In a rare interview, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recalled his close friendship with Blessed John Paul II, saying that the pontiff’s sanctity and deep spirituality were apparent during his life.
“In the years in which I collaborated with him, it was ever clearer to me that John Paul II was a saint,” said Benedict XVI during an interview with Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch, which was published April 20 in the Spanish newspaper “La Razon.”
“Naturally, his intense relationship with God, being immersed in communion with the Lord, needs to be taken into account above all,” the former Pope said of his predecessor.
Benedict XVI, who served under Pope John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Polish pontiff courageously “embraced his task in a truly difficult time.”
“John Paul II did not ask for applause nor did he look around worried about how his decisions were going to be received. He acted based on his faith and his convictions, and he was also willing to take hits,” Benedict recounted. “The courage for truth is, in my view, a primary measure of holiness. Only by looking first at his relationship with God is it possible to also understand his unfailing pastoral determination.”
In this sense, he recalled the decision of the future saint to confront head on the spread of liberation theology in Latin America.
“Both in Europe and in North America, the common view was that it was about supporting the poor and that therefore it was a cause that ought to be approved outright. But that was an error. Poverty and the poor were undoubtedly addressed by Liberation Theology but from a very specific perspective,” Benedict XVI explained.
Liberation Theology used the Christian faith and transformed it “into a kind of political force. The religious traditions of the faith were placed at the service of political action. In this way, the faith was profoundly alienated from itself and true love for the poor was thus weakened as well. It was necessary to oppose such a falsification of the Christian faith precisely out of love for the poor and service to them,” he continued.
The situation in John Paul II’s native Poland — ruled at that time by Communism — “had showed him that the church should truly act for freedom and liberation not in a political way but by awakening in men, through the faith, the forces of authentic liberation,” Benedict XVI said.
During the interview, the Pope Emeritus underscored that his collaboration with John Paul II “was always marked by friendship and affection,” on both an official and personal level. “The Pope was very versed in contemporary German literature and it was very beautiful (for both of us) to seek out the right decision together on these things,” he said.
Benedict XVI recalled that each Tuesday, the two would discuss the catechesis for the Wednesday audience. “Through the catechesis, the Pope decided to offer over time a catechism. He chose the themes and had us prepare brief preliminary considerations to be developed later (…). Here also the theological competence of the Pope became apparent. But at the same time I admired his willingness to learn.”
The retired pontiff also noted “three encyclicals of particular importance” issued by John Paul II. The first is “Redemptor hominis,” in which he offered his personal synthesis of the Christian faith. The second is “Redemptoris mission,” in which he examined “the relationship between inter-religious dialogue and the missionary task.” The third is “Veritatis splendor,” in which he addressed moral problems in a way that continues to be relevant today.
“The encyclical ‘Fides et ratio’ was also very significant, in which the Pope strived to offer a new vision of the relationship between the Christian faith and philosophical reason. And lastly, it is absolutely necessary to mention ‘Evangelium vitae,’ which developed one of the most fundamental themes of the entire pontificate of John Paul II: the intangible dignity of human life, from the moment of conception,” Benedict XVI added.
The retired Pope also said the spirituality of his predecessor was characterized “by the intensity of his prayer, which was profoundly rooted in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.”
“All of us were aware of his great love for the Mother of God. To give everything to Mary meant being, with her, totally for the Lord. Just as Mary did not live for herself but for Him, so also he learned from her and from being with her a complete and rapid devotion to Christ.”
“My memory of John Paul II is filled with gratitude. I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to imitate him, but I have tried to carry forward his legacy and his work the best that I could,” Benedict XVI said.
The postulators of the canonization causes for both John Paul II and John XXIII told journalists at the Vatican that the soon-to-be-saints also had faults which show their “humanity.”
At the Holy See Press Office April 22, Monsignor Slawomir Oder and Father Giovangiuseppe Califano discussed both the innate signs of holiness as well as the limitations of the pontiffs.
Msgr. Oder recalled that John Paul II “was a man with blood in his veins,” and as such “had no problem in showing his feelings” — sometimes “he was angry, which demonstrated his humanity.”
The Polish priest noted that in one of his trips, Pope John Paul II was told to use a bullet proof vest. However, the pontiff strongly and negatively rejected the move, “because he trusted in another type of protection.”
Father Califano indicated that Pope John XXIII, known as the “good” pope, also had faults and “used to worry too much about things.”
