Thursday, January 15, 2015

LIVE Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Philippines #PopeinPH

(Vatican Radio) Celebrating Mass in Manila's Cathedral on Friday, Pope Francis urged 
Catholics in the Philippines to be ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation, proclaiming the Good News of God's infinite love, mercy and compassion. Speaking to bishops, priests, religious and seminarians gathered in the Cathedral, the Pope said the Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ.
As Filipinos prepare to mark the fifth century of the arrival of the Church in the Asian nation, the Pope said Catholics must build on that legacy of the past by building a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis' homily for the Mass in Manila's Cathedral
Mass with Bishops, Priests and Religious in Manila's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception-16 January 2015
            “Do you love me?…  Tend my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).  Jesus’ words to Peter in today’s Gospel are the first words I speak to you, dear brother bishops and priests, men and women religious, and young seminarians.  These words remind us of something essential.  All pastoral ministry is born of love.  All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love.  Like Saint Therese, in the variety of our vocations, each of us is called, in some way, to be love in the heart of the Church. 
            I greet all of you with great affection.  And I ask you to bring my affection to all your elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, and to all those who cannot join us today.  As the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization, we feel gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations.  They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good.  Today you carry on that work of love.  Like them, you are called to build bridges, to pasture Christ’s flock, and to prepare fresh paths for the Gospel in Asia at the dawn of a new age.
            “The love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14).  In today’s first reading Saint Paul tells us that the love we are called to proclaim is a reconciling love, flowing from the heart of the crucified Savior.  We are called to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20).  Ours is a ministry of reconciliation.  We proclaim the Good News of God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion.  We proclaim the joy of the Gospel.  For the Gospel is the promise of God’s grace, which alone can bring wholeness and healing to our broken world.  It can inspire the building of a truly just and redeemed social order.
            To be an ambassador for Christ means above all to invite everyone to a renewed personal encounter with the Lord Jesus (Evangelii Gaudium, 3).  This invitation must be at the core of your commemoration of the evangelization of the Philippines.  But the Gospel is also a summons to conversion, to an examination of our consciences, as individuals and as a people.  As the Bishops of the Philippines have rightly taught, the Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ.  The Gospel calls individual Christians to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good.  But it also calls Christian communities to create “circles of integrity”, networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness.
            As ambassadors for Christ, we, bishops, priests and religious, ought to be the first to welcome his reconciling grace into our hearts.  Saint Paul makes clear what this means.  It means rejecting worldly perspectives and seeing all things anew in the light of Christ.  It means being the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion.  How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our “spiritual worldliness” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 93)?
            For us priests and consecrated persons, conversion to the newness of the Gospel entails a daily encounter with the Lord in prayer.  The saints teach us that this is the source of all apostolic zeal!  For religious, living the newness of the Gospel also means finding ever anew in community life and community apostolates the incentive for an ever closer union with the Lord in perfect charity.  For all of us, it means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others.  The great danger to this, of course, is a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer.  Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters.  We will see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality.
            Here I would like to address a special word to the young priests, religious and seminarians among us.  I ask you to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers.  Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent, yet continue to see the Church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope.  Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets.  Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.  As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.
            Filipino culture has, in fact, been shaped by the imagination of faith.  Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary.  This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential.  It is the way in which your people has inculturated the Gospel and continues to embrace its message (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 122).  In your efforts to prepare for the fifth centenary, build on this solid foundation.
            Christ died for all so that, having died in him, we might live no longer for ourselves but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:15).  Dear brother bishops, priests and religious: I ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for all of you an outpouring of zeal, so that you may spend yourselves in selfless service to our brothers and sisters.  In this way, may the reconciling love of Christ penetrate ever more fully into the fabric of Filipino society and, through you, to the farthest reaches of the world. 

