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Pope, English church leaders offer prayers after Manchester Arena attack

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andrew Yates, Reuters

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Pope Francis decried the "barbaric attack" on concertgoers in Manchester, adding his voice to Catholic leaders dismayed at what British officials said was the deadliest case of terrorism since 2005.

In a telegram sent to English church officials on Pope Francis' behalf, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope "was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life" after a suicide bomb killed at least 22 people and injured another 59 at Manchester Arena May 22. Many concertgoers at the Ariana Grande concert were teenagers, young adults and families.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The pope "expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence," the telegram said, as "he commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died."

"Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God's blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation."

In Britain, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and other Catholic leaders offered prayers for the victims of the attacks and their families.

"My shock and dismay at the horrendous killing of young and innocent people in the Manchester Arena last night is, I know, shared by all people of goodwill," Cardinal Nichols said in a May 23 statement posted on the Westminster archdiocesan website. "I know, too, that Catholics and many others will be praying earnestly for those who have been killed, for the bereaved and for grieving loved ones.

"We pray in support of all those working so hard in response to this tragedy: the police and security forces, hospital staff, neighbors and friends and for all the people of Manchester. May God, in his mercy, strengthen and sustain us and keep us firmly united in the face of all evil."

The terrorist attack took place within the Diocese of Salford, which incorporates most of Manchester and much of northwest England.

Bishop John Arnold of Salford offered a lunchtime Mass May 23 at St. Mary's, a popular city-center church close to Manchester Arena.

In a statement the same day, he said: "The citizens of Manchester and the members of the Catholic community are united in condemning the attack on the crowds at the Manchester Arena.

"Such an attack can have no justification. I thank the emergency services for their prompt and speedy response which saved lives," he continued. "We join in prayer for all those who have died and for the injured and their families and all affected by this tragedy. We must all commit ourselves to working together, in every way, to help the victims and their families and to build and strengthen our community solidarity."

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, whose diocese covers southern parts of Manchester, wrote to his clergy, urging them to pray for the victims and their families.

"Let us also keep in our prayer the police and emergency services, together with all hospital staff and chaplains," he said in his letter.

The bishop added: "Together with church and religious leaders in Greater Manchester, I ask the prayers of your parishioners for peace and solidarity in all our communities that the hate which inspires such indiscriminate violence may be overcome by that love which faith and prayer inspires in our hearts. I hope the days ahead, overshadowed by this atrocity, will lead us all to such prayer and active charity."

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote Bishop Arnold to assure him of the prayers of Catholics in the United States.

"Words are not enough to convey the deep shock and sadness with which Catholics and all people of goodwill in the United States learned of the horrible attack which took place yesterday at England's Manchester Arena," said his letter, released May 23 in Washington. He mentioned "the unspeakable loss of life, terrible injuries, and untold trauma to families -- especially to children."

"Evil, as dense and dark as it is, never has the last word," Cardinal DiNardo wrote. "As we prepare to celebrate the new dawn of Pentecost again, may the Easter words of the risen Christ, 'Peace be with you,' settle deep into the hearts of the citizens of your great country."


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U.S. extends Temporary Protected Status for Haitians for six months

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andres Martinez Casares, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Tens of thousands of Haitians enrolled under the Temporary Protected Status program can stay in the United States until at least January.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly renewed the designation May 22. The decision affects more than 58,000 Haitians in the U.S.

The designation, also known as TPS, was implemented by the U.S. government for Haiti days after a powerful earthquake in January 2010 leveled much of the country surrounding the capital of Port-au-Prince. It allowed Haitian nationals to stay in the U.S. because of adverse conditions in their homeland.

Kelly's order extends Temporary Protected Status until Jan. 22, 2018, six months beyond the original expiration date of July 22. Previous extensions had been granted for 18 months.

Kelly did not adopt the recommendation of the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that called for ending the designation for Haitians altogether in July. In an April 10 memo to Kelly, James W. McCament said "conditions in Haiti no longer support its designation for TPS," but suggested delaying the effective date of the termination for six months to allow "for a period of orderly transition" for Haitian nationals.

The homeland security secretary stopped short of saying the designation automatically would be renewed again in January. In a statement Kelly urged that Haitian nationals begin to assemble travel documents and "make other necessary arrangements for their future departure" from the U.S.

"Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010, and I'm proud of the role the United States has played during this time in helping our Haitian friends," Kelly said.

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration, said he was grateful Kelly and the Trump administration gave the six-month extension, but added, "It still leaves many Haitian families in the United States in an insecure and vulnerable position, particularly with respect to ensuring legal work authorization (during that extended period)."

"Extending TPS serves an important humanitarian role by providing for the safety, well-being, and stability of Haitians living in the United States," he said in a statement. "We encourage our government to work proactively with the Haitian government to provide life-saving aid and recovery assistance. Haiti will continue to struggle to receive back those who are temporarily protected, even those who may be returned in the near future."

He said the Catholic Church through its various service networks "will continue to assist Haitian families in the U.S., aid the rebuilding process in Haiti and look for opportunities to collaborate with the church in Haiti and the Haitian and U.S. governments."

Kelly's statement said the "Haitian economy continues to recover and grow, and 96 percent of people displaced by the earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those camps." He also cited Haitian government plans to rebuild the presidential residence on the grounds of the National Palace destroyed in the earthquake and the withdrawal of the United Nations stabilization forces as signs of progress.

In addition, Kelly said he had heard from the Haitian government regarding its desire to welcome Haitian TPS recipients.

Advocates have disagreed with McCament's assessment and have said Haiti is experiencing the same dire social challenges and deep poverty that existed when the TPS designation first was made. Haiti's recovery, advocates also argued, suffered a setback when Hurricane Matthew inundated farms and communities in the country's southwest peninsula in October.

One of organizations advocating for Haitians, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said in a statement that the extension concerns those with Temporary Protected Status because they will be required to return to their still unstable homeland.

"The extension of TPS for another six months is nothing more than a brief respite," Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC executive director, said in a statement.

"Kelly's statement making this announcement suggests he doesn't truly understand the purpose of TPS and its basis in what the conditions are in an affected country," Atkinson said. "His remarks ignore that it would be inhumane to precipitously force tens of thousands of people back to a country that still suffers from dramatic levels of homelessness, an ongoing cholera epidemic and other systemic deficits, such as a lack of clean water. An adequate national recovery to support their return is far more than six months down the road."

The designation of Temporary Protected Status can be made for any country because of a natural disaster, continuing armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions under the Immigration Act of 1990.

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Trump arrives in Holy Land, visits Holy Sepulcher, Western Wall

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Following his official welcome to Jerusalem by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, U.S. President Donald Trump began his two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories with a private visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Western Wall.

Details of the visits to the holy sites had been a carefully guarded secret until the last moment, but from early May 22 the alleyways of the Old City were closed to both residents and tourists, and the main thoroughfares leading to the Old City were closed off to all traffic.

Under tight security and led by the traditional kawas honor guard announcing the way with the thumping of their ornamental staffs, the president made his way by foot through the Old City's alleyways to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He and first lady Melania Trump were welcomed at the entrance of the church courtyard by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Archbishop Theophilos III; Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land; and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian. The president spoke briefly to the religious leaders and stopped at the entrance of the church for a group photograph after also speaking to a few other religious.

Trump, who also was accompanied into the church by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent about 30 minutes in the church, which encompasses the area where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried and later rose from the dead. At the entrance of the church is the stone of unction, where tradition holds that Jesus' body was laid out and washed after his crucifixion. Inside the central rotunda is the newly renovated Edicule, where Jesus was buried.

The delegation then walked the short distance to the Western Wall plaza, where Trump was greeted by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall. Wearing the traditional Jewish kippa or skullcap, Trump walked alone to the wall, where he placed his hands on the stones for several minutes. He then placed a note with a prayer into a crack in the wall, a Jewish tradition. Melania and Ivanka Trump visited the women's section of the wall separately, and the first lady spent a few minutes silently in front of the wall, touching it with her hand.

Trump is the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in the contested Old City of Jerusalem. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital city.

The Western Wall, considered the holiest site for Judaism today as a remnant of the retaining wall of the Biblical Jewish Temple, also surrounds the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, where the Jewish temple once stood and the location of Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site.

Avoiding any symbolic controversy involving the issue of the city's sovereignty, the Trump administration insisted the visit to the sites be private, vexing Israel by Trump's refusal to be accompanied by Israeli political leaders to the Western Wall.

