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  1. Benedict XVI: 95th birthday wishes from around world ‘made me very happy’

    Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, pictured in summer 2017. / EWTN/Paul Badde.

    Vatican City, May 16, 2022 / 10:40 am (CNA).

    Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has said that receiving congratulatory messages from around the world on his 95th birthday made him “very happy.”

    The retired German pope received almost 3,000 greetings in 24 languages via the website benedictusXVI.org, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

    On the website of the Tagespost Foundation, originally launched by Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus thanked well-wishers.

    He said: “On the occasion of my 95th birthday, I received a great number of messages from around the world wishing me a happy birthday. These many expressions of devotion and solidarity have made me very happy. In my gratitude, I feel united with everyone in prayer.“

    The messages were mainly written in German, English, Italian, and Polish.

    Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the private secretary of the pope emeritus, showed Benedict XVI the messages on a tablet at his residence, the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.

    “The pope emeritus has asked me to express his heartfelt gratitude to everyone who wished him a happy birthday on the website benedictusXVI.org,“ Gänswein said.

    “He was filled with great joy and deeply touched by the many warm and affectionate messages that were sent to him there.“

    The retired pope’s birthday fell this year on Holy Saturday, as it did when he was born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, a small Bavarian town not far from Austria.

    Looking back to his birth in his memoir, he wrote: “The fact that the birthday was the last day of Holy Week and the eve of Easter was always noted in the family history, because it was connected with the fact that I was baptized right on the morning of my birthday with the water that had just been consecrated in the ‘Easter Vigil’ celebrated at that time in the morning. To be the first baptized with the new water was considered a significant providential event.”

    He continued: “The fact that my life was thus immersed in the Paschal Mystery from the beginning in this way has always filled me with gratitude, for this could only be a sign of blessing.”

    “Admittedly — it had not been Easter Sunday, but only Holy Saturday. But the longer I think about it, the more it seems to me to be in keeping with the essence of our human life, which is still waiting for Easter, not yet in full light, but nevertheless confidently moving toward it.”

    Among those congratulating Benedict XVI on his 95th birthday was Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, eastern Germany.

    He wrote: “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have given to the Church in your writings. I am sure that you have helped many people to find God and to know and love Christ more deeply. May the Lord reward you for this effort one day in His glory!”

    BenedictusXVI.org said that the birthday wishes would also be presented to the pope emeritus in a printed and bound volume.

  2. Pope Francis praises courage of 23-year-old lay founder of mission society

    A detail from a portrait of Pauline Jaricot (1799-1862). / Photo des Œuvres Pontificales Missionnaires de France via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

    Vatican City, May 16, 2022 / 09:55 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis on Monday praised the courage of Pauline Jaricot, the laywoman who founded the Society for the Propagation of the Faith when she was just 23 years old.

    Jaricot will be beatified in Lyon, east-central France, on May 22. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will preside over the ceremony.

    The Society for the Propagation of the Faith is the oldest of four Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), an umbrella group of Catholic missionary societies under the pope’s authority. The first three bodies were granted the title “Pontifical” 100 years ago.

    The PMS is holding its general assembly on May 16-23 in Lyon in a year with several significant missionary anniversaries.

    “So you are meeting in Lyon because there, 200 years ago, a young woman of 23, Pauline Marie Jaricot, had the courage to found a work to support the missionary activity of the Church,” Pope Francis said in his May 16 message.

    “A few years later,” he noted, “she started the ‘Living Rosary,’ an organism devoted to prayer and the sharing of offerings.”

    “From a wealthy family, she died in poverty: with her beatification, the Church attests that she knew how to accumulate treasures in heaven,” he said.

    Jaricot established the Association of the Propagation of the Faith in 1822 as a way for all Catholics to assist the missions through prayer and small donations.

    “Pauline Jaricot liked to say that the Church is missionary by nature and that therefore every baptized person has a mission; indeed, is a mission,” the pope said.

    He emphasized that the “evangelizing thrust has never waned in the Church and always remains its fundamental dynamism,” explaining that this was why he gave a “special role” to the new Dicastery for Evangelization in the new apostolic constitution, Praedicate evangelium.

    When the constitution comes into full effect on June 5, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization will be merged into the Dicastery for Evangelization, presided over directly by the pope.

    Francis pointed out three aspects of the PMS which he said had contributed to the success of the missions over time, together with the action of the Holy Spirit.

    “First of all, missionary conversion: the goodness of mission depends on the journey of exit from self, the desire not to center life on self, but on Jesus, on Jesus who came to serve and not to be served,” he said.

    “In this sense, Pauline Jaricot saw her existence as a response to God’s compassionate and tender mercy: from her youth she sought identification with her Lord, even through the sufferings she went through, in order to kindle the flame of his love in every man,” he said.

