Father Giovannino Tolu said his heart began racing when he heard that Pope Francis will the visit the shrine he oversees on the Italian island of Sardinia, making it the fourth time he has received a pontiff.
Pope Francis announced at the end of his May 15 general audience that he will travel to the city of Cagliari in September to venerate Our Lady of Bonaria at the basilica of the same name.
“Can’t you hear my heart going tick, tick, tick?” Father Tolu, the basilica’s pastor, asked in reaction to the pope’s declaration.
“We still don’t know yet if Pope Francis will be here one day or if he will be here several days because we just found out yesterday about this,” Father Tolu explained in a May 16 interview with Catholic News Agency.
But regardless of how long the pontiff stays, Father Tolu said, “I feel my heart has accelerated; we have the joy of already having had three popes here.”
Pope Paul VI visited the shrine in 1970, Blessed John Paul II in 1985 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
“The shrine has a special tie to this pope because he is from Argentina,” the priest explained.
The link between the two places a world apart is that the city of Buenos Aires is named after Our Lady of Bonaria.
The city’s Spanish founder, Pedro de Mendoza, wanted to name the area “City of the Most Holy Trinity,” but Sardinian sailors, who knew of the special devotion to the Mary, wanted to name the city after her.
They then agreed to call the city “City of the Most Holy Trinity and Port of Our Lady of Bonaria.” But because the name was so long it was eventually shortened to “Bonaria,” which is translated into Spanish as “Buenos Aires,” which means “good air.”
“Our basilica here is an old sanctuary from the time of the Spanish soldiers who came here and built a small church for the soldiers,” said Father Tolu.
“But in 1704 they felt the need to expand the basilica, and there is a lot of devotion here,” he added.
Father Tolu revealed that the connection between the city and the basilica will soon be further strengthened by a small, blessed replica of the Madonna that measures around four feet (1.10 meters) and will be sent to Buenos Aires on July 1.
The devotion to Our Lady of Bonaria originated in 1370 when a violent storm began to strip all of the equipment from a Spanish sailing vessel.
But when a heavy wooden chest fell overboard and hit the water, the sea suddenly calmed.
The box was found on the shore at the port of Bonaria by some friars, who discovered a locust-wood statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus in her left arm and a lit candle in her right hand.
Devotion to the Madonna soon took root among the island’s inhabitants and especially among the sailors who looked to her for protection.
The pope told Christians it is better to be “annoying” and “a nuisance” than lukewarm in proclaiming Jesus Christ.
“If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord,” said Pope Francis during his morning Mass at the Vatican on May 16.
“We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the church,” he said at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, where he lives.
He celebrated the Mass alongside Cardinal Peter Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso, the president and the secretary of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace.
Council staff and employees from Vatican Radio were among those attending the Eucharistic celebration.
The pope preached on today’s first reading from Acts 22 and contrasted “backseat Christians” with those who have apostolic zeal.
“There are those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the church through proclamation and apostolic zeal,” he stated.
The pontiff said apostolic zeal “implies an element of madness,” which he labeled as “healthy” and “spiritual.”
He added that it “can only be understood in an atmosphere of love” and that it is not an “enthusiasm for power and possession.”
Pope Francis also dwelt on St. Paul’s actions in the reading from Acts.
“Paul, in preaching of the Lord, was a nuisance, but he had deep within him that most Christian of attitudes, apostolic zeal,” he stated.
“He was not a man of compromise, no!” he exclaimed. “The truth, forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward!”
The pope noted that St. Paul’s fate was one “with many crosses, but he keeps going, he looks to the Lord and keeps going.”
“He is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because testifying to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable.
“It threatens our comfort zones, even Christian comfort zones, right?” he asked the congregation. “It irritates us.”
Pope Francis underscored that the Lord “always wants us to move forward, forward, forward, not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures.”
Saint Paul’s apostolic zeal, he observed, comes from knowing Jesus Christ.
Paul did not find and encounter Jesus Christ with an intellectual or scientific knowledge, but with “that first knowledge of the heart and of a personal encounter.”
According to the pope, St. Paul was a “fiery” individual who was always in trouble, “not in trouble for troubles’ sake, but for Jesus” because “proclaiming Jesus is the consequence.”
“The church has so much need of this, not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis stressed.
