Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Dictatorship the underlying problem in Nicaragua riots, priest says

Managua, Nicaragua, Apr 24, 2018 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As violent clashes continue between security forces and anti-government protestors in Nicaragua, an eye witness has said the country's underlying problem is the president's authoritarian bent.

Nicaraguans began protesting in the streets of Managua April 18 following the government’s announcement of reforms to the country’s social security system. The army has been deployed and as many as 27 people have been killed.

The social security reforms were abandoned April 22 by president Daniel Ortega, but protests have increased over what is seen as an overly harsh response to protesting pensioners.

Nicaragua “is living under a dictatorship with the facade of democracy,” a priest working in the country told CNA.

“We could see a transition to peaceful negotiation in the coming days and an end to protests on the street and violent repression. Or we could see an accelerated effort to amplify the protests and fight for a complete take down of the Ortega regime.”

The priest spoke on condition of anonymity due to the unpredictability of the situation.

“The continued aggression and violence on the part of the government continues to incite people to protest. One step forward followed by two steps back,” he said.

A reporter was killed during a broadcast covering the protests over the weekend, and the priest believes that  the government’s strong reaction against protestors, and in particular students – including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by riot police – motivated the latest round of protests Monday.

Nicaragua's social security system has needed an overhaul due to poor management of funds and a lack of transparency from officials, the priest said.

However, the reforms proposed last week would make Nicaraguans pay for these errors: “it was a trigger for massive protests,” he said, pointing out that though social security reforms lit the fire, the conversation surrounding the protests has changed.

The plan would have required retirees to pay 5 percent of their pension into a medical expenses fund, the social security withdrawal from employees' salaries would have increased from 6.25 to 7 percent, and employers would have had to increase contributions as well.

Though the reform was tossed out, larger-scale protests and looting broke out April 23, including demands for Ortega to resign and resulting in further violent clashes with police.

The priest said he believes older Nicaraguans had been reluctant to protest corruption because they feared violence, having lived through the Nicaraguan Revolution throughout the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.

Young people, on the other hand, “feel like it is their turn, to take up the mantle of their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, to fight for a better future for Nicaragua.”

Bishop Silvio José Baez Ortega, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, thanked a group of some 2,000 students gathered in the Managua cathedral April 21 for being “the moral reservoir” of the Church and assured them of the Church’s support for their cause. “You have woken the nation up,” he said.

Fr. Víctor Rivas Bustamante, from the Nicaragua bishops’ conference, told Vatican News that the local bishops are “working to recover the concerns and demands of young people and of different social sectors, to lay out to the government what is being demanded so that the government can act and change its position.”

The problem is no longer just welfare reform, but “other issues: there is talk of democracy, freedom of expression, and many other things,” Bustamante said.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. His wife, Rosario Murillo, is also his vice president.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1985 as coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction, and from 1985 to 1990 as president.

In Toronto, cardinal urges prayers for victims of van attack

Toronto, Canada, Apr 24, 2018 / 12:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto offered prayers this week for the victims of a van attack that left 10 people dead and over a dozen injured on Monday.

“I invite the Catholic community across the Archdiocese of Toronto to join me in offering our prayers for all those who were killed and injured in the violence incident earlier today,” said Cardinal Collins in an April 23 statement.

“I will be asking all 225 Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Toronto to offer special prayer intentions this week for all those who have suffered. Let us all unite in our efforts to bring comfort and care to those who are hurting today,” he continued.

On April 23, a white van was driven down a busy street north of midtown Toronto, swerving in and out of traffic along the sidewalks and leaving a trail of destruction almost a mile long. One witness, Diego DeMatos, said the scene was like “a war zone,” according to reports from CNN. 

“Based on witness accounts, we have a vehicle that started north on Yonge Street from Finch [Avenue] and drove southbound at some point in times on sidewalks, at some point in times driving southbound in northbound lanes,” said Mark Saunders, the Toronto police chief, according to CNN.

Although authorities have not labeled the incident as an act of terrorism at this time, and are still investigating the motive behind it, Saunders did note that the “actions definitely look deliberate.”

Police arrested 25-year-old suspect Alek Minassian several blocks from the scene of the attack, less than 30 minutes after authorities had received a 911 call.

Minassian was charged on Tuesday in a Toronto court with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder, the BBC reported. Minassian’s bail hearing will be held on May 10.

