other than complacent” as “this is not a safe world,” alluding to the growing problems of competing nationalisms in Ukraine, and the ever present religious issues in the Middle-East.

Cambridge University Professor John Pollard goes further to mention the “potentially very dangerous situation” in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the “Croats are still very suspicious of the Serbs.” He concludes that, “we haven’t got very far since 1914.”

You can watch the CNS documentary below, as well as a video of the pope’s Angelus address.

Henry Daggett is a summer intern in the Catholic News Service Rome Bureau.



Pope promotes soccer for peace, harmony and charity

VATICAN CITY — The World Cup trophy has gone to Germany, but the soccer-loving Pope Francis and soccer-crazy Italians are gearing up for an all-star match to highlight sports’ potential to unite people and to raise money to help poor children in Buenos Aires, the pope’s hometown.

The interreligious Match for Peace, organized by Javier Zanetti, an Argentine soccer star and former captain of Italy’s Inter team, is set for Sept. 1 at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

Javier Zanetti with Pope Francis in April 2013. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Javier Zanetti with Pope Francis in April 2013. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

The participating players, according to Zanetti, include: Lionel Messi, another Argentine star who plays for Barcelona; Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian national team’s goalkeeper and captain of Juventus; Zinedine Zidane, a Frenchman now coaching for Real Madrid; Roberto Baggio, an Italian soccer hall of fame member; Andrea Pirlo, another Juventus player; Yuto Nagatomo, a Japanese player who is on Italy’s Inter team; and Samuel Eto’o, who was born in Cameroon and played most recently for Chelsea.

Zanetti said he’s been working for more than a year to organize the match. The idea to do it, he said, was born of a conversation he had in April 2013 with Pope Francis.

He said the pope brought up the idea of doing something to “create a moment of brotherhood and unity among people of different religious.”

“Since then we have been working hard to make this event an evening of great soccer and fundraising, but especially a celebration of peoples and an opportunity for common reflection,” he said.

Gianluigi Buffon and Lionel Messi with Pope Francis last August. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Gianluigi Buffon and Lionel Messi with Pope Francis last August. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

All of the money from ticket sales will go to charity, he said. Through a foundation that Zanetti and his wife started, some of the money will go to a project called “An Alternative for Life,” which helps children in the rougher neighborhoods of Buenos Aires stay in school and do well. Other proceeds from the game will go to the “Scholas Occurrentes,” is a global network of school coordinated by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the suggestion of Pope Francis.

Buffon and Messi helped launch the global network last August after a meeting with the pope.

Belgian priest mathematician heads to space station –- in name only

Msgr. Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian mathematician who studied alongside leading scientists of the first half of the 20th century exploring the origins of the universe, is heading into space.

Well, at least his name is.

Technicians dressed in cleanroom suits to prevent contamination load cargo in ATV George Lemaitre. The spacecraft is set for launch the night of July 29-30 on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Courtesy European Space Agency)

Technicians dressed in cleanroom suits to prevent contamination load cargo in ATV Georges Lemaitre. The spacecraft is set for launch the night of July 29-30 on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Courtesy European Space Agency)

The European Space Agency has named the next supply mission to the International Space Station for the priest, who died in 1966 at 71.

Msgr. Lemaitre’s calculations suggested that the cosmos began as a super-dense “primeval atom” that underwent some type of reaction that initiated the expansion of the universe which continues today. His ideas were refined by other cosmologists, leading to the Big Bang theory on how the universe was born.

The mission is set for launch the night of July 29-30 from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Scheduled for an earlier launch, it is being delayed for five days to give technicians time to resolve a few glitches discovered during launch preparations.

Jean-Michel Desobeau, Arianespace quality deputy vice president , who is coordinating the mission with the ESA, told Catholic News Service the spacecraft will deliver dry cargo and research equipment to the space station. Six astronauts including two Americans, three Russians and a German, are aboard the station.

