Following is an interesting read from the New York Times that explains how residents of 11 countries that normally have huge numbers of tourists experience life in a non-tourist environment. As the Times writes: “We asked people in 11 of the most overtouristed places around the world what it’s like” now, in a coronavirus world. Places from Rome to Bali, Croatia to Barcelona, Amsterdam to Iceland. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/19/travel/coronavirus-travel-restrictions-tourist-attractions.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20200520&instance_id=18629&nl=the-morning®i_id=84973144&segment_id=28532&te=1&user_id=248d4496ef882f1f1c056200ea9c8351
Opening up in Rome has meant that I had a hair trim Monday morning, went to confession, Mass and received communion that same afternoon and am going to my favorite restaurant tonight for the first time since March 8!
As a popular brand says, LG! Life is good!
PRAYER AND THE MYSTERY OF CREATION
At today’s weekly general audience, streamed live from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis began by saying, “In our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider the mystery of creation.”
It was noteworthy that the general audience was bring held in Laudato Si’ Week, a week established by the Vatican to mark the fifth anniversary of the publication of Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si’ On the Care for our Common Home” on May 24, 2015. In addition, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that is behind this week also announced the celebration of a special Laudato Si’ anniversary year that will run from May 24, 2020 to May 24, 2021.
“The first pages of the Bible,” said Francis in his catechesis, “resemble a great hymn of thanksgiving for the goodness and beauty of creation, whose grandeur awakens a sense of wonder within the human heart and a desire to pray. The awe-inspiring immensity of creation stirs us to contemplate the mystery of our own being. Though we may experience the weight of our insignificance, we are not nothing. Prayer assures us that things do not exist merely by chance, and that our relationship with God is the source of our nobility. (vaticannews photo)
The Pope went on to explain that, “Men and women, by nature, may be almost nothing; yet by vocation, they are children of a great King! Amidst the difficulties and trials of life, prayer sustains our appreciation and gratitude, for it gives vigor to our hope. The hope of those who pray can in turn help others to realize that life is a gift from God; that hope is stronger than despair; that love is stronger than death.”
“For the simple joy of being alive,” concluded Francis, “let us offer praise and thanks to our heavenly Father.”
At the end of the catechesis, monsignori from the Secretariat of State read summaries in various languages and transmitted papal greetings to the faithful.
Francis had “cordial greetings for all Polish people” tuning in for the online general audience, noting that, “In these days we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II. A Shepherd of great faith, he loved to entrust the Church and all humanity to God in prayer. Choosing the episcopal motto “Totus Tuus,” (‘all yours’) , he also showed that in difficult times we must turn to the Mother of God, who can help us and intercede for us. His life, built on deep, intense and confident prayer is an example for today’s Christians. I bless you from my heart.
In greetings to Italian-speaking faithful, the Pope highlighted “the approaching feast of the Ascension of the Lord (that) offers me the opportunity to urge everyone to be generous witnesses of the Risen Christ, knowing full well that He is always with us and supports us along the way.”
At the start of the general audience, Psalm 8 was read by each monsignor in their own language (French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish):
LORD, our Lord,
How awesome is your name through all the earth!
I will sing of your majesty above the heavens
with the mouths of babes and infants.
You have established a bulwark against your foes,
to silence enemy and avenger.
When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and stars that you set in place—
What is man that you are mindful of him,
and a son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than a god,
crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
put all things at his feet:
All sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
POPE TRANSFERS VATICAN’S DATA PROCESSING CENTRE TO SECRETARIAT FOR THE ECONOMY
With a Rescript promulgated on Wednesday, Pope Francis transferred the Data Processing Centre (CED) from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) to the Secretariat for the Economy (SPE).
By Vatican News
Pope Francis has made a shuffle in the Roman Curia. He has issued a Rescript transferring the Data Processing Centre, previously managed by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) to the Secretary for the Economy (SPE). It was made public on Wednesday by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, with a statement dated May 11.
It said that Pope Francis considers the transfer is needed “to guarantee a more rational organization of the Holy See’s economic and financial information.” Another reason cited is the eventual computerization of all its activities “so as to guarantee the simplification of activities and the effectiveness of controls, as they are fundamental for the correct functioning of the Entities of the Roman Curia.”
The transfer of the Data Processing Centre will proceed according to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between APSA President Bishop Nunzio Galantino and the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves.