Toronto officials said Minassian, who is from the northern Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, had not previously been on their radar. However, a U.S. law enforcement agent said that the suspect had been known to them.

The death toll from the incident currently stands at 10, while 15 others have been injured, including at least five who are in critical condition, according to reports. Mourners have set up a makeshift memorial on Yonge Street where part of the attack took place.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences to the victims and their families, and applauded the first responders for their quick and life-saving efforts.

“We should all feel safe walking in our cities,” Trudeau said.

“We are monitoring this situation closely, and will continue working with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.”

 

Pope's abuse prevention commission prioritizes survivors, education

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis' commission for the protection of minors met in Rome last week to listen to survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and to discuss abuse prevention education and policy, and ways the Church might work more closely with abuse survivors.

According to an April 22 communique from the commission, the first day of their plenary was dedicated to hearing thoughts and testimonies from survivors of clerical sexual abuse, many of them members of the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales.

Those who attended voiced appreciation for being listened to, and described the encounter as “empowering.”

One of the survivors, according to the communique, voiced hope that their visit would help the commission “develop a wider network of survivors who are willing to advise and support” the commission's work in a similar manner.

The commission expressed gratitude to the SAP group for offering their “expertise and experiences” during the plenary, saying their contribution will help the commission “to develop effective ways to integrate the voice of survivors into the life and ministry of the Church.”

In comments made in a video statement uploaded by the Center for Child Protection (CCP) April 14, clerical abuse survivor Deborah Kloos, who is not a member of the SAP but met with commission members during the plenary, said the Church needs to pray regularly for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

“It is something very important to me that our Catholic Church prays together for people wounded by abuse, because so many were wounded under the roof of the Church,” she said, asking the pope to lead the Church in praying for those who have been abused.

The wound of abuse, she said, affects survivors “their entire life and it separates them from the Eucharist.”

Kloos, who is originally from Canada, has long lobbied for a day of prayer for the victims of clerical sexual abuse, which Pope Francis has asked bishops' conferences to organize at a local level.

After her abuse more than three decades ago, Kloos left the Catholic Church for a period, but eventually came back, and sings in her parish choir.

“I feel very connected,” she said in the video, but lamented that “the only thing missing is that I don't hear the Church praying in the prayers of the faithful for those who have been wounded by abuse.”

“It's very important and I ask everyone to remember, because if we don't remember and we don't bring it out, then there's no way that healing can occur,” Kloos said. “You don't see the people separated from the Church, but there are thousands of people who don't come to Mass anymore because someone was wounded under the roof of this Church.”

During their meeting, the commission also heard presentations on the outcome of the Australian Royal Commission's inquiry into institutional responses to sexual abuse, as well as the role that faith communities play in helping to overcome trauma.

On Saturday, April 21, members met with Pope Francis in a private audience. During the encounter, the pope said he intended to confirm the commission's statutes, which had been approved for an experimental period of three years when the commission was established in 2015.

Commission members also outlined to the pope their priorities moving forward, which they said can clearly be seen through three specific working groups: working with survivors, education and formation, and prevention guidelines and norms.

After meeting Pope Francis on Saturday, the commission closed their plenary Sunday, April 22. No date has yet been announced for their next gathering.

The commission was established by Pope Francis in March 2014, and is headed by Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.

The commission's initial mandate ended in December 2017, and in February of this year the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had reconfirmed some members of the commission, including O'Malley as its president, and that he had also appointed several new members.

New members who joined are Benyam Dawit Mezmur from Ethiopia; Sr. Arina Gonsalves, RJM from India; Neville Owen from Australia; Sinalelea Fe’ao from Tonga; Myriam Wijlens from the Netherlands; Ernesto Caffo from Italy; Sr. Jane Bertelsen, FMDM from the U.K.; Teresa Kettelkamp from the U.S.; and Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo Dos Santos from Brazil.

The returning commission members are Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco from the Philippines; Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera from Colombia; Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ from Germany; Hannah Suchocka from Poland; Sr. Kayula Lesa, RSC from Zambia; Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS from South Africa; and Mons. Robert Oliver from the U.S.

Survivors of clerical sexual abuse are among commission members, however, the names of the survivors have not been made public, leaving it up to them whether they to disclose their experiences.