But, he added, the late pontiff also “had a sense of simplicity and wisdom that helped him to be ironic with himself.”
The priest recounted how one day a newly-appointed bishop confessed to John XXIII “that he could not sleep at night due to an anxiety which was caused by the responsibility of his office.”
“The pope told him, ‘You know, I also thought the same when I was elected pope. But one day I dreamed about my Guardian Angel and it told me not to take everything so seriously.’”
Both postulators concurred that “all of us have faults, but true holiness is the one in which man responds to the grace of God correcting their mistakes.”
The two also reflected on the saintly characteristics of both men, which they said could be seen from the time both Popes were young.
As a 15-year-old seminarian, Angelo Roncalli not only exhibited the qualities of his future episcopal motto — “obedience and peace” — but showed his deep humility and paternal care for others, Father Califano said.
University friends of Karol Woytyla were struck by the future saint’s prayer habits and profound understanding of the value of human life, Msgr. Oder added.
During his general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis emphasized the certainty of Christ’s presence in the world today, noting how his resurrection invites us to reject sin and open ourselves to joy and hope.
“In these days we celebrate with joy the great mystery of the Resurrection of Christ,” he told the crowds packed into St. Peter’s Square April 23.
“With the resurrection, all has been made new and fresh hope has been poured out upon our world.”
During his remarks, the Pope commented on the Gospel reading from Luke chapter 24, where the angel appears to the women at Jesus’ tomb and says to them: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
“It’s not easy to accept the presence of the resurrected in the midst of us,” the Pope reflected. “The question that the angel directed to the women, that Easter morning, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’ we must also ask ourselves.”
Pope Francis outlined the relevance of the angel’s words today, explaining that we seek the living among the dead “every time we enclose ourselves in selfishness or complacency.”
“When we are seduced by power and the things of this world, forgetting God and neighbor, when we put our hope in worldly vanities, in money or in success,” he added.
“Each time we lose hope or do not have the strength to pray, each time that we feel alone of abandoned by friends, and even God, each time we feel like prisoners of our sins.”
The pontiff said that the angel’s warning “helps us to go outside of our sadnesses and to open ourselves to joy and to hope,” which remove “the stones from the grave and push us to announce the Good News to others.”
Pope Francis also noted how the Gospel account shows three examples “of a life-changing encounter with the Risen Lord,” — Thomas, Mary Magdalene and the travelers on the road to Emmaus — which all invite us to the same experience.
“Like Thomas, we need to grasp the reality of Christ’s rising to new life,” he said. “Like Mary Magdalene, we need to hear Jesus’ voice calling our name.”
“And like the travelers on the road to Emmaus, we need to find renewed joy and hope by recognizing that the Lord is ever at our side.”
The pope observed that although these disciples “sought the living among the dead,” Jesus “led them, by different paths, to faith in him and the power of his resurrection.”
“Today he challenges each of us to seek him, the Living One, and to leave behind everything that holds us back from encountering him and sharing in the rebirth, the freedom and the hope which he alone can give.”
The Basilica of St. John Lateran, cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, was filled Tuesday with thousands of youths who had come to learn more about the two Bishops of Rome who will be canonized Sunday.
Both John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized by Pope Francis April 27 at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
Father Giovanngiuseppe Califano, a Franciscan and the postulator of Bl. John XXIII, opened the April 22 event by remembering some of Good Pope John’s encounters with youth, for whom he searched “in the parishes of Rome, in the peripheries, hospitals and prisons.”
“In those times we were all warned that the Pope used a new language, new gestures, and we felt his paternity. They were times of mercy.”
“Above all, Pope John opened new horizons for the Church. The Second Vatican Council … had an inspiration from above, and he understood … we all had to build bridges of dialogue through which the Word of God passes.”
Father Califano encouraged the youth to imitate the new saint, and affirmed that “the holiness of John XXIII is not impossible to imitate.”
“The world loved the pope for his goodness and his charity, but also for these surprising gestures in an elderly Pope who seemed transitional. The secret of his enduring youthfulness was his ability to renew their desire of belonging to God and to be fully realized in the light of God and his plan.”
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, postulator for Bl. John Paul II’s cause, then recalled the Pope in his years of seminary, and spoke about the moment of calling in the life of a Christian.
Finally, Father Fabio Rosini, vocations director for the Diocese of Rome, gave a catechesis.