Meanwhile, Palestinians said Israel had not allowed a Greek Orthodox Scout marching band to accompany the delegation to Church of the Holy Sepulcher as planned because of the Palestinian flags on their uniform. A spokesman from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any Israeli involvement in the matter, suggesting that it might have been a U.S. security issue.

On May 23, Trump met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, West Bank, and told him, "If the Israelis and Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace throughout the Middle East."

Abbas told Trump that Palestinians were committed to working with him to reach a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.

"Our problem is not with Judaism, it is not a problem among religions," said Abbas. "Our problem is with the occupation, settlements and Israel's failure to recognize the state of Palestine."

On many occasions, U.S. and international Catholic bishops have spoken out against the expansion of Israeli settlements and confiscation of Palestinian lands.

Trump did not discuss hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. He did not visit Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, and earlier media reports had indicated that was because of an exhibit at the church supporting the hunger-striking prisoners.

In statements upon his arrival in Israel, Trump spoke warmly about the U.S.-Israeli bond and his deep sense of admiration for the country. He also spoke of the need to unite against "the scourge of violence."

"We have the rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people by defeating terrorism," Trump said at the welcoming ceremony upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, where he was greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. "But we can only get there by working together. We love Israel. We respect Israel and I send your people the warmest greeting from your friend and ally, from all people in the USA, we are with you."

Trump was scheduled to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican May 24.


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Pope announces new cardinals from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos, Salvador

IMAGE: CNS photo/Octavio Duran

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis announced he will create five new cardinals June 28; the new cardinals-designate come from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador.

Unusually, the group of prelates announced by the pope May 21 includes an auxiliary bishop whose archbishop is not a cardinal; he is Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, the current auxiliary bishop of San Salvador.

The other churchmen who will receive red hats are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73.

After briefly talking about the day's Gospel reading, leading the crowd in St. Peter's Square in reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer and greeting various groups present, instead of wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch -- the normal procedure at the noon prayer -- Pope Francis made his announcement.

The five new cardinals coming from "different parts of the world demonstrates the catholicity of the church spread across the globe," Pope Francis said. And the practice of assigning to each of them a church in Rome "expresses that the cardinals belong to the Diocese of Rome," which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch explained, "presides in charity over all the churches."

Pope Francis said that June 29, the day after the consistory and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the new cardinals would concelebrate a Mass with him, the entire College of Cardinals and new archbishops from around the world.

"We entrust the new cardinals to the protection of Sts. Peter and Paul," Pope Francis said, praying that with St. Peter they would be "authentic servants" of communion in the church and that with St. Paul they would be "joyful proclaimers of the Gospel."

The pope also prayed that "with their witness and their counsel," the new cardinals would "support me more intensely in my service as bishop of Rome, pastor of the universal church."

With five new cardinals, the College of Cardinals will have 227 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. The number of electors exceeds by one the limit of 120 set by Blessed Paul VI. The next cardinal to turn 80 will be Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, who will celebrate his birthday Feb. 3.

The Vatican released brief biographical notes about the five who will be inducted into the college in June:

-- Cardinal-designate Zerbo was born Dec. 27, 1943, in Segou and was ordained to the priesthood there in 1971. He earned a license in Scripture studies from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and then returned to Mali as a pastor and professor at the seminary in Bamako.

Ordained a bishop in 1988, he served first as auxiliary bishop of Bamako and then was named bishop of Mopti. He has led the Archdiocese of Bamako since 1998.

According to the Vatican, "he played an active role in the Mali peace negotiations" and has worked for solidarity and reconciliation among the nation's citizens.

-- Cardinal-designate Omella was born in the small town of Cretas April 21, 1946, and did his seminary studies in Zaragoza as well as Louvain, Belgium, and Jerusalem. He was ordained in 1970. In addition to parish work in Spain, he spent a year as a missionary in then-Zaire, now Congo.

Ordained a bishop in 1996, he served as auxiliary bishop of Zaragoza and later as bishop of Barbastro-Monzon, then bishop of Calahorra and La Calzada-Logrorio. Pope Francis named him archbishop of Barcelona in 2015.

He has long been a member of the Spanish bishops' commission for social questions and served two terms as commission president. He is a member of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

-- Cardinal-designate Arborelius hosted Pope Francis' visit to Sweden in October as part of an ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Born in Sweden Sept. 24, 1949, he joined the Catholic Church at the age of 20. A few years later, he entered the Discalced Carmelites, took vows in 1977 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1979.