 

Second priest murdered in Mexico in less than a week

Guadalajara, Mexico, Apr 23, 2018 / 03:30 pm (ACI Prensa).- The reported murder of a priest in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Friday marks the second killing of a priest in less than a week in the country.

Fr. Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia, 33, was shot to death the afternoon of April 20 inside Saint Pio of Pietrelcina church, in Guadalajara, Jalisco State, authorities reported.

The murder of Fr. Contreras Garcia makes the second murder of a priest in Mexico in less than a week, following the killing of Fr. Rubén Alcántara Díaz, the vicar general of the Diocese of Cuautitlán Izcalli, on April 18.

According to the Catholic Multimedia Center, this makes a total of 23 priests murdered in the country in the last six years.

The Attorney General's Office of Jalisco State reported that Fr. Contreras Garcia was believed to have been attacked by two men from the Hacienda Santa Fe neighborhood in the town of Tlajomulco, in the Guadalajara metropolitan area.

The attorney general's office indicated the killers “entered the sacristy of the parish and straight away attacked the victim, fleeing afterwards in a compact vehicle.”

“The victim was found in the church with several gunshot wounds,” the office said.

In a message released by the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, his auxiliary bishops, the clergy and the faithful expressed “our deepest grief.”

The Archdiocese of Guadalajara urged “the state and municipal authorities to investigate and determine the facts of this deplorable incident.”

In addition, they called on “those that commit these atrocities against people's lives to reconsider the damage they do to society and the climate of anguish they bring upon the citizens, so that their minds and hearts be moved to repent of their actions.”

“We unite in prayer so that this climate of violence that afflicts our state of Jalisco would come to an end.”

The bishops of Mexico also released a statement voicing “sadness and grief over the murder of another priest in just a few days.”

“We make an urgent call to build a culture of peace and reconciliation. These deplorable incidents call all of us to a much deeper and sincere conversion. It is time to look honestly at our culture and society, to ask ourselves why we have lost respect for life and the sacred.”

“We ask the Catholic faithful to accompany their priests with prayer, especially in the pastoral service of the communities that have been entrusted to them.”

The bishops also exhorted “those who despise and take away life for any cause, to let the kindly face up God look upon you to not only lay down your weapons but also hatred, resentment, vengeance and every destructive sentiment.”

“To our competent authorities we strongly request, once again, to exhaustively investigate and determine the facts in order to act in conformity with justice and not allow this crime or the other crimes in our nation to go unpunished.”

The Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice warned that within Mexico, “the increase in violence is undeniable.”

On the council’s most recent annual list of the 50 most violent cities in the world, 12 are in Mexico.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Francis shares a sweet treat with Rome's poor for feast of St. George

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- I-scream, you-scream, Pope Francis screamed... 'gelato!' on the feast of his patron saint, George, offering some 3,000 ice creams to homeless individuals served in Caritas soup kitchens and shelters around Rome.

Every year the pope's “onomastico,” or name-day, is celebrated as an official holiday in the Vatican. Under Francis, whose baptismal name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the feast is that of St. George, since Jorge is the Spanish equivalent.

And with temperatures in Rome finally starting to warm up, Francis decided to cool things down for Monday's feast, asking the papal almoner's office to provide the gelato to the poor and needy served by Catholic charitable organization, Caritas.

The papal almoner is Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who can often be seen mingling with the poor around St. Peter's Basilica.

However, the pope himself is also known to be a gelato lover, his favorite flavor being dolce de leche, according to the Vatican cookbook. An Argentine classic, dolce de leche is essentially the Latin American version of caramel, but richer.

In the past, other papal gelato favorites included classic Italian flavor 'cassata Siciliana' for retired pontiff Benedict XVI, which is made with chocolate, strawberry and mango ice cream. John Paul II, on the other hand, reportedly indulged in 'marron glacé' gelato from Rome's Gelateria Giolitti, which is ice cream flavored with candied chestnuts.

In addition to Monday's sweet treat, Pope Francis often makes similar gestures for Rome's poor, homeless, and sick, whether it's a trip to the circus, a tour of the Vatican museums or a pizza party lunch on his birthday.

In the past he has also taken homeless to the beach during the hot summer months, and with temperatures this year expected to exceed the burning weather of 2017, it's possible another outing will take place in the coming months.