Amid the thousands of youth, CNA spoke with Daniele Adani, a 20 year old student, who said, “Even though I didn’t know John Paul II well, I remember the images in which he hiked through the mountains, and his talks … but what I remember most are the images of the funeral. That is where I really discovered the faith, and today he has become a very important person in my life.”
Among the youth were also hundreds of adults who grew up with John Paul II, such as Laura Ganinberti, a 40 year old mother who explained to CNA that she came to the encounter with the youth “to return a favor of John Paul II.”
“I belong to a generation that grew up with him, and knew he gave us values and a single horizon, the capacity of reading the whole truth in the message of the Cross, to go hand in hand, and to know the most beautiful news of the world: Christ is risen. Today I came with some youth of the parish, 20 or 30, and we said, ‘How can it be that people of such different ages are going to the same destination?’”
For her part, Sister Carlota, 32, from the Congregation of Mary Queen of the Apostles for Vocations, explained to CNA that she met John Paul II during World Youth Day in Paris, and in Canada.
“It’s beautiful to be able to pray to a person that you have met … a person whose face you know and whom you have met. It’s beautiful to have this encounter during which the youth announce that faith is something beautiful and joyful.”
Pope Francis sent 150 Easter eggs to the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital as an Easter gift to children hospitalized with cancer.
According to hospital officials, a van from the Vatican filled with chocolate eggs arrived at the facility during Holy Week, and the eggs were given to the children in the oncology unit.
The Bambino Gesu Hospital, known as “the Pope’s Hospital,” was founded in 1869 and is the oldest pediatric hospital in Italy.
Families in Italy traditionally give chocolate eggs to their children during Easter. The eggs are often elaborately decorated and specially packaged at bakeries and candy shops.
Pope Francis met with children at the hospital during a Christmas visit last Dec. 21.
Pope John XXIII — who will be canonized April 27 — visited the hospital on Christmas Day in 1958. Pope Paul VI continued the tradition by visiting the hospital, as did Pope John Paul II, who will also be canonized April 27. Pope Benedict XVI made his own visit to the hospital during the first days of his pontificate.
The Knights of Columbus will sponsor major U.S. celebrations coinciding with the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on Sunday, April 27 in Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn.; and Los Angeles. In Rome, the Knights will also be active, lending financial support to Vatican television’s broadcast of the canonization ceremony, and hosting numerous pilgrims at K of C facilities.
“These two saints have each left very important legacies for the Church, and important examples of holiness for all of us,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who worked with Pope John Paul II on several initiatives and will be in Rome for the canonizations. “Pope John XXIII led the Church into the Second Vatican Council, and Pope John Paul II served as its key interpreter, leaving the Church a profound legacy that continues to shape the third millennium of Christianity.”
In Rome, the Knights of Columbus is providing nearly $100,000 to support Vatican Television’s (CTV’s) broadcast of the canonizations. In addition, the Knights of Columbus has opened two of its sports fields in Rome to give a thousand pilgrims – primarily from Poland – a place to camp while in Rome for the canonizations.
In Washington, D.C., the Knights will host a series of celebratory events at its National Shrine of Pope John Paul II beginning Saturday, April 26. The program will include a live, late-night simulcast of the canonization from Rome as well as liturgies, times of prayer, and veneration of a blood relic of John Paul II. In one of the weekend’s highlights, the facility will be renamed the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in a ceremony on Sunday, April 27, just hours after the canonization. A full schedule of events is available at http://www.jp2shrine.org/jp/en/canonization/index.html
In New Haven, the Knights of Columbus Museum will be the end point for a procession beginning at St. Stanislaus Church following a prayer service at the parish at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 27. The service and procession will feature a relic of John Paul II: a fragment of the pope’s bloodstained cassock from the 1981 attempt on his life. The relic is on loan from the John Paul II Shrine in Washington. The museum will also offer video presentations on the lives of the two new saints, children’s activities and a talk on the new saints in the days surrounding the canonizations. A full schedule of New Haven events is available at http://www.kofcmuseum.org/km/en/resources/divine-mercy-sunday-canonization.pdf
In Los Angeles, the Knights will be a major sponsor of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ celebration at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral on the evening of April 26. The vigil will begin with a rosary and testimonials from people whose lives have been changed by Pope John Paul II. There will also be musical tributes by noted Catholic artists including Tony Melendez, who famously played for the Pope during his visit to Los Angeles in 1987. More information is available at: http://www.la-archdiocese.org/events/jpevent/Pages/default.aspx
Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue releases joint statement: “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness”
The Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States (ARC-USA) has concluded a six-year round of dialogue with the release of “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness,” approved at the most recent meeting February 24-25, 2014, at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting was chaired by Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee; the Roman Catholic co-chairman, Bishop Ronald Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana, was unable to attend for health reasons.