“So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal, onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, take courage!” he exclaimed.
Pope Francis told the new ambassadors to the Holy See from Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Luxembourg and Botswana to use money to serve and asked them to help reform the world economy along “ethical lines.”
“Money has to serve, not rule!” he said during a May 16 meeting with the new ambassadors of four countries who do not have a physical location for their embassy to the Holy See in Rome.
Pope Francis used the occasion to underscore that “wanting power and possession has become limitless” and “the selfish sprawling of corruption and tax evasion have gone global.”
“The pope urges a return to the unselfish solidarity and ethics in favor of man in financial and economic reality,” he said during the 11 a.m. meeting in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
No official explanation was given of why Pope Francis chose to speak about economics with diplomats from such diverse parts of the world, but the four countries have all experienced the effects of the global financial crisis.
The pope also stressed to the ambassadors that there is a need for financial reform “along ethical lines that would in its turn produce an economic reform to benefit everyone.”
That lesson is one that the people of Antigua and Barbuda know very well, since in 2009 Allen Sanford was accused of running an $8 billion Ponzi scheme from the country.
Pope Francis said he “loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them.”
“This would require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders,” he stated.
“I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations,” he added.
The pontiff spoke about the dangers of the current economic crisis, noting it is “a new, invisible tyranny, sometimes virtual.”
“The joy of living is decreasing, indecency and violence are on the rise, and poverty is becoming more evident,” said Pope Francis.
“You must fight to live and often to live in a non-decent way,” he observed, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
According to him, one of the causes of the situation lies in the relationship that people now have with money and “its dominion over us and our societies.”
“We have created new idols, the ancient worship the golden calf has found a new and ruthless image in fetishism of money and the dictatorship of the economy without purpose nor a truly human face,” said the Pope.
“It reduces man to one of its demands, consumption and even worse, the human being is today considered himself as a commodity that you can use and then throw away,” he remarked.
The Holy Father also warned that solidarity is often considered counterproductive and contrary to financial and economic logic.
“Financiers, economists and politicians consider God as manageable, even dangerous because it calls man to his full realization and independence from any kind of slavery,” said Pope Francis.
“While the income of a minority is growing exponentially, that of the majority weakens,” he said, pointing to the growing disparity between the rich and poor.
He believes this imbalance stems from “ideologies that promote the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation.”
The pope asked the new ambassadors to assure their natives of his prayers and tell them of his “feelings of gratitude and respect.”
The new ambassadors are Bolot Iskovich Otunbaev of Kyrgyzstan, David Shoul of Antigua and Barbuda, Jean-Paul Senninger of Luxembourg, and Lameck Nthekela of Botsawana.
Pope Francis said on Wednesday that bishops and priests must take care to avoid temptations in order to be an effective shepherd, protecting their flock from dangers.
He urged the Catholic faithful to pray for bishops and priests, “because if we go on the road to riches, if we go on the road to vanity, we become wolves and not shepherds.”
The pope’s words came in his May 15 homily in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence at the Vatican.
“A bishop is not a bishop for himself,” Pope Francis said. “He is for the people, and a priest is not a priest for himself. He is for the people: to serve, to nurture them, to shepherd them, who are his flock — in order to defend them from the wolves.”
When the bishops and priests do this, he said, they foster a “relationship of protection and love” between God and the pastor and between the pastor and the laity.
This shows “a true love” that unites the church, he explained.
The pope based his homily on the Acts of the Apostles passage in which St. Paul exhorts the Church of Ephesus to guard against the “ravening wolves” and “men speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them,” Vatican Radio reports.
Pope Francis repeated his prayers for bishops and priests who face temptation.
“We are men and we are sinners,” he said. “We are tempted.”
He cited St. Augustine’s commentaries on the prophet Ezekiel. Augustine warned against the temptations of wealth and vanity, when the bishop and priest “take from the people,” make deals and become “attached to money.”
The Holy Father added that “when a priest, a bishop goes after money, the people do not love him — and that’s a sign….he ends badly.”
A bishop or priest on “the road to vanity” is one who “enters into the spirit of careerism — and this hurts the church very much,” the pontiff said. Such a man “ends up being ridiculous: he boasts, he is pleased to be seen, all powerful – and the people do not like that!”