Officials and personnel of the CED will move under the responsibility of the SPE, except those who, by common agreement and for better convenience, continue to be employed by the APSA.
The Prefect of the SPE will re-organize the services offered by the CED, guaranteeing what is necessary for the performance of the APSA’s institutional tasks.
Promulgated on Wednesday, the new measure of Pope Francis will come into effect on June 1, 2020.
PLO INFORMS VATICAN OF RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
From the Holy See Press Office:
“Today, H.E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, was contacted by telephone by H.E. Saeb Erekat, Chief negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The latter wished to inform the Holy See about recent developments in the Palestinian territories and of the possibility of Israeli applying its sovereignty unilaterally to part of those territories, further jeopardizing the peace process.
“The Holy See reiterates that respect for international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, is an indispensable element for the two peoples to live side by side in two States, within the borders internationally recognized before 1967.
“The Holy See is following the situation closely, and expresses concern about any future actions that could further compromise dialogue, while also expressing its hope that Israelis and Palestinians will be soon able to find once again the possibility for directly negotiating an agreement, with the help of the International Community, so that peace may finally reign in the Holy Land, so beloved by Jews and Christians and Muslims.”
POPE MERGES DIOCESES OF ANCHORAGE AND JUNEAU AND NAMES FIRST BISHOP
Pope Francis joined the Archdiocese of Anchorage and the Diocese of Juneau and made one ecclesiastical territory of Anchorage-Juneau (United States) and he appointed Bishop Andrew Bellisario, CM, currently Apostolic Administrator of Anchorage as its first Metropolitan Archbishop.
By Vatican News
On Tuesday afternoon, it was announced that Pope Francis has merged the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, with the Diocese of Juneau. The new Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau will be led by its first Archbishop, Andrew Bellisario, Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau and Apostolic Administrator of Anchorage. (vatican photo)
Andrew Eugene Bellisario was born in 1956 in Los Angeles, California. He attended primary school at St Stephen’s Elementary School in Monterey Park, California.
He entered the minor seminary of St Vincent de Paul in Montebello, California in 1971. In 1975 he entered the Congregation of the Missions (Vincentians) in Santa Barbara. He undertook philosophical studies at St Mary’s Seminary in Perryville, Missouri, beginning in 1976, followed by theological studies at DeAndreis Seminary in Lemont, Illinois (1980-1984), after which he was ordained a Vincentian priest on 16 June 1984.
He first served as Dean of Students at St Vincent de Paul Minor Seminary in Montebello, California (1984-1986), followed by various parish assignments: parrochial vicar (1986- 1989) and parish administrator (1989-1990) of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Montebello; pastor of Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Huntington Beach, California (1990-1995) and Sacred Heart Parish in Patterson, California (1995-1998).
He then became Treasurer and Provincial Councilor for the Vincentians (1996-2002), followed by the position of Director of the De Paul Evangelization Center in Montebello (1998-2002); Superior of the De Paul Center Residence in Montebello (2001-2002); Provincial Superior (2002-2010); Director of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul in Los Altos, California (2003-2015); Pastor of the Co-Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Anchorage, Alaska (2014-2017); and Superior of the International Missions in Alaska (2015-2017).
Pope Francis appointed him the Bishop of Juneau, Alaska in July 2017. He was consecrated Bishop on October 10 that same year. On June 7th, 2019, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Bellisario as Apostolic Administrator of the Anchorage Archdiocese.
IN THE PRESENCE OF A SAINT: A TRIPLE WHAMMY!
I had one single ambition on this beautiful day marking the 100th birthday of an incredible Pole who became a parish priest, bishop and cardinal and then voted by the College of Cardinals to succeed two men whose names he took – John and Paul: to be in the presence of a pontiff I so loved and loved to serve for so many years.
St. Peter’s Basilica was to open today for the first time in two months and I wanted to be there and to pray to and with John St. Paul.
I live very close to the Perugino entrance to Vatican City and, as a Vatican retiree with proper ID and related privileges, I can use that entrance whenever I need to access certain offices, the department store, the basilica, etc.
I wore my mask but the two gendarmes at the entrance knew me and I was delighted when they said yes, I could certainly return to the basilica! When I got to the basilica entrance there ere two volunteers from the Order of Malta taking temperatures – as they are doing to people who use the main basilica entrance.
