Pope Francis’ appeal to the younger generation

By Emily Antenucci

VATICAN CITY — A warm sun and clear blue skies made for the perfect atmosphere at the papal audience today, where Pope Francis spoke about this first week of Lent. Posters, flags, flowers, hats and more were waved in the air as Pope Francis made his way around St. Peter’s Square in his shiny, white popemobile.

Pope Francis greets the  cheering crowd as he rides around St. Peter's Square in the popemobile before his general audience this morning. (CNS/Emily Antenucci)

Pope Francis greets the cheering crowd as he rides around St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile before his general audience this morning. (CNS/Emily Antenucci)

Waiting for him to come my way, I couldn’t help remembering the papal audience with Pope Benedict XVI I attended just four years ago. Although I was only 16 at the time and my memory of that day is a bit faded, the first difference I noticed was the audience’s attitude and tone. The energy this morning was high — there was excitement in everyone’s eyes and there was a clear eagerness in the crowd to see and be blessed in person by the genuine, down-to-earth man that dons all white. While I remember young people were the audience four years ago, their number has now skyrocketed.

What is it exactly about Pope Francis that brings in the “young” population? As the one year anniversary of the pope’s election March 13 approaches, I thought I would stick around after the audience to ask a few people their opinion.

“Pope Francis is not only wonderful and down-to-earth,” Ruth Figura of Belleville, Ill., told me, but his energy “will bring young people back to the church while renewing the faith of others as well.”

I spoke to a few Fairfield University alumnae (Maya Abinakad, Ariana Michaloutsos, Ashley Doran, and Kelly Mahon) who were visiting for a few days. They told me, “Pope Francis is modernizing things. He is pulling in young people because he makes connections and is more likeable.”

Pope Francis waves the crowd this morning. (CNS/Emily Antenucci)

Pope Francis waves to the crowd this morning. (CNS/Emily Antenucci)

Almost everyone I spoke to use the words “loving,” “likeable” and “human” to describe Pope Francis. They see young people being influenced by Pope Francis and finding or restoring their faith in the church. On the other hand, those who are considered “older” or have been involved in the church for years expressed their respect for Pope Francis, particularly as a pope who can appeal to young people.

What do you think? Why is Pope Francis drawing more people to his audiences? If you could describe his first year as pope in one word, which word would you chose?

Emily Antenucci is an intern in the CNS Rome bureau while she attends Villanova University’s Rome program.

Fast facts for fasting and Lent

VATICAN CITY — Ash Wednesday today begins the penitential season of Lent.

Woman prays on Ash Wednesday at New York church

A woman praying on Ash Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York in 2013. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the penitential season of Lent, a time of reflection, prayer, fasting and charity before Easter. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Today and Good Friday are the two days of the year when the church requires fasting and abstinence for Catholics. Fridays during Lent are also obligatory days of abstinence from meat.

Sometimes there is some confusion about what this entails so here’s what’s required in a nutshell:

For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59.

When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but combined they should not equal a full meal. Catholics may, of course, eat less, but this is considered the minimum required.

The norms concerning abstinence from meat (on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Fridays during Lent) are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.

Exemptions are also made for those who are physically or mentally ill, diabetic or are pregnant or nursing.

– USCCB Liturgical Resources for Lent

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students, FOCUS, has created a number of great resources like this handy illustrated guide created by Jonathan Teixeira:

fasting guide

An illustrated guide created by Jonathan Teixeira for FOCUS. More here: http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/an-illustrated-guide-to.html

And  a “Lent Sanity” app that delivers daily reflections and reminders about meatless Fridays.

lentsanity

LentSanity is a Lenten campaign launched by FOCUS — Fellowship of Catholic University Students

When it comes to the penitential aspect of Lent and Ash Wednesday, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has a very good post here about the practice of penance. Here’s a snippet:

Most Catholics are familiar with the concept of giving up something for Lent, but what is not well understood is that these sacrifices, these acts of penance, have value because they teach virtue, not because the things sacrificed are bad.

