IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesMEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Pope
Francis fulfilled his much-desired wish to pray in silence before the
miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
After celebrating the
first Mass of his papal trip to Mexico Feb. 13, the pope made his way to the
"camarin" ("little room") behind the main altar of the
basilica dedicated to Mary.
The miraculous mantle,
which normally faces the congregation, can be turned around to allow a closer
and more private moment of veneration.
Laying a bouquet of
yellow roses in front of the image, the pope sat down in prayerful silence with
eyes closed and head bowed. After roughly 20 minutes, the pope stood up, laid
his hand on the image and departed from the small room.
About 12,000 people
packed the basilica for the papal Mass and another 30,000 were watching on screens
set up in the outer
courtyard. Built in 1976, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located near
Tepeyac hill, the site of Mary's apparitions to St. Juan Diego in 1531. With some 12 million people
visiting each year, it is Catholicism's most popular Marian shrine.
In his homily, the
pope reflected on the Gospel reading, which recalled Mary's visit to her cousin
Elizabeth. Mary's humility in saying "yes" to God's will, he said, is
a response "which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to
That very humility
also led her to appear to a poor indigenous man, he said. "Just as she made
herself present to little Juan, so too she continues to reveal herself to all
of us, especially to those who feel -- like him -- 'worthless,'" the pope said.
miraculous appearance of Mary's image, Pope Francis noted that through such a
miracle, "Juan experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of
The pope said that
despite the indigenous saint's feelings of inadequacy, Mary chose him to
"oversee, care for, protect and promote the building of this shrine."
"In this way,
she managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable
banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that
other shrine: the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies
and our cultures," he said.
God's true shrine, he
added, is the life of his children, especially young people without a future,
the elderly who are often unacknowledged and forgotten and families lacking even the most basic
"The shrine of
God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day," the pope said.
Pope Francis said
that those who suffer do not weep in vain and their sufferings are a silent
prayer that rises to heaven, "always finding a place in Mary's mantle."
Like St. Juan Diego,
Christians are called to be Mary's ambassadors and console those who are overwhelmed
by trials and sufferings, he said.
"'Am I not your
mother? Am I not here with you?' Mary says this to us again. Go and build my
shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers
and sisters," the pope said. - - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob RollerBy WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the
longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, died of apparent natural causes
at a resort in West Texas Feb. 13. He was 79.
Scalia, a Catholic, was appointed in 1986 by President
Ronald Reagan. Five of the remaining eight justices also are Catholic.
In a statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Scalia "a
man of God, a patriot and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution
and the rule of law."
"He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts
to depart from and distort the Constitution," he said in a statement in
which he promised to keep the Scalia family in his prayers.
In 1992, Scalia told a group of high school students at
Washington's Georgetown Visitation High School that, as Catholics, they might
feel out of step with the rest of the world, but they should learn to accept it
and take pride in it.
He said he was raised a Catholic when the religion was not
in the mainstream.
"When I was the age of you young ladies, the church
provided obtrusive reminders that we were different,'' he said, referring to
meatless Fridays and Sunday morning fasts before receiving Communion. These
practices "were not just to toughen us up'' but to "require us to be out
of step,'' he said.
Scalia noted the sense of "differentness'' should have
enabled Catholics "to be strong enough on bigger issues'' such as
abortion, contraception and divorce.
He also spoke of what he called the necessary distinction
between church and state.
"The business of the state is not God's business,'' he
In 1994, he was honored by The Catholic University of America
with the James Cardinal Gibbons Medal, given for service to the nation, the
Catholic Church, or the university.
He was born in Trenton, N.J., March 11, 1936. In 1953, he
graduated first in his class from Jesuit-run Xavier High School in Manhattan.
He then attended Georgetown University and Harvard Law
School. - - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy David AgrenMEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Pope
Francis demanded forceful denunciations of drug violence in Mexico from the
country's bishops, who have preferred timid pronouncements instead of speaking
prophetically on a tragedy that has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past 10 years and left another 25,000 Mexicans missing.
Speaking Feb. 13 to an audience
of bishops in Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral, Pope Francis urged them to confront
the scourge of drug cartels and organized crime by raising their voices,
developing pastoral plans, and "drawing in and embracing the fringes of
human existence in the ravaged areas of our cities."
"I urge you not to
underestimate the moral and anti-social challenge, which the drug trade represents
for young people and Mexican society as a whole," Pope Francis said. "The
magnitude of this phenomenon ... and the gravity of the violence ... do not
allow us as pastors of the church to hide behind anodyne denunciations."