    “Therein lies the source of the mission, in the ardor of a faith that is not satisfied and that, through conversion, becomes day by day imitation, in order to channel God’s mercy onto the streets of the world.”

    The second aspect, prayer, makes the first aspect possible, the pope said.

    “It is not by chance that Pauline placed the Work of the Propagation of the Faith alongside the Living Rosary, as if to reiterate that mission begins with prayer and cannot be accomplished without it,” he said.

    “Yes, because it is the Spirit of the Lord that precedes and enables all our good works: the primacy is always of his grace. Otherwise, the mission would become a running in vain.”

    The last aspect is charity, Pope Francis said.

    “Together with the prayer network, Pauline initiated a collection of offerings on a large scale and in a creative form, accompanying it with information about the missionaries’ lives and activities,” he said.

    “The offerings of so many simple people were providential for the history of the missions.”

    The year 2022 is also the fourth centenary of the founding of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, which oversaw the dramatic expansion of the Catholic world following its foundation by Pope Gregory XV. The body is known today as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

  3. Pope Francis offers guidance to young Christians in politics

    Pope Francis meets with members of Chemin Neuf Politics Fraternity at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, May 16, 2022. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, May 16, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis on Monday urged young Christians engaged in politics to promote fraternity, while shunning “violent confrontation” and ideology.

    The pope outlined his vision for the renewal of politics in a May 16 address to members of the Chemin Neuf Politics Fraternity, an international group of people aged 18 to 35 who want to “be active in politics according to the heart of God.”

    He gave the young people present in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall three watchwords — encounter, reflection, and action — and encouraged them to show “unconditional acceptance and respect” for others.

    “Without such a change of heart, politics often risks turning into a violent confrontation, where people try to impose their own ideas and pursue particular interests over the common good, contrary to the principle that ‘unity prevails over conflict,’” he said, referring to a maxim in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

    The pope, who has been making his public appearances in a wheelchair since May 5 due to a torn ligament in his right knee, invoked the 18th-century statesman Edmund Burke.

    He recalled that the author of “Reflections on the Revolution in France” told his constituents after his election to the British Parliament that he would not only serve their interest but also “the interest of the entire country, the general good.”

    The pope said: “As Christians, we recognize that politics is practiced not only through encounter, but also through shared reflection in the pursuit of this general good, not simply through the clash of differing and often opposed interests.”

    He added: “Our own compass for advancing this common project is the Gospel, which brings to the world a profoundly positive vision of humanity as loved by God.”

    The Chemin Neuf Politics Fraternity is part of the Chemin Neuf Community, which was founded in Lyon, France, in 1973 and describes itself as a Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation.

    Members of the Politics Fraternity issued a manifesto in Poland in 2016 recalling that Pope Pius XI described politics as “the highest form of charity” and committing themselves to strive “for justice and peace, through our political commitment.”

    The pope highlighted the group’s “efforts on behalf of migrants and ecology,” as well as an initiative in which members “have chosen to live together in a working-class quarter of Paris, in order to listen to the voices of the poor.”

    “That is a Christian way of engaging in political life,” he commented. “Don’t forget these things, that realities are more important than ideas: politics cannot be practiced with ideology. That the whole is greater than the part, and that unity prevails over conflict. Always seek unity and do not get lost in conflict.”

  4. Full text of Pope Francis’ homily for the canonization Mass of 10 saints

    Canonization Mass on May 15, 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    Vatican City, May 15, 2022 / 05:40 am (CNA).

    On Sunday, Pope Francis declared 10 holy men and women to be saints of the Catholic Church before around 45,000 people during acanonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

    At the end of Mass, the pope led people from all over the world in praying the Marian antiphon, Regina Caeli, in honor of the Virgin Mary.

    Before the prayer, he said: “It is good to see that, through their evangelical witness, these saints have fostered the spiritual and social growth of their respective nations and also of the entire human family.”

    “While sadly,” he continued, “distances grow in the world and tensions and wars increase, may the new saints inspire solutions of togetherness, ways of dialogue, especially in the hearts and minds of those who hold positions of great responsibility and are called to be protagonists of peace and not of war.”

    Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass:

    We have heard what Jesus told his disciples before leaving this world and returning to the Father. He told us what it means to be a Christian: “Even as I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34). This is the legacy that Christ bequeathed to us, the ultimate criterion for discerning whether or not we are truly his disciples. It is the commandment of love. Let us stop to consider two essential elements of this commandment: Jesus’ love for us —“as I have loved you” — and the love he asks us to show to others — “so you must love one another.”