LIVE Pope Francis meets President of Philippines - #PopeinPH - Full Video - Watch

Pope in Philippines - Visit to the President - 2015.01.16 (VIDEO BELOW TEXT)
(Vatican Radio) At the start of his first full day in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, Pope Francis met with President Benigno Aquino, together with other political leaders, urging them to reject corruption and promote "honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good". Speaking to the civil authorities and diplomats gathered in Manila's Rizal Cerimonial Hall on Friday, the Pope spoke of the need to defend families, young people and the elderly, ensuring social justice and respect for the human dignity of all.
Pope Francis is making a three day pastoral visit to the Philippines and is scheduled to travel on Saturday to the central city of Tacloban, southest of the capital, where he'll meet survivors of the devastating typhoon Yolanda that left over seven thousand people dead or missing in November 2013.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis' address to the authorities and diplomatic corps in Manila's MalacaƱang Palace on Friday January 16
Ladies and Gentlemen,
            I thank you, Mr President, for your kind welcome and for your words of greeting in the name of the authorities and people of the Philippines, and the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps.  I am most grateful for your invitation to visit the Philippines.  My visit is above all pastoral.  It comes as the Church in this country is preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of the first proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on these shores.  The Christian message has had an immense influence on Filipino culture.  It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity and aspirations of the Filipino people.
            In a particular way, this visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda.  Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster, and so many others.  Those virtues, rooted not least in the hope and solidarity instilled by Christian faith, gave rise to an outpouring of goodness and generosity, especially on the part of so many of the young.  In that moment of national crisis, countless people came to the aid of their neighbors in need.  At great sacrifice, they gave of their time and resources, creating networks of mutual help and working for the common good. 
            This example of solidarity in the work of rebuilding teaches us an important lesson.  Like a family, every society draws on its deepest resources in order to face new challenges.  Today the Philippines, together with many other countries in Asia, faces the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society – a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God-given human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions.  As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.  In this way they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country.  Thus will they be able to marshall the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.
            Essential to the attainment of these national goals is the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity.  The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor.  It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.  Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart.  The Bishops of the Philippines have asked that this year be set aside as the “Year of the Poor”.  I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community. 
            A fundamental role in the renewal of society is played, of course, by the family and especially by young people.  A highlight of my visit will be my meetings with families and with young people here in Manila.  Families have an indispensable mission in society.  It is in the family that children are trained in sound values, high ideals and genuine concern for others.  But like all God’s gifts, the family can also be disfigured and destroyed.  It needs our support.  We know how difficult it is for our democracies today to preserve and defend such basic human values as respect for the inviolable dignity of each human person, respect for the rights of conscience and religious freedom, and respect for the inalienable right to life, beginning with that of the unborn and extending to that of the elderly and infirm.  For this reason, families and local communities must be encouraged and assisted in their efforts to transmit to our young the values and the vision which can help bring about a culture of integrity – one which honors goodness, truthfulness, fidelity and solidarity as the firm foundation and the moral glue which holds society together.
            Mr President, distinguished authorities, dear friends:
            As I begin my visit to this country, I cannot fail to mention the Philippines’ important role in fostering understanding and cooperation among the countries of Asia.  I would also mention the oft-neglected yet real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live.  It is precisely in the light of the rich cultural and religious heritage of which your country is proud that I leave you with a challenge and a word of prayerful encouragement.  May the deepest spiritual values of the Filipino people continue to find expression in your efforts to provide your fellow citizens with an integral human development.  In this way, each person will be able to fulfill his or her potential, and thus contribute wisely and well to the future of this country.  I am confident that the praiseworthy efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation between the followers of the different religions will prove fruitful in the pursuit of this noble goal.  In a particular way, I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.
            Upon all of you, and upon all the men, women and children of this beloved nation, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Latest News from Pope Francis trip to #Asia - #PopeinPH -

15-01-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 009 

- Pope Francis arrives in Manila
- Accord between the Holy See and Serbia
- Other Pontifical Acts
- Francis canonises Joseph Vaz, Sri Lanka's first saint-
 At the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu: Mary accompanies Tamils and Sinhalese in rebuilding their lost unity-
Pope Francis' telegram to the President of the Italian Republic-
 Other Pontifical Acts