The resupply mission is the fifth — and last — coordinated by the ESA. The missions began in 2008 using the agency’s reliable automated transfer vehicle, or ATV.

ATV Lemaitre is the heaviest spacecraft to be launched by the ESA. It will stay docked with the ISS for up to six months before leaving filled with trash and eventually falling back to earth in a fiery ball over the South Pacific. Its engines are powerful enough to push the space station into higher orbit to offset the effects of earth’s gravity, Desobeau said.

Each of the ESA missions has been named for famous European scientists from the leading countries involved in the agency including Albert Einstein and Johannes Kepler (Germany), Edoardo Amaldi (Italy), Jules Verne (France), who may be better known for his science fiction writing than his work on the scientific front, and now Msgr. Lemaitre.

“We have a particular affection for Belgians in the European space program,” Desobeau said. “Belgium played a pivotal role as a small independent country, less prone to be blinded like France or Germany or Italy by industry interests. The Belgian political family played a very, very important role, like a moderator into the discussion. So having the fifth ATV carrying not only a scientist’s name, but a Belgian name makes the story quite complete.”

Although ATV Lemaitre is the ESA’s last resupply mission, the effort will continue with cooperative launches coordinated by world space agencies from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and private contractors.

U.S. government releases song about the danger trains pose to migrants in an effort to stop illegal immigration

By Julia Willis

WASHINGTON –- While Central American leaders are attempting to confront the issues causing a flow of unaccompanied minors from leaving their countries, and the U.S. grapples with how to handle the surge, the federal government also has turned to music in an effort to impede illegal immigration.

A migrant travels north toward U.S. on a train in this file photo. (CNS photo/Reuters)

A migrant travels north toward U.S. on a train in this file photo. (CNS photo/Reuters)

As part of a new multimillion dollar “Danger Awareness Campaign,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioned the creation of a catchy Spanish song with the aim of discouraging families in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador from sending their children to the U.S. border after crossing through Mexico.

The song titled “La Bestia,” or “The Beast,” begins with the sounds of a train coming closer. As it speeds down the tracks, drums begin to play and the sounds of the locomotive are quickly replaced by a snappy Caribbean beat created by specialized xylophones.

The song tells the story of the “wretched train of death” that carries thousands of migrants each day from Mexico’s southern Chiapas state to cities farther north, where passengers are forced to get off and continue to the U.S. border by other means.

Although many believe that a ride on “The Beast From the South” is the only way to secure a better life for themselves and their families, the song’s lyrics tell a different tale. “With the devil in the boiler,” the train is compared to a menacing snake whose “womb of iron” threatens to swallow riders whole.

Passengers are described as cattle riding to “the slaughterhouse, taking hell’s route within a cloud of pain.”

Although the lyrics may instill fear in the heart of any listener, the song has become a surprise hit in Latin America. Playing on 21 radio stations across Central America, the song depicting the real dangers of migration seems to have won the hearts of many Latino listeners.

But just as the song says that the Beast “does not know about favors,” apparently neither do radio stations — listeners in the Latin American countries are not being told how or why the song was originally devised. Almost a “Truman Show” situation, the only people who seem to have recognized it as propaganda seem to be U.S. journalists.

Many news organizations have contacted the song’s composer, Carlo Nicolau, to ask him how he feels about working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection for this mission. “I thought I was going to bed with the Devil,” Nicolau told The Daily Beast, a news and opinion website. “But I’ve learned that a lot of (border control agents) are risking their lives to help people not die.”

What the song’s lyrics leave out is that gang members have hijacked all routes to the train and are charging potential passengers $100 or more to board “The Beast.” In addition, it neglects to mention that passengers are risking robbery, kidnapping, rape and murder.

The most shocking aspect of the song is that it is not the first that the U.S. government has commissioned aimed at potential migrants. In 2009, the Border Patrol released “El Mas Grande Enemigo,” or “The Biggest Enemy,” on a five-song CD that aimed to convince Mexican listeners of the dangers of attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally.


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