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Pope Francis, with retired pope, canonizes Sts. John and John Paul

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

Canonizing two recent popes in the presence of his immediate predecessor, Pope Francis praised the new Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II as men of courage and mercy, who responded to challenges of their time by modernizing the Catholic Church in fidelity to its ancient traditions.

“They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century,” the pope said April 27, in his homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful.”

“John XXIII and John Paul cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church in keeping with her original features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries,” he said.

Speaking before a crowd of half a million that included retired Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis praised St. John for his best-known accomplishment, calling the Second Vatican Council, which he said “showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit.”

“He let himself be led, and he was for the church a pastor, a servant-leader,” the pope said of St. John. “This was his great service to the church. I like to think of him as the pope of openness to the Spirit.”

Pope Francis characterized St. John Paul as the “pope of the family,” a title he said the late pope himself had hoped to be remembered by. Pope Francis said he was sure St. John Paul was guiding the church on its path to two upcoming synods of bishops on the family, to be held at the Vatican this October and in October 2015.

The pope invoked the help of the two new papal saints for the synods’ success, and he prayed, “May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.”

Pope Francis has said the agenda for the family synods will include church teaching and practice on marriage, areas he has said exemplify a particular need for mercy in the church today.

The pope repeatedly mentioned mercy in his homily, which he delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday, an observance St. John Paul put on the church’s universal calendar in 2000. The Polish pope died on the vigil of the feast in 2005 and was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011.

In addition to Pope Benedict, making only his third public appearance since he resigned in February 2013, Pope Francis’ concelebrants included some 150 cardinals and 700 bishops.

Pope Benedict did not join the procession of bishops at the start of Mass, but arrived half an hour earlier, wearing white vestments and a bishop’s miter and walking with a cane; he sat in a section of the square designated for cardinals. Pope Francis greeted his predecessor with an embrace at the start of the Mass, drawing applause from the crowd, and approached him again at the end.

During the canonization ceremony, which took place at the beginning of the Mass, devotees carried up relics of the new saints in matching silver reliquaries, which Pope Francis kissed before they were placed on a small table for veneration by the congregation.

St. John’s relic was a piece of the late pope’s skin, removed when his body was transferred to its present tomb in the main sanctuary of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Floribeth Mora Diaz, a Costa Rican woman whose recovery from a brain aneurysm was recognized by the church as a miracle attributable to the intercession of St. John Paul, brought up a silver reliquary containing some of the saint’s blood, taken from him for medical testing shortly before his death in 2005.

The Mass took place under cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 60s, and only a sprinkle of rain fell just before the 10 a.m. start of the liturgy. Huge tapestries bearing portraits of the two saints hung from the facade of the basilica, and the square was decorated with 30,000 roses and other flowers donated by the nation of Ecuador.

The square and the broad Via della Conciliazione leading up to it were tightly packed with approximately half a million pilgrims, many of whom had been standing for hours before the start of Mass. Among the many national flags on display, the majority were from Poland, the native land of St. John Paul.

The Vatican estimated that 800,000 attended the ceremony in Rome, with overflow crowds watching on giant-screen TVs set up at various locations around the city. The 2011 beatification of Pope John Paul drew more than 1 million people, according to Italian police estimates at the time.

The Vatican said 93 countries sent official delegations to the Mass, and more than 30 of the delegations were led by a president or prime minister. The king and queen of Spain and the king and queen of Belgium were in attendance.

Pope Francis spent half an hour personally greeting the delegations following the Mass. He then rode in his popemobile through the square and adjacent avenue, drawing cheers and applause from the crowds, for about 20 minutes until disappearing at the end of the street.

The canonizations of both popes came after extraordinary measures by their successors to expedite the process. Pope Benedict waived the usual five-year waiting period before the start of a sainthood cause for Pope John Paul shortly after his death, when he was mourned by crowds shouting “Santo subito!” (”A saint at once!”). In the case of St. John, Pope Francis waived the usual requirement of a second miracle before a blessed can added to the church’s canon of saints.

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

Pope Francis: Kiss the Crucifix

By Elise Harris
Catholic News Agency

Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) — In his general audience address, Pope Francis spoke on the meaning of suffering and evil, explaining that it is a mystery which finds its answer in the passion and death of Jesus, who endured it for each of us.