Pope Francis arrives in Manila
Vatican City, 15 January 2015 (VIS) – Early this morning the Holy Father travelled by car from the apostolic nunciature of Colombo to the airport, where he departed for Manila, capital of the Philippines. During the journey he stopped to visit the Benedict XVI Cultural Institute where he was received by Fr. Mahamale Quintus Fernando, rector of the Institute, and two hundred workers who had collaborated in building the centre in 2011. He then visited the “Our Lady of Lanka” Chapel, where he was awaited by ten Jesuit fathers belonging to the Community linked to the Institute, a choir and a group of fishermen from the area.
The Chapel of “Our Lady of Lanka” dates from 1911 and was initially dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Cardinal Jean-Marie Masson, O.M.I., archbishop of Colombo, made a vow to the Virgin: if the country was spared the horrors of war, he would build a shrine where the chapel stood, dedicated to “Our Lady of Lanka”. The works were completed in 1974 and it was consecrated in February of the same year, with the status of Minor Basilica granted by Pope Paul VI. The Benedict XVI Cultural Institute was opened in 2011 upon the initiative of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, to facilitate collaboration with the authorities and other agencies in rebuilding the nation following thirty years of civil war.
Pope Francis then resumed his journey to the airport, where Maithripala Sirisena, president of the Republic, various representatives of the civil authorities and a group of faithful bade him farewell.
At 9 a.m. local time the aircraft carrying the Pope departed from Colombo for the Filipino capital. After a flight of six and a quarter hours, he arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Manila where he was received by representatives of the religious and civil authorities, including the apostolic nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto and the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III.
Two children offered flowers to the Pope as he disembarked, around one hundred adolescents sang “Welcome Pope Francis”, and a large group of smaller children dressed in white and yellow performed a lively dance. The Holy Father left the air base in an open Popemobile to travel the nine kilometres separating the base from the apostolic nunciature of Manila, during which he greeted the many faithful who awaited him. Upon arrival at the apostolic nunciature, he dined in private and rested.
Accord between the Holy See and Serbia
Vatican City, 15 January 2015 (VIS) – On 12 January 2015, by mutual consent, the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Serbia on collaboration in higher education came into force. The Agreement, signed on 27 June 2014, confirms the principles and defines the measures to be taken by both Parties within the field of higher education.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, (VIS) – The Holy Father has:
- given his assent to the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Church of Rev. Basel Yaldo as auxiliary of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans. The bishop-elect was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1970 and was ordained a priest in 2002. He studied theology at the Pontifical Urbanian University and holds a master's degree in dogmatic theology and a doctorate from the same University. He has served in a number of roles, including vice-rector of the major seminary of the Chaldeans in Baghdad, lecturer in dogmatic theology at the Babel College, deputy priest of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Baghdad, and special secretary to the late Patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly. He is currently priest of the St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Michigan, U.S.A.
- appointed Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona as bishop of the Chaldean eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle in Sydney, Australia. Formerly Chaldean archbishop of Mossul, Iraq, he retains the dignity of archbishop and succeeds Msgr. Djibrail Kassab, whose resignation was accepted.
- appointed Chorbishop Emmanuel Challita as bishop of the Chaldean eparchy of Mar Addai in Toronto, Canada. The bishop-elect was born in Fishkabour-Zakho, Iraq in 1956 and ordained a priest in 1984. He holds a doctorate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including deputy priest of the St. Joseph's parish, Troy, Michigan, U.S.A. He is currently priest of St. George's parish in Township, Michigan, U.S.A.
14-01-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 008 
Francis canonises Joseph Vaz, Sri Lanka's first saint