The pope spoke to the Mexican
bishops for more than 40 minutes, delivering a tough talk on matters the pope
plans to highlight in his six-day Mexican trip, including violence, migrants
and indigenous issues. In off-the-cuff remarks, he warned of "the
temptation of aloofness and clericalism" for bishops, called for clerical transparency
and asked for unity in the Mexican bishops' conference, which has pursued
closer ties with political leaders in recent years, while speaking softly -- if
at all -- on uncomfortable issues such as corruption.
Pope Francis hit hardest on the
drug issue, something retired Pope Benedict XVI said nothing about in his 2012
trip to Mexico. It's an issue that has vexed Mexico and the Catholic Church over
the past decade as a crackdown on drug cartels and organized crime has caused
violence to rise, along with offenses such as extortion and kidnap. Many of
those victims and victimizers were baptized Catholics.
The violence has claimed the
lives more than a dozen priests over the past five years, while some dioceses
have been accused to collecting "narcolimosnas" or "drug alms,"
and drug bosses -- who often consider themselves proper Catholics -- construct
and fix parishes and sponsor patron saint feast days.
Pope Francis urged "prophetic
courage" and implementing a pastoral approach of going to the peripheries,
working with families and building bridges with parish communities, schools and
the authorities, saying that only then "will people finally escape the
raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who
stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled
with sordid money and their consciences deadened."
Pope Francis also alluded to the
folkloric Santa Muerte, a skeletal pseudo-saint attracting hordes of followers
in Mexico and Latin America, including many in the illegal drug trade.
"I am particularly
concerned about those many persons who, seduced by the empty power of the
world, praise illusions and embrace their macabre symbols to commercialize
death in exchange for money which, in the end, 'moth and rust consume,'"
The rise of Santa Muerte worship
over the past 15 years has alarmed the Mexican church and drawn Vatican
condemnations, said Andrew Chesnut, religious studies professor at Virginia
Commonwealth University, who has studied the pseudo-saint and estimates it now
has 10 million followers in Mexico and abroad.
"It's the chief concern of
the Mexican church in terms of religious rivals," he said. "A week
doesn't go by in which some Mexican bishop or priest denounces it as satanic."
Still, Pope Francis praised
popular piety, common in Mexico, where the faithful adore the saints and participate
in pilgrimages, while ignoring the sacramental part of the church.
"I invite you to give
yourselves tirelessly and fearlessly to the task of evangelizing and deepening
the faith by means of a mystagogical catechesis that treasures the popular religiosity
of people," Pope Francis said. "Our times require pastoral attention
to persons and groups who hope to encounter the living Jesus."
He also lauded the church for
its work with the many mostly Central American migrants transiting the country
on trips that expose them to crime such as extortion, robbery and rape.
"There are millions of sons
and daughters of the church who today live in the diaspora or who are in
transit, journeying to the North in search of new opportunities," he said,
calling migration, "the challenge of our age."
Pope Francis plans to celebrate
Mass a stone's throw from the U.S. border in Ciudad Juarez Feb. 17, when he is
expected to expand on the migrant issue.
The pope travels to Chiapas at
the other end of the country Feb. 15 for a Mass with Mexico's indigenous
peoples, who have fallen away from the church in droves. He urged the bishops
to build a church more inclusive for indigenous peoples, who often live in
impoverished conditions and in communities where Spanish is seldom spoken.
"I ask you to show singular
tenderness in the way you regard indigenous peoples and their fascinating but
not infrequently decimated cultures," Pope Francis said.
"Mexico needs its
American-Indian roots so as not to remain an unresolved enigma. The indigenous
people of Mexico still await true recognition of the richness of their
contribution and the fruitfulness of their presence."
Pope Francis expressed his
admiration for Our Lady of Guadalupe, who "teaches us that the only power
capable of conquering the hearts of men and women is the tenderness of God."
He also told the bishops, "We do
not need 'princes,' but rather a community of the Lord's witnesses.
"Do not allow yourselves to
be corrupted by trivial materialism or by the seductive illusion of underhanded
agreements," he added in an allusion to suggestions that bishops sometimes
smooth things out behind closed doors with corrupt officials and even
criminals, instead of acting publicly. "Do not place your faith in the 'chariots
and horses' of today's pharaohs, for our strength is in the pillar of fire that
divides the sea in two, without much fanfare."
He ended with a call for unity, departing
from his prepared comments to do so.