Lauren Cater / Catholic News Agency
Pope Francis took part in a penitential service at St. Peter's Basilica, March 28, 2014.

“This week, it will do good for us all to look to the crucifix, kissing the wounds of Jesus, kissing the crucifix. He has taken upon himself the whole of human suffering,” the pope said in his April 16 Wednesday general audience.

Speaking to the thousands gathered for his weekly address, the pontiff began by drawing attention to the day’s Gospel reading, which recounts the betrayal of Judas, noting that this event marks the beginning of Christ’s Passion.

With his death on the Cross “Jesus reaches complete humiliation,” the pope observed, highlighting how “it involved the worst death; that which was reserved for slaves and criminals,” and that although “Jesus was considered a prophet,” he “died as a criminal.”

“Looking at Jesus in his passion, we see as in a mirror also the suffering of all humanity and find the divine answer to the mystery of evil, of suffering, of death,” he said.

Noting that “many times we experience horror in the face of the evil and suffering that surrounds us, and we ask: why does God permit it?” the Pope said that “it’s a deep wound for us to see suffering and death, especially that of the innocent!”

This wound especially stings “when we see children suffering ... it’s a wound in the heart. It’s the mystery of evil,” he said, “and Jesus takes all this evil, all this suffering, upon himself.”

Often times we believe that “God in his omnipotence will defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory,” he said. However instead he shows us “a humble victory that seems like a human failure to us.”

“We can say: God wins precisely in failure. The Son of God, in fact, appears on the cross as a defeated man: he suffers, is betrayed, is scorned and finally dies.”

Drawing attention to how “Jesus permits that evil crosses the line with him, and takes it upon himself to conquer it,” the pope emphasized that “his Passion is not an accident; his death — that death — was ‘written.’”

Referring to “the mystery of the great humility of God,” Pope Francis observed that, “Really, we don’t have many explanations; it’s a puzzling mystery. ‘For God has so loved the world that he gave his only son.’”

“This week we think so much of the pain of Jesus,” he said, “and we tell ourselves: ‘This is for me. Even if I had been the only person in the world, He would have done it.’”

“’He did it for me.’ And we kiss the crucifix and say: ‘For me. Thank you, Jesus. For me.’”

“And when all seems lost, when there is no one left because they will strike ‘the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered,’” he said, “it is then that God intervenes with the power of the resurrection.”

News Roundup (April 10, 2014)

Here is a roundup of some things making headlines on April 10, 2014, as collected by the staff of The Northern Cross. Today, the Vatican and law enforcement work together on human trafficking, the U.S. bishops call for action on unemployment benefits, students at St. Thomas School in International Falls make the honor roll, and the USCCB offers resources on the Girl Scouts.

Pope Francis on Twitter today (Twitter)

@Pontifex: Jesus teaches us to not be ashamed of touching human misery, of touching his flesh in our brothers and sisters who suffer. (EG 270).  

Vatican, civil authorities join forces to oppose human trafficking (CNA, USCCB, CNS)

Church and law enforcement officials gathered in Rome to discuss methods for the eradication of human slavery, which Pope Francis called “a wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ“ and “a crime against humanity.” The Holy Father also met with victims. Read more >> What the USCCB is doing >> Watch >>



USCCB calls for action supporting unemployment insurance (USCCB)

A temporary extension of emergency unemployment benefits passed the U.S. Senate and is now in the House. Contact your representatives >>

St. Thomas School posts honor role (International Falls Journal)

Diocesan school announces list of academic achievers. Read more >>

USCCB releases resource guide on Girl Scouts for Catholic parishes (CNS)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been in dialogue with the Girl Scouts over various controversies and has now issued some guidelines. Read more >>

Vatican launches media center for Easter and canonization celebrations (Vatican News)

Broadcasters are gearing up to bring two of the biggest events of the year — Easter in Rome and the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II — to millions of viewers worldwide. Read more >> More from the USCCB >>

News Roundup, April 9

News Roundup, April 9

‘Nobody like you!’ (CNS)

How did the pope respond when a man in the crowd shouted to him that there was no one like him? Watch >>

 