Vatican City, 14 January 2014 (VIS) – On the morning of Wednesday 14 January, the Holy Father transferred from the apostolic nunciature in Colombo to Galle Face Green. This urban park in the heart of the financial district of Colombo spreads over five hectares up to the coast of the Indian Ocean and can hold up to half a million people. Twenty years ago, on 15 January 1995, St. John Paul II celebrated Holy Mass in the same location and proclaimed Joseph Vaz blessed. Francis then left the car in favour of the Popemobile to tour the many faithful – more than half a million – gathered in the park. Before entering the sacristy, the Pope was greeted by the mayor of the city of Colombo, who presented him with the keys to the city.
The Mass and canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz began at 8.30 a.m. local time. Sri Lanka's first saint, Vaz was born in Goa, India in 1651, the son of Cristovao Vaz and Maria de Miranda, devout Catholics. His father belonged to a prominent Goud Saraswat Brahmin Naik family from Sancoale, and Joseph was baptised on the eighth day at the parish church of St. John the Baptist. He studied Portuguese and Latin, and entered the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. Since Ceylon, present day Sri Lanka, was under the rule of Dutch Calvinists and therefore had no Catholic priests, he moved there secretly, in the guise of a mendicant. He eventually came to the attention of the Dutch authorities, who imprisoned him. He was released in 1869 and obtained permission to preach the Gospel throughout the Buddhist Kingdom of Kandy. He also continued to do so secretly in the area under Dutch occupation until his death in 1711.
Blessed Vaz, said the Holy Father in his homily, “like countless other missionaries in the history of the Church … responded to the Risen Lord’s command to make disciples of every nation. By his words, but more importantly, by the example of his life, he led the people of this country to the faith which gives us 'an inheritance among all God’s holy ones'. In Saint Joseph we see a powerful sign of God’s goodness and love for the people of Sri Lanka. But we also see in him a challenge to persevere in the paths of the Gospel, to grow in holiness ourselves, and to testify to the Gospel message of reconciliation to which he dedicated his life”.
“Saint Joseph Vaz continues to be an example and a teacher for many reasons, but I would like to focus on three”, he continued. “First, he was an exemplary priest. Here today with us are many priests and religious, both men and women, who, like Joseph Vaz, are consecrated to the service of God and neighbour. I encourage each of you to look to Saint Joseph as a sure guide. He teaches us how to go out to the peripheries, to make Jesus Christ everywhere known and loved. He is also an example of patient suffering in the cause of the Gospel, of obedience to our superiors, of loving care for the Church of God. Like ourselves, Saint Joseph Vaz lived in a period of rapid and profound transformation; Catholics were a minority, and often divided within; there was occasional hostility, even persecution, from without. And yet, because he was constantly united with the crucified Lord in prayer, he could become for all people a living icon of God’s mercy and reconciling love”.
The new saint, explained Pope Francis, “shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace. His undivided love for God opened him to love for his neighbour; he ministered to those in need, whoever and wherever they were. His example continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka today. She gladly and generously serves all members of society. She makes no distinction of race, creed, tribe, status or religion in the service she provides through her schools, hospitals, clinics, and many other charitable works. All she asks in return is the freedom to carry out this mission. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Each individual must be free, alone or in association with others, to seek the truth, and to openly express his or her religious convictions, free from intimidation and external compulsion. As the life of Saint Joseph Vaz teaches us, genuine worship of God bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, respect for the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all”.
Finally, “Saint Joseph gives us an example of missionary zeal. Though he came to Ceylon to minister to the Catholic community, in his evangelical charity he reached out to everyone. Leaving behind his home, his family, the comfort of his familiar surroundings, he responded to the call to go forth, to speak of Christ wherever he was led. Saint Joseph knew how to offer the truth and the beauty of the Gospel in a multi-religious context, with respect, dedication, perseverance and humility. This is also the way for the followers of Jesus today. We are called to go forth with the same zeal, the same courage, as Saint Joseph, but also with his sensitivity, his reverence for others, his desire to share with them that word of grace which has the power to build them up. We are called to be missionary disciples”.