"If you have to fight, then
fight; if you have to say things, say them but like men, face-to-face, like men
of God, who can pray together, who can discern together, and if you argue to
ask for forgiveness," he said. "But always maintain the unity of the
episcopal body."Church observers said the pope's message was unprecedented for Mexico, where the bishops' conference has become quite conservative over the past quarter-century as the church and government restored relations. In some Catholic circles, critical voices on issues such as human right have been considered an impediment to that process."Francis is saying something along the lines of 'I am aware of the differences among you,'" said Rodolfo Soriano Nunez, a sociologist and church observer in Mexico City. "There are lots of 'sects' within the Mexican bishops, groups that fight bitterly with each other while trying to offer themselves as the most reliable partners to the government."- - -Follow Agren on Twitter: @el_reportero.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenMEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis told Mexico's president
and government officials that the country's future can be bright only if
government and business leaders put an end to a culture of "favors"
for the influential and scraps for the poor.
"Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path
of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner
or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade,
exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking,
kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development,"
the pope said Feb. 13 during a meeting with the leaders at the National Palace.
The pope had landed in Mexico the evening before for a
six-day visit. Because of the late hour and the long flight from Rome via Cuba,
the official welcoming ceremony was scheduled for the next morning. But that
did not stop thousands of Mexicans from packing stadium-type stands at the
airport to welcome the pope with singing, dancing and a mariachi band.
Thousands of people also lined the streets from the airport
to the Vatican nunciature, where the pope was staying, and a large crowd was
gathered there to greet him.
Pope Francis, stopping outside for a while, told them,
"Tonight, do not forget to look at Mary and think of the people we love
and those who do not love us." He said good night after leading them in
the recitation of the Hail Mary.
Before the trip, the pope repeatedly spoke of his devotion
to Our Lady of Guadalupe and his desire to spend time in prayer before the
tilma or cloak imprinted with the image of Mary.
Pope Francis gave President Enrique Pena Nieto a mosaic of
Our Lady of Guadalupe made by the Vatican Mosaic Studio; it includes tiny glass
tiles that encase gold leaf.
Although protocol dictated the pope's time at the palace be
treated as a state visit, Pena Nieto told the pope, "Your visit transcends an
encounter between two states; it is the encounter of a people with its
"You will find a generous and hospitable people," the
president told him, "a people who are Guadalupan."
Speaking to the president and government officials, the pope
insisted that, like Mary, who took on the traits of Mexico's indigenous peoples
in a sign of respect, Mexico's leaders must value the multicultural makeup of
Mexico's "ancestral culture" combined with the
youth of its population "should be a stimulus to find new forms of
dialogue, negotiation and bridges that can lead us on the way of committed
solidarity," the pope said.
Those who identify themselves as Christian must be exemplars
of dialogue and solidarity, he said, and those who truly value politics as
public service must as well. There is no other way, the pope said, to build
"a society in which no one feels like a victim of the culture of waste"
and, therefore, disposable.
Mexico's population is about 120 million; 28 percent of them
are 14 years old or younger and another 18 percent are 15-24 years old. The
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks Mexico as one of
the countries with the greatest income inequality and reports 21 percent of its
population lives in poverty.
Pope Francis told government leaders that those young people
are a treasure, a bundle of energy and hope for the future. But the country
cannot realize that future hope if the current generation of adults and leaders
do not teach values and, especially, if they do not live them.
"A hope-filled future is forged in a present made up of
men and women who are upright, honest and capable of working for the common
good," the pope said, adding that, unfortunately, today the common good
"is not in such great demand."
With dialogue and respect, he said, all Mexicans can be
helped to contribute to building a better society where there is "real
access" to necessary material and spiritual goods: "adequate housing,
dignified employment, food, true justice, effective security, a healthy and
- - -
Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves in
Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenHAVANA (CNS) -- At long last,
Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow embraced, kissing
each other three times.
"Finally," the pope
told the patriarch Feb. 12 as they met in a lounge at Havana's Jose Marti
International Airport. "We are brothers," he told the patriarch.
Amid the clicking of cameras and
multiple flashes, Patriarch Kirill was overheard telling the pope, "Things
are easier now."
"It is clearer that this is
God's will," Pope Francis told him.
A flight of almost 12 hours
capped months of intense negotiations and more than two decades of Vatican
overtures to bring a pope and a Russian patriarch together for the first time.
Cuban President Raul Castro
played host to the pope and patriarch, who was on a visit to Russian Orthodox
communities on the island-nation. Pope Francis had a pastoral visit to Mexico
planned for months; the stop in Havana was announced only a week before the
Pope Francis and Patriarch
Kirill signed a joint declaration that emphasized the things the two churches
have in common.
Addressing the situation in the
Middle East and North Africa, they said that "whole families, villages and
cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated."
They called on the international community "to act urgently in order to
prevent the further expulsion" of Christians, to end violence and
terrorism and to ensure that large amounts of humanitarian aid reach the
victims of violence.