I’d been so excited to go that I left my cell phone at home so could not take photos o the basilica as I had only seen it once before in my life, But at least I know there will now be other times!
The very central part of the main aisle has wood barriers on both sides, closing a space of about 6 to 8 feet across, so you cannot walk directly across the basilica, from one side to the other, at any point. As I entered on the south side of the basilica, I had to walk behind the papal altar to get to the north side and John Paul’s tomb where I prayed the rosary. I chose the Luminous Mysteries today because John Paul added them to the traditional Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries.
I did not meditate that well on the mysteries, I must say. I had so many memories of John Paul, mental photos that came fleetingly to my mind. I studied the altar, the many flowers and gorgeous floral bouquets that had been places during the day (I did not see any during the papal Mass). Every distancing allowable space in the pews was occupied and that made me very happy but did not at all surprise me. I saw and felt the love.
I did notice one thing and am guessing it was planned. There were 8 candles on the altar above John Paul’s tomb and 10 more were added during the day on the marble altar railing, two candelabras of 5 candles each for a grand total of 18 candles!
The meditation on the third Luminous mystery in the book I use when I say the rosary began: “Jesus preached in the synagogues, streets and hills of Galilee, offering individuals fulfilment of all their hopes and dreams. People listened, spellbound, as he told them how to gain entrance into this new kingdom: “Repent, turn around, and believe the Good news. God had made a way for you to come back to Him.”
All I could think of was, “that’s John Paul! He preached everywhere in the world!” And it was he who said upon being elected Pope, “ Open wide, open wide your doors to Christ! Be not afraid!”
One of my very favorite photos of John Paul –
I wanted to meditate more on this and talk to John Paul some more and ask another favor or two but I heard a bell that almost made me jump for joy (a bell rang JUST NOW on my phone as I wrote the word bell). The bell meant there was Mass!
Mass! And Communion!
I joined perhaps 50 other people at the Altar of St. Joseph where two of the 12 Apostles are buried, Simon and Jude. All pews were marked with a small yellow dot where seating as allowed – perfect social distancing. The priest who said Mass did not have a mask but he did have gloves: his assistant had both. There was beautiful music and the organist was a great tenor as well!
Communion – Yes, the Eucharist! – went very well. It was orderly, with ushers allowing us to exit our pews properly.
What most amazed me was that when I received communion and began to return to my pew, I started crying! I felt like I had just received my first communion – at least my first coronavirus era Eucharist!
After Mass I did the final thing I had been wanting to do for a while – confession. I did not know the basilica would close at 6 and it was 5:40 but I found an English (and Chinese- and Italian-)-speaking priest so confession was the final part of the triple whammy!
I can tell you a few things for certain after my afternoon experience…
Even with restrictions, when you go to a real Mass for the first time in probably months, you will discover what you knew all along. You will rejoice. You will smile. You will feel special. You will know you are in a special place. Mass is the highlight, the focus, the center, of our spiritual lives. We share the Eucharist with other members of the Body of Christ as the epitome, the epicentre if you will, of our life on earth as Catholics.
You will also discover the beauty of the priesthood as you experienced it with your pastor or others these past months via live streaming Masses – Masses done with care, homilies preached with love. Maybe you went to confession in your car, sitting 6 feet from your confessor and praying those in the cars behind you had hearing problems!! Much has to be sacrificed to prepare these Masses, new technology had to be learned and used but the priests did that – they did it for us, the faithful.
And I think you will discover like never before what the Eucharist means to you!
PS– a link to other memories I have of St. John Paul: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/baking-cookies-for-st-john-paul-ii-and-other-memories-for-his-100th-birthday-18713
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ST JOHN PAUL!
If I could have been in two places today, one of them would have been Poland, spending time in Krakow and then in Wadowice where Karol Wojtyla – the future Pope John Paul II, was born on this very day 100 years ago.
The place I was actually in was, of course, Rome – you can read about that in my next column today! (So I guess that is actually 3 places)
Below are several of the vaticannews.va stories published today about St. John Paul. I wonder how many people around the world are reading these stories and others about John Paul in the various languages of this website. I wonder how many people are savoring their memories of this saintly pontiff, truly a man for all seasons.