He pointed to the example of St. Paul, who “did not have a bank account” but worked with his hands and accomplished God’s will.
According to a Catholic News Agency report, Pope Francis asked the Catholic faithful to pray for bishops and priests “that we might be poor, that we might be humble, meek, in the service of the people.”
He urged bishops and priests to pray much and to “boldly preach the message of salvation.”
The chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for reflection, greater respect for human life and healing in the wake of the May 13 convictions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia.
“Dr. Gosnell’s trial brought much-needed attention to the tragedy of abortion,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston. “His murder convictions of newly delivered infants have caused many people to reexamine their positions on abortion.”
Among Gosnell’s 237 convictions were three counts of first-degree murder of infants born alive during attempted late-term abortions, one count of infanticide, and the involuntary manslaughter of a patient who died from complications of anesthesia administered by an unlicensed nurse at his abortion clinic. He was also found guilty of conspiracy, performing abortions beyond the legal limit in Pennsylvania, and 208 violations of the state’s informed consent law. On May 14, Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison.
“In addition to the violence against defenseless unborn and newborn children, women’s lives were endangered by his unethical practices. I hope and pray that Dr. Gosnell will come to regret and repent for his many crimes,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Our nation needs great healing from the culture of death, of which this sad story is only one example. Let us pray for the children who have been lost and the many mothers and families who silently grieve their loss. Our Lord longs to heal every person affected by the tragedy of abortion and other violence.”
More information on the Catholic Church’s pastoral response to those who have been involved in abortion is available at HopeAfterAbortion.com. More information on nationwide efforts of prayer and fasting are available at http://www.usccb.org/fast.
USCCB Pro-Life chair responds to cloning breakthrough in Oregon
Says creating embryos to destroy them objectionable to non-Catholics too
Notes that morally acceptable scientific advances already addressing same goals
Human cloning for any purpose is inconsistent with the moral responsibility to “treat each member of the human family as a unique gift of God, as a person with his or her own inherent dignity,” said the chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“Creating new human lives in the laboratory solely to destroy them is an abuse denounced even by many who do not share the Catholic Church’s convictions on human life,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston. He said this way of making embryos will also be taken up by people who want to produce cloned children as “copies” of other people. “Whether used for one purpose or the other, human cloning treats human beings as products, manufactured to order to suit other people’s wishes.” He added, “A technical advance in human cloning is not progress for humanity but its opposite.”
Cardinal O’Malley’s statement responded to the news May 15 that researchers in Oregon have succeeded in producing cloned human embryos and obtained their embryonic stem cells. He added that the researcher’s goal of producing genetically matched stem cells for research and possible therapies is already being addressed by scientific advances that do not pose the same more problems.
More information on USCCB’s position on human cloning is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/cloning/
The full text of Cardinal O’Malley’s statement follows:
The news that researchers have developed a technique for human cloning is deeply troubling on many levels. Over 120 human embryos were created and destroyed, to produce six embryonic stem cell lines. Creating the embryos involved subjecting healthy women to procedures that put their health and fertility at risk. And the researchers’ alleged goal, producing genetically matched stem cells for research and possible therapies, is already being addressed by scientific advances that do not pose these grave moral wrongs.
Creating new human lives in the laboratory solely to destroy them is an abuse denounced even by many who do not share the Catholic Church’s convictions on human life. Also, this means of making embryos for research will be taken up by those who want to produce cloned children as “copies” of other people. Whether used for one purpose or the other, human cloning treats human beings as products, manufactured to order to suit other people’s wishes. It is inconsistent with our moral responsibility to treat each member of the human family as a unique gift of God, as a person with his or her own inherent dignity. A technical advance in human cloning is not progress for humanity but its opposite.
As he looked ahead to Pentecost, Pope Francis spoke about the Holy Spirit’s role in guiding Christians to know Jesus, who is the Truth, in an age of relativism.
“We live in an age rather skeptical of truth,” the Pope said, as he encouraged Christians to let themselves “be imbued with the light of the Holy Spirit, so that he introduces us into the Truth of God.”
But “you cannot grab the truth as if it were an object, you encounter it. It is not a possession, is an encounter with a person,” Pope Francis noted as he recalled Pontius Pilate posing the question, “What is truth?” to Jesus.