Pope honors Jesuit priest killed in Syria with plea for end to violence (CNS)

Pope Francis says the killing of a 75-year-old Dutch priest in Syria who was loved and esteemed by Christians and Muslims alike and stayed in the war-torn country to help the poor and homeless “filled me with deep sadness.” Read more >> 

Love coffee? Thank a 16th century pope (Catholic Exchange)

A columnist for Catholic Exchange writes that while coffee is an Islamic invention, Pope Clement VIII’s blessing paved the way for it to become a favorite in Christian Europe and beyond. Read more >> 

Pope Francis begins new catechesis series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (CNS)

In his general audience today, Pope Francis began a series of talks on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, beginning with the gift of wisdom: “seeing the world, situations, circumstances and problems with God’s eyes.” Read story >> Full text >>

News Roundup: April 8

Here are some of the things making headlines in the church and the world today today.

House, Senate agree on minimum wage increase (Duluth News Tribune)

Under new legislation the minimum wage in the state of Minnesota would get a major hike, up to $9.50/hr for large businesses by 2016. Read more ....

Pope: Cross isn’t an ornament, Christianity isn’t a do-gooder’s guide (CNS)

The cross ... “isn’t an ornament” that is just placed in churches and on altars, and “it’s not a symbol” of identification, Pope Francis said.

“The cross is the mystery, the mystery of God’s love, who lowers himself, who makes himself ‘nothing’” and takes on humanity’s sins, he said. Read more ....

Supreme Court declines to hear religious freedom photography case (CNA)

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a case involving a small New Mexico photography business that was sued over refusing to work a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006. This allows to stand a lower-court decision that said compromising one’s religious beliefs is “the price of citizenship.” Read more ....

March for Marriage set for June 19 (USCCB)

The second March for Marriage, organized by the National Organization for Marriage to defend marriage between a man and a woman, will be held in Washington, D.C., on June 19. Read more ....

On Holy Thursday, pope will wash feet of elderly and disabled (Zenit)

Last year on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis washed the feet of prisoners in a juvenile prison in Rome. Today it was announced that he will wash the feet of the elderly and disabled in the same part of the city. Read more ....

Logo for papal visit, Credit: Archdiocese of Seoul, South Korea

Vatican announces logo, motto for papal trip to Korea (CNA)

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit South Korea in August — the first time a pope has visited the country in 25 years — and the Holy See has released the logo and motto for the trip. Read more ....

 

News Roundup, April 7, 2014

Here are some of the things making headlines across the Catholic world.

Pope Francis: God's mercy lovingly heals the wounds of sin

Pope Francis’ homily on Monday drew on the Gospel account of the woman caught in adultery. “How many of us,” the pope said, “should perhaps go to hell? And the condemnation would be just … but He forgives and goes beyond. How? With this mercy!”

Pope, at Angelus, reminds faithful of Jesus’ promise that ‘whoever lives and believes in me will never die’

“Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey this command of Jesus, going out into the light, into life; when the masks fall from our face — often we are masked by sin, the masks must fall! — and we rediscover the courage of our true face, created in the image and likeness of God.”

Church helping Rwanda heal, 20 years after genocide

Twenty years after the African nation of Rwanda was ripped apart by genocide, the church is still involved in efforts to bring peace and reconciliation. Perpetrators say that apologizing and receiving forgiveness has lifted a burden from their heart and allowed them to rest, while victims say that granting forgiveness allows them to heal and move forward with their lives.

Blessed John Paul II saw prayer as first duty of pope

 Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who worked closely with Blessed John Paul II, says the late pontiff saw praying for the church and the world was his main duty as pope.

Mozilla head's resignation over marriage stance sparks outcry

Brendan Eich, inventor of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla, the organization that makes the Firefox Web browser, resigned after a brief term as CEO of the organization due to pressure from groups upset he donated money for California’s Prop 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

 

Pope, Britain's Queen Elizabeth have informal meeting at Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In their first overseas trip in three years, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, met April 3 with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The 30-minute visit of the 87-year-old queen and her 92-year-old husband demonstrates "the importance that she places on this relationship with the Holy See and on getting to know Pope Francis," said Nigel Baker, the British ambassador to the Holy See.

Read more ...