“Dear brothers and sisters”, he concluded, “I pray that, following the example of Saint Joseph Vaz, the Christians of this country may be confirmed in faith and make an ever greater contribution to peace, justice and reconciliation in Sri Lankan society. This is what Christ asks of you. This is what Saint Joseph teaches you. This is what the Church needs of you. I commend all of you to the intercession of our new saint, so that, in union with the Church throughout the world, you may sing a new song to the Lord and declare his glory to all the ends of the earth. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. Amen”.
At the end of the celebration, Pope Francis presented to Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, archbishop of Colombo, a reproduction of the “Sannas”, a reproduction engraved on copper of the document by which in 1694 King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy authorised Fr. Juan Sylveira of the Order of St. Philip Neri and his companions to preach the Gospel and build churches in his kingdom, and the people to convert to Christianity should they wish to do so. The original decree was given to Pope Leo XIII by the then-archbishop of Colombo, Christopher Bonjero O.M.I. The faithful of Sri Lanka reciprocated by donating 70,000 dollars to Pope Francis for papal charity.
returned to the apostolic nunciature of Colombo to lunch and to rest, then shortly after 2 p.m.he left for the heliport, in order to depart by helicopter for Madhu.
At the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu: Mary accompanies Tamils and Sinhalese in rebuilding their lost unity
Vatican City, 14 January 2014 (VIS) – This Wednesday the Holy Father made the 250-kilometre journey by helicopter from Colombo to the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, the second stage of his trip in Sri Lanka. The shrine is located in the north of the Island inhabited predominantly by the Tamil people, and has a four-century-long history. In 1544 some Christians escaped from the massacres ordered by the King of Jaffna, who feared the expansion of Portuguese influence, and sought refuge in the jungle, where they built a rudimentary place for prayer with the statue that is now located inside the shrine. In 1583 some Christians, again fleeing from Mannar, began to build churches in nearby areas. One of these, in Mantai, subsequently became the first “home” of the statue of Our Lady of Madhu. Following the persecution of Catholics by the Dutch, who arrived in Ceylon in 1656, thirty Catholic families seeking refuge journeyed from village to village, taking the statue with them. In 1670 they settled in Maruthamadhu, where the shrine is now located. They were later joined by other Catholics of Portuguese origin, who built the first small church dedicated to Our Lady of Madhu.
The Virgin of Madhu, protectress against snakebites, became well-known throughout the island and, with the arrival of St. Joseph Vaz in 1987, Catholicism began to flourish and Madhu transformed into a missionary centre. The construction of the current building began in 1872, and the papal legate crowned the statue in 1924 on behalf of Pope Pius XI. The church was consecrated in 1944. The Marian shrine is a place of prayer that is well-respected and frequented by Catholic faithful and followers of other religions; nevertheless, it was affected by fighting between Tamil rebels and government forces. The bishops of Sri Lanka managed to ensure that the shrine became a demilitarised zone, to guarantee the safety of pilgrims and the many refugees who fled there in search of safety during the war. Indeed, since 1990 the 160 hectares of land around the shrine have provided a safe haven to thousands of displaced persons, becoming a refugee camp recognised by both parties in the conflict. In April 2008 the shrine passed once more to the diocese of Mannar and reopened as a place of worship in December 2010.
More than half a million people awaited the Pope, and prayed with him for the consolidation of the peace reached in 2009 following a conflict that had lasted over three decades. Both Tamil and Sinhalese families, who suffered greatly as a result of the hostilities, were present.
“We are in our Mother’s house”, Francis began. “Here she welcomes us into her home. At this shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, every pilgrim can feel at home, for here Mary brings us into the presence of her Son Jesus. Here Sri Lankans, Tamil and Sinhalese alike, come as members of one family. To Mary they commend their joys and sorrows, their hopes and needs. Here, in her home, they feel safe. They know that God is very near; they feel his love; they know the tender mercy of God.
“There are families here today which suffered greatly in the long conflict which tore open the heart of Sri Lanka. Many people, from north and south alike, were killed in the terrible violence and bloodshed of those years. No Sri Lankan can forget the tragic events associated with this very place, or the sad day when the venerable statue of Mary, dating to the arrival of the earliest Christians in Sri Lanka, was taken away from her shrine.
