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Pope Francis arrives in Cairo on 18th Apostolic Journey

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Egypt to begin an Apostolic Journey to the country.

The Pope touched down at Cairo International Airport this Friday afternoon where he was met by the Apostolic Nuncio to Cairo, Bruno Musaro and a representative of the President of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah Al Sisi.

After his arrival in the Egyptian capital the Holy Father travelled by car to the Presidential Palace to pay a courtesy visit on the Head of State which included a welcoming ceremony.

Following a private meeting both President Al Sisi and Pope Francis exchanged gifts. The Holy Father presented the president with a commemorative medal of his visit which depicts the Holy Family fleeing into Egypt by artist Daniela Longo.

Later the Pope will address an International Peace Conference at Al-Azhar University which will also be attended by the Grand Imam Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope’s closeness to Egypt’s suffering Christians is crucial during Cairo visit

(Vatican Radio) Father Christopher Clohessy, a professor at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies said it’s crucial that Egypt’s suffering Christian minority feel the pastoral closeness of Pope Francis during his 24 hour visit to Cairo. The priest, who spent years living and working in the Egyptian capital, also said that the Pope’s “tireless” work for good interfaith relations and his meetings with other religious leaders represent another important aspect of the papal visit. He was interviewed by Linda Bordoni.

Listen to the interview with Father Christopher Clohessy:  

Speaking ahead of Pope Francis’ departure for Cairo, Father Clohessy outlined what he saw as the key issues shaping the ongoing dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Islamic world and what he hopes this papal visit to Egypt will achieve.

The priest stressed the importance of the Vatican maintaining a theological relationship with the Al-Azhar institution in Cairo that is widely seen as the leading centre of learning of Sunni Islam, saying he he hoped this relationship “will be strengthened by the Pope’s visit.”

Father Clohessy spoke of how Egypt’s Christian minority have been suffering from discrimination and often actual persecution for many decades. They need, said he, to hear the Pope speak to them and offer “words of hope and comfort……. and speak what has to be said.”

In conclusion, Father Clohessy said he hoped that the Pope’s words during his apostolic visit to Egypt will “resonate in all hearts, not just in Christian ones but in Muslim ones as well.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis receives IFCA Congress participants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received participants in the Congress of the International Forum-Catholic Action on Thursday morning in the Synod Hall at the Vatican.

The Congress is focused on the theme: “Catholic Action in Mission with All and for Everyone”, and is marking the 150th anniversary of the organization’s founding.

The charism of Catholic Action is one of lay-led missionary discipleship: faithful to the Pope, rooted in the local Church, and active in service especially and particularly at the parish level.

Listen to our report

In his remarks to the participants, Pope Francis focused on renewing the mission of Catholic Action by recovering the original sense of the apostolate and applying that sense of self-understanding to the concrete conditions encountered in contemporary life.

Delivered in his native Spanish, and based on bullet-points, Pope Francis encouraged the participants to foster renewal by becoming prayerfully active, outgoing, docile to the Spirit, willing to sacrifice, and open to surprises.

Among the highlights of the special audience was the presentation to the Holy Father of several gifts, including an English-language psalter found aboard a boat carrying migrants to Lampedusa, thousands of whom drown during the course of the dangerous voyage.

The fate of the psalter’s owner is not known.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Christians are called to be witnesses of obedience

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday reflected on the fact that being Christian is not a social status.Speaking during the homily at the Mass in the Casa Santa Marta the Pope said Christians must be witnesses of obedience to God, like Jesus was.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Recalling the reading of the day Pope Francis quoted Peter’s words before the Sanhedrin when he  said “You must obey God rather than men." 

Peter and the Apostles had been freed from prison by an Angel, and forbidden to teach in Jesus’s name 

And yet the high priest said “You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man's blood upon us”.

In order to better understand this event the Pope also referred to the Book of Acts regarding the early months of the Church  which describes a growing Christian community and many miracles. 