Giving up sweets, coffee, alcohol or listening to music is good because it helps us grow in our ability to turn away from something we desire. Fasting is also important because it helps us focus the eyes of our heart on Jesus, just as he focused the eyes of his heart on the Father in the 40 days he spent fasting. Our heart, made for God, longs for deeper intimacy with the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Fasting strengthens our ability to turn toward the good when we are faced with a temptation to sin.

– Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

Be sure to check out the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ list of resources to help people “Give Up, Take Up and Lift Up!”  during Lent through fasting, alms-giving and prayer.

This site is meant to help people rediscover confession — something Pope Francis has urged people to do and “not lose even one more day. Go!”

PEOPLE SPREAD ASHES DURING ASH WEDNESDAY PRAYER SERVICE OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE

People spreading ashes during a prayer service in front of the White House in Washington on Ash Wednesday in 2012. (CNS photo/Peter Lockley)

Lent is about real conversion and change, not just fulfilling obligations. So don’t forget to read Pope Francis’ Lenten message for inspiration on the importance of confronting the spiritual and material poverty in the world as well as his audience talk today about using Lent to launch a spiritual makeover and turn our lives around.

U.S. bishops’ president asks for Ash Wednesday prayers for Ukraine

Pictures of victims of the recent protest violence in Kiev, Ukraine, are displayed near the altar during a morning prayer service at the St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in New York City March 4. (CNS/Reuters)

Pictures of victims of the recent protest violence in Kiev, Ukraine, are displayed near the altar during a morning prayer service at the St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in New York City March 4. (CNS/Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. Catholics stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as their country struggles with political tensions, said a statement from the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said in the March 4 statement that the U.S. bishops, “together with tens of millions of U.S. Catholics of Eastern European descent join Pope Francis in solidarity and prayers for the people of Ukraine for an end to the current tensions and troubling events which continue to unfold there.”

He lauded the heroic witness of Ukrainian Greek and Latin Catholic leaders “who stand firm for human rights and democracy,” which gives hope that peaceful means to rebuild civil society may prevail.

Archbishop Kurtz noted that Catholics in Ukraine have a history of being persecuted, and pleaded for religious liberty to be protected there. He asked U.S. Catholic communities gathered for the Ash Wednesday services to pray for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, “one that secures the just and fundamental human rights of a long-suffering, oppressed people.”

Notes on peace and justice

A heron flies over the Guarapiranga reservoir in Sao Paulo during sunrise, Feb. 13. (CNS/Reuters)

A heron flies over the Guarapiranga reservoir in Sao Paulo during sunrise Feb. 13. (CNS/Reuters)

Lenten calendar offers fasts of a different sort

Lenten fasts can take many forms and usually involved food, time or money. So how about carbon?

One of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen is the Archdiocese of Washington’s Caring for Creation Lenten calendar, with ideas for adopting practical actions to lower your carbon footprint as a way to help protect the environment.

The calendar offers different kinds of fasting options, such as considering the cost of buying water in disposable plastic bottles to both the environment and your pocketbook or carrying your lunch to work in reusable containers. The ideas presented can easily be carried over from Lent into everyday life.

Also included are biblical verses on some of the days and quotes from statements on creation care from Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI.

The calendar will help people learn that the church has a wealth of teaching on protecting the environment and bring those teachings to people who may not be familiar with them, said Anthony Bosnick, director of the Department for Charity and Justice in the archdiocese.

“We see it as a tool for the new evangelization,” he explained.

Thanks to the staff of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change for spreading the word about the calendar through its weekly email. Sign up here to receive it.

Connecting Sunday readings to the world’s marginalized

If you are looking to connect the Sunday Scripture readings to action in the world, the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns offers weekly reflections that help connect those of us living in an affluent culture to the realities of people living in developing countries.

Authors from Maryknoll’s worldwide network of missionaries and ministers offer their thoughts on the situations in which they live and the lives of people in their local communities. Current offerings take readers through the first several weeks of Lent, including Ash Wednesday. Some of the reflections throughout the year also mark holy days.

The reflections are written to create a better understanding of how people struggle against injustice with the goal of moving the reader to advocate for change.

The current listing of reflections extends back nearly two years and covers parts of the three liturgical cycles in the Lectionary.