I have no idea of the number of people who met or saw or were somehow in the presence of this Pope – in Rome or during his many unforgettable travels – in just the 26 and a half years he was Pope. I have no idea how many more lives he touched before 1978 as a pastor, bishop and the cardinal archbishop of Krakow before being elected to the papacy on October 16, 1978 when he took the names of his two predecessors, John and Paul. That number is absolutely in the millions and more likely in the tens of million if not more!
How many of them – of us – are both entranced and also prayerful at those memories, of how blessed we were to have this man, this Pope, in our lives. Of how sad we feel at knowing there are people who did not know, see, meet or be touched by St. John Paul.
POPE FRANCIS: ST JOHN PAUL II A MAN OF PRAYER, CLOSENESS, JUSTICE
Celebrating Mass on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Karol Wojtyla, the future St. John Paul II, Pope Francis described his predecessor as a man of prayer, closeness, and justice.
By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of St John Paul II by offering Holy Mass at the altar where the Polish Pope is buried in St Peter’s Basilica.
Joined by a very limited number of the faithful, the liturgy on Monday morning was the first Mass open to the public after almost two months of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lord has visited His People
Pope Francis began his homily by reminding us that God loves His People, and in times of difficulty “visits” them by sending a holy man or a prophet.
In the life of Pope John Paul II, we can see a man sent by God, prepared by Him, and made Bishop and Pope to guide God’s Church. “Today, we can say that the Lord visited His people”.
A man of prayer
Pope Francis focused on three particular traits that marked the life of John Paul II: prayer, closeness, and mercy.
Despite his many duties as Pope, John Paul II always found time to pray. “He knew well that the first task of the bishop is to pray”, Pope Francis said, noting that this is the teaching of St Peter in the Acts of the Apostles. “The first task of the bishop is to pray”, the Pope repeated. John Paul “knew this, and did it”.
Close to the people
St John Paul II was also close to the people, not detached or separated from them, but travelling the whole world to seek them out. Already in the Old Testament, we can see how God was uniquely close to His People.
This closeness culminated in the Incarnation, when Jesus Himself dwelt among His people.
John Paul followed the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, drawing near to both the great and the small, to those close by and those physically far away.
Finally, Pope Francis said, St John Paul II was remarkable for his love of justice. But his love for justice was a desire for justice completed by mercy. And so John Paul was also a man of mercy, “because justice and mercy go together”. John Paul, who did so much to promote the Divine Mercy devotion, believed that God’s justice “had this face of mercy, this attitude of mercy.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily with the prayer that the Lord might grant to all of us, and especially to pastors, the grace of prayer, of closeness, and the grace of justice in mercy, and merciful justice.
POPE FRANCIS SENDS BLESSINGS TO NEW JPII INSTITUTE OF CULTURE
As the world marks 100 years since the birth of Karol Wojtyla, the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome inaugurates a Saint John Paul II Institute of Culture within the Faculty of Philosophy in John Paul II’s name.
By Devin Watkins
Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope, studied philosophy at the Angelicum from 1946 until 1948. The new institute is supported by two Polish foundations, Futura Iuventa and Saint Nicholas.
John Paul II: Inspiration and architect
To commemorate the new cultural institute, Pope Francis sent a letter on Monday to the Angelicum’s Rector, Fr. Michał Paluch, O.P., who hails from Poland.
The Pope said John Paul II is both “the inspiration behind this project and its first and most important architect.” He added that the Polish Pope left the Church a “rich and multifaceted heritage” due to “the example of his open and contemplative spirit, his passion for God and man, for creation, history and art.”
Deep esteem for humanity
Pope Francis wrote that John Paul II always sought to interpret historical events and personal sufferings in the light of the Holy Spirit. This attitude, said the Pope, led him to reflect deeply on man and his culture roots “as an essential reference point for every proclamation of the Gospel.”
He recalled that John Paul II, in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, wrote that the “missionary attitude always begins with a feeling of deep esteem for ‘what is in man’, for what man has himself worked out in the depths of his spirit concerning the most profound and important problems.”
“We need to keep this approach alive,” said Pope Francis, “if we wish to be an outward-looking Church, not satisfied with preserving and administering what already exists but seeking to be faithful to our mission.”
Interpreting today’s cultural challenges
The Pope expressed his appreciation that the JPII Institute of Culture is part of the Angelicum University. “The Angelicum,” he wrote, “houses an academic community comprising professors and students from throughout the world and is a fitting place for interpreting the important challenges of today’s cultures.”