Ordained bishop of Stockholm in 1998, he became the first native Swedish bishop in Sweden since the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, according to the Vatican.

-- Cardinal-designate Ling was born April 8, 1944, in Laos. The Vatican did not say in what city, but did say he was educated and did seminary studies in Laos and Canada.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1972 by the apostolic vicar of Vientiane, he was instrumental in training catechists and was known for his pastoral visits to remote mountain villages.

In October 2000, he was named apostolic vicar of Pakse and was ordained a bishop six months later. Since February, he also has served as apostolic administrator of Vientiane, which currently is without a bishop.

-- Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez was born Sept. 3, 1942, in Sociedad, El Salvador. He studied at San Jose de la Montana Seminary in San Salvador, earned a degree in social communications and studied at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1970 in San Miguel and served overlapping -- and sometimes simultaneous -- terms as the bishop's secretary, pastor of a parish and director of the diocesan radio station. From 1977 to 1982, he served as rector of San Jose de la Montana Seminary in San Salvador, a position that brought him into regular contact and close collaboration with Blessed Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980.

He was named auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in 1982. Currently, in addition to his duties as auxiliary bishop, he serves as pastor of the Church of St. Francis in the capital, president of Caritas El Salvador and president of Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Sistine Chapel Choir Historic Visit and First-Ever Detroit Performance to Be Announced Wednesday, May 24 at 9 a.m.

 

Devil prefers comfy, business-savvy church that overlooks truth, pope says

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The devil would like to see a church that never takes any risks, never speaks out with the truth and just settles on being wishy-washy, comfortable and business-savvy, Pope Francis said.

God's prophets always were persecuted because they created a disturbance, much like those today who denounce worldliness in the church and get ostracized, the pope said May 23 during a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

However, "a church without martyrs gives rise to distrust; a church that takes no risks gives rise to distrust; a church that is afraid to proclaim Jesus Christ and cast out demons, idols and the other lord that is money is not the church of Jesus," he said.

The pope's homily looked at how Paul and Silas ended up in prison in Philippi after Paul cast a spirit out of a slave girl, and he and Silas were accused of disturbing the city and promoting unlawful customs.

The day's first reading (Acts 16:22-34), the pope said, shows that after helping the possessed girl Paul understood that even though people in the city accepted Christ's doctrine, their hearts had not been converted "because everything stayed quiet" and easy. "It was not Christ's church," he said.

The history of salvation is filled with similar stories, he said. Whenever the people of God were undisturbed, didn't take risks or started serving, "I won't say idols, but worldliness," then God would send a prophet to shake things up.

"In the church when someone denounces many kinds of worldliness, he or she is given the stink eye, 'This won't do, better they be removed,'" he said.

The pope said he could recall "many, many men and women, good consecrated (religious), not ideological," in Argentina who spoke out about what the church of Jesus was meant to be, but who would be accused of being communist and sent away and persecuted.

And "think of Blessed (Oscar) Romero, no? What happened for speaking the truth," the pope said, referring to the Salvadoran archbishop who spoke out against poverty, injustice and disappearances, and was assassinated by a suspected death squad. The one-year anniversary of his beatification was May 23.

There are many men and women like this in the history of the church, the pope said, "because the evil spirit prefers a peaceful church, without risks, a business church, an easy church, in the comfort of warmth, lukewarm."

"When the church is lukewarm, tranquil, everything organized, there are no problems, look where the deals are," he said, because the devil always comes in "through the pocket."

The path of daily conversion requires going from an easy, carefree life and "a religiosity that looks too much at earnings" to the joyous proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Lord.

This is how the Lord, "with his martyrs," moves the church forward and gives it "renewed youth," he said.

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A Word to Those Being Confirmed

One of the greatest privileges I have as a bishop is the opportunity to preside at the sacrament of Confirmation. I want to share with you in this article some of the key ideas in the latest iteration of my Confirmation sermon.

Geography and geometry: New cardinals fit pope's formula for faith

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis, who described himself as coming from "the ends of the earth," continues to go to the far reaches of the globe to seek those who will advise him and possibly elect the next pope.

Announcing May 21 that he was adding five churchmen to the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis said their geographic mix -- two Europeans, an African, an Asian and a Central American -- reflect the catholicity of the church.