In 2008 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, asked the ARC-USA to address questions of ethics and the Christian life in the context of ecclesiology, in an effort to achieve greater clarity regarding areas of agreement and disagreement. They were aware that dialogue on these issues was also taking place between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion at the international level, and also in other bilateral dialogues between churches of various traditions.
The statement reflects on the way the two churches pursue the work of teaching and learning within the Christian moral life. It examines the extent to which their respective church structures influence the way they teach and what they teach on moral questions. Inquiries and discussions about moral formation and the teaching charism of the churches guided them in addressing this topic.
With a focus on two case studies concerning migration/immigration and same sex relations, the dialogue concluded that even if the moral teachings of Anglicans and Catholics diverge on some questions, they also share important common features. The statement delves into these differences and similarities and represents progress toward a more unified Gospel witness capable of addressing contemporary concerns in ways that are useful and attractive to all Christians, as well as larger society. As Bishop Bauerschmidt said, “ARC-USA has produced some important statements in the past. This statement represents the latest landmark in our journey together as churches, and is a valuable contribution to an important topic.” The full text is available online here: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/anglican/upload/arcusa-2014-statement.pdf
In the preface the co-chairmen explain the authority of the statement: “Although the members of the dialogue do not speak officially for either of our churches,” they state, “we have been asked to represent them in this dialogue, and it is in that capacity that we submit this statement to the leadership of our churches and to all their faithful for their prayerful consideration as a means of hastening progress along the path to full, visible unity.” The members of this round of ARC-USA hope that the statement will act as a catalyst for more intensive discussion in view of reaching a broader consensus on these moral issues. Bishop Madden affirmed this hope, saying that “this document opens new horizons in the ongoing discussion of ethical issues both between our churches and within them. I am confident that this new agreed statement will help to sharpen our understanding of where our true differences lie, and increase our awareness of how much we have in common.”
In addition to the two co-chairmen, the Catholic members of this round of dialogue were Father Charles Caccavale, Ph.D., professor of moral theology at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York; Sister of the Holy Cross Marianne Farina, Ph.D., associate professor of Philosophy and Theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California; Theresa Notare, Ph.D., assistant director of Natural Family Planning Program, USCCB’s Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Jesuit Father William O’Neill, Ph.D., associate professor of social ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California; Jesuit Father Thomas P. Rausch, Ph.D., professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California; and Paulist Father Ronald G. Roberson, Ph.D., associate director, USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
The Episcopal members were the Reverend Matthew S. C. Olver, adjunct professor of liturgy at Nashotah House Theological Seminary and in graduate studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Reverend Beverly F. Gibson, Ph.D., Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama; the Reverend Victor Lee Austin, Ph.D., theologian-in-residence at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York; Mary Reath, former vice-chair of the Governors of the Anglican Center in Rome and author of “Rome and Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity”; Timothy Sedgwick, Ph.D., professor of Christian ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia; Christopher Wells, Ph.D., executive director of the Living Church Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Reverend Margaret Rose, deputy for interreligious relations of The Episcopal Church in New York; and the Reverend Canon C. K. Robertson, Ph.D., canon to the presiding bishop, New York.
It was made known recently that Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, has been made second personal secretary to Pope Francis.
The position is among the pope’s closest collaborators, and this marks the first time that an Eastern Catholic priest has been appointed to the position.
The vacancy filled by Msgr. Lahzi Gaid March 17 was created when Msgr. Alfred Xuereb was transferred from his position as Pope Francis’ personal secretary to being prelate secretary general of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Msgr. Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz, who had been second to Msgr. Xuereb and is a priest of the Buenos Aires archdiocese, is now first secretary to the Pope, and Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will assist him.
As second secretary, Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will aid the Holy Father in his daily life, with such tasks as translating and answering personal correspondence in the Pope’s name.