Pope Francis to new priests: Be like Jesus the Good Shepherd

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood, reminding them to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd in the way they serve the members of their spiritual flock and minister to those who are lost and searching for God.

“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost,” the pope said in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22.

“Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ,” he continued, “solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, [or] other interests.”

The priestly ordination coincided with “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

The new priests, who have been studying for the priesthood at different seminaries in the diocese of Rome, come from countries around the world, including Madagascar, Vietnam, Myanmar, Colombia, and San Salvador.

As in the past, for his homily Pope Francis used the “ritual homily” from the Italian edition of the “Pontificale Romano,” the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing rites performed by bishops, for the ordination of priests, adding a few of his own thoughts to the text.

Reflecting on the Sacrament of Penance in particular, Francis urged the men about to be ordained to “not get tired of being merciful. Think of your sins, your miseries that Jesus forgives. Be merciful.”

It is “through your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect,” he noted, “because it is joined to the sacrifice of Christ, which for your hands, in the name of the whole Church, is offered bloodlessly on the altar in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.”

He pointed out to the 16 men that in their priestly ministries they will be participants “in the mission of Christ, the only Master,” and advised them to read and meditate tirelessly on the Word of God “to teach what you have learned in faith, to live what you have taught.”

“[May] your teaching, joy and support to the faithful of Christ be the fragrance of your life,” he continued, “that with word and example you can build the House of God which is the Church.”

Following Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional prayer for Easter.

In his message after the prayer, the pope drew attention to the current situation in Nicaragua, where there have been violent clashes between police and people participating in anti-government protests, resulting in at least 25 deaths, according to the Guardian.

“I express my closeness in prayer to that beloved country, and I join the Bishops in asking that all violence cease, [that they] avoid useless bloodshed and [that] open questions be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility,” he said.

Francis also reflected briefly on the day’s Gospel, where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” stating that the words of Jesus in this passage cannot be reduced to an emotional suggestion.

They have a concrete effect, he said: “Jesus heals through his being a shepherd who gives life. Jesus says to each one: ‘your life is so valuable to me, that to save it I offer all of myself.’”

Noting that Jesus also says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” the pope said shows us that Jesus desires a personal relationship with each person, one which reflects “the same intimate relationship of love between Him and the Father.”

“He is attentive to each of us, knows our heart deeply: he knows our strengths and our faults, the projects we have achieved and the hopes that have been disappointed. But he accepts us as we are, he leads us with love,” he said, and in turn, “we are called to know Jesus.”

Christians must help others meet Jesus, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis said that Christians are called to a mission of leading others to an encounter with Jesus Christ, in order that every person might grow in his or her individual call to holiness.

 

“The men and women of our time need to meet Jesus Christ: He is the path that leads to the Father; He is the Gospel of hope and love that enables us to go as far as giving ourselves,” the pope said April 21.

 

“It is a matter of carrying out an itinerary of holiness to respond courageously to the call of Jesus, each according to his own particular charism.”

 

Quoting from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Pope Francis said: “For a Christian it is not possible to think of his mission on earth without understanding it as a path of holiness, because ‘this is in fact the will of God, your sanctification.’”

 

This is our mission, he continued. It requires responsibility and joy, generous availability, self-denial, and “trustful abandonment to the divine will.”

 

Pope Francis spoke about holiness during an encounter with pilgrims from the Italian dioceses of Bologna and Cesena-Sarsina in St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrimage to Rome followed Francis’ own visit to Bologna and Cesena in October 2017.

 

Quoting from his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, the pope also spoke about the important role of the Eucharist in helping to transform Catholics “into a holy and missionary community.”

 

The Eucharist, he said, means “thanksgiving” and makes us feel the need for thanksgiving.

 

“It makes us understand that ‘we are more blessed in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35), educates us to give primacy to love, and practice justice in its complete form, which is mercy; to know to give thanks always, even when we receive what is due to us.”

 

The pope encouraged Christians to proclaim the call to holiness in their communities, since it concerns “every baptized person and every condition of life.”

 

“In holiness consists the full realization of every aspiration of the human heart. It is a journey that starts from the baptismal font and leads up to Heaven and is carried out day by day by accepting the Gospel in concrete life,” he said.

 

Laywomen among new CDF appointees

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 07:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis named five new consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including three female academics and two priests.