After the June 28 consistory, 62 countries will have at least one cardinal elector -- a cardinal under the age of 80 and, therefore, eligible both to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope, but also available for membership on various Vatican congregations, councils and dicasteries.

Obviously, Pope Francis is continuing the big push begun under Blessed Paul VI to internationalize the College of Cardinals. The cardinal electors that chose St. John Paul II in 1978 came from 49 countries. The group that elected now-retired Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 came from 51 nations (52 if England and Scotland are counted separately). And the cardinals who gathered in the Sistine Chapel to elect Pope Francis hailed from 47 countries.

But for Pope Francis it is not just about numbers, and he is not looking for some "balanced" geographical mix.

If it is about catholicity, as he said, then it is about the way the faith is lived, expressed and grows in different cultures and how those experiences become riches for the church as a whole.

Here Pope Francis' understanding of inculturation and his favorite geometrical shape -- the polyhedron -- come into play.

A polyhedron is an irregular shape with many sides; the sides do not have to be the same size and they do not have to be spaced the same distance from the center.

As Pope Francis wrote in "The Joy of the Gospel," the 2013 exhortation that laid out his vision for his pontificate, in a polyhedron each part "preserves its distinctiveness" but contributes to the whole.

For Christians, he said, seeing the global church as a polyhedron "evokes the totality or integrity of the Gospel, which the church passes down to us and sends us forth to proclaim."

Every facet or side of the three-dimensional object represents "the genius" of each people who has received "in its own way the entire Gospel and embodies it in expressions of prayer, fraternity, justice, struggle and celebration."

Masterpieces of theology and spirituality, music, art and architecture obviously are gifts Catholics are called to share with each other. But, for Pope Francis, so are the experiences of keeping the faith amid crushing poverty or persecution.

The five churchmen who will become cardinals June 28 are: Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, 74; Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, 67; and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73.

The short biographies the Vatican released May 21 give glimpses of the gifts Pope Francis wants them to share with the rest of the church. For example:

-- Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez, who worked closely with Blessed Oscar Romero before he was assassinated in 1980, is the president of Caritas El Salvador and president of Caritas Latin America and Caribbean.

-- Cardinal-designate Zerbo played an active role in the Mali peace process, trying to end years of civil strife that began in 2012.

-- Cardinal-designate Mangkhanekhoun is known for training catechists and making pastoral visits to remote mountain villages.

-- Cardinal-designate Arborelius is a convert to Catholicism and the first native-born Swede to serve as a Catholic bishop in Sweden since the Protestant Reformation.

-- Cardinal-designate Omella has been a longtime member and two-term president of the Spanish bishops' social concerns commission.

In Pope Francis' vision, appreciating the polyhedron that is the universal church means not only going out to the "peripheries" with the Gospel, but listening to stories of faith there and giving witness of that experience to Christians living in places often mistakenly considered central, if not the center of the Christian world.

In his homily on Epiphany, Jan. 6, Pope Francis noted that the Three Wise Men first went to Herod's palace in Jerusalem, but they discovered "that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically."

"The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day," the pope said. Off the beaten track, in Bethlehem, "before the small, poor and vulnerable infant," they "discovered the glory of God."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Be prophets of joy, not misfortune, pope tells nuns

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Consecrated women are called to be prophets of hope and joy in the world and avoid putting on a superficial joy that withers the soul, Pope Francis said.

In order to live out the joy of the Gospel, "it must be a true joy, not a counterfeit joy" that brings about "the cancer of resignation," the pope told a group from the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master.

"Please, sisters, no resignation. Only joy! The devil will say, 'We are small, we don't have many vocations.' And your face will grow long -- down, down, down -- and you lose joy," he said. "No, you cannot live like that; the hope of Jesus is joy."

Founded in 1924, the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master are part of the nine institutes of consecrated life that form the Pauline Family established by Blessed James Alberione.

The congregation was in Rome April 30-May 28 for their ninth general chapter on the theme "New wine in new wineskins."

After receiving a warm applause from the sisters, the pope asked their pardon for his late arrival.

"I had a meeting with the bishops of Guatemala and these meetings go on and on and on and then, the sisters pay the price," he said as the sisters laughed.

In his speech, the pope expressed his hope that the congregation's general chapter would "bring forth abundant fruit," particularly the fruit of communion.