“But Our Lady remained always with you. She is the mother of every home, of every wounded family, of all who are seeking to return to a peaceful existence. Today we thank her for protecting the people of Sri Lanka from so many dangers, past and present. Mary never forgot her children on this resplendent island. Just as she never left the side of her Son on the Cross, so she never left the side of her suffering Sri Lankan children.
“Today we want to thank Our Lady for that presence. In the wake of so much hatred, violence and destruction, we want to thank her for continuing to bring us Jesus, who alone has the power to heal open wounds and to restore peace to broken hearts. But we also want to ask her to implore for us the grace of God’s mercy. We ask also for the grace to make reparation for our sins and for all the evil which this land has known.
“It is not easy to do this”, acknowledged the Holy Father. “Yet only when we come to understand, in the light of the Cross, the evil we are capable of, and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance. Only then can we receive the grace to approach one another in true contrition, offering and seeking true forgiveness. In this difficult effort to forgive and find peace, Mary is always here to encourage us, to guide us, to lead us. Just as she forgave her Son’s killers at the foot of his Cross, then held his lifeless body in her hands, so now she wants to guide Sri Lankans to greater reconciliation, so that the balm of God’s pardon and mercy may bring true healing to all”.
Finally, he added, “we want to ask Mother Mary to accompany with her prayers the efforts of Sri Lankans from both Tamil and Sinhalese communities to rebuild the unity which was lost. Just as her statue came back to her shrine of Madhu after the war, so we pray that all her Sri Lankan sons and daughters may now come home to God in a renewed spirit of reconciliation and fellowship”.
“Dear brothers and sisters”, he concluded, “I am happy to be with you in Mary’s house. Let us pray for one another. Above all, let us ask that this shrine may always be a house of prayer and a haven of peace. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Madhu, may all people find here inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all the children of this beloved land. Amen”.
Following the Lord's Prayer and after blessing the assembly with the image of Our Lady of Madhu, the Pope returned by Popemobile to the Madhu heliport, a journey of one and a half kilometres, greeting the crowds of faithful along the way. He then returned to Colombo.
Pope Francis' telegram to the President of the Italian Republic
Vatican City, 14 January 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram from Sri Lanka to the president of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, who today stepped down from the position he has held since May 2006. The eleventh president of the Italian Republic and the only one to have been re-elected twice, Napolitano visited the Vatican to greet Pope Francis on 8 June 2013, the first official state visit of his second mandate. The full text of the telegram is published below:
“Having learned of your resignation from the role of Head of State during my apostolic trip in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, I am spiritually close to you and wish to express to you my sentiments of sincere esteem and keen appreciation for your generous and exemplary service to the Italian nation, performed with authority, loyalty and tireless dedication to the common good. Your enlightened and wise action has contributed to strengthening within the population the ideals of solidarity, unity and harmony, especially in a European and national context marked by considerable difficulties. I invoke divine assistance for you, your wife and your loved ones, with the assurance of your constant remembrance in my prayers”.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 14 January 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Msgr. Joseph G. Hanefeldt as bishop of Grand Island (area 108,800, population 316,000, Catholics 55,800, priests 61, permanent deacons 7, religious 56), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in Creighton, Nebraska, U.S.A. in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1984. He holds a bachelor's degree in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and a diploma in sacramental theology from the St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar of the “St. Mary” parish in West Point and the “St. Joan of Arc” parish in Omaha; director of the archdiocesan office for pro-life activities; moderator of the archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women; parish priest of the “St. Joseph” parish and the “St. Elizabeth Ann Seton” parish in Omaha; and director of spiritual formation at the North American Pontifical College. He is currently parish priest of the “Christ the King” parish in Omaha and member of the presbyteral council and Priests' Personnel Board. In 2010 he was named Chaplain of His Holiness. He succeeds Bishop William J. Dendinger, whose resignation from the pastoral ministry of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Today's Mass Readings : Thursday January 15, 2015