The women are Dr. Linda Ghisoni, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Michelina Tenance, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; and Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, lecturer of theology at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

The other two new consultors are Fr. Sergio Paolo Bonanni, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Claretian Fr. Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, dean of the Institutum Utriusque Iuris at the Pontifical Lateran University.

While a Vatican spokesman was unable to confirm whether laywomen have previously served as consultors, he did confirm for CNA that women have served as staff members at the dicastery.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Vatican department responsible for protecting and promulgating the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is headed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., and consultors include cardinals, bishops, priests, canon lawyers, and lay theologians.

One of its newest members, Dr. Linda Ghisoni, has held a position within the Vatican since November 2017, when Pope Francis appointed her a sub-secretary and the head of the section on laity, for the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

Ghisoni, 52, works as a judge at the First Instance Court of the Vicariate of Rome. In addition to teaching canon law at the Gregorian, she is a professor of law at Roma Tre University.

She is from the town of Cortemaggiore in the north of Italy and studied philosophy and theology at the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany.

In 1999 she received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and in 2002 she received the diploma of Rotary Attorney at the Studium rotale of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

Since 1997 Ghisoni has held various positions at the Tribunals of First Instance and Appeal of the Vicariate of Rome, including Notary, Defender of the Bond, Auditor and Judge.

She has also served as Judicial Counselor at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota from 2002-2009, and Commissioner of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments for the Defense of the marital bond in causes for the dissolution of the marriage “ratum sed non consummatum” (ratified but not consummated).

Since November 2011, she has also worked at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. From 2013-2016, she collaborated with the former Pontifical Council for the Laity in the field of specialist laity studies in the Church. She is married and has two daughters.

Dr. Michelina Tenace, 63, is from San Marco, Italy and a consecrated woman. After studying philosophy in France, she received a degree in foreign literature from Sapienza University in Rome and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University with a dissertation on Vladimir Soloviev.

She now teaches theology at the Gregorian University, including classes on spiritual theology, theological anthropology, the Council of Nicea, and Eastern Churches. She is also a staff member of the Ezio Aletti Study and Research Center, which supports Christian scholars and artists from Eastern Europe.

Tenace’s publications include numerous articles, as well as ten books, which have been translated into various languages. She was also named a member of the commission to study the female diaconate by Pope Francis in 2016.

Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, 42, was born in Brussels in 1975 and became a consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of Paris on June 23, 2013. She has worked as a palliative care nurse, a retreat organizer for youth, and a Catholic religion teacher, among other ministries.

Calmeyn received a bachelor’s degree in theology in 2002 from the Institute of Theological Studies in Brussels and a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome. Her dissertation was on theological principles and foundations of morality according to the work of Jesuit Fr. Albert Chapelle.

Since 2009 she has been a theology lecturer at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

Pope: Without the Eucharist, everything the Church does is vain

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a brief day-trip to two small Italian cities, Pope Francis stressed the centrality of the Eucharist to the life and actions of the Church, saying without Christ's love and self-sacrifice, everything would be done in vanity, since everything Jesus did was for others.

“The Eucharist is not a beautiful rite, but it is the most intimate, the most concrete, the most surprising communion that one can imagine with God: a communion of love so real that it takes on the form of eating,” the pope said April 20.

The Christian life begins again at each Mass, “where God satiates us with love. Without him, the bread of life, every effort of the Church is vain,” he said, and, quoting deceased local Bishop Antonio Bello, said “works of charity are not enough, unless those works are done with charity.”

“If love is lacking in those who do the works, if the source is lacking, if the point of departure is lacking, which is the Eucharist, then every pastoral commitment is merely a whirlwind of things,” rather than an act of service.

Pope Francis spoke during Mass in the Italian town of Molfetta. He traveled to the city after making a brief visit to Alessano as part of a half-day trip to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification opened in 2007.

In his homily, Francis said whoever receives the Eucharist takes on the face and mentality of the Lord, who is the bread that was broken for us. And this bread, he said, does not “rise with pride,” but is given to others.

The person who receives the Eucharist, he said, “ceases to live for themselves, for their own success, to have something or to become someone, but they live for Jesus, as Jesus, which is for others.”

Quoting Bishop Bello, Francis said the Eucharist “does not support a sedentary life,” and that without rising from the table, one remains an “unfulfilled sacrament.” He asked those present to question themselves as to how they leave every Mass, and whether or not they go out as “people of communion.”

