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Pope’s Spiritual Exercises: Women With Their Faith Open the Gospel to Us

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 9:16 AM

Women, with their faith, open the Gospels to us….

According to Vatican News, during the Pope and Roman Curia’s spiritual exercises, Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça, who is leading the meditations, stressed this as he put the beauty of women’s faith at the forefront of today’s morning meditation.

Meditations this year have been entrusted by the Pope to Portuguese priest and Biblical theologian, Father José Tolentino de Mendonça, vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon, who is leading the meditations on the theme: “Praise of Thirst.”

In this morning’s reflection, the priest discussed the women throughout Luke’s Gospel.

“The women in the Gospel,” he stressed, “prefer to express themselves with gestures. Their faith seeks comfort through touch—tangible, emotional, disarming–rather than through abstraction.”

Recognizing that the way women accompanied the Lord was different than how the men did, he explained, “The women ‘were with’ Jesus exactly in the same way as the Twelve. They made his destiny their own destiny. But the text adds one thing regarding only them: ‘they were serving Jesus.’”

Suggesting that the women’s reaction is deeply evangelical, Fr. Tolentino observed that they never ask Jesus the questions that the disciples ask Him such as “Lord, will only a few people be saved” (Luke 13:23)? or “Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life (Luke 10:25)?

Rather, he noted, their declarations are concrete such as, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed” (Luke 11:27).

With women, he said, there is a “ripple of reality that intervenes in order to shape faith. In this way it does not remain a prisoner—as often happens to our faith—rationalistic, lived mechanically according to doctrine or ritual.” It is because they are in touch with daily life that they give “perfume to the faith.”

The priest also recognized that the women in Luke’s Gospel, such as the women of Jerusalem or the widow of Naim, cry. St Gregory Nanzianzen, he said, describes these tears as a baptism—which many other saints have experienced.

Concluding his meditation with the image of the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, he noted: “What this woman gave thus serves Jesus as the litmus test for what the Pharisee refused to give.”

“It is this unheard-of hospitality which Jesus wants to praise—that thirst, expressed in tears—which is our turn to learn.”

Whereas on Tuesday afternoon, the Portuguese priest reflected on a verse from John’s Gospel: “After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst’ ” (John 19:28).

There are other occurrences in John’s Gospel that help us understand Jesus’ words, for instance when Jesus is thirsty and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink (John 4:13-15), and the declaration: “whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he highlighted, experienced Jesus’ thirst “in a mystical experience.”

“In an almost physical way she felt Jesus’ thirst calling her to give her life in service to the thirst of the poor and rejected, to the poorest of the poor.”

The Holy Spirit, he said, is the gift given to us to satiate our thirst is the Holy Spirit.

“We are called to live even suffering, persecution, illness, and joyfully. We are called to live every situation with lively hope. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, God’s strength, wind, breeze, breath, is in us.”

Sunday afternoon, Feb. 18, 2018, Pope Francis departed the Vatican to participate in his annual Lenten Spiritual Exercises at Casa ‘Gesù Divin Maestro’ (the Divine Master House) in the town of Ariccia near Rome. For a week, the Holy Father will remain there praying with members of the Roman Curia. The retreat will conclude on the morning of Friday, Feb. 23. Until then, all of the Pope’s activities, including the weekly General Audience, Feb. 21, are suspended.

Originally, the Spiritual Exercises took place in the Vatican, but Pope Francis moved them to the retreat house, 16 miles outside of Rome.



ANALYSIS: Role Benedict Fulfilled in Our Beloved Pilgrim Church on Earth

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:15 AM

An interview was published on the Internet this week with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in which he recognized and manifested that he was “on his way home.” He seemed somewhat deteriorated, with difficulties to walk. In a word, walking on that path on which one day we will all have to go, with hope and especially confidence in the Resurrection.

However, in the course of these years, have we been aware of the role that Benedict fulfilled in our beloved pilgrim Church on earth?

At the end of this month is yet another anniversary of his renunciation of the papacy, something that leaves us several messages.