He said the Dominican tradition – which guides the university – will certainly favor the project, “so that it will be characterized by the courage of the truth, freedom of spirit and intellectual honesty.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis expressed his best wishes for the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture, and imparted his Apostolic Blessing upon all those involved.
POPE FRANCIS ADDS FEAST OF SAINT FAUSTINA TO ROMAN CALENDAR
Pope Francis makes the feast of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska an optional memorial for the universal Church, to be celebrated on October 5.
By Vatican News
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree on Monday, 18 May, inscribing the celebration of Saint Maria Faustina (Helena) Kowalska, virgin, in the General Roman Calendar.
The decree – issued on behalf of Pope Francis – came on the same day as the Church marks 100 years since the birth of Karol Wojtyla. The future Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina in the year 2000. Her optional memorial will be celebrated around the world on 5 October.
Below is the official English-language translation of the decree:
“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Lk 1: 50). What the Virgin Mary sang in the Magnificat, contemplating the salvific work of God in favour of every human generation, found an echo in the spiritual encounters of Saint Faustina Kowalska who, through a heavenly gift, saw in the Lord Jesus Christ the merciful face of the Father and became its herald.
Born in the village of Głogowiec, near Łódź, in Poland in 1905, and dying in Krakow in 1938, Saint Faustina spent her short life amongst the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, generously conforming herself to the vocation she received from God and developing an intense spiritual life, rich in spiritual gifts and in faithful harmony with them. In the Diary of her soul, the sanctuary of her encounter with the Lord Jesus, she herself recounts what the Lord worked in her for the benefit of all: listening to Him who is Love and Mercy she understood that no human wretchedness could measure itself against the mercy which ceaselessly pours from the heart of Christ. Thus she became the inspiration for a movement dedicated to proclaiming and imploring Divine Mercy throughout the whole world. Canonized in the year 2000 by Saint John Paul II, the name of Faustina quickly became known around the world, thereby promoting in all the parts of the People of God, Pastors and lay faithful alike, the invocation of Divine Mercy and its credible witness in the conduct of the lives of believers.
Therefore the Supreme Pontiff Francis, accepting the petitions and wishes of Pastors, religious women and men, as well as associations of the faithful and having considered the influence exercised by the spirituality of Saint Faustina in different parts of the world, has decreed that the name of Saint Maria Faustina (Helena) Kowalska, virgin, be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar and that her optional memorial be celebrated by all on 5 October.
This new memorial shall be inserted into all the Calendars and liturgical books for the celebration of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, adopting the liturgical texts attached to this decree which must be translated, approved and, after confirmation by this Dicastery, published by the Episcopal Conferences.
Anything to the contrary notwithstanding
From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 18 May 2020.
Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect
Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary
POPE SAINT JOHN PAUL II: A MAN ATTACHED TO PRAYER
In an interview, Polish Cardinal and personal secretary to Pope Saint John Paul II, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, speaks on the personality of the saint.
By Vatican News
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope Saint John Paul II. Pope Francis, on Monday morning, celebrated Mass at the altar where the saint is entombed in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Saint John Paul II was elected Pope by the second papal conclave of 1978 that was called after the death of Pope John Paul I who died after a brief pontificate. Saint John Paul II’s papacy lasted from 1978 to 2005.
In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, personal secretary to Pope Saint John Paul II, and Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow, Poland, speaks about his experience of living and working with the saint.
A man of prayer
Cardinal Dziwisz recalled that he lived with the saint after he had been appointed a Cardinal by Paul VI in 1967 and continued after Wojtyla became Pope. “The secret of his person is the depth of his spiritual life,” Dziwisz said. “He always prayed, he learnt the value of prayer as a boy and this aspect deepened afterwards.”
A man of kindness and love
“We must not forget his extraordinary personality,” stressed Dziwisz. He notes that Saint John Paul II treated everyone with great respect and love even if they were poor, weak or sick.
The Cardinal gave the example of a child sick with AIDS that the saint met during his visit to San Francisco in the United States. He recalled that the saint “took the child’s hands, kissed them, blessed them and then gave the child back to his family.” This gesture, said Dziwisz, “was truly more important than a sermon, especially at that time.”
The Polish Cardinal also pointed out that Saint John Paul II created the atmosphere of a family with those he lived with in the pontifical apartments. He remarked that the great simplicity and goodness of the saint moved everyone to become more dedicated to their work.