He then emphasized the importance of the Word, which he said is a second element that can be taken from the day's Gospel reading from John, in which the disciples asked themselves “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” after Jesus spoke about the need to eat his flesh in order to obtain salvation.

“Many of our words are similar to this,” the pope said, noting that some people might ask: “how can the Gospel solve the problems of the world? What use is it to do good in the midst of so much evil?”

By doing this, “we fall into the error of that people, who were paralyzed by discussion about the words of Jesus, rather than ready to welcome the change of life asked by him,” Francis said, adding that these people did not understand that the words of Jesus were the path to life.

Jesus, he said, “does not respond according to our calculations and the conveniences of the moment, but with the 'yes' of his whole life. He does not look for our reflections, but our conversion.”

Pointing to the conversion of Saul, who later became St. Paul, Pope Francis noted how when Saul was thrown from his horse he was told to rise, go into the city and do what he would be asked.

“The first thing to avoid is staying on the ground” or staying “gripped by fear,” he said, stressing that a true apostle of Jesus “cannot simply get along on small satisfactions,” but must always get up and look forward.

And, just as Saul was told to go into the city, each Christian is also told to go, rather than staying “closed in your reassured spaces. Risk!” he said.

Christian life “must be invested in Jesus and spent for others,” he said, adding that an apostle cannot remain stationary after the resurrection, but must “go out, regardless of the problems and uncertainties.”

“We are all called, in whatever situation we find ourselves, to be bearers of paschal hope” and to be “servants of the world, but resurrected, not employed. Without ever complaining, without ever resigning ourselves.”

“It's beautiful to be couriers of hope, simple and joyful distributors of the Easter alleluia,” Francis said, and closed his homily praying that the Word of God would free Christians and help them to rise and go forward with courage and humility.

There's no 'maybe' when answering the Lord's call, pope says

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2018 / 03:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking in the southern Italian town of Alessano on Friday, Pope Francis said that we should be on fire for our faith, combining prayer and action after the example of the Italian bishop Tonino Bello.

“Here, this is the vocation according to Don Tonino: a call to become not only faithful devotees, but real lovers of the Lord… When the Lord sets the heart on fire, hope cannot be extinguished. When the Lord asks for a ‘yes,’ we cannot answer with ‘maybe,’” the pope said April 20.

Pope Francis visited the town of Alessano as part of a quick day-trip there and to Molfetta, to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification was opened in 2007.

Before speaking to around 20,000 Catholic, the pope stopped at the tomb of Don Tonino for a moment of silent prayer.

In his speech, he pointed to the bishop’s warning that Catholics not immerse themselves “in the whirlwind of affairs” without first planting themselves in front of the tabernacle – lest they work in vain for the Kingdom.

“We can ask ourselves if we start from the tabernacle or ourselves. You could also ask if, once we leave, we walk; if, like Mary, the Woman of the journey, we get up to reach and serve man, every man,” he stated.

Francis recalled a word coined by Tonino, “which gives each of us a great mission.”

Tonino, the pope noted, would say often that Christians should be “contempl-attivi,” meaning, “contemplative-actives,” people who never separate prayer and action.

Don Tonino had “his feet on the ground and his eyes on Heaven, and above all with a heart that connected Heaven and earth,” he said.

Antonio Bello was born in Alessano in 1935. He was ordained a priest in 1957, and afterward studied theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

He was always close to the young and the poor, working at a seminary, as a parish priest, and as an assistant for the Italian lay Catholic association, “Azione Cattolica.”

He was appointed bishop of Molfetta, Giovinazzo, Terlizzi, and Ruvo by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

As bishop, Don Tonino supported the poor and people in difficulty, opening a Caritas soup kitchen in every diocesan parish and founding a community for drug addicts.

In 1985 he became president of Pax Christi. In this role he worked against the First Gulf War and the war in former Yugoslavia. He died in Molfetta on April 20, 1993.

Pope Francis reflected on Don Tonino’s attention to the poor, saying that “understanding the poor was for him true wealth.”

“Don Tonino reminds us not to theorize the closeness to the poor, but to be close to them, as Jesus was; that for us, as rich as he was, he became poor,” he said.

Following his message, the pope led those present in praying the ‘Hail Mary,’ and gave his benediction before departing for Molfetta by helicopter.