He was elected Pope in 2005, and as is said colloquially, he was coming with the wind against him. How to be Bishop of Rome after almost 27 years of John Paul II and his enormous legacy?

However, “the humble servant in the Lord’s vineyard,” as he himself announced in that Conclave, took the post and accepted the Lord’s calling. But far from being a Pope of transition as some now call him, he faced an arduous task. He was burdened with the principal and saddest scandals of pedophilia and sexual abuse on the part of priests and the crisis of the lack of vocations. He reaffirmed the inter-religious dialogue with Christian and non-Christian religions. He spoke to us of the love of God and of hope in his two encyclicals, and wrote brilliant theology books.

He put the house in order and when, because of his advanced age, some health issues, and full realization that he could not go on, he renounced his office, thus personifying again the Apostle Saint Peter that, as the history of salvation shows us, was the most manly Apostle of all. And with his renunciation, he gave us Francis.

How many are able to renounce, to retire well in this world of power?

However, his life was already marked by renunciations. He gave up being a husband, a father and a grandfather to consecrate himself to Christ. He renounced a peaceful old age, possibly in his native Germany, dedicated to his other passions: the piano and reading, to steer Christ’s boat in one of the most complex and turbulent moments.

Now, recollected in prayer and silence, he reminds us of John the Baptist’s words: “It’s better that He increase and I decrease,” all the more if that “he” is united to the new Pontiff or to Christ whom he always served.

We must pray for Benedict XVI, for all that he did and continues doing for us. Pray that the Lord will accompany him on his return home.

Thank you, Pope Benedict XVI, you continue being Peter!

Pablo D’Elias

Maldonado-Rocha Diocese of Uruguay

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ‘The Olympics Are a Favorable Moment for Encountering God,’ Explains Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 6:09 AM

“The Olympics are a favorable moment for encountering God,” says Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca, the head of the Holy See Delegation in South Korea.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT, the Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture discussed this during a wide-ranging conversation about these very unique Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, how athletes can live out their faith and Lent in this period, and more.

Here is our interview:

Photo courtesy of Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca


ZENIT: The International Olympic Committee invited formally, for the first time, a Delegation of the Holy See to take part in the opening of the Winter Olympic Games of PyeongChang, South Korea, this past February 9. What does this fact mean?

Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca: The novelty consists in the fact that the IOC invited a Delegation to take part in the works of the Olympic Session and in the opening, not now in a personal capacity, as happened at the opening of the Rio Games, but rather in an official capacity, as observers. It’s a further step in a now long history of relations between the IOC and the PCC [Pontifical Council for Culture], which includes, among others, Cardinal Ravasi’s visit to the IOC headquarters and the IOC’s participation in the International Sport Conference at the Service of Humanity in October 2016. The fact that this time the presence has had an official character reinforces this relation of collaboration already existing and excellent. In the future, perhaps, some form of stable relationship could be thought out, through and official agreement between the Holy See and the IOC, but this goes beyond the competence of the PCC and depends on the Secretariat of State.

ZENIT: Can you tell us something about this Delegation, whose objective is to inspire friendship and solidarity in the world of sport? Who composes it? What has it done, concretely, in South Korea?

As observers, we are limited to being there and to observe, while taking part in all the life of the Olympic Family in the days prior to the opening. The Delegation was composed of the undersigned, in the capacity of Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, with responsibility for sport, helped by Doctor Calvigioni, who was kindly put at the disposition of the Italian Olympic Committee as Assistant. The Works Agenda of the Olympic Session, which is the highest organ of government of the Olympic Movement, a sort of Olympic Parliament in Plenary Session, was very broad, and went from sanctions to Russia to the celebration of the forthcoming Youth Olympic Games, passing by the recommendation that seeks greater parity between men and women in sport.

ZENIT: You presented the President of the IOC and the athletes of North Korea the “Vatican Athletics ‘T’ Shirts.” How did that go?