The Holy Father made his remarks in the context of an ongoing series of reflections on the Creed that he has been offering each Wednesday, as well as the Feast of Pentecost which will be celebrated this coming Sunday.
For those reasons he focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in leading believers to the Truth.
“First of all, he reminds and imprints on the hearts of believers the words that Jesus said, and precisely through these words, God’s law — as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced — is inscribed in our hearts and becomes within us a principle of evaluation in our choices and of guidance in our daily actions, it becomes a principle of life,” the Pope taught.
The second way that the Holy Spirit leads us, the pontiff taught, is by guiding “us ‘into’ the Truth, that is, he helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God.”
“We cannot achieve this on our own strengths. If God does not enlightens us interiorly, our being Christians will be superficial,” Pope Francis stated.
The May 15 general audience featured more off-the-cuff remarks from the pope than previous meetings have, and today he seemed to spontaneously compose a prayer to encourage people to be more open to the Holy Spirit.
“And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day,” he urged.
“Will you do it?” he asked the crowd packed into St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrims responded “yes,” but Pope Francis was not satisfied, so he replied, “I can’t hear you!” He was rewarded with a much louder and enthusiastic “Yes!”
Pope Francis also held up Mary as an example and “her ‘yes,’ her total availability to receive the Son of God in her life, and who from that moment was transformed.”
“Do we live in God and of God, is our life really animated by God? How many things do I put before God?” he asked the pilgrims.
Living this way means not being “a ‘part-time’ Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices,” he said.
The pope closed his address by asking Catholics to look at how they have spent the Year of Faith so far.
Have we “actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments.
“But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence,” he said.
USCCB subcommittee chair calls Minnesota lawmakers post-Mother’s Day marriage redefinition ‘height of irony’
Men and women bring different gifts to parenting
Redefining marriage in law serves no one’s good
Truth of marriage not going away
“It is the height of irony that the Minnesota legislature decided, and the governor signed into law, the redefinition of marriage just after we celebrated the unique gifts of mothers and women on Mother’s Day,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. Archbishop Cordileone chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. He said further, “It is all the more so given the fact that in the last election Minnesotans were led to believe that there was no need to define marriage in the constitution, that nothing would change if the marriage amendment didn’t pass.”
“It also renders senseless the very idea of President Obama’s National Fatherhood Initiative, in that a bill now becomes law in Minnesota that effectively claims that a mother and a father together are superfluous and can be replaced by two men or two women,” he added.
Archbishop Cordileone noted that Minnesota is the third state in just over a week to redefine marriage in the law.
“There are many of us Americans, including many Minnesotans, who stand for the natural and true meaning of marriage. They know that men and women are important; their complementary difference matters, their union matters, and it matters to kids. Mothers and fathers are simply irreplaceable,” he said. “Instead of strengthening, the Minnesota legislature’s decision to redefine marriage weakens motherhood and fatherhood, and so strikes a blow to all children who deserve both a mother and father.”
“Some wish to believe that sexual relationships outside of the marital context of husband and wife are innocuous, choosing to ignore the fact that they are actually harmful to individuals and to society as a whole,” he added.
“We know that now is the time to redouble our prayers, efforts and witness. The truth of marriage is not going away,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “We know what it takes to work toward a culture of life even in the midst of laws that work against us. The same is true for rebuilding a culture of marriage. No matter what the horizon may bring, we will continue in charity and truth to stand for justice and for the most vulnerable among us.”
The Minnesota law highlights further implications of marriage redefinition in the law. For example, the law states that terms such as “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” and “father” that denote spousal and familial relationships in Minnesota law are to apply equally to persons in an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship. The law also states that “parentage presumptions based on civil marriage” will also apply, thus allowing for children to have two mothers or two fathers.
Christians who buy into Satan’s temptation to live selfishly get swindled, while those who live life as a “gift” to others are immersed in love and the Church community, Pope Francis said.
“And, we must say, with Satan the payback is rotten. He always rips us off, always!” the pope emphasized as he contrasted the kind of selfish living that the devil promotes with the generous way of living Jesus exemplified.
“When a Christian begins to isolate himself, he also insulates his consciousness from the sense of community, from a sense of the church, and from the love that Jesus gives us,” he explained.