There was the faith of the people, he said, but there were also “wily” people trying to take advantage of the situation and “wanting to make a career for themselves” like Hananiah and Sapphira.  

The same kind of dynamics take place today, the Pope noted, and there are those who despise “God’s faithful people.”

Turning back to the reading of today, the Pope said that Peter, who out of fear had betrayed Jesus on Holy Thursday, this time courageously answered  the high priest saying that “we must obey God rather than men." 

This answer, he said, makes it clear that "a Christian is a witness of obedience" as Jesus was, when in the garden of Gethsemane, he addressed these words to the Father: “not my will but yours be done”.

"The Christian is a witness of obedience; if we are not on this path and growing in our witness we are not Christians. We must at least walk this way” he said.

The Pope pointed out that “Jesus is not the testimonial of an idea, of a philosophy, of a company, of a bank or of power: he is a testimonial of obedience”.

However, Francis explained, to become a “witness of obedience” we need the "grace of the Holy Spirit".

"Only the Spirit can make us witnesses of obedience. It’s not enough to listen to spiritual guides or to read books…. all that is fine but only the Spirit can change our heart and make us witnesses of obedience” he said.

The Pope said it is a grace we must ask for: “Father,  Lord Jesus, send me your Spirit so that I may become a witness of obedience, that is, a Christian.”

Francis also said that to be witnesses of obedience implies consequences, as narrated by the First reading; in fact, after Peter's response, the high priests wanted to put him to death:

"Persecutions were the consequences of this witness of obedience. When Jesus lists the Beatitudes he ends with the words ‘Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you’” he said.

And pointing out that the cross cannot be taken away from the life of a Christian, the Pope said “being a Christian has nothing to do with social status, it is not a lifestyle that makes one feel good; being a Christian means being a witness of obedience and the life of a Christian is full of insults and persecutions”.

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying that in order to be witnesses of obedience like Jesus, it is necessary to pray, to recognize that we are sinners with much “worldliness” in our hearts and to ask God for the grace of becoming witnesses of obedience" and to not be afraid when we are insulted and persecuted "because as the Lord said: the Spirit will tell us what to answer."

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope meets with Papal Foundation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received members of the Papal Foundation on Thursday who are on their annual visit to the Vatican. The Holy Father thanked them for supporting many religious and charitable causes and encouraged them, as a vital part of their "commitment to the work of the Papal Foundation, to pray for the needs of the poor, the conversion of hearts, the spread of the Gospel, and the Church’s growth in holiness and missionary zeal."

Below please find the English translation of the Pope's address to members of the Papal Foundation.

I am pleased to greet the members of The Papal Foundation on this, your annual visit to Rome.  Our meeting today is pervaded by the joy of the Easter season, as the Church celebrates the Lord’s victory over death and his gift of new life in the Holy Spirit.  It is my hope that your pilgrimage to the Eternal City will strengthen you in faith and hope, and in your commitment to promote the Church’s mission by supporting so many religious and charitable causes close to the heart of the Pope.

            Today’s world, so often torn by violence, greed and indifference, greatly needs our witness to the Gospel message of hope in the redemptive and reconciling power of God’s love.  I am grateful for your desire to assist the Church’s efforts to proclaim that message of hope to the ends of the earth and to work for the spiritual and material advancement of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, especially in developing countries.  Each of us, as a living member of Christ’s body, is called to foster the unity and peace that is the Father’s will, in Christ, for our human family and all its members.  I ask you, as a vital part of your commitment to the work of the Papal Foundation, to pray for the needs of the poor, the conversion of hearts, the spread of the Gospel, and the Church’s growth in holiness and missionary zeal.  And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me!

            Dear friends, with these words of encouragement, and with great affection, I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church.  To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abiding joy and peace in the Lord.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis sends video message ahead of Egypt visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Egypt ahead of his Apostolic Journey to the country, saying the “world needs peace, love and mercy”.

Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:

Pope Francis began his video message to the people of Egypt with the traditional greeting in Arabic: “As-salamu alaykum! (Peace be with you!)”

He said he is “coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod.”

The Pope thanked those who invited him, including the President, Patriarch Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, as well as all those people preparing for his arrival.

He said he would like his visit to “be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East”.

He called his interreligious and ecumenical visit “a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.”

Speaking about recent “blind violence” in the country, Pope Francis said, “Our world needs peace, love and mercy. It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.”

He went on to say “Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.”

Finally, Pope Francis extended a warm embrace to the Egyptian people of all religions, age, and means.

Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! (Thank you and may Egypt flourish!)”

Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s video message:

Dear People of Egypt,

As-salamu alaykum!

Peace be with you!

With a heart full of joy and gratitude I will soon visit your beloved country, the cradle of civilization, the gift of the Nile, the land of sun and hospitality, the land where Patriarchs and Prophets lived, and where God, Benevolent and Merciful, the Almighty and One God, made his voice heard.

I am truly happy to be coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod (cf. Mt 2:10-16).  I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family!

I greet all of you warmly and I thank you for your invitation to visit Egypt, which you call ‘Umm il Dugna – Mother of the universe!

I offer heartfelt thanks to the President of the Republic, to His Holiness Patriarch Tawadros II, to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and to the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, all of whom invited me.  I also thank each of you for opening your hearts to me, and in particular all those who worked so hard to make this journey possible.

I would like this visit to be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.  I would also hope that my visit will make a fruitful contribution to interreligious dialogue with the followers of Islam and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.

Our world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land.  Our world needs peace, love and mercy.  It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.  Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.

Dear Egyptian brothers and sisters, young and old, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor…  I embrace you warmly and I ask Almighty God to bless you and protect your country from every evil.

Please pray for me!  Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! (Thank you and may Egypt flourish!). 

(from Vatican Radio)

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort

On April 28, the universal Church celebrates the feast day of Louis-Marie de Monfort, a 17th century saint who is revered for his intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Louis-Marie is perhaps most famously known for his prayer of entrustment to Our Lady, “Totus Tuus ego sum,â€� which means, “I am all yours.â€� The late-Pope John Paul II took the phrase “Totus Tuusâ€� as his episcopal motto. Born in Montfort, Brittany, on January 31, 1673, St. Louis-Marie possessed a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament as a child, and was also intimately devoted to the Blessed Virgin, especially through the Rosary. He took the name Marie at his confirmation. The saint manifested a love for the poor while he was at school and joined a society of young men who ministered to the poor and the sick on school holidays. When he was 19, he walked 130 miles to Paris to study theology, gave all he had to the poor that he met along the way and made a vow to live only on alms. After his ordination at 27, he served as a hospital chaplain until the management of the hospital resented his reorganization of the staff and sent him away. St. Louis-Marie discovered his great gift for preaching at the age of 32, and committed himself to it for the rest of his life. He met with such great success that he often drew crowds of thousands to hear his sermons in which he encouraged frequent communion and devotion to Mary. But he also met with opposition, especially from the Jansenists, a heretical movement within the Church that believed in absolute Predestination, in which only a chosen few are saved, and the rest damned. Much of France was influenced by Jansenism, including many bishops, who banished St. Loius-Marie from preaching in their dioceses. He was even poisoned by Jansenists in La Rochelle, but survived, though he suffered ill health after.While recuperating from the effects of the poisoning, he wrote the masterpiece of Marian piety, "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin," which he correctly prophesied would be hidden by the devil for a time. His seminal work was discovered 200 years after his death.One year before he died, St. Louis-Marie founded two congregations: the Daughters of Divine Wisdom – which tended to the sick in hospitals and the education of poor girls, and the Company of Mary, missionaries devoted to preaching and to spreading devotion to Mary.