“He left a great legacy that is important not only for yesterday and today, but for the future.”
PETER’S UNDERGOES SANITIZING AS IT PREPARES TO RE-OPEN TO PUBLIC
The five photos below, courtesy of Vatican Media, show in part the cleaning process that is taking place in St. Peter’s Basilica. Similar cleanings and sanitizings will take place at St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls as the four papal basilicas prepare to reopen to the faithful on Monday, May 18, with restrictions (numbers of people allowed in, masks mandatory, social distancing, etc and temperatures will be measured before allowing visitors in).
It is my understanding at the moment that larger churches like the papal basilicas can allow a maximum of 200 people in at a time and when liturgies once again take place outside, a maximum of 1000 people will be allowed….at least for the time being.
Monday, May 18 at 7am, as I have previously posted, Pope Francis will say Mass at the altar of the tomb of Saint John Paul (see photo) on what would have been the late Holy Father’s 100th birthday. That will be his last televised and online morning Mass following the months of Masses televised from the chapel at the Santa Marta residence.
(To be honest I have been in the basilica for early morning Mass and have seen cleaning going on – sans hazmat suits, etc – including a kind of Zamboni floor polisher). The Vatican also provided a video with Italian commentary.
The Saint of the Day, St. Isidore the Farmer, has a fascinating story that is told on www.franciscanmedia.org There is also an audio version of the story on the website and kids as well as adults will appreciate this. And you can sign up to get their emails with The Saint of the Day story. Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular, he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference. He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622, with Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as “the five saints.
VATICAN INSIDER TOURS ST. PAUL’S OUTSIDE THE WALLS
In this week’s edition of Vatican Insider I bring you some news updates, take a look at Pope Francis’ special prayer intentions this week at his private morning Masses and then bring you on a tour of a major Roman basilica in what is normally the interview segment. As you know, Coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Italian government and by Vatican City that adheres to those rules have kept me home for months now, unable to go out an interview people but some day soon I am sure I’ll be able to do that again.
So this week, be a tourist for a few minutes! Come to Rome! You know that’s where you want to be!
IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)
THE PAPAL BASILICAS ORGANIZE FOR CORONAVIRUS, PHASE 2
Those in charge of the four major Roman papal basilicas (St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls) met on Thursday to study and discuss what needs to be done to re-open the basilicas to the faithful to once again assist at a liturgy. Each basilica has an archpriest, who is a cardinal, who oversees the basilica for its day-to-day life, normal maintenance, repairs and, naturally its liturgical life.
The Thursday meeting was organized by the Secretariat of State.
The meeting allowed the prelates to discuss the “new aspects of Phase 2,” a period of gradual re-openings in Italy and resumption of activities in stores, factories, etc. that began on May 4. As part of Phase 2, churches will be allowed to open their doors to the faithful once again for the celebration of Holy Mass beginning on May 18.
Among the items discussed by the archpriests of the basilicas were the “necessary measures most suitable to guarantee the safety of the faithful.” One specific measure would be the use a thermoscanner to take the temperature of those who wish to participate in liturgical celebrations.
POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT ON CENTENNIAL OF ST. JOHN PAUL’S BIRTH
“John Paul II, a sign for us of hope and confidence”
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI sent a letter to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, retired archbishop of Krakow, Poland and secretary for 40 years to Karol Wojtyla – Pope John Paul II – on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Paul on May 18.
He looks at the late Pope’s life, papacy and death, with attention to two words attributed to John Paul II, “saint” and “great,” noting that, “the word ‘saint’ indicates God’s sphere and the word ‘great’ the human dimension.”
Titled “For the Centennial of the Birth of Saint Pope John Paul II on May 18, 2020,” the letter was dated May 4, 2020 from Vatican City and is signed Benedict XVI. It was made public in Poland today at 11 am.
Following is the entire English translation of that letter:
100 years ago, on May 18th, Pope John Paul II was born in the small Polish town of Wadowice.
After having been divided for over 100 years by three neighboring major powers of Prussia, Russia, and Austria, Poland regained Her independence at the end of the First World War. It was a historic event that gave birth to great hope; but it also demanded much hardship as the new State, in the process of Her reorganization, continued to feel the pressure of the two Powers of Germany and Russia. In this situation of oppression, but above all in this situation marked by hope, young Karol Wojtyła grew up. He lost his mother and his brother quite early and, in the end, his father as well, from whom he gained deep and warm piety. The young Karol was particularly drawn by literature and theater. After passing his final secondary school exam, he chose to study these subjects.