    First, the words “as I have loved you”. How did Jesus love us?  To the very end, to the total gift of himself. It is striking to think that he spoke these words on that night of darkness, when the atmosphere in the Upper Room was one of deep emotion and anxiety: deep emotion, because the Master was about to bid farewell to his disciples; anxiety because he had said that one of them would betray him. We can imagine the sorrow that filled the heart of Jesus, the dark clouds that were gathering in the hearts of the apostles, and their bitterness at seeing Judas who, after receiving the morsel dipped for him by the Master, left the room to enter into the night of betrayal. Yet at the very hour of his betrayal, Jesus reaffirmed his love for his own. For amid the darkness and tempests of life, that is the most important thing of all: God loves us.

    Brothers and sisters, may this message be the core of our own faith and all the ways in which we express it: “…not that we loved God but that he loved us” (1 Jn 4:10). Let us never forget this.  Our abilities and our merits are not the central thing, but rather the unconditional, free and unmerited love of God. Our Christian lives begin not with doctrine and good works, but with the amazement born of realizing that we are loved, prior to any response on our part. While the world frequently tries to convince us that we are valued only for what we can produce, the Gospel reminds us of the real truth of life: we are loved. A contemporary spiritual writer put it this way: “Long before any human being saw us, we were seen by God’s loving eyes.  Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we were heard by our God, who is all ears for us.  Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we were spoken to by the voice of eternal love” (H. NOUWEN, Life of the Beloved). He loved us first; he waits for us; he keeps loving us. This is our identity: we are God’s loved ones. This is our strength: we are loved by God.

    Acknowledging this truth requires a conversion in the way we often think of holiness. At times, by over-emphasizing our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves, our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice to achieve a reward. This can at times appear as an overly “pelagian” way of viewing life and holiness. We have turned holiness into an unattainable goal. We have separated it from everyday life, instead of looking for it and embracing it in our daily routines, in the dust of the streets, in the trials of real life and, in the words of Teresa of Avila to her Sisters, “among the pots and pans”. Being disciples of Jesus and advancing on the path of holiness means first and foremost letting ourselves be transfigured by the power of God’s love. Let us never forget the primacy of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works.  For we at times give more importance to self, flesh and works. No, the primacy is that of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works.

    The love that we receive from the Lord is the force that transforms our lives.  It opens our hearts and enables us to love. For this reason, Jesus says — here is the second element — “as I have loved you, so must you love one another”. That word “as” is not simply an invitation to imitate Jesus’ love; it tells us that we are able to love only because he has loved us, because he pours into our hearts his own Spirit, the Spirit of holiness, love that heals and transforms. As a result, we can make decisions and perform works of love in every situation and for every brother and sister whom we meet, because we ourselves are loved and we have the power to love.  As I myself am loved, so I can love others. The love I give is united to Jesus’ love for me.  “As” he loved me, so I can love others. The Christian life is just that simple. Let’s not make it more complicated with so many things. It is just that simple.

    In practice, what does it mean to live this love? Before giving us this commandment, Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet; then, after giving it, he gave himself up to the wood of the cross. To love means this: to serve and to give one’s life. To serve, that is, not to put our own interests first: to clear our systems of the poison of greed and competitiveness; to fight the cancer of indifference and the worm of self-referentiality; to share the charisms and gifts that God has given  us. Specifically, we should ask ourselves, “What do I do for others?” That is what it means to love, to go about our daily lives in a spirit of service, with unassuming love and without seeking any recompense.

    Then, to give one’s life. This is about more than simply offering something of ours to others; it is about giving them our very selves. I like to ask people who seek my counsel whether they give alms.  And if they do, whether they touch the hand of the recipient or simply, antiseptically, throw down the alms. Those people usually blush and say no. And I ask whether, in giving alms, they look the person in the eye, or look the other way. They say no. Touching and looking, touching and looking at the flesh of Christ who suffers in our brothers and sisters. This is very important; it is what it means to give one’s life.

    Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love. “Are you called to the consecrated life? So many of you are here today! Then be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters, by fighting for justice for your comrades, so that they do not remain without work, so that they always receive a just wage. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Tell me, are you in a position of authority? So many people in authority are here today! Then be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 14). This is the path of holiness, and it is so simple! To see Jesus always in others.

    To serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters, to offer our lives without expecting anything in return, any worldly glory: this is a secret and it is our calling. That was how our fellow travelers canonized today lived their holiness. By embracing with enthusiasm their vocation — as a priest, as a consecrated woman, as a lay person — they devoted their lives to the Gospel. They discovered an incomparable joy and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history. For that is what a saint is: a luminous reflection of the Lord of history. May we strive to do the same. The path of holiness is not barred; it is universal and it starts with Baptism. Let us strive to follow it, for each of us is called to holiness, to a form of holiness all our own. Holiness is always “original”, as Blessed Carlo Acutis used to say: it is not a photocopy, but an “original”, mine, yours, all of ours. It is uniquely our own. Truly, the Lord has a plan of love for everyone. He has a dream for your life, for my life, for the life of each of us. What else can I say? Pursue that dream with joy. 

