Do not be afraid; seek truth, beauty, love, pope says during Easter vigil

VATICAN CITY — Here is Pope Francis’ homily from tonight’s Easter vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica as translated by the Vatican:

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Pope Francis carrying candle during last year’s Easter Vigil. April 19, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Tonight is a night of vigil. The Lord is not sleeping; the Watchman is watching over his people (cf. Ps 121:4), to bring them out of slavery and to open before them the way to freedom.

The Lord is keeping watch and, by the power of his love, he is bringing his people through the Red Sea. He is also bringing Jesus through the abyss of death and the netherworld.

This was a night of vigil for the disciples of Jesus, a night of sadness and fear. The men remained locked in the Upper Room. Yet, the women went to the tomb at dawn on Sunday to anoint Jesus’ body. Their hearts were overwhelmed and they were asking themselves: “How will we enter? Who will roll back the stone of the tomb?…” But here was the first sign of the great event: the large stone was already rolled back and the tomb was open!

“Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe…” (Mk 16:5). The women were the first to see this great sign, the empty tomb; and they were the first to enter…

“Entering the tomb”. It is good for us, on this Vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women, which also speaks to us. For that is why we are here: to enter, to enter into the Mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.

We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about… It is more, much more!

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Easter Vigil at St. Jude Church in Mastic Beach, N.Y. in 2013. (CNS file photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (cf 1 Kings 19:12).

To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions…

To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love. It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence.

To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves, to come down from the pedestal of our “I” which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness. To enter into the mystery we need the lowliness that is powerlessness, the renunciation of our idols… in a word, we need to adore. Without adoration, we cannot enter into the mystery.

The women who were Jesus’ disciples teach us all of this. They kept watch that night, together with Mary. And she, the Virgin Mother, helped them not to lose faith and hope. As a result, they did not remain prisoners of fear and sadness, but at the first light of dawn they went out carrying their ointments, their hearts anointed with love. They went forth and found the tomb open.

And they went in. They had kept watch, they went forth and they entered into the Mystery. May we learn from them to keep watch with God and with Mary our Mother, so that we too may enter into the Mystery which leads from death to life.

Pope Francis’ personal reflections at the end of the Way of the Cross

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Pope Francis presiding over last year’s Way of the Cross ceremony outside the Colosseum. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 18, 2014)

ROME — Pope Francis gave his own meditation at the end of the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum this evening. Here is our translation of his remarks in Italian:

O Crucified and victorious Christ.

Your Way of the Cross is the synthesis of your life, the icon of your obedience to the Father’s will, it is the fulfillment of your infinite love for us sinners.

It is the ordeal of your mission.

It is the definitive fulfillment of the revelation and history of salvation.

The weight of your cross frees us from all of our burdens.

In your obedience to the Father’s will, we notice our rebellion and disobedience.

In you, sold, betrayed, crucified by your people and those dear to you, we see our daily betrayals and our habitual unfaithfulness.

In your innocence, immaculate lamb, we see our guilt.

In your face, that has been slapped, spat on and disfigured, we see the brutality of our sins.

In the cruelty of your Passion, we see the cruelty of our heart and our actions.

In your feeling abandoned, we see all those who have been abandoned by their family, by society, by people’s attention and solidarity.

In your sacrificed, lacerated and tormented body, we see the body of our brothers and sisters abandoned along the roadside, disfigured by our negligence and our indifference.

In you thirst Lord, we see the thirst of your merciful Father who wanted — through you — to embrace, forgive and save all of humanity.

In you, Divine Love, we still see today our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, decapitated and crucified for their faith in you, in front of our eyes or often with our silent complicity.

Let the feelings of faith, hope, charity and sorrow for our sins be ingrained in our hearts, Lord, and lead us to repent for our sins that have crucified you.

Lead us to transform our conversion made of words into a conversion of life and deeds.