“In order to avoid the deportation, in the fall of 1940 he went to work in a quarry of the Solvay chemical plant.” (cf. Gift and Mystery). “In the fall of 1942, he made the final decision to enter the Seminary of Kraków, which Kraków’s Archbishop Sapieha had secretly established in his residence. As a factory worker, Karol already started studying theology in old textbooks; and so, on 1 November 1946, he could be ordained a priest.” (cf. Ibid.) Of course, Karol not only studied theology in books but also through his experience of the difficult situation that he and his Country found itself in. This is somewhat a characteristic of his whole life and work. He studied books but the questions that they posed became the reality that he profoundly experienced and lived. As a young Bishop – as an Auxiliary Bishop since 1958 and then Archbishop of Kraków from 1964 – the Second Vatican Council became the school of his entire life and work. The important questions that appeared, especially in connection with the so-called Schema 13 which would subsequently become the Constitution Gaudium et Spes, were questions that were also his own. The answers developed by the Council would pave the way for his mission as Bishop and, later, as Pope.
When Cardinal Wojtyła was elected Successor of St. Peter on 16 October 1978, the Church was in a dramatic situation. The deliberations of the Council had been presented to the public as a dispute over the Faith itself, which seemed to deprive the Council of its infallible and unwavering sureness. A Bavarian parish priest, for example, commented on the situation by saying, “In the end, we fell into the wrong faith.” This feeling that nothing was no longer certain, that everything was questioned, was kindled even more by the method of implementation of liturgical reform. In the end, it almost seemed that the liturgy could be created of itself. Paul VI brought the Council to an end with energy and determination, but after its conclusion, he faced ever more pressing problems that ultimately questioned the existence of the Church Herself. At that time, sociologists compared the Church’s situation to the situation of the Soviet Union under the rule of Gorbachev, during which the powerful structure of the Soviet State collapsed under the process of its reform.
Therefore, in essence, an almost impossible task was awaiting the new Pope. Yet, from the first moment on, John Paul II aroused new enthusiasm for Christ and his Church. His words from the sermon at the inauguration of his pontificate: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors for Christ!” This call and tone would characterize his entire pontificate and made him a liberating restorer of the Church. This was conditioned by the fact that the new Pope came from a country where the Council’s reception had been positive: one of a joyful renewal of everything rather than an attitude of doubt and uncertainty in all.
The Pope traveled the world, having made 104 pastoral voyages, proclaiming the Gospel wherever he went as a message of joy, explaining in this way the obligation to defend what is Good and to be for Christ.
In his 14 Encyclicals, he comprehensively presented the faith of the Church and its teaching in a human way. By doing this, he inevitably sparked contradiction in Church of the West, clouded by doubt and uncertainty.
It seems important today to define the true centre, from the perspective of which we can read the message contained in the various texts. We could have noticed it at the hour of his death. Pope John Paul II died in the first moments of the newly established Feast of Divine Mercy. Let me first add a brief personal remark that seems an important aspect of the Pope’s nature and work. From the very beginning, John Paul II was deeply touched by the message of Faustina Kowalska, a nun from Kraków, who emphasized Divine Mercy as an essential center of the Christian faith. She had hoped for the establishment of such a feast day. After consultation, the Pope chose the Second Sunday of Easter. However, before the final decision was made, he asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to express its view on the appropriateness of this date. We responded negatively because such an ancient, traditional and meaningful date like the Sunday “in Albis” concluding the Octave of Easter should not be burdened with modern ideas. It was certainly not easy for the Holy Father to accept our reply. Yet, he did so with great humility and accepted our negative response a second time. Finally, he formulated a proposal that left the Second Sunday of Easter in its historical form but included Divine Mercy in its original message. There have often been similar cases in which I was impressed by the humility of this great Pope, who abandoned ideas he cherished because he could not find the approval of the official organs that must be asked according established norms.
