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Saint of the Day
In rare interview, Benedict XVI recalls life of John Paul II
3/7/2014 6:02:00 PM
Vatican City, Mar 7, 2014 / 05:02 pm (
).- In lengthy excerpts of an interview published in an Italian newspaper, Benedict XVI speaks of his time collaborating with John Paul II, highlighting the deceased Pope's sanctity and commitment to the truth.
“In the years of collaboration with him it became ever more clear to me that John Paul II was a saint,” the retired pontiff told Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch in a written interview, selections of which appeared in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on March 7.
Published as part of the book “Beside JPII: Friends and Collaborators Speak,” released by Italian press agency “Italian Edizioni Ares,” Benedict's written interview was originally requested by Redzioch in Nov. of 2013, which he agreed to and completed in Jan. of this year.
During the interview, retired pontiff Benedict XVI recalled that he originally met John Paul II in the conclave where John Paul I was elected Pope, explaining how they had both read each others' work previously and had been wanting to meet each other.
Observing how the then Cardinal Wojtyla had quoted his piece “Introduction to Christianity” during the spiritual exercises he preached for Pope Paul VI in 1979, Benedict noted that “it is as if, interiorly, we both were expecting to meet each other.”
“Above all, I immediately and greatly perceived the human fascination that he exuded, and from the way he prayed I noted how deeply united to God he was.”
Speaking of his appointment by John Paul II as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict recalled how the Blessed allowed him to continue publishing theological works for his home diocese, and that he was “always very gracious and accommodating with me.”
Referring to certain doctrinal challenges which the two faced during their years of working together, Benedict XVI noted that the first major topic that came up was Liberation Theology.
“Both in Europe and in North America, it was common opinion that it was a support to the poor and, therefore, that it was a cause that surely needed to be approved,” he explained.
However, “it was an error,” stated the retired pontiff, adding that “Poverty and the poor were, without a doubt, set at the center of the Liberation Theology, yet in a very specific perspective...It was said that it was not a question of help or of reforms, but rather of the great upheaval from which a new world would spring.”
Observing how “the Christian faith was being used as a motor for this revolutionary movement, transforming it into a political force,” Benedict explained that “A falsification of the Christian faith needed to be opposed precisely for the sake of the poor and in favor of the service rendered to them.”
Drawing attention to John Paul II's experience with Marxism in Poland, which Benedict referred to as “the godmother of liberation theology,” the retired pontiff emphasized that it was “on the basis of his painful experience,” that made it “clear to him that it was necessary to fight that kind of ‘liberation.’”
Turning to his decision to open JPII's cause for beatification, which advanced the times established by Canon Law, Benedict noted that he had been convinced of the Blessed's sanctity for many years due to his “his intense relationship with God,” and his immersion “with the Lord.”
“From here came his happiness, in the midst of the great fatigues that he had to sustain, and the courage with which he carried out his task in a truly difficult time,” Benedict recalled.
“John Paul II did not ask for applause, nor did he ever look around concerned about how his decisions would be received. He acted beginning with his faith and from his convictions and he was also ready to receive blows.”
“The courage of the truth is, in my eyes, a criterion of the first order of sainthood,” the retired Pope emphasized, adding that “only departing from his relationship with God is it possible to also understand his tireless pastoral commitment.”
Noting that John Paul II's commitment was “inexhaustible,” Benedict stated that “He committed himself with a radicality that cannot be otherwise explained,” and that was not limited to “the great trips” he took, but also “day after day beginning with the morning Mass until late into the night.”
Speaking in reference to the fact that the Church has officially recognized the holiness of “his” Pope John Paul II, as he was one of the Blessed's closest collaborators, Benedict XVI affirmed that “My memory of John Paul II is filled with gratitude.”
“I could not and I should not try to imitate him, but I tried to carry on his legacy and his job as best I could. And so I am sure that even today his kindness accompanies me and his blessing protects me.”
Already on store shelves, the book is a memoir compiled for the occasion of Bl. John Paul II's canonization, which is slated to take place on April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday, of this year, and is available only in Italian.
The book includes recollections from over a dozen of the Blessed's other closest friends and collaborators, including Bl. John Paul II's secretaries, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop Emery Kabongo and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki.
Also featured are interviews with the former Director of the Press Office of the Holy See Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Blessed Pope's life-long friend Wanda Poltawska, and the postulator of his Cause for Sainthood, Fr. Slawomir Oder, as well as many others.
Corriere della Sera is the same Italian daily which recently published an interview with Pope Francis, in which the pontiff spoke of key topics in the Church, including the upcoming Synod of Bishops.
This interview has been translated from the original Italian by CNA's Alan Holdren and Estefania Augirre.
Senate urged to create envoy for Christians in Middle East
3/7/2014 4:13:00 PM
Washington D.C., Mar 7, 2014 / 03:13 pm (
).- A Catholic bishop and a Baptist pastor urged members of the U.S. Senate to address the “dire situation” facing Christians in the Middle East, proposing a special religious freedom envoy to the region.
Increased “religious hostilities” around the world, “but particularly in the Middle East” leads Bishop Richard E. Pates and Dr. Russell D. Moore to “believe that a Special Envoy is needed to focus on the dire situation affecting religious minorities.”
Among the minority groups, Christians are “most targeted for harassment and attacks in the largest number of countries,” the authors said in a March 4 letter to Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mike Lee of Utah.
Bishop Pates, of Des Moines, Iowa, is the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Moore serves as the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
The religious figures encouraged Sens. Coburn and Lee to hold a vote on a senate bill to create a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.
The senators have placed a hold on the bill, citing concerns over creating a new office when a religious freedom diplomatic position already exists that has remained vacant. The position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom has remained unfilled since Suzan Cook resigned from the position in Oct. 2013.