Lead us to safeguard inside of us a vivid memory of your disfigured face, so as to never forget the enormous price you paid to free us.

Crucified Jesus, strengthen the faith in us so that it not give in before temptations, rekindle hope in us, so that it not get lost by following the world’s seductions.

Protect charity in us, so that it not be deceived by corruption and worldliness.

Teach us that the cross is the way to resurrection.

Teach us that Good Friday is the path towards the Easter of light.

Teach us that God never forgets any of his children and he never tires of forgiving us and embracing us with his infinite mercy.

But also teach us to not get tired of asking Him for forgiveness and to believe in the Father’s limitless mercy.

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Rome’s Colosseum where Pope Francis presided over the Way of the Cross ceremony. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 18, 2014)

 

Then the pope recited the Soul of Christ prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within the wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever
Amen

Finally the pope gave his blessing and said to everyone: “Now let us return home with the recollection of Jesus in his Passion, of his great love and also with the hope of his joyous resurrection.”

During tonight’s ceremony, the cross was carried by a different group of people for each of the 14 stations. The groups included three Italian families as well as lay Catholics and religious who live in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, Nigeria and China — areas of the world where Christians experience great hardship.

The meditations, written by a longtime spiritual director, 79-year-old Bishop Renato Corti, reflected on how God protects his people and calls everyone to watch over each other.

 

St. John Paul II: His unforgettable legacy in pictures and words

VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands of faithful had come to St. Peter’s Square as Pope John Paul II lay dying, some staying all night in quiet and emotional vigils.

After an evening prayer service April 2, then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who was a top official of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, announced to the crowd that the pope had died at 9:37 p.m and “returned to the house of the Father.”

Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau covered those events with dozens of in-depth and colorful accounts of how the Eternal City and the world came together to honor the end of a truly historic papacy.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of St. John Paul’s death, we’ve compiled a slideshow that hits the highlights of his prophetic and memorable life. Further below are links to a sample of standout CNS stories that offer an insightful recap of the impact this pope made on the church and the world.

 

(Click the forward arrow to go to next slide. Click the gear icon and choose one of the formats (pdf, pptx, open editor…) to see the show best on a larger screen).

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A voice for the world, and apostle for the church:

As a voice of conscience for the world and a modern-day apostle for his church, Pope John Paul II brought a philosopher’s intellect, a pilgrim’s spiritual intensity and an actor’s flair for the dramatic… (full story)

A journalist’s reflection:

The Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief saw the beginning of John Paul’s papacy and tells what it was like to cover him. … (full story)

Important dates in Pope John Paul’s life, ponticate:    (full story

Diplomatic coup: Pope’s funeral brings together bitter adversaries:

Pope John Paul’s funeral may have marked his last diplomatic coup when more than 200 heads of state and government delegates — some bitter adversaries — came together to pay their last respects. (full story)

Go to the CNS Special Section here to see more of our indepth coverage in 2005.

 

 

 

Remembering election night

VATICAN CITY — The election night introduction of Pope Francis to the world on March 13, 2013, took only 12 minutes. These minutes were some of the most important of my photographic career. For months I had obsessed about every detail of covering the election of the new pope.

Beginning in October of 2012 I began having a strong feeling that something big was going to happen to Pope Benedict XVI, although I never imagined he would resign. Throughout the fall and into early 2013 I began planning for what Vatican journalists politely call the “papal transition.”

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In planning how to shoot a new pope’s first appearance, my two major concerns were getting the photos out quickly and making sure they were in focus. I had already photographed seven “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Christmas and Easter blessings from the same balcony where the pope would make his first appearance. I knew how difficult focus can be at a far distance when the subject is not very big in the viewfinder. I had always anticipated shooting the appearance of the new pope in daylight, not at night, which makes things even more difficult.

Thanks to God’s grace the election night photos went well. My new 600mm lens didn’t lock up, as it had the night before, and proved to be exceptionally sharp. In the end, despite all the technical problems and worries, this was a blessed moment and God was in control. The results are in the slideshow above.