“Instead, the Christian who gives his life, what Jesus calls ‘lost,’ finds it and finds it in its fullness,” the pope preached May 14 in his homily on John 15.
A group of employees from the Vatican Museums and some students of the Pontifical Portuguese College attended the 7 a.m. Mass in the chapel of St. Martha’s residence.
The pope concelebrated the Mass with the Colombian Archbishop of Medellín, Ricardo Antonio Restrepo Tobón.
The Holy Father explained that wanting to live just for oneself is like Judas, who “in the end loses” his life.
“If we really want to follow Jesus, we must live life as a gift to give to others, not as a treasure to be preserved,” said Pope Francis.
The pontiff compared the path of Jesus to a path of love, while the way of Judas is one of selfishness.
“Jesus tells us today strong words, ‘no one has a stronger love than this, to lay down his life,’” he said.
“But today’s liturgy also shows us Judas, who had just the opposite attitude, and this is because he never understood the meaning of a gift,” he added.
Pope Francis noted that Judas was “off in his solitude” and that his “attitude of selfishness developed into the betrayal of Jesus.”
He explained that the person who loves you gives his life as a gift, but the selfish person “grows in this selfishness and becomes a traitor, but always alone.”
“Those who give their life for love are never alone and are always in the community and in the family,” Pope Francis said.
“On the other hand, he who isolates his conscience in selfishness, loses it in the end,” he stated.
Judas, the pope pointed out, was “an idolater, attached to money.”
“This idolatry led him to isolate himself from the community, this is the drama of isolated consciousness,” he said.
Pope Francis finished his homily by invoking the Holy Spirit, asking for “a heart able to love with humility and meekness.”
He asked that the Holy Spirit “free us always” from “the way of selfishness, which eventually ends badly.”
The Holy Spirit helps Christians remember their personal history so they do not think they are “a winner of the ‘Nobel Prize for Holiness,’” Pope Francis said this morning.
“And when a little vanity creeps in, when someone believes themselves to be a winner of the ‘Nobel Prize for Holiness,’ then memory is also good for us: ‘But … remember where I took you from, the very least of the flock. You were behind, in the flock,’” the pope preached May 13 in his homily on Acts 19.
Vatican Radio technicians and staff from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrant attended the 7 a.m. Mass in the chapel of St. Martha’s residence.
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles recalled a trip that St. Paul made to Ephesus, where he met some disciples and asked them if they received the Holy Spirit. They replied, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
This response served as the launching point for the pope’s homily.
These first Christians’ lack of awareness is not something that was confined to the first ages of the faith, he noted.
“Even now, many Christians do not know who the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit is. And you sometimes hear: ‘But I get on well enough with the Father and with Son, because I pray the Our Father to the Father, I have communion with the Son, but I do not know what to do with the Holy Spirit …’” Pope Francis remarked.
These people see the Holy Spirit as “‘the dove, the one that gives us the seven gifts,’” he explained, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
“But in this way,” the pope said, “the poor Holy Spirit always comes last and finds no place in our lives.”
Pope Francis described the Holy Spirit as “God active in us,” “God who helps us remember,” who “awakens our memory.” Jesus himself explained this to the Apostles before Pentecost: the Spirit that God will send in my name “will remind you of everything I have said.”
“Memory is a great grace, and when a Christian has no memory — this is a hard thing, but it’s true — he is not a Christian, he is an idolater,” the Holy Father stated.
He explained that this is because people who have no memory fall into the trap of thinking that they do not need God and can save themselves.
But the Holy Spirit helps believers “enter into history,” he said, pointing to St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews.
There, the pope taught, “the author says: ‘Remember your fathers in the faith’ — memory; ‘remember the early days of your faith, how you were courageous’ — memory. A memory of our life, of our history, a memory of the moment when we had the grace of meeting Jesus, the memory of all that Jesus has told us.”
“That memory that comes from the heart, that is a grace of the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis stressed.
He said remembering also means recalling “one’s own misery, that which makes us slaves, and together with them, the grace of God that redeems us from our miseries.”
Pope Francis concluded with an invitation to Christians to ask the grace of memory, so that they will never forget the paths that have been taken, “that they will not forget the graces of their lives; that they will not forget the forgiveness of their sins; that they will not forget that they were slaves and the Lord has saved them.”