Citing a Jan. 2014 Prew Research Center study, Bishop Pates and Moore said that the growing number of religious hostilities around the globe merited the consideration of a new post.
In addition, Christians have faced “ongoing violence” as a religious minority, pointing to bombings, assassinations, and violence against Christians in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and India.
“In many instances, religious minorities have lived for centuries side by side with those of other faiths, but now find themselves coming under increased attack and harassment,” they said.
“A Special Envoy, working in collaboration with the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, can help insure that basic human rights of these minority communities, who face such enormous threats, are protected,” they asserted.
They explained that they imagined the new post, if created, to work alongside the Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom as well as the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, but with an emphasis “on the growing challenges of protecting historic Christian communities and promoting the rights of all religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.”
“Our faith traditions are united in our commitment to protecting the poor and vulnerable and promoting religious freedom for all.”
St. John of God, Confessor
3/7/2014 11:00:00 PM
The Catholic Church celebrates the extraordinary life of St. John of God on March 8. The saint lived through decades of sin and suffering before a profound conversion that led him to embrace poverty, humility and charity. John was born in Portugal during the year 1495 to middle-class parents. Tragically, at the age of 8, he was kidnapped by a stranger and was later abandoned to homelessness in a remote part of Spain. He worked as a shepherd until age 22, when the opportunity came along for him to join the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This apparent stroke of fortune, however, would eventually lead John into greater misery. For the next 18 years, John lived and fought among the emperor's foot soldiers, first against the French and later the Turks. His morals began to decline, as he completely abandoned the piety of his earliest youth for a greedy and brutal way of life. John's conscience was occasionally troubled, particularly by the memories of his early years before he was taken from his parents. And despite falling into a lifestyle of violence and plundering, he had a certain weakness for those who were poor or in extreme distress, and would give alms to them. He was narrowly saved on two occasions from what seemed like certain death â€“ once after instinctively uttering a prayer to the Virgin Mary after falling wounded in enemy territory; and again, when he was falsely suspected of theft and nearly executed but for another soldier's intervention. Events such as these weighed heavily upon him, and when his regiment was disbanded he decided to amend his life â€“ beginning with a pilgrimage to Spain's Santiago de Compostela Cathedral along the â€œWay of St. James.â€� There, he confessed his sins and committed himself to living a life of repentance. Soon after this, he returned to Portugal and discovered what had become of his parents. His mother had died, brokenhearted, after the loss of her son, after which his father had become a Franciscan monk. At age 42, John returned to Spain and picked up nearly where he had left off 20 years before, working again as a shepherd. This time, however, he was committed to living out the faith in God that he had regained. He traveled briefly to North Africa, seeking to help Christians there who had been enslaved by Muslims. Eventually, however, he returned to Spain and settled for a time in the occupation of selling religious books and other goods, always encouraging his customers to live their faith sincerely. St. John of God's later reputation as the patron saint of booksellers derives from this period of his life. Later, however, he felt compelled to give himself entirely to the service of the poor, sick, and vulnerable. He opened his house to them â€“ allowing it to become a combined hospital, homeless shelter, and halfway-house, run entirely by John himself. When he was not bandaging wounded occupants or breaking up fights between them, he would go out begging on their behalf. The Bishop of Granada approved his work, and gave him the name â€œJohn of God.â€� A group of volunteers came to accompany him in his work, many of whom had first come to him while in dire need themselves. Others, who resented his work, assaulted John's reputation by focusing on his past sins â€“ but John, unfazed in his humility, would acknowledge the truth of what was said, as a testament to God's grace in his life. He once offered to pay a woman to tell the entire city what she had been saying about him in private. John served the sick and poor for 15 years, before meeting his death through an act of charity. He jumped into a freezing river and managed to save a drowning man, but came home shivering and weakened from the ordeal. He lay down in one of his own hospital beds, where his condition further declined. The Bishop of Granada came to administer the last rites. As the bishop prepared him for death, John expressed a number of anxieties. â€œThere are three things that make me uneasy,â€� he said. â€œThe first is that I have received so many graces from God, and have not recognized them, and have repaid them with so little of my own.â€� â€œThe second is that after I am dead, I fear lest the poor women I have rescued, and the poor sinners I have reclaimed, may be treated badly.â€� â€œThe third is that those who have trusted me with money, and whom I have not fully repaid, may suffer loss on my account.â€� The bishop, however, assured him that he had nothing to fear. John then asked to be alone, and summoned his last strength to rise from bed and kneel before a crucifix. He died in prayer, with his face pressed against the figure of Christ, on the night of March 7, 1550. St. John of God was canonized in 1690, and has become the patron of hospitals and the dying.
First Reading - Is 58:9b-14
3/7/2014 11:00:00 PM
9 If thou wilt take away the chain out of the midst of thee, and cease to stretch out the finger, and to speak that which profiteth not.10 When thou shalt pour out thy soul to the hungry, and shalt satisfy the afflicted soul then shall thy light rise up in darkness, and thy darkness shall be as the noonday.11 And the Lord will give thee rest continually, and will fill thy soul with brightness, and deliver thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a fountain of water whose waters shall not fail.12 And the places that have been desolate for ages shall be built in thee: thou shalt raise up the foundations of generation and generation: and thou shalt be called the repairer of the fences, turning the paths into rest.13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy own will in my holy day, and call the sabbath delightful, and the holy of the Lord glorious, and glorify him, while thou dost not thy own ways, and thy own will is not found: to speak a word:14 Then shalt thou be delighted in the Lord, and I will lift thee up above the high places of the earth, and will feed thee with the inheritance of Jacob thy father. For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Copyright by St. Francis Borgia
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