Pope Francis opens gates of private papal gardens to the public

VATICAN CITY — People visiting or living in Rome now have another jewel of nature and architecture to visit: the Pontifical Gardens in Castel Gandolfo.

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A view of the papal gardens at Castel Gandolfo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis came up with the idea to open these private papal gardens to the general public, starting March 1.

The papal property at Castel Gandolfo covers almost 136 acres, which is more territory than Vatican City’s 108 acres. The walled grounds include a papal summer residence, the summer residence of the Vatican secretary of state, the Vatican observatory, extensive formal gardens, woodland, hay fields, a working farm, a dairy and beehives.

Papal beekeeper displays honeycomb covered with worker bees at papal villa at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome

Papal beekeeper Marco Tullio Cicero, right, shows honeycomb covered with worker bees making honey at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

The papal villa, which is built atop the ruins of a Roman emperor’s country residence, has been a second-home for popes since 1626. Perched in the Alban Hills overlooking a volcanic lake, the papal residence south of Rome has served as a quiet and cool place to escape from Rome’s intense crowds and summer heat.

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One of the many fountains in the papal gardens of Castel Gandolfo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

But last year, Pope Francis made just a few brief visits to the villa and there are no signs he plans on using it as a vacation getaway like his predecessors have. Not letting a good thing go to waste, he has decided to throw the gates open to the public for organized tours.

People will need to book ahead online through the Vatican Museums’ website.

Ticket price per person is 26 euro ($36)  and visitors will need to get to the entrance of the pontifical villas on their own before the tours start at 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. A special combo ticket of 42 euro ($58) will get you a Saturday garden tour (which has an additional Italian language-only tour starting at 10:30 a.m.)  along with a “no-line” special entry to the Vatican Museums on the following Monday.

There are a number of restrictions involved with the tour. For example, a lot of walking is involved so it is not recommended for people with limited mobility nor is it wheelchair accessible. Also, modest dress is mandatory so people wearing shorts, miniskirts or tank tops will not be permitted entrance.

restrictions

A number of special restrictions apply: click on the photo above to learn more.

However, it’s not the first time the papal grounds and villa have been opened to the public. During World War II, Pope Pius XII opened the doors of the villa to thousands of people fleeing the Nazi army. He also gave up his bedroom to expectant women among the refugees and fifty babies were born there during the war.

When Blessed John Paul II stayed there, he used to play hide-and-seek with the children of the gardens’ employees. Pope Benedict XVI liked to use his time there to write and, in the evenings, play his favorite works of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven on his piano, to the delight of the staff who’d overhear the tunes through the open windows.

Priests, seminarians in Rome lace up to hit the field

U.S. seminarians celebrate after winning Clericus Cup tournament in Rome

Seminarians from the Pontifical North American College celebrating after winning the Clericus Cup championship in 2013 for the second straight year. (CNS photo/Christopher Brashears, PNAC Photo Service)

VATICAN CITY — Seminarians at the Pontifical North American College will be vying for the Clericus Cup “triple crown,” well, “saturno” to be exact, since that’s what the trophy ball is wearing on its head (with a pair of cleats).

cup

The Clericus Cup trophy (photo courtesy of Centro Sportivo Italiano)

SEMINARIANS FROM PONTIFICAL NORTH AMERICAN COLLEGE CHEER THEIR SOCCER TEAM DURING CLERICUS CUP

Seminarians from the Pontifical North American College cheering from the stands in 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The PNAC Martyrs have become a soccer powerhouse after years of hard work and training.

It also helps having the most colorful and “heroic” fan base in the whole tournament with Captain America, Spiderman and a giant fuzzy yellow chicken cheering from the stands.

The news about this year’s soccer tourney, which features priests and seminarians from all  over the world who are studying in Rome, is each team jersey will have “My captain is Pope Francis” printed on it.

Fr. Alessio Albertini, one of the series’ organizers said:

“The job of a captain is to lead the team, to be a point of reference during difficult moments, to encourage the disheartened players, to be a symbol and who better embodies this in the great playing field of the world than Pope Francis?”

The series started eight years ago and boasts a few technical differences from regular league soccer.

Aside from players and fans having lots more spirit, Clericus Cup soccer games run 30-minute halves instead of 45-minute halves.