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 308

Reading 1HEB 3:7-14

The Holy Spirit says:
Oh, that today you would hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion
in the day of testing in the desert,
where your ancestors tested and tried me
and saw my works for forty years.
Because of this I was provoked with that generation
and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart,
and they do not know my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter into my rest.’”

Take care, brothers and sisters,
that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart,
so as to forsake the living God.
Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,”
so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.
We have become partners of Christ
if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end.

Responsorial PsalmPS 95:6-7C, 8-9, 10-11

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Forty years I was wearied of that generation;
I said: “This people’s heart goes astray,
they do not know my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my anger:
“They shall never enter my rest.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

AlleluiaSEE MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

#PopeFrancis arrives in Philippines to Cheering, Singing and Dancing! Full Video

Pope Francis arrives at Manila airport in the Philippines - AFP
15/01/2015 10:09

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Manila, the Filipino capital, for the second leg of his pastoral visit to Asia. After a six and a half hour flight from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, the papal plane was greeted by cheering, singing and dancing crowds as it touched down on Thursday morning at an air base close to the international airport in Manila named after the assassinated Filipino leader 'Ninoy' Aquino. Francis is the third pontiff to visit the Philippines, known as the Catholic heartland of Asia, following two trips by Pope John Paul and one by Pope Paul VI in November 1970.The central theme of this second leg of the visit is ‘mercy and compassion’ and among the most eagerly awaited moments will be a trip on Saturday to the central city of Tacloban, nearly 600 kilometres southeast of Manila, which was hardest hit by a typhoon in November 2013 that left over seven thousand three hundred people dead or missing. Pope Francis will celebrate an open air Mass at Tacloban airport, bless a new centre for the poor named after him and have lunch with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it was known in the Philippines. He’ll also meet with priests, seminarians and religious men and women in the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in the nearby town of Palo which was also devastated by the violent storm.
In the sprawling capital of Manila the Pope will celebrate two Masses, one on Friday in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, after a meeting with President Benigno Aquino, and followed by an encounter with families from right across the country. On Sunday, the final day before his departure, he will preside with all the local bishops at a concluding Mass in the giant coastal park where Pope John Paul II addressed an estimated crowd of mainly young Filipinos exactly two decades ago.
In a pastoral letter sent out ahead of the Pope’s arrival in the Philippines, the popular Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said the Pope’s visit will offer opportunities “to experience grace, to hear callings, to disturb comfort zones, to value the poor, to renew society, to care for creation and to live honourably.” Shared from Radio Vaticana

#PopeFrancis "You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” Press Conference on Plane

Pope Francis standing next to Dr Gasparri during his press conference on the plane - ANSA
15/01/2015 14:52

(Vatican Radio) Speaking about the Paris terror attacks, Pope Francis said on Thursday that there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.  His comments came during a wide-ranging press conference with journalists accompanying him on his flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines to start the second and final leg of his journey to Asia.
During the press conference, Pope Francis was asked by a French journalist about the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression.  He replied saying that both are "fundamental human rights" and stressed that killing in the name of God “is an aberration.”. But he said there were limits to that freedom of expression.  By way of example he referred to Alberto Gasparri who organizes the papal trips and was standing by his side on the plane. The Pope said if “his good friend Dr Gasparri” says a curse word against his mother, he can “expect a punch”, and at that point he gestured with a pretend punch towards him, saying: “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others.  You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
Pope Francis also spoke about climate change, saying he doesn’t know if human activity “is the only cause” of this but added that it is “man who has slapped nature in the face.” Humans, he went on, have “exploited nature too much” and he referred to his forthcoming encyclical on ecology, saying he hopes the document will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous decisions” to protect God’s creation.
During the press conference, the Pope also spoke about his priorities for his pastoral visit to the Philippines, saying the focus of his message will be the plight of the poor, those who suffered during the 2013 typhoon and those who “face so many injustices, social spiritual, existential.” Shared from Radio Vaticana

Saint January 15 : St. Ita : Religious : Patron of Ireland

Feast Day:January 15
475, County of Waterford, Ireland
Died:15 January 570
Patron of:Diocese of Limerick, Ireland
St. Ita was born of Christian parents towards the end of the fifth century. She belonged to the noble tribe of the Decii in County Waterford. All her early biographers favor the pleasant metaphor describing her as the 'Brigid of Munster'. Actually the differences were more striking than the resemblances between those two foremost women saints of the Celtic church (see St. Brigid). Brigid's effective life as a nun was spent in continual movement. When she had made a success of one convent settlement, she moved off to found another. Organization was her bent. Ita did just the opposite. Instead of entering one of Brigid's convents, she founded another in a district where there was none, at Killeedy, County Limerick. There she remained all her life, courting retirement. Again, there is an emphasis on austerity in Ita's life not found in Brigid's. Ita's mortifications were on a par with those of the greatest contemporary missionaries.

A strongly individualistic character is glimpsed in the legends of Ita. When she decided to settle in Killeedy, a chieftain offered her a large grant of land to support the convent. But Ita would accept only four acres, which she cultivated intensively. The convent became known as a training school for little boys, many of whom later became famous churchmen. One of these was St. Brendan, whom Ita accepted in fosterage when he was a year old and kept until he was six. The great Navigator revisited her between his voyages and always deferred to her counsel. He once asked her what were the three clings which God most detested, and she replied: 'A scowling face, obstinacy in wrong-doing, and too great a confidence in the power of money'. St. Mochoemoc, whom because of his beauty she called 'Pulcherius', was another great personage of the Celtic church she fostered in infancy.
Ita died on January 15th, which is now kept as her feast, about the year 570. There is a strong local cult of her in Munster, particularly in Waterford and Limerick, and her name is a popular one for Irish girls. In the middle of the nineteenth century a new move was made in Ireland for the development of her cult, when Bishop Butler of Limerick obtained from Pope Pius IX a special office and mass for her feast