Pyeongchang – SOUTH KOREA – 7th Feb 2018:
IOC President Thomas Bach shakes hands with Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca during the second day of the 132nd IOC Session at the Kensington Flora in Pyeongchang.
Photography (Copyright): by Greg Martin/IOC

The Vatican Delegation to the Games doesn’t have a competitive or sports character, but only the character of observer, as at the United Nations. The Vatican isn’t a country in the usual sense of the term, and doesn’t seek to compete with others on the sports or economic plane. It is the support of the full sovereignty and independence of the Pope in the exercise of his ministry, which is of a pastoral and moral nature, not political. This said, different sports realities exist because sport is important also for one who works in the Vatican. The oldest is soccer, and the most recent the Vatican Athletic Club. So we gave President Bach the Club’s T-shirt, as expression of the sport practiced in the Vatican.  

ZENIT: Are there athletes competing for whom the dimension of faith is important in doing sport? Is there an athlete or an episode that comes to mind?

Athletes with profound faith have always existed, as in so many other realities of life. The environment of the Olympic Games — with the joy and exaltation of sport –, is also a favorable moment for encountering God, especially in moments prior to the competition, when the athlete has to measure himself with his limitations and his reality, and also in the moment of defeat. The Chaplains of the Olympic Village or of the National ones of some countries are witnesses of it.

Some athletes live their faith without complexes, and they are aware of their mission in the midst of their companions. In others, the faith is more hidden, or more intimate, but it’s translated also in religious gestures and signs. There are infinite stories, but perhaps there is a film that succeeds in explaining it better, Chariots of Fire, where the dialogue between sport and faith is constant. One of them says simply, “when I run, I feel that God smiles.” See in a small phrase all the theology of sport, which Saint Irenaeus recalls: “the living man is the glory of God. And man’s life is God.”

ZENIT: The Winter Olympics underway are hosted by South Korea. What is the significance of having an edition of the Olympics in the Korean Peninsula, with athletes of the two Koreas competing for the same team?

In the opening address of the Olympic Session, President Thomas Back stressed this fact, which is a small great success of Olympic diplomacy. He added: “sport can’t create peace. However, little symbols such as these can prepare the path for a lasting peace.” The athletes and sport did their part. Now it’s up to politicians to exploit this window.

ZENIT:  But how is the faith, the religious dimension lived during daily life at the Olympics? Are there moments of prayer, celebration of Masses?

There is a religious area inside the Olympic Village, generally a multi-confessional area: there are rooms for prayer and meditation, which can be used to say Mass. Some teams bring their own chaplain. I know for sure of the presence of a priest in the Italian and also the Austrian national teams, in addition to that of South Korea. In the Korean team there are a good 15 Catholic athletes out of a total of some 120 athletes. The chaplains are always available to listen and receive in moments of discomfort and anguish of the athletes, and also to celebrate together with them their victories. A very important moment is the celebration of Holy Mass. The Evangelicals are very active also in organizing Bible reading and prayer meetings. In sum, there is much activity although little known.

ZENIT: For Catholics and Christians this is the Lenten Season, which began in fact in the course of the Olympics . . .

Indeed, Lent began on Wednesday the 14th, in the first week of competition. It’s true that in the case of an athlete one could think of certain dispensations or mitigations of the fast, if so required by the work out plan. Some, I see, observe the day of fast with much rigour, even at the expense of a better performance. Every Christian, then, lives his Lenten penitential journey in the place that Divine Providence has assigned to him. For the Christian athletes and trainers present at the Olympics, that is the environment where they must live the faith and the Lenten commitment, even if the external environment doesn’t help much. However, the same can be said of many of our countries. There was a time, perhaps, that the external environment helped to live Lent. Today it’s no longer so, and every Christian must commit himself personally, in the world where he usually lives.

ZENIT: At this point, what are the expectations for the next Olympics, after this experience of the Delegation headed by you in Korea?

We hope to be able to be there also, at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, even before that are the Youth Olympic Games at Buenos Aires in October 2018, and then at Lausanne, in February 2019.

We hope to see one another again in a few months with the Olympic Family that welcomed us with open arms.