Referees also have another penalty option. In addition to the yellow warning card and the red expulsion card, they can flash a “sin bin” blue card, which requires an overly aggressive player to leave the field for five minutes … presumably to pray for more patience.

Second International Human Trafficking Conference to take place in April in Rome

By Emily Antenucci
Catholic News Service

DELEGATE ATTENDS INTERPOL ASSEMBLY IN ROME

The world’s largest international police organization and government ministers from around the world met in Rome Nov. 2012 to address human trafficking and terrorist activities. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — To enhance cooperation between the Catholic Church and law enforcement agencies working in the field, the Second International Human Trafficking Conference will take place in Rome April 9-10.

The conference will bring together church leaders and the heads of police services from at least fourteen countries, including Brazil, India, Albania, Australia, and Germany.

NEWLY APPOINTMENT ARCHBISHOP OF WESTMINISTER GESTURES DURING NEWS CONFERENCE IN LONDON

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster at a news conference in London in 2009. (CNS photo/Stefan Wermuth, Reuters)

As Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster explained to reporters in Rome Feb. 24, “it is something very important to us as the church in England that here are very hopeless victims, and by attending to their needs, we can actually make a huge contribution with the police to tackle this problem.”

The conference will highlight the church’s distinctively victim-driven approach to the problem. Because victims of trafficking typically feel trapped and helpless, they often turn to the church as a safe haven: both as a place providing refuge and a comfortable environment where they can feel enough at ease to open up about their experiences. Finally, when the victims are ready, the church works towards their reintegration, either in their native countries or in England.

Cardinal Nichols said the church should not be satisfied with helping only victims who have escaped trafficking. Law enforcement agencies depend on information from church agencies, which in turn depend on the support and protection of the police.

In the words of Cardinal Nichols, “This is a really important initiative…it’s not the only initiative with regard to human trafficking , but it is a unique initiative because it talks about the practice, the day by day work to counter real scourge around the world, of commercial trafficking of human beings.”

Emily Antenucci is an intern in the CNS Rome bureau while she attends Villanova University’s Rome program.

For soccer-loving pope, goalies are great, but Jesus still makes the best saves

Pope Francis receives a jersey from Juventus' soccer goalkeeper and coach during a private audience at Vatican

Pope Francis receiving a jersey from Juventus’ goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon at the Vatican May 21. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — With the World Cup just months away, time is running out for interested nations to get Pope Francis to support their team.

Who knows what kind of added boost a papal cheerleader can give players on the field? After all, was it is really coincidence or was it the “Francis bump” that powered his favorite San Lorenzo squad to nab the Argentine league title a few months ago?

It seems the soccer-loving pontiff is aware national teams might be trying to curry favor with him right now.

When President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil — host country of this summer’s games, showered the pope last week with some soccer swag autographed by legends Pele and Ronaldo, the pope — in jest — asked whether the gifts were an invitation for him to put his prayers behind Brazil to win the World Cup.

President Rousseff insisted no one was asking for any favoritism, just some assurance of “neutrality,” according to a Vatican statement.

Argentina hasn’t been shy, however, about counting on the pope for his full backing.

One of the country’s sports’ channels, TyC Sports, put out a very creative ad a while ago for the upcoming FIFA championship.

By cleverly editing the pope’s winning speech “to go forward” to millions of young people in Brazil together with images of Argentina’s national squad scoring goals, the ad asks: “If one Argentine did this in Brazil…imagine 23,” the number of men on the national team.

 

Disclaimer: Obviously the pope’s words were taken out of context. Just so you know what he was really saying in that talk on Rio’s Copacabana beach July 27 was urging everyone to be “true athletes of Christ” and train hard to follow Jesus:

Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to “play on his team.” Most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Right? Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples…

Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! Something bigger than the World Cup! Jesus offers us the possibility of a fruitful life, a life of happiness; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, in eternal life. That is what Jesus offers us.

But he asks us to pay admission, and the cost of admission is that we train ourselves “to get in shape,” so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith, by talking with him in prayer.

