By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
The daily noon bulletin released by the Holy See Press Office contained an announcement regarding the institution of a new commission to study the possibility of women deacons.
It contained the information that Pope Francis, in a recent audience with Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had decided to create a new Commission.
The following people will make up the new commission:
His Eminence, Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, Arcibhop of Aquila, Italy
Rev. Denis Dupont-Fauville, Official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faioth
Prof. Catherine Brown Tkacz, Lvov (Ukraine)
Prof. Dominic Cerrato, Steubenville (USA)
Prof. Don Santiago del Cura Elena, Burgos (Spain)
Prof. Caroline Farey, Shrewsbury (Great Britain)
Prof. Barbara Hallensleben, Friburgo (Switzerland)
Prof. Don Manfred Hauke, Lugano (Svizzera)
Prof. James Keating, Omaha (USA)
Prof. Mons. Angelo Lameri, Crema (Italy)
Prof. Rosalba Manes, Viterbo (Italy).
Prof. Anne-Marie Pelletier, Parigi (France).
A previous commission had been composed in August 2016, shortly after the International Union of Superiors General had asked the Pope to think about it in an audience they had with him in May 2016.
That commission handed in their research, which the Pope said was inconclusive.
In his final address at the conclusion of the Special Synod of Bishop on the Pan-Amazon Region, Pope Francis indicated that he was thiking of creating a new commission.
By Vatican News
The Pope has recorded an interview with Papal biographer, and journalist Austin Ivereigh, on life under lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asked how he and the Curia are experiencing this unprecedented time, Pope Francis says that everyone is working despite the restrictions. “The Curia is trying to carry on its work, and to live normally, organizing in shifts so that not everyone is present at the same time. It’s been well thought out. We are sticking to the measures ordered by the health authorities. Here in the Santa Marta residence we now have two shifts for meals, which helps a lot to alleviate the impact. Everyone works in his office or from his room, using technology. Everyone is working; there are no idlers here.”
The Pope also reveals that he praying more and thinking of his responsibilities now, and what will come afterwards.
“I’m living this as a time of great uncertainty. It’s a time for inventing, for creativity”, he said. The Pope points out that, “the creativity of the Christian needs to show forth in opening up new horizons, opening windows, opening transcendence toward God and toward people, and in creating new ways of being at home. It’s not easy to be confined to your house.”
Speaking about the aftermath of the pandemic and his role as Head of the Church, Pope Francis says, “that aftermath has already begun to be revealed as tragic and painful, which is why we must be thinking about it now. The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development has been working on this, and meeting with me.”
During the recorded interview, the Pope notes the “exemplary measures” a number of governments have taken to defend their citizens during the pandemic, but he adds, “we’re realizing that all our thinking, like it or not, has been shaped around the economy. In the world of finance it has seemed normal to sacrifice [people], to practice a politics of a throwaway culture, from the beginning to the end of life.”
He goes on to say that “right now, the homeless continue to be homeless. A photo appeared the other day of a parking lot in Las Vegas where they had been put in quarantine. And the hotels were empty. But the homeless cannot go to a hotel. That is the throwaway culture in practice.”
During the interview, Pope Francis is asked whether it was possible to see an economy that is more human, and if he sees the crisis and the economic devastation it is wreaking as a chance for an ecological conversion, for reassessing priorities and lifestyles. The Pope responds by saying that, “every crisis contains both danger and opportunity: the opportunity to move out from the danger. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption (Laudato si’, 191) and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion.”
“Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human”, he adds, “but let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back at this time.”
Pope Francis also underlines that if we don’t “go down into the underground, and pass from the hyper-virtual, fleshless world to the suffering flesh of the poor”, there will be no conversion.
At a time when many people are on the front lines of this pandemic, the Pope recalls “the saints who live next door. “They are heroes: doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers—all performing their duty so that society can continue functioning.” “If we become aware of this miracle of the next-door saints”, he says, “if we can follow their tracks, the miracle will end well, for the good of all. God doesn’t leave things halfway. We are the ones who do that.”
Asked if he sees emerging from this outbreak a church that is more missionary, more creative, and less attached to institutions, Pope Francis explains that, “the one who makes the Church is the Holy Spirit, who is neither gnostic nor Pelagian”. The Pope goes on to say that “we have to learn to live in a Church that exists in the tension between harmony and disorder provoked by the Holy Spirit. If you ask me which book of theology can best help you understand this, it would be the Acts of the Apostles. There you will see how the Holy Spirit deinstitutionalizes what is no longer of use, and institutionalizes the future of the Church. That is the Church that needs to come out of the crisis.”
