By Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Prayer is not a magic wand that
fulfills your desires, but it is what helps you keep the faith when you don't
understand God's will, Pope Francis said.
Prayer is meant to be "our daily bread, our powerful
weapon and the staff for our journey," he said May 25 during his weekly
general audience in St. Peter's Square.
In his catechesis, the pope talked about the Gospel
parable of the persistent widow, who incessantly appealed to a corrupt judge
Judges at the time were supposed to be filled with the
fear of God as they impartially and faithfully upheld the laws of Moses, the
pope said. But the judge in this parable was dishonest and only cared about
himself. He had no interest in protecting the rights of the weakest and easily
exploited members of society, which included widows, orphans and foreigners, he
"Faced with the judge's indifference, the widow
resorted to her only weapon -- to keep incessantly pestering him, presenting
him with her appeal for justice," the pope said.
The judge finally gives in, he said, "not because he
is moved by mercy or because his conscience forces him to," but because of
her perseverance. He realizes he will never rid himself of her until he
delivers a just decision, and so he does, the pope said.
He said Jesus uses this parable to show that if a widow
with no clout or influence could sway an uncaring judge merely through her
patient and persistent pleas, then imagine how powerful that same force of
prayer is when directed toward a loving, merciful and benevolent God.
Jesus is showing how important and necessary it is to
pray tirelessly, all the time and not just every now and then, "when I
feel like it," the pope said.
"We all experience moments of exhaustion and
discouragement, above all when our prayers don't seem to work," he said.
Contrary to the stubborn judge, he said, God speedily
secures "the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and
night," according to the Gospel of St. Luke (18:1-8).
But that doesn't mean God will respond when "and in
the ways that we want. Prayer is not a magic wand," the pope said.
When Jesus prayed that his father spare him from
"the bitter cup of his passion," he also put himself fully in God's
hands, asking that the father's will -- not his own -- be done.
Jesus shows how prayer is about strengthening one's
relationship with the father -- transforming one's own wishes and conforming
them to God's will, he said.
Prayer "helps us keep our faith in God and to trust
him even when we do not understand his will."
"Prayer is what keeps the faith; without it, faith
wavers," Pope Francis said. And it is in prayer that people experience the
compassion of God who comes to his children "filled with merciful
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By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN
CITY (CNS) -- A former consultant to
a pontifical commission who denied to a Vatican court that she leaked
documents about the Vatican's financial reform had admitted to sending
the documents when she was first interrogated, a Vatican policeman said.
DeSantis, an officer investigating the leaking of the documents, testified May
24 that Francesca Chaouqui told Vatican police officials she sent documents
regarding the Vatican Asset Management (VAM) to Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of
"Merchants in the Temple."
never assumed that she gave the documents, she admitted to it," DeSantis
told the court.
Chaouqui is on trial along with Msgr. Vallejo
Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Nicola Maio, the monsignor's former assistant, for "several illegal acts" of leaking Vatican
Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of "Avarice"
are accused of "soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on (Msgr.)
Vallejo Balda," to obtain the documents.
The trial session May 24 began with the
cross-examination of Gianluca Gauzzi, deputy commissioner of the Vatican
police, by the defendants' lawyers regarding his testimony May 16 on the
contents of Msgr. Vallejo Balda's computer and telephones.
When asked by Laura Sgro, Chaouqui's lawyer,
about the examination of the WhatsApp
chats between Chaouqui and Msgr. Vallejo Balda, Gauzzi stated the police saw
the message exchange on the Spanish monsignor's phone.
Chaouqui, he added, deleted the messaging
application from her phone before handing it over to the Vatican's IT experts
as part of the investigation.
Taking the stand after the deputy commissioner,
DeSantis said Vatican police intensified their investigation after a break-in at the
office of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and
discovered that several hard disks appeared to have been copied.
Investigators questioned the prefecture's IT technicians and
employees to verify whether they transferred the computer's content and discovered suspicious
messages and emails
sent by Msgr. Vallejo Balda to Nuzzi and Chaouqui.
When the commission's work was ended, DeSantis said, Chaouqui seemed to be upset that she
wasn't given another position at the Vatican, prompting her husband, Corrado
Lanino, to send Msgr. Vallejo Balda a message that could appear threatening.
"Be careful humiliating her because she can
be dangerous given her contacts," DeSantis said Lanino told Msgr. Vallejo Balda in
one email exchange.
Regarding Chaouqui's initial confession of
sending documents to Nuzzi, DeSantis told the court that she exhibited
"exemplary behavior" when she gave the Vatican police her formal
statement and she even
made clarifications to her formal declaration before signing it.