When John Paul II took his last breaths on this world, the prayer of the First Vespers of the Feast of Divine Mercy had just ended. This illuminated the hour of his death: the light of God’s mercy stands as a comforting message over his death. In his last book Memory and Identity, which was published on the eve of his death, the Pope once again summarized the message of Divine Mercy. He pointed out that Sister Faustina died before the horrors of the Second World War but already gave the Lord’s answer to all this unbearable strife. It was as if Christ wanted to say through Faustina: “Evil will not get the final victory. The mystery of Easter affirms that good will ultimately be victorious, that life will triumph over death, and that love will overcome hatred”.
Throughout his life, the Pope sought to subjectively appropriate the objective center of Christian faith, the doctrine of salvation, and to help others to make it theirs. Through the resurrected Christ, God’s mercy is intended for every individual. Although this center of Christian existence is given to us only in faith, it is also philosophically significant, because if God’s mercy were not a fact, then we would have to find our way in a world where the ultimate power of good against evil is not recognizable. It is finally, beyond this objective historical significance, indispensable for everyone to know that in the end God’s mercy is stronger than our weakness. Moreover, at this point, the inner unity of the message of John Paul II and the basic intentions of Pope Francis can also be found: John Paul II is not the moral rigorist as some have partially portrayed him. With the centrality of divine mercy, he gives us the opportunity to accept moral requirement for man, even if we can never fully meet it. Besides, our moral endeavors are made in the light of divine mercy, which proves to be a force that heals for our weakness.
While Pope John Paul II was dying, St. Peter’s Square was filled with people, especially many young people, who wanted to meet their Pope one last time. I cannot forget the moment when Archbishop Sandri announced the message of the Pope’s departure. Above all, the moment when the great bell of St. Peter’s took up this message remains unforgettable. On the day of his funeral, there were many posters with the words “Santo subito!” It was a cry that rose from the encounter with John Paul II from all sides. Not from the square but also in different intellectual circles the idea of giving John Paul II the title “the Great” was discussed.
The word “saint” indicates God’s sphere and the word “great” the human dimension. According to the Church’s standards, sanctity can be recognized by two criteria: heroic virtues and a miracle. These two standards are closely related. Since the word “heroic virtue” does not mean a kind of Olympic achievement but rather that something becomes visible in and through a person that is not his own but God’s work which becomes recognizable in and through him. This is not a kind of moral competition, but the result of renouncing one’s own greatness. The point is that a person lets God work on him, and so God’s work and power become visible through him.
The same applies to the criterion of the miracle: here too, what counts is not that something sensational happening but the visible revelation of God’s healing goodness, which transcends all merely human possibilities. A saint is the man who is open to God and permeated by God. A holy man is the one who leads away from himself and lets us see and recognize God. Checking this juridically, as far as possible, is the purpose of the two processes for beatification and canonization. In the case of John Paul II, both were carried out strictly according to the applicable rules. So, now he stands before us as the Father, who makes God’s mercy and kindness visible to us.
It is more difficult to correctly define the term “great.” In the course of the almost 2,000-year long history of the papacy, the title “the Great” has been maintained only for two popes: Leo I (440 – 461) and Gregory I (590 – 604). In the case of both, the word “great” has a political connotation, but precisely because something of the mystery of God himself becomes visible through their political success. Through dialog, Leo the Great was able to convince Attila, the Prince of Huns, to spare Rome – the city of the Apostolic Princes Peter and Paul. Without weapons, without military or political power, through the power of his conviction for his faith, he was able to convince the feared tyrant to spare Rome. In the struggle between the spirit and power, the spirit proved stronger.
Gregory I’s success was not as spectacular, but he was repeatedly able to protect Rome against the Lombard – here too, by opposing the spirit against power and winning the victory of the spirit.
If we compare both stories with that of John Paul II, the similarity is unmistakable. John Paul II also had no military or political power. During the discussion about the future shape of Europe and Germany in February 1945, it was said that the Pope’s reaction should also be taken into account. Stalin then asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?” Well, he had no available division. However, the power of faith turned out to be a force that finally unhinged the Soviet power system in 1989 and made a new beginning possible. Undisputedly, the Pope’s faith was an essential element in the collapse of the powers. And so, the greatness that appeared in Leo I and Gregory I is certainly also visible here.
Let us leave open the question of whether the epithet “the great” will prevail or not. It is true that God’s power and goodness have become visible to all of us in John Paul II. In a time when the Church is again suffering from the oppression of evil, he is for us a sign of hope and confidence.
Dear Saint John Paul II, Pray for us!
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