“We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity”, the Pope continues. “We can either get depressed and alienated—through media that can take us out of our reality—or we can get creative. At home we need an apostolic creativity, a creativity shorn of so many useless things, but with a yearning to express our faith in community, as the people of God. So: to be in lockdown, but yearning, with that memory that yearns and begets hope—this is what will help us escape our confinement.”
Asked if he has a particular message for the elderly and those facing poverty at this time, the Pope replies by saying, “the elderly continue to be our roots. And they must speak to the young. This tension between young and old must always be resolved in the encounter with each other.” “Those who have been impoverished by the crisis are today’s deprived, who are added to the numbers of deprived of all times, men and women whose status is ‘deprived’”.
“What I ask of people”, he adds, “is that they take the elderly and the young under their wing, that they take history under their wing, take the deprived under their wing.”
By Robin Gomes
“Let us pray today for people who during this time of the pandemic, trade at the expense of the needy and profit from the needs of others, like the mafia, usurers and others. May the Lord touch the hearts and convert them,” the Pope urged in the opening words of the Mass.
Later, in his homily, he reflected on the Gospel episode where Mathew recounts how Judas strikes a deal with the chief priests to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
The Pope said the Wednesday of Holy Week – also known as “Spy Wednesday” or “Betrayal Wednesday” – when Judas sells the Master, makes us think of the slave trade from Africa to America. It may something of a long time ago and far away but even today, every day, people are selling others, like the Yazidi girls who are sold to the Daesh.
There are the Judases, who sell their brothers and sisters, exploiting them in their work, without a just pay, without recognizing their duties.
They even sell their dearest things. The Pope thought of persons who think it convenient to remove their parents far away to “safe” old-age homes and not see them anymore. “They are selling them”, the Pope said. Hence, there is a common saying that such a person is “capable of selling his or her own mother”. Such persons feel at peace because their parents are kept safe and taken care of.
The Pope spoke about trafficking in human persons today, as in earlier times. Jesus gave the status of master to money, when He said, “You cannot serve God and money”- two masters. And Jesus gives us two choices: “either serve God and you will be free in adoration and service, or serve money and you will be a slave to money”.
But many want to serve both God and money, the Pope aid, which is impossible. While pretending to serve God and money, they turn out to be “hidden exploiters, socially flawless, but under the table they even traffic in human beings, it doesn’t matter”. “Human exploitation is selling one’s neighbour,” the Pope warned.
Speaking about the past of Judas, the Pope said, we don’t know. He must have been a normal boy, perhaps with anxieties, but the Lord called him to be a disciple. However, Judas never managed to have the “mouth and the heart of a disciple”, as the First Reading says.
Despite Judas’ weakness in discipleship, Jesus loved him. From the episode at the house of Lazarus, where Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume, the Gospel makes us understand that Judas loved money. Saint John explains that Judas regretted the wastage of perfume not because he loved the poor but because he was a thief.
The love of money, the Pope said, led him beyond rules, and “between stealing and betraying, there is only a small step”. It is a norm and rule that “those who love money too much, betray [others] in order to have even more, always”.
“Hence, Judas, perhaps a good boy, with good intentions, ends up as a traitor to the point of going to the market to sell.”
Despite all this, the Pope pointed out, Christ never calls Judas a “traitor” personally. Rather, Jesus calls him “friend” and kisses him. The Pope said this is the mystery of Judas.
However, Jesus strongly threatens the traitor: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.
Whether Judas is in hell, we are not sure, the Pope said, drawing attention to the word of Jesus, “friend”.
The Pope said that the story of Judas also points to the fact that the devil is a poor paymaster. “He is not reliable; he promises everything, shows you everything and in the end leaves you alone in despair to hang yourself.”
Restless and tormented between greed and the love for Jesus, Judas returns to the priests asking for forgiveness, asking for salvation, but is met with, “What have we got to do with it? It’s your affair … “. The Pope said this the way the devil speaks, leaving us in despair.
In this regard, the Holy Father spoke of the many “institutionalized Judases in this world who exploit people”. There is also a type of little Judas in each one of us, especially when “choosing between loyalty and interest”.
“Each of us,” the Pope pointed, “has the ability to betray, to sell, to choose for one’s own interest.” “Each of us has the opportunity to let ourselves be attracted by the love of money, goods or future well-being.”
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
In his video message ahead of Holy Week, Pope Francis said social distancing measures put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19 mean that “through us, the “Easter Gospel will resound in the silence of our cities.”