During cross-examination, Chaouqui's lawyer
argued that while she did admit sending documents to Nuzzi, she did not mention
passing along "secret" or "private" documents in her
In a declaration made to the court, Chaouqui said
she assumed the documents the
police asked about were invitations to a controversial banquet held on the prefecture's
veranda during the canonization
Mass for St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. The veranda overlooks St. Peter's Square.
DeSantis countered saying that as a member of a commission
that handles sensitive financial information and that answers directly to Pope
Francis, Chaouqui should have known better.
He also told the court that following Chaouqui's
arrest, she revealed she was pregnant and the Vatican police allowed her to
stay with her husband at a Salesian house near the Vatican. DeSantis said that
although she seemed fine upon her arrival, on two consecutive nights she said she was feeling ill and
asked to go to the hospital.
The police escorted her to a nearby hospital and
were later reprimanded by a doctor for bringing a perfectly healthy patient into the emergency
room while others in more dire circumstances had to wait, the police officer testified.
"The doctor said, 'For me, this women can
even walk home on her own two legs,'" DeSantis recalled. After the second trip to the
hospital, Vatican police allowed her to go home.
Although Chaouqui, whose due date was in early
June, was present for only half of the May 24 session, she used social media to defend herself.
"The game goes on in a war where the one who
will lose is the church," she wrote on her Facebook page. "I am here,
more than ever, awaiting the verdict. Then it will be my turn to have the
(last) word from the pages of my book."
- - -
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IMAGE: NS photo/Simon CaldwellBy Simon CaldwellLIVERPOOL, England (CNS) -- Myanmar's
first cardinal has thanked the Christians of the West for helping to bring
democracy to his country.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said the
Catholic Church was "at the forefront" of supporting the people of
Myanmar, formerly Burma, during a dictatorship that lasted half a century.
Preaching at a May 22 Mass in
the Metropolitan Cathedral of
Christ the King, Liverpool, he declared: "Today, we are free."
"The world community refused
to accept the oppression ... and spoke against that," Cardinal Bo said.
"The church as a community
refused to allow the oppression of Christians and others in Burma," he
said. "Every church, including the U.K. church, was at the forefront of
The cardinal told the
congregation that Catholics "are united by a special bond of community. It
is this sense of community which has helped many Christians around the world to
survive hardship and emerge stronger.
"My heart is filled with
gratitude to all the Christians, civil society leaders and governments, that
the sense of community helped them to think of Burma," he added. "Your
concern has led us to see the light of democracy, and I urge you to continue to
accompany us, especially through your prayers."
Cardinal Bo's visit to Liverpool
was the final stop of a British tour at the invitation of the charities Aid to
the Church in Need and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. His visit came six
months after the National League for Democracy won a landslide election that
ended about 50 years of dictatorship in the Southeast Asian country.
Cardinal Bo told the
congregation in Liverpool that the dictatorship was a long "Calvary"
for the people of his predominantly Buddhist country.
"We were a crucified
nation," he said. "Propagation of Christianity was banned, new
churches could not be built, and personnel had to be sent out of the country
for any training. In many places, being Christian was the greatest liability.
"The language and cultural
rights of our people were taken away by the one-language, one-race and
one-religion policy," he said.
"Yet God did not abandon
our nation. The church was like the mustard seed and, like the biblical example,
it grew into a tree," he said.
In the midst of the oppression,
he said, the Catholic Church in Myanmar became a "young and vibrant church."
"The church grew from just
three diocese to 16 dioceses," Cardinal Bo said. "From 100,000
people, we are over 800,000 faithful, from 160 priests to 800 priests, from 300
religious we are now 2,200 religious and 60 per cent of them are below the age of
Now, he said, Myanmar sends
missionaries to other countries.
Cardinal Bo reserved special
praise for Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize
winner, whose "moral courage," he said, had defeated "one of the
most arrogant armies in the world.
He said the periods she spent
under house arrest -- 15 of 21 years -- were episodes of "redemptive
suffering" that "melted decades of oppression."
"A new democracy has been
born in this nation," said Cardinal Bo. "Myanmar is proud today that
its Easter moment came in the most peaceful manner.
"Here was a woman whose belief
in peace and nonviolence stands in stark contrast to the violent conflicts in
many parts of the world," he said. "It is a great inspiration that
peace is possible and moral power still can overcome tremendous suffering."- - -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.
By Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Holiness doesn't depend on
superhuman powers, but rather demands a heart filled with courage, hope and
grace that strives for conversion each and every day, Pope Francis said at his
In fact, holiness is reached by taking tiny steps, like
biting your tongue every time there is the urge to gossip or demean somebody,
he said May 24 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
"Bite your tongue a little. Your tongue will swell
up a bit, but your spirit will be holier," the pope said.