Msgr. Lahzi Gaid currently serves in the Secretariat of State, and is known for reading the Gospel, and summarizing the Pope’s comments, in Arabic at his General Audiences. He has also served as translator for the Pope’s meetings with Arabic-speaking delegates, including at his encounter with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the State of Palestine.
He has lived for some time at St. Martha guesthouse in the Vatican, according to Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli.
He was born in 1975 in Cairo, and is one of eight siblings. In addition to his native Arabic, he speaks Italian, French, and English.
He attended the Coptic Catholic seminary in Cairo, and then the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, earning a doctorate in the canon law of the Eastern Churches.
Msgr. Lahzi Gaid has worked at the nunciatures to Congo, Gabon, Iraq, and Jordan.
In 2011, following attacks against the Coptic Orthodox community in Alexandria which killed 21 and injured eight, he wrote an open letter to the imam of Al Azhar University, who regarded Benedict XVI’s condemnation of the attacks as an interference.
He has also served in St. Domitilla Parish in Latina, a city south of Rome.
Father Gianni Toni, pastor of St. Domitilla, has said that “when Father Yoannis was called by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and was told of the pope’s choice, Father Yoannis sent me a three word text message: ‘Pray for me.’”
“I believed that he had been appointed secretary of some nunciature,” Father Toni said.
The papacies of John XXIII and John Paul II are connected in their dedication to God and to lives of priestly service, a cardinal who worked with both of the pontiffs stressed.
“The two popes are linked above all by the fact that they were popes, and saint popes, and this is connected with the deepness of their ministry, of a life totally dedicated to their priestly service,” said Cardinal Paul Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Cardinal Poupard worked at the Secretariat of State beginning in 1959, the second year of John XXIII’s papacy.
In 1980, John Paul II appointed him head of the Secretariat for Non-Believers, and he was president of the Pontifical Council for Culture from 1988 to 2007.
In an April 15 interview with CNA, the cardinal stressed the deep spirituality of both popes.
He noted that Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the man who became Pope John XXIII, chose as his episcopal motto “Oboedientia et pax,” which means, “Obedience and peace.”
“When you read ‘Journal of the Soul,’ the daily diary Roncalli sketched, you read at one point that he stated: ‘Obedience and peace: this is the secret of my life,’” he said.
Cardinal Poupard underscored that John Paul II lived the same trust in God, so much so that he chose the episcopal motto “Totus tuus,” which means, “All yours.”
“The motto came from the treatise on the true devotion to the Virgin Mary, written by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, which John Paul II read and meditated on while he was working at the chemical factory Solvay and also attending the clandestine seminary,” he recounted.
In addition, the cardinal said, while Pope John Paul II’s work against communism is remembered today, it is sometimes forgotten that “in an era of cold war, John XXIII started to tear down the Iron Curtain, and also gained the Balzan Prize for peace, unanimously voted by a jury which included a member of the Soviet Union.”
Cardinal Poupard said he is “very grateful to Pope Francis for joining the two popes in one only act of canonization, since, if there had not been John XXIII, there would not have been John Paul II. And I can testify to it.”
The two popes are linked, while at the same time being very different from one another, the cardinal observed.
“These differences are the beauty of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Poupard concluded. “The Lord prepares every saint His own way.”
Pope Francis on Monday exhorted the Christian faithful to spread the joy of Easter to others.
“Happy Easter!” he said. “Christ is Risen! He is truly risen.”
The pope addressed thousands of faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the Regina Coeli April 21.
“Let the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday radiate through our thoughts, looks, attitudes, gestures and words,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.
Those who help radiate the joy of the Resurrection can bring the “light” of the Risen Lord to others by spreading happiness, by helping those in pain and by bringing “serenity and hope,” the Pope explained.
This radiating wonder must come “from within us,” from a heart that is “immersed in the source of this joy,” he said.
Pope Francis emphasized the joy and wonder of the Resurrection accounts in the gospels.
He noted the example of Mary Magdalene, who “wept for the loss of her Lord and could not believe her eyes seeing him risen.”
The pope encouraged the congregation to let the experience of the Resurrection “be imprinted in our hearts and in our lives.”
He said that the Virgin Mary’s experience of the death and Resurrection of her Son made her heart a source of peace, comfort, and mercy.
Mary is “the Mother full of hope, the Mother of all the disciples, the Mother of the Church,” he said.
After concluding his remarks, the pope led the faithful in the Regina Coeli. He then wished them a very happy and holy Easter.