International Film Festival & Competition Dedicated to Saint Vincent de Paul

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 3:34 AM

“Finding Vince 400” is the final initiative of the Vincentian Jubilee Year that celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian Charism. Globalizing charity, one of the recurring themes of the Jubilee, will be expressed through the medium of cinema. This insight gave rise to the idea of organizing an International Film Festival where the main protagonist is the figure of Saint Vincent de Paul and his love for those living in poverty. The coordinator of the event, which will take place at Castel Gandolfo from 18 to 21 October 2018, will be US actor Clarence Gilyard, known to the general public for having played in the television series, Walker, Texas Ranger, among others, and in many successful films including Top Gun.

The goal of the Festival is to stimulate creativity on the theme of the globalization of charity. “Finding Vince 400” is an invitation to develop stories and spread the message of globalized charity through the art of modern storytelling. The contest, open to all, is divided into three sections and envisages that the entries in the competition be submitted by 28 May 2018.

The first section entitled “Seeds of Hope” is aimed at the “under 18”: the contestants of this section are invited to use any creative expression (story, poetry, image, sculpture, music, etc.) that inspires direct service to the poor. The artists selected by the jury will be invited to the festival and awarded a trip to Castel Gandolfo.

The second section is dedicated to screenwriters: five will win a trip to Rome and a grant to produce their screenplay for a short film. These short films will be premiered at Castel Gandolfo.

The third section will see short films or films in competition on the theme “Finding Vince 400.” The jury will select films that inspire direct service to the poor and change our vision of poverty. These films will be premiered at Castel Gandolfo during the Festival.

The only condition necessary, which unites all three sections, is the theme: service to those in poverty.

The program of the festival, in addition to the awards to the winners, will include performances and the participation of actors as judges of the competition. There will be lectures, group work, screening of short films and feature films, music and entertainment, and it will be an opportunity to meet directors and screenwriters from all over the world.

For more details about how to attend FV400 at: facebook.com/FindingVince #findingvince, #fv400. Find out how to submit at fv400.org The deadline for participation is 28 May 2018



Pope’s Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, Friday, February 23, 2018

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 1:00 AM

Pope Francis has proclaimed this Friday, February 23, 2018, a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, in particular for the populations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.

The Holy Father also invited the members of other religions to join in the initiative, in the forms they consider most suitable: moments of prayer, fasting, and reflection. He pointed out that religions can contribute greatly to obtaining and consolidating peace.

The Pope has repeatedly expressed his concerns about the volatile situation in the DRC, including an appeal during his General Audience of January 24, 2018:

“I renew my call for all people to commit themselves to avoiding all forms of violence.”

For its part, the Pope said, the Church “wants nothing more than to contribute to peace and to the common good of society,” and, for this reason, he appealed that all work to avoid violence.

According to the United Nations on Jan. 23, Congolese security forces used excessive force against anti-government protesters and shot at United Nations human rights monitors, claiming at least six lives and injuring some 68 others. Despite calls for peaceful demonstrations for President Joseph Kabila to step down, protests turned violent as police tried to disperse the demonstrators, using tear gas and gunfire.

The Holy See and the DRC signed a framework agreement in February 2017, on the relations between the Catholic Church and the state. In Brazzaville, at the Palace of the People of the DRC. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Congo’s Prime Minister, Clément Mouamba, on the Holy See and Congo’s behalf, respectively, signed the agreement on Friday, Feb. 3. The African nation’s President, Denis Sassou-N’guesso, was present. Consisting of a preamble and eighteen articles, the agreement guarantees to the Church the possibility of carrying out her mission in the DRC. In particular, the legal personality of the Church and her institutions is recognized. The two parties, while safeguarding the independence and autonomy proper to them, undertake to work together for the moral, spiritual and material well-being of the human person and for the promotion of the common good.

Pope Francis on November 23, 2017, offered prayers for South Sudan and the DRC during services at the Altar of the Chair of Saint Peter in the Vatican Basilica. During that special prayer service, the Holy Father announced that he would send a concrete contribution via the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to assist the populations in this emergency phase, which over the past several months has resulted in more than 3,400 deaths and extensive material damage.