Today’s caption contest on social media

(UPDATED WITH A NEW CONCLUSION)

It was a fairly ordinary day in the Catholic News Service Rome bureau and in our Washington newsroom when, out of the blue, a caption contest broke out.

We won’t identify the culprit who launched it, but you may be able to find him on Twitter.

So, of course, quicker than you can recite the Confiteor, the contest was joined. Here are a few of the responses:

This from one of our paying customers, The Criterion in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:

(Barb works here. Yes, she really knows her way around a first-aid kit.)

And this was declared the winner by our Rome bureau:

(We know Gretchen, who is editor of the national Catholic newsweekly Our Sunday Visitor, so we’re absolutely positive she was kidding!)

We like this one too:

Related:

We then tried to get back to work with:

But then we couldn’t resist this:

And then we declared an honorable mention for Father Mark Gurtner in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for this (if you’re not familiar with the scene, you have to watch to the end to “get” it):

We now resume our regular programming, and we’re turning off the comments box too so we don’t get distracted by that the rest of the day.

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UPDATE: We have a new winner!

And this late entry was the favorite of the Tennessean who is our boss:

 

Bishops must comply with child protection norms, commission says

UPDATED VERSION OF THIS STORY: Click here

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Pope orders cooperation in preventing abuse, caring for victims

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The leaders of the world’s bishops’ conferences and religious orders must ensure that they are doing everything possible to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse and are offering appropriate care for victims and their families, Pope Francis said.

“Priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors,” he said in a written letter.

People hold quilts at press conference in 2013 outside of Los Angeles cathedral for victims of sexual abuse by priests. (CNS photo/David McNew, Reuters)

People hold quilts at press conference in 2013 outside of Los Angeles cathedral for victims of sexual abuse by priests. (CNS photo/David McNew, Reuters)

The letter, dated Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, was sent to the presidents of national bishops’ conferences worldwide and the superiors of religious orders. The Vatican released a copy of the letter Feb. 5, the feast of St. Agatha.

In his letter, the pope said, “Families need to know that the church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know that they have every right to turn to the church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home.”

With protecting minors as a top priority, the pope said he wants to encourage and promote the church’s commitment to protection and care “at every level — episcopal conferences, dioceses, institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life — to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults and to respond to their needs with fairness and mercy.”

He reminded church leaders they were expected to fully implement the provisions in the 2011 circular letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requiring all dioceses in the world to develop guidelines on handling allegations of abuse.

“It is likewise important that episcopal conferences establish a practical means for periodically reviewing their norms and verifying that they are being observed,” he wrote.

The pope underlined that it was “the responsibility of diocesan bishops and major superiors to ascertain that the safety of minors and vulnerable adults is assured in parishes and other church institutions.”

The church also has the “duty to express the compassion of Jesus toward those who have suffered abuse and toward their families,” which is why dioceses and religious orders should set up pastoral care programs “which include provisions for psychological assistance and spiritual care.”

Priests and heads of religious communities “should be available to meet with victims and their loved ones; such meetings are valuable opportunities for listening to those who have greatly suffered and for asking their forgiveness,” he wrote.

The pope said he established in December 2013 the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to draw up ways the church could improve its norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults.

This commission, led by U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and made up of survivors and lay experts in the field, is meant to be “a new, important and effective means for helping me to encourage and advance the commitment of the church at every level” in taking concrete steps to ensure greater abuse protection and care, he said.

The pope then asked for the “close and complete cooperation” of the world’s bishops’ conferences and religious orders with the commission for the protection of minors, whose duties include assisting church leaders in “an exchange of best practices and through programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sex abuse.”

The pope asked for prayers that the church “carry out, generously and thoroughly, our duty to humbly acknowledge and repair past injustices and to remain ever faithful in the work of protecting those closest to the heart of Jesus.”