– Pope Francis

prayer vigil with young people Rio de Janeiro July 27, 2013

Mixing work with prayer

By Emily Antenucci
Catholic News Service

MAN PRAYS ROSARY AT OKLAHOMA CHURCH

A parishioner praying the rosary at Holy Rosary Church in Hartshorne, Okla. (CNS photo/Dave Crenshaw/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic)

VATICAN CITY — How important is prayer in our everyday lives?

A question that might be up in the air for many is a cake-walk for Archbishop William Goh of Singapore, who says that prayer undoubtedly should be added to our workday. More specifically, he said, employees and volunteers who are involved in Catholic organizations, parishes, schools, movements and associations should pray at work every morning, at noon and in the evening with the Liturgy of the Hours.

The reason?

The archbishop told the Vatican missionary news agency Fides that “without prayer, our work becomes sterile and bland, devoid of vitality and joy. Through prayer, our work becomes a vocation, our office a place of joy, of brotherly love, a place where we proclaim the joy of the Gospel to each other and to the world.”

During my first week working here in Rome, I and the other interns from Villanova University had interesting experiences seeing the power of prayer within the Vatican walls. After our first day at work, the four of us excitedly shared our stories with one another about what we loved, people we had met, and certain aspects that are unique to the different offices where we were each assigned.

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

The CNS Rome bureau is located on Via della Conciliazione near the Vatican in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

One comment that truly stuck with me was during a conversation between Anna Bauer and Vincent Ventura, who are both interning at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Having never worked for a Catholic organization before, Vincent and Anna both explained that the council’s staff pray together every day at noon. They said there is even a bell in some offices to remind people to break from what they’re doing to congregate into the hallway for communal prayer.

What a coincidence that we had this conversation just days before I read about Archbishop Goh’s call this week for sanctifying work with prayer. For most people, a workplace moment of communal gathering is during a coffee break, but here it is also found in prayer.

Priest prays with staff and patients in infectious diseases ward of Lima hospital

Maryknoll Father Joe Fedora prays with staff and patients in the Santa Rosa infectious diseases ward in Lima’s Dos de Mayo Hospital in Feb. 2014. (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

Vincent told me he sees this cultural routine at the Vatican as an opportunity that he welcomes with open arms: “It’s refreshing to see people come together in the office as a community through spirituality. If prayer is important to someone’s life, they should incorporate it into all aspects of their life including their time at the office.”

Anna also finds that “it is very much a part of the everyday routine — a simple meeting that is worked seamlessly into the busy schedule of the office, but one that holds a deeper significance than a coffee break.”

What do you think?

Would you take on prayer at work as wholeheartedly as Vincent and Anna have? While it may seem obvious prayer would be a part of the daily routine of those who work at the Vatican, is it the same for other workplaces? If you work at a Catholic organization, is prayer an organized part of your workday? If it isn’t, do you think it should be?

Emily Antenucci is an intern in the CNS Rome bureau while she attends Villanova University’s Rome program.

A Pentecostal, a pope and an iPhone for Christian unity

VATICAN CITY — The search for Christian unity is an enterprise that has taken the time and energy of scholars and popes. Recently it got a helping hand from an iPhone and YouTube.

Those involved in ecumenism insist on the power of prayer to heal Christian divisions and on the importance of involving not only high-powered theologians, but Christians of every community and every walk of life. They need to meet each other, get to know each other, help each other and pray with and for each other.

Putting those sentiments into practice, Pope Francis agreed to record a message to a group of Pentecostals in the United States. His guest, a bishop from a Pentecostal Christian community, did the camera work with an iPhone.

Screen grab of Pope Francis interview shown to a group of Pentecostals in the United States. (CNS photo)

Screen grab of Pope Francis interview shown to a group of Pentecostals in the United States. (CNS photo)

The pope’s message can be seen here, it begins at about 31:35 after Bishop Tony Palmer delivers a speech to a Kenneth Copeland Ministries about the importance of Christian unity for preaching salvation in Christ to the world. The bishop, who also serves as international ecumenical officer for the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, a group that is not affiliated with the Anglican Communion, takes a much simpler view of the path full Christian unity than the pope and the mainline Christian churches do.

The translation used for the English subtitles on the video are not precise, but the pope’s sincerity is clear.

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