(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday made a surprise visit to a Rome rehabilitation centre for patients with neurological diseases.
A statement from the Holy See press office said the afternoon visit was a continuation of the ‘Fridays of Mercy’ initiative that he inaugurated during the recent Jubilee Year to encourage practical gestures of solidarity with those most in need.
The Santa Lucia Foundation, located to the south of Rome’s city centre, is well known for its quality care of patients affected by physical or mental disabilities resulting from strokes, bone marrow diseases, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Pope Francis was welcomed by the director and staff of the centre, as well as by the patients and their family members. The Holy Father spent time talking and laughing with many of the young children, watching with particular interest as he was shown some of the exercises which help them to regain their mobility.
He also met with older patients, aged between 15 and 25, many of whom suffer from severe disabilities as a result of car accidents. Before leaving the centre, the pope visited a gym providing rehabilitation for the elderly and then spent a few minutes in prayer in a chapel located on the premises.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Churches in Europe to step up efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refugees.
The pope’s words came in a meeting with national migration directors under the auspices of the Council of European Bishops Conferences or CCEE. He said he was saddened to see that Catholic communities in Europe were also defensive and unwelcoming towards migrants, justifying their attitudes on grounds of conserving their cultural and religious identity.
Pope Francis said we must recognize and understand this sense of unease, in light of the economic crisis which has left deep wounds in society. Furthermore, he said, governments and communities have been ill prepared to cope with large influxes of migrants, highlighting the limits of the European unification process.
Churches become more ‘catholic’
But from an ecclesiological perspective , the pope said, the arrival of so many Christian brothers and sisters offers the Church in Europe an opportunity to become ever more ‘catholic’. He noted how many migrants and refugees have already enriched parishes in their host countries.
Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue
From a missionary perspective , he said, ministering to migrants offers new frontiers to announce the Gospel and to witness to our Christian faith, while showing profound respect for other faith traditions. These encounters are fertile ground for developing sincere ecumenical and interreligious relations, he said.
Welcome, protect, promote, integrate
Pope Francis also noted that in his message for next year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees , he speaks in detail about the need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all people on the move. On the basis of these four verbs, he said, the Vatican office for migrants and refugees has published a 20 point action plan for local Churches seeking to promote best practices.
Constructive dialogue with governments
This action plan, he added, should be shared with all European bishops conferences, helping to promote constructive dialogue with governments ahead of the Global Compact for Migration , due to be draw up and approved at a United Nations conference in 2018.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has given money to the earthquake relief effort in Mexico to help survivors and victims’ families in the worst hit areas of the country.
The Vatican said on Thursday that an initial contribution of 150.000 dollars would be sent through the Dicastery for Integral Human Development .
The money will be divided between emergency relief efforts in the dioceses worst hit by the earthquake . The 7.1 quake on Tuesday caused at least 250 deaths and widespread damage in the capital and surrounding areas.
The donation, which is intended to show the pope’s solidarity and spiritual closeness to those affected by the disaster, is a small part of the financial support being sent to Mexico through many bishops conferences and Caritas organisations .
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Father Stanley Rother, the first American-born martyr in the history of the Church is being beatified in Oklahoma City on September 23rd. The U.S. priest was gunned down in Guatamala in 1981 shortly after taking the heroic decision to return to his mission parish in the Central American nation despite knowing his name was on a death list there.
Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda is the author of a biography about this American martyr, entitled, ‘The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.’ She spoke to Susy Hodges about Father Stanley’s life, his mission and why it made such an impact on her.
Listen to this interview by Maria Scaperlanda:
A U.S. Catholic writer and blogger, Scaperlanda was involved in collecting documentation for Father Stanley’s beatification cause. She described how the priest grew up in a farming family and was used to being very “hands-on” when it came to tilling the land and fixing whatever was broken and he used those same skills to help the people in his mission parish in a remote area of Guatamala.
“Heart wrenching” decision
Asked about Father Stanley’s decision to return to his parish in Guatamala following a stay with his family in his native U.S. despite the death threats made against him Scaperlanda said it must have been “really really difficult ….. and heart wrenching” for him. She likened it to Jesus’ mental torment in the Garden of Gethsamene shortly before his arrest and crucifixion.
“The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run”
Scaperlanda explained how the title for her book about Father Stanley “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run” was taken from the priest’s words in a letter he wrote shortly before his return to Guatamala where he wrote that “a shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”
“A great model for all Americans”
By choosing “to stand with his people” Father Stanley is “a model of faithful discipleship,” she said. He was an “ordinary man” who did “an amazing thing” and as such “can teach us to live holy lives.” This first U.S.-born martyr is “a great model for all Americans,” she said.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass on Thursday – the Feast of St. Matthew , Apostle and Evangelist – in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.