"In raising our voice in
defense of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the
suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have
also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence," they
"Attempts to justify
criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable," they
said. "No crime may be committed in God's name."
They called those who have died "martyrs
of our times" and said they helped unite various churches "by their
They spoke of the need to be
vigilant against European integration that is "devoid of respect for religious
identities." They also spoke of extreme poverty, the "millions of
migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations" and
They spoke of life issues:
abortion, euthanasia, new reproductive technologies and threats against the
churches' view of marriage.
After they signed the document,
the two leaders embraced, and each spoke briefly.
Patriarch Kirill said they had a
two-hour, "open discussion with full awareness of the responsibility we
have for our people, for the future of Christianity, and for the future of
human civilization itself. It was a conversation filled with content that gave
us the opportunity to understand and hear the position of the other. And the
results of the conversation allow me to assure that currently both churches can
cooperate together to defend Christians around the world; with full
responsibility to work together so that there may be no war; so that human life
can be respected in the entire world; so that the foundations of human, family
and social morality may be strengthened through the participation of the church
in the life of human modern society."
Pope Francis said: "We
spoke as brothers, we share the same baptism, we are bishops, we spoke about
our churches. We agreed that unity is done walking (together). We spoke clearly
without mincing words. I confess that I felt the consolation of the Spirit in
this dialogue. I am grateful for the humility of His Holiness, his fraternal
humility and his good wishes for unity. We left with a series of initiatives
that I believe are viable and can be done. "
He thanked Patriarch Kirill and
others involved in arranging the meeting and also thanked Cuba, "the great
Cuban people and their president here present. I am grateful for his active
availability; if it continues this way, Cuba will be the 'capital of unity.'"
Patriarch Kirill gave Pope
Francis a small copy of an icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which itself is a symbol
of Vatican-Russian Orthodox detente, but also of failed hopes. The oldest known
copy of the icon, an ornate 18th-century piece had been hanging in St. John
Paul II's study for a decade as he hoped to return it to Russia personally.
Instead, in 2004, he had Cardinal Walter Kasper take it back to its country of
origin as a gesture of goodwill.
The icon is one of the most
revered and replicated icons in Russian Orthodoxy.
Pope Francis gave Patriarch Kirill
a reliquary with a relic of St. Cyril, the patriarch's patron saint, and a
chalice, which not only is a sign of hopes for full communion between the two
churches, but also a sign that the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of
the Orthodox sacraments.
The addition of a stopover in
Cuba was widely seen as a sign of Pope Francis' willingness to go the extra
mile to reach out a hand in friendship. At the same time, observers said, it
gave those Russian Orthodox opposed to ecumenism a sense that their church is
special and that it bowed to no one in agreeing to the meeting.
In a commentary distributed Feb.
11, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris said: "The pope is
demonstrating humility; he is going to the territory of the other. In the eyes
of nostalgic Russians, Cuba is almost home territory, a last outpost of a lost
For decades, the Russian
Orthodox told the Vatican that a meeting between the patriarch and pope was
impossible because of the activities of Latin-rite Catholics in Russia and,
especially, the Eastern-rite Catholics in Ukraine.
The Moscow Patriarchate had said
that while those problems still exist with the Catholic communities, they take
a backseat to the urgency of defending together the rights and very existence
of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
The harsh persecution of
Christians and other minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the region
has been a cause Pope Francis has pleaded before world leaders and for which he
has rallied the prayers of Christians across the globe.
He speaks often of the "ecumenism
of blood," the fact that Christians are killed for believing in Christ
with the persecutors not knowing or caring what denomination or church they
belong to. Christians are fully united in that suffering and, the pope has
said, those who die for their faith are in full communion with each other and
with centuries of martyrs now in the presence of God.
But the fate of persecuted
Christians was not the pope's primary motive for meeting Patriarch Kirill.
Simply meeting him was the point.
Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's external affairs department,
told reporters a week earlier that Patriarch Kirill chose Havana in the "New
World" because Europe, the "Old World," was the birthplace of
Ukrainians, Catholic or not,
have expressed concerns about Pope Francis' meeting with Patriarch Kirill given
the patriarch's apparently close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a
time of ongoing fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
"The topics of discussion
will not be explicitly political ones," Bishop Gudziak wrote. "The
gist of the rendezvous will be the encounter of church leaders representing
very different experiences, agendas, styles and spiritualities of ecclesial
leadership. One can hardly expect revolutionary results. Yet, it is through
encounter that spiritual change occurs. Let us pray for good spiritual fruit."
- - -
Contributing to this story was
Junno Arocho Esteves in Mexico City.
- - -
Follow Wooden on Twitter:
- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.