He asked them to practice "fraternal correction and respect for the weakest sisters" while warning of the dangers of divisions, envy and gossip that "destroy the congregation."

"For this reason, I invite you to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms and to fight self-referentialism in every way," the pope said. "It is ugly when a consecrated man or woman is self-referential, always looking at him/herself in the mirror. It's ugly."

The general chapter, he continued, is also a time to live out "the apostolate of the ear," that is, to listen to "the sisters as well as men and women of today." Listening to and sharing with others is necessary "if we want our lives to be fully meaningful for ourselves and the people we meet."

The vocation to consecrated life, he added, is also an opportunity for sisters to fulfill "the prophecy of joy" in their lives, which is both "a beautiful reality" and "a great challenge for all of us."

Pope Francis encouraged the sisters to not unite themselves with "the prophets of misfortune" who damage the church or give in to the temptation of "drowsiness" like the apostles in Gethsemane.

"Awaken the world, awaken the future," he said. "Always smiling; with joy, with hope."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope: Christians without tenderness, respect are serpents who divide

IMAGE: CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- The sin committed most frequently in Christian parishes and groups is bad-mouthing and backstabbing each other, which not only divides the community, it drives away people who come seeking God, Pope Francis said.

"Truly, this pains me to the core. It's as if we were throwing stones among ourselves, one against the other. And the devil enjoys it; it's a carnival for the devil," he told parishioners in his homily during an evening Mass at a parish on the outskirts of Rome May 21.

Pope Francis told parishioners at the church of San Pier Damiani how important their use of language was. As baptized members of the church, every Christian has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, he said.

People must continue to pray for and safeguard that gift, which includes using a "special language," not Latin, he said, but something else. "It is a language of tenderness and respect" that is also mirrored in one's behavior.

"It is so awful to see these people who call themselves Christians, but they are filled with bitterness" or anger, he said in a homily that was off-the-cuff.

The devil knows how to weaken people's efforts to serve God and safeguard the Holy Spirit's presence inside them. "He will do everything so our language is not tender and not respectful," the pope said.

"A Christian community that does not safeguard the Holy Spirit with tenderness and with respect" is like the serpent with the long, long tongue, who is depicted in statues as being crushed under Mary's foot.

Pope Francis said a priest once told him about some people in a parish whose tongues were so long from wagging gossip that "they could take Communion from the front door; they could reach the altar with the tongue they have."

"This is the enemy that destroys our communities -- chatter," he said, adding it was also "the most common sin in our Christian communities."

A language that boasts or shows off "out of ambition, envy, jealousy" not only divides those already gathered, it drives off newcomers, he said.

How many people step inside a parish in search of God's peace and tenderness, but instead they encounter gossip, competition and "internal fighting among the faithful."

"And then what do they say? 'If these are Christians, I'd rather stay pagan.' And they leave, disappointed," he said. "We are the ones pushing them away."

Before celebrating Mass in the parish, the pope heard the confessions of four penitents, greeted the sick, met with members of the Neocatechumenal Way and spent time with people receiving assistance from the local Caritas.

While poverty or not having enough to get by "is a terrible cross," the pope said, it is the way Jesus chose to come into the world and live.

"We have to pray for the wealthy, for the wealthy who have too much and do not know what to do with the money and want more. Poor things," he said.

It's not about hating the rich, because that is not Christian, but praying for them so they will not become corrupt and they will recognize the wealth "is not theirs, it is God's that he gave them to administer" by being generous, working honestly and living simply and austerely, he said.

Pope Francis also told them he understood why, because of all the red tape, their pastor built without legal permits the kitchen they use to make meals for those in need. Sometimes things are made so complicated as a way to bring in bribes, he said, since "bureaucracy, usually, loosens with payoffs."

Earlier, the pope sat down with children and young adults at the parish-run sports center for a brief Q&A outside in the warm sun.

He reminisced about growing up as one of five children who knew how to have fun.

Wanting to illustrate the happy times they had, he also had to preface his anecdote with a "Don't try this at home" warning, as he told them about a parachuting contest they had which involved jumping off a balcony with an umbrella. One brother went first, and escaped harm by a hair's breadth.

"These are dangerous games, but we were happy," he said, emphasizing how they should cherish having a family and relatives who care about them. They should also obey their parents, he added, because they make many sacrifices for their well-being.

"It's a beautiful thing, it is a beautiful vocation, to have a family," he said.

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