In remarks following the Readings of the Day, which included St. Matthew’s own account of his conversion and calling into discipleship, the Holy Father focused on the three stages of the episode: calling, feasting, and scandal.
Jesus had just healed a paralytic, when He met Matthew – a tax-collector, hence a figure despised by Jewish authorities and considered a traitor to his land and people – sitting at the customs desk.
Jesus looked at him and said, “Follow me,” and Matthew got up and followed Him
Recalling Caravaggio’s famous depiction of the scene, Pope Francis spoke of Matthew’s “sidelong look” with one eye on Our Savior and the other on his purse: a look that was even stand-offish, if not outright aggressive. Then, there was the merciful gaze of Jesus, which communicated such overwhelming love that the resistance of the man who wanted the money, “fails”: Matthew got up and followed Him.
Click below to hear our report
“It is the struggle between mercy and sin,” Pope Francis said
Jesus’ love was able to enter into the heart of that man, Matthew, because he “knew he was a sinner,” he knew “he was not loved by anyone,” and was even despised. It was precisely “that sinful conscience, which opened the door to the mercy of Jesus.” So, “[Matthew] left everything” and went on a new journey with Our Lord.
This is the encounter between the sinner and Jesus:
“This is the first condition of salvation: feeling oneself in danger. It is the first condition of healing: feeling sick. Feeling sinful is the first condition of receiving this gaze of mercy. But let us think of the look of Jesus, so beautiful, so good, so merciful. And we, too, when we pray, we feel this look upon us; it is the look of love, the gaze of mercy, the gaze that saves us. Do not be afraid.”
Matthew – like Zaccheus – feeling happy, invited Jesus to come home to eat. The second stage is indeed “the party” – one of festivity. Matthew invited friends, “those of the same trade,” sinners and publicans.
The Pope said this recalls the words of Jesus in Chapter XV of Luke’s Gospel: “There will be more feasting in Heaven for a sinner who converts than for one hundred just men who will remain just.” This is the feast of the Father’s meeting, the feast of mercy. Pope Francis said that Jesus is profligate with mercy, mercy for all.
Then comes the third moment: that of scandal
The Pharisees saw that publicans and sinners were at table with Jesus, and said to His disciples, “How is your Master eating with publicans and sinners?” Thus, Pope Francis noted, “Always a scandal begins with this phrase: ‘But how come?’” He went on to say, “When you hear this sentence, it smells,” and “scandal follows.” They were, in essence, scandalized by “the impurity of not following the law.” They knew “the Doctrine” very well, knew how to go “on the way of the Kingdom of God,” knew “better than anyone how things ought to have been done,” but “had forgotten the first commandment, of love.” Then, “”hey were locked in the cage of sacrifices,” perhaps thinking, “But let’s make a sacrifice to God, let us do all we have to do, “so we are saved.” In summary, they believed that salvation came from themselves, they felt safe. “”No,” said Pope Francis. “God saves us, saves us Jesus Christ”:
“That ‘how come?’, which we’ve heard so many times from Catholics when they saw works of mercy. How come? Jesus is clear, He is very clear: ‘Go and learn.’ He sent them to learn, right? ‘Go and learn what mercy means. [That’s what] I want, and not sacrifices, for I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners.’ If you want to be called by Jesus, recognize yourself a sinner.”
If you would receive mercy, recognize yourselves as sinners
Francis exhorted us, therefore, to recognize ourselves as sinners, not guilty of “sin” in the abstract but guilty of “concrete sins”: so many “we all have committed them,” he said. “Let us look on Jesus with that merciful glance full of love,” he continued.
While still dwelling on the scandal, he noted that there are so many:
“There are so many, many – and always, even in the Church today. They say, ‘No, you cannot, it’s all clear, it’s all, no, no – those are sinners, we have to turn them away.’ Many saints have also been persecuted or suspected. We think of St. Joan of Arc, sent to the stake, because they thought she was a witch, and condemned her. A saint! Think of Saint Teresa, suspected of heresy, think of Bl. [Antonio] Rosmini. ‘Mercy I desire, and not sacrifices.’ And the door to meet Jesus is recognizing ourselves as we are: the truth [about orselves], [that we are] Sinners. And he comes, and we meet. It is very beautiful to meet Jesus.”
(from Vatican Radio)…