How can we celebrate the Easter Triduum liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday?
By accepting Jesus’ invitation which we heard in the Palm Sunday proclamation of the Passion: “I desire to east the Passover in your house” (Matthew 26:18).
So, let’s get our houses ready to welcome Jesus! This demands creativity.
The “creativity of love”, as Pope Francis is calling it.
With this article, we’d like to provide some background on each of the Easter Triduum liturgies, as well as ideas for preparing the place where our families will participate in the liturgies through TV, radio, or social media.
As part of this initiative, we invite you to share your ideas and photos of the sacred places created in your homes. You can do this on Vatican News’ social media platforms and by using #EasterAtHome or #JesusInMyHome.
Each liturgy that we participate in unfolds a specific mystery. It is a memorial of God’s intervention in human history in a specific time and place. When we participate in a liturgy we take part in a memorial of one of these events. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this:
“In the sense of Sacred Scripture, a memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for us. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands it’s liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them.
“In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. ‘As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which “Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed” is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out’ (1363-4).”
Therefore, in the case of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the liturgies making up the Easter Triduum, the events that happened 2,000 years ago become present to us liturgically. Furthermore, the liturgy allows the “mighty works” of God to extend throughout time, and allows the effects of these works to touch us.
With the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening, we enter into one liturgy that covers three days. It includes the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and the Easter Vigil as well. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper does not conclude with the blessing of the faithful. Instead, it continues with the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday. That liturgy does not begin with the Sign of the Cross, nor is there the customary penitential rite or the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Triduum reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and ends with Vespers, or Evening Prayer, on Easter Sunday evening.
The specific “mighty works” that we remember during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper are:
● the Lord’s Last Supper with His disciples,
● the institution of the Holy Eucharist,
● the institution of the ministerial priesthood
● the institution of the commandment of love, ritualized with the washing of feet. The latter ritual will not be performed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ideas for preparing a sacred space at home
● blessed objects
● a table prepared as if guests were coming over
● an empty place reserved to remind us of Jesus’ presence
● items to help us image what happened during the Last Supper
● sacred images that will help remind us of Jesus
● First Communion certificates of each of those present
The specific “mighty works” that we remember during the Good Friday liturgy are:
● the Lord’s death on the cross,
● our redemption from sin,
● the gift of Mary as our Mother
This Liturgy begins with the prostration of the celebrant on the floor, the proclamation of the Lord’s Passion, a series of prolonged prayers called “Solemn Intercessions”, the veneration of the cross, and a communion service, in which hosts which have already been consecrated are distributed in Holy Communion.
Ideas for preparing a sacred space at home
● blessed objects, especially a crucifix or an image of Our Lady
● a setting that helps us think of Calvary, perhaps with 3 crosses
● something that looks like a tomb
The specific “mighty works” that we remember during Holy Saturday are:
● Jesus’s descent to the “abode of the dead”, the deliverance of the “holy souls who awaited their Saviour in Abraham’s bosom” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 633).
● God, in the Person of Jesus, rests once again on the seventh day
Ideas for preparing a sacred space at home
●objects conducive of a garden scene
● tomb that is sealed
The specific “mighty works” that we remember during the Easter Vigil are:
● Jesus’s Resurrection
● Jesus’s triumph over death and all sin and evil
●Jesus opens heaven to us and gives us new life
● We are reinstated in God’s grace as His children
● Our own future resurrection from the dead
The Easter Vigil begins with the lighting of the Paschal fire and candle (this year, the lighting of the Paschal fire will not take place), the Easter proclamation (also known as the Exsultet), a prolonged Liturgy of the Word recalling the Story of Salvation, renewal of our Baptismal promises. After this, the liturgy proceeds as usual.
Ideas for preparing a sacred space at home
●the same tomb scene used on Holy Saturday, this time opened up
● symbols of angels and saints
● Baptismal certificates of all those present
● candles we have been given when we received the various Sacraments (e.g., baptismal candle, unity candle)
As we celebrate the most sacred Mysteries of our Faith, let us all make room in our homes and in our hearts to welcome the Risen Lord.
By Vatican News
“This year we celebrate the victory in Christ over death, at a time when the world is struggling with the COVID 19 pandemic, that is ravaging the world causing mourning and suffering among all peoples”.
A joint message from the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) notes that “Christians are preparing to commemorate the passion and death of Christ, to celebrate His resurrection in glory in a completely new way”. Precisely in these circumstances, when many people are confined to their homes or in voluntary self-isolation, “this year believers will celebrate the victory of life hoping to fight death”.