"Holiness is a journey. Holiness cannot be bought,
it is not sold" and it is not given away as a reward, he said. It is
"walking in God's presence in an irreproachable way."
Every person is responsible for striking out on a path of
holiness, he said. "I have to do it, someone else can't do it in my name.
I can pray for someone else to be a saint, but he has to take that path, not
The holiness Christians must strive for is an
"everyday" task often carried out in anonymity, he said.
This journey first demands courage, "the courage to
move forward," he said.
That courage is inspired by hope -- the hope "in an
encounter with Jesus."
However, people cannot live holy lives on their own.
"It is a grace of God and we must ask for it" and be open to
receiving it, he said.
Christians must not conform themselves to the world, but
must "change one's own heart from within -- in an ongoing, daily intense
Conversion isn't telling the priest, "Oh father, for
me to convert I must do penance -- give me a clobbering," he said.
The process of conversion requires small concrete steps,
he said. For example, "If you are able to not speak badly about someone
else, you are on the right path for becoming a saint. It's that easy."
Tackle the little things and "don't turn back,
always move forward" with hope and strength, he 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/Max Rossi, ReutersBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY
(CNS) -- After five years of tension and top-level silence, Pope Francis and
the grand imam of one of the most important Sunni Muslim universities in the
world embraced at the Vatican May 23.
meeting is the message," the pope told Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of
al-Azhar University, as the religious scholar approached him just inside the
door of the papal library.
spring visit was the first meeting between a pontiff and a grand imam since the
Muslim university in Cairo suspended talks in 2011.
1998, the formal dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican started to fray in
2006, after now-retired Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany.
Al-Azhar officials and millions of Muslims around the world said the speech
linked Islam to violence.
the talks altogether in 2011 after the former pope had said Christians in the
Middle East were facing persecution. Al-Azhar claimed that Pope Benedict had
offended Islam and Muslims once more by focusing only on the suffering of
Christians when many Muslims were suffering as well.
Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for
Interreligious Dialogue, delivered a letter to el-Tayeb from Cardinal
Jean-Louis Tauran, council president, inviting him to the Vatican to meet the
and Bishop Ayuso welcomed the imam to the Vatican May 23 and accompanied him to
the papal meeting.
Pope Francis sat
to the side of his desk facing the grand imam rather than behind his desk as he
customarily does when meeting with a visiting head of state.
Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope spoke privately with
el-Tayeb for 25 minutes and the conversation included a discussion about
"the great significance of this new encounter within the scope of dialogue
between the Catholic Church and Islam."
dwelled upon the common commitment of the authorities and the faithful of the
great religions for world peace, the rejection of violence and terrorism (and)
the situation of Christians in the context of conflicts and tensions in the
Middle East as well as their protection," Father Lombardi said in a
At the end of
the audience, Pope Francis presented the grand imam with two gifts: a copy of
his encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home" and peace
medallion depicting an olive tree holding together two pieces of a fractured
In an interview
after the papal meeting, el-Tayeb said the "circumstances" that led
his institution to halt the dialogue with the Vatican "no longer
exist," so the Vatican and the university can "continue our holy
mission, which is the mission of religions: 'to make people joyful
everywhere,'" by teaching them about God.
Francis, "the first impression, which was very strong, is that this man is
a man of peace, a man who follows the teaching of Christianity, which is a
religion of love and peace," and "a man who respects other religions
and shows consideration for their followers," the imam told Vatican Radio
and L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.
leaders today, he said, have a "heavy and grave" responsibility to
teach people the true path to happiness and peace.
without religion constitutes a danger to his fellow man, and I believe that
people right now, in the 21st century, have started to look around and to seek
out wise guides to lead them in the right direction," el-Tayeb said.
Al-Azhar, as a
reference point for many Sunni Muslims around the world, is engaged in an
ongoing program to clarify the meaning of classical Islamic texts and make
clear to Muslims, including schoolchildren, that groups claiming to base their
violent actions on Islam are promoting "a deviant understanding" of
The Middle East,
he said, has seen "rivers of blood and cadavers," in part because of
the misuse of religion.
Christianity have nothing to do with those who kill, and we asked the West not
to confuse this deviant and misled group with Muslims," the imam said.
"The issue must not be presented as persecution of Christians in the East,
but on the contrary there are more Muslim than Christian victims, and we all
suffer this catastrophe together."
not blame religions because of the deviations of some of their followers,"
he said, "because in every religion there exists a deviant faction that
raises the flag of religion to kill in its name."
the pope, the grand imam was scheduled to travel to Paris to open the second
international conference on "East and West: Dialogue of
Civilizations" May 24 sponsored by al-Azhar University and the Catholic
- - -
Follow Arocho on
Twitter: @arochoju.- - -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.