  5. Pope Francis canonizes 10 new saints of the Catholic Church

    Canonization Mass on May 15, 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    Vatican City, May 15, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis on Sunday recognized 10 new saints of the Catholic Church during a canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

    It was the Church’s first canonization since that of St. John Henry Newman and four others in October 2019.

    Religious men and women, priests, and a lay man are among the 10 people who are recognized to be in heaven after living lives of exemplary holiness on earth.

    “Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love,” Pope Francis said during his homily on May 15, a sunny, warm day in Rome.

    Pope Francis, who has been suffering from knee pain and has used a wheelchair to avoid walking in recent days, was able to stand for a short time and walk short distances during the Mass. He had assistance and walked visibly slower than in the recent past.

    The Mass began with the rite of canonization, which included the reading of short biographies of each blessed, read by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

    A litany of saints was sung before Pope Francis recited the formula of canonization.

    He declared: “For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Titus Brandsma, Lazarus known as Devasahayam, Césarde Bus, Luigi Maria Palazzolo, Giustino Maria Russolillo, Charles de Foucauld, Marie Rivier, Maria Francesca di Gesu Rubatto, Maria di Gesù Santocanale, and Maria Domenica Mantovani to be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    “To serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters, to offer our lives without expecting anything in return, or any worldly glory: this is our calling. That was how our fellow travelers canonized today lived their holiness,” Pope Francis said.

    “By embracing with enthusiasm their vocation — some as a priest, others as a consecrated woman, as a lay person — they devoted their lives to the Gospel,” he said. “They discovered an incomparable joy and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history. For that is what a saint is: a luminous reflection of the Lord of history.”

    “May we strive to do the same — the path of holiness is not barred; it is universal and it begins with baptism. It is not barred. May we strive to follow it, for each of us is called to holiness, to a form of holiness all our own,” he added.

    The new saints are:

    -Charles de Foucauld: A French soldier and explorer who became a Trappist monk and Catholic missionary to Muslims in Algeria. Known as Brother Charles of Jesus, he was killed in 1916 at the age of 58.

    -Titus Brandsma: A Dutch priest, professor, and journalist who opposed Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers. He was killed by lethal injection in Dachau in 1942.

    -Devasahayam Pillai: A layman from India who was tortured and martyred after converting from Hinduism to Catholicism in the 18th century.

    -Marie Rivier: The founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation. The Frenchwoman founded the order in 1796, at the age of 28, during the Reign of Terror.

    -Maria Francesca of Jesus: A 19th-century missionary founder who crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times by boat to establish an order of Capuchin sisters in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

    -Maria Domenica Mantovani: The first general superior of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, which she co-founded to serve the poor, orphaned, and the sick in Italy in 1892.

    -Maria of Jesus Santocanale: The founder of the Capuchin Sisters of Immaculate Mary of Lourdes in Sicily in 1910. She spent most of her free moments, day or night, in front of the tabernacle. 

    -César de Bus: A French Catholic priest who founded two religious congregations in the 16th century. He was a zealous preacher and catechist, who performed many works of charity.

    -Luigi Maria Palazzolo: An Italian priest who is known for having established the Sisters of the Poor, opened an orphanage, and worked for the poor. 

    -Giustino Maria Russolillo: The founder of the religious congregations of the Vocationist Fathers, the Vocationist Sisters and of the Secular Institute of the Apostles of Universal Sanctification in Italy. The priest was devoted to educating young people and cultivating their vocations.

    The canonization Mass was attended by an estimated 45,000 people, many of whom traveled from outside Italy.

    Among those present in St. Peter’s Square were also Italian President Sergio Mattarella, French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin, Dutch Minister of the Exterior Wopke Hoekstra, Indian Minister of Minorities Gingee K. S. Mathan, and Algerian President of the High Islamic Committee Bouabdellah Ghoulamallah.

    In remarks at the conclusion of Mass before the Regina Caeli prayers, the pope greeted the official delegations from several countries which had attended the canonizations. He also greeted all the faithful from all around the world who had attended the Mass.

    Pope Francis encouraged Catholic Christians to imitate the example of the saints.

    “It is good to see that, with their evangelical witness, these Saints have fostered the spiritual and social growth of their respective nations and also of the entire human family,” the pope said. “While sadly in the world distances grow, and tensions and wars increase, may the new saints inspire solutions of togetherness and ways of dialogue, especially in the hearts and minds of those who hold positions of great responsibility and are called upon to be agents of peace, not war.”

    “And now, let us turn to the Virgin Mary, so that she may help us joyfully imitate the example of the new saints,” said Pope Francis.

    Staff Writer Kevin J. Jones contributed to this story.