The message, signed by COMECE President Archbishop Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, and the Reverend Christian Kreiger, President of CEC, insists that now, “more than ever, current events remind us how much hope is a dimension of faith”.
The two Christian leaders express the hope that the Easter Gospel may stir “this breath of hope in the hearts of thoughts of Christians”, so that they in turn may become “bearers of hope and light in our world ravaged by much suffering”.
“Christ is risen! He is truly risen!”
They conclude their message with the prayer, “May God, thrice holy, He who is and who is to come, bless His humanity and keep it”, before concluding with the traditional Easter acclamation, “Christ is risen, He is truly risen!”
COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, is made up of Bishops delegated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the Member States of the European Union. In accordance with its Mission as defined in its Statutes, COMECE monitors the political process of the European Union in all areas of interest to the Church.
The Conference of European Churches, CEC, is a fellowship bringing together 114 churches from Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglican traditions from all over Europe for dialogue, advocacy, and joint action.
The full text of the Joint Easter Message can be read below:
Christians are preparing to commemorate the passion and death of Christ, to celebrate his resurrection in glory in a completely new way. This Easter believers will be unable to come together to pray and sing together, gather to be silent before God, listen to his word, meet together to share the bread and the cup.
This year we celebrate the victory in Christ over death, at a time when the world is struggling with the COVID 19 pandemic, that is ravaging the world causing mourning and suffering among all peoples. Confined to our homes or in voluntary self-isolation, this year believers will celebrate the victory of life hoping to fight death.
More than ever, current events remind us how much hope is a dimension of faith. “For in hope we were saved,“affirms Apostle Paul in the epistle to the Romans, before continuing: “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”(Romans 8. 24-25).
May the Easter Gospel stir this breath of hope in the hearts and thoughts of Christians, may the breath of God animate our steadfast expectation so that the Church and each and every one of us become bearers of hope and light in our world ravaged by much suffering.
May God, thrice holy, He who is, who was and who is to come, bless His humanity and keep it.
Christ is risen, He is truly risen!
Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ
Archbishop of Luxembourg
President of COMECE
Rev. Christian Krieger
President of CEC
Dear Brothers and Sisters: At this time of anxiety and suffering caused by the current pandemic, we all face uncertainty and may ask where God is to be found in this situation. During these days of Holy Week we can find solace in the account of the Passion of Jesus. Our Lord also faced questions, with many wondering whether he really was the promised Messiah. It was only after his death that a centurion confirmed that Jesus truly was the Son of God. He did this after seeing Christ suffer silently on the cross, which teaches us that God’s power is revealed in humble and self-sacrificial love. We, like the disciples, may have preferred the Lord to manifest his strength by resolving our problems according to our own measure of what is right. Yet the death and resurrection of Jesus show that while earthly power passes away, only love endures forever. Dear brothers and sisters, let us draw courage from our crucified and risen Lord, who embraces our fragility, heals our sins, and draws us close to him, transforming our doubts into faith and our fears into hope.
Angela Ofosu Boateng – Accra, Ghana
Speaking in an interview with The Catholic Standard recently, the Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana, Samuel Zan Akologo, hinted that as part of its comprehensive plan, the Church is providing basic needs to the poor especially the homeless and people in great need following the partial lockdown in some parts of the country..
Caritas Ghana, he said, was working closely with parishes in these areas to provide temporary shelter and feeding centres for the homeless. Akologo explained that since the strength of Caritas is community-based, the organisation is working proactively and coordinating support at the level of diocesan Caritas organisations. In the short term, parish facilities are being used “to provide shelter and food for the homeless. Currently, Kumasi Archdiocese is hosting about 600 extremely poor persons. At the same time, Accra Archdiocese has around 1, 400 in more than 15 Parishes,” he said.
Akologo added that Caritas Ghana would also liaise with security agencies to allow its emergency teams reach out to the homeless and marginalised to provide them with critical support. He noted that the Church’s humanitarian service was not just a fire fighting or ad-hoc approach, but that in the long term, the Church would consider replicating the Soup Kitchen feeding programme organised by Fr. Andrew Campbell, Parish Priest of Christ the King Church in Accra.
According to Fr. Campbell, in the past few days, his Soup Kitchen has provided meals to over 800 children around Kanda, Independence Square, Opeibea, Maamobi, Tema Station and the National Theatre, all in Accra with only an initial amount of GHC 50,000 (appx. USD 8, 650).
Akologo appealed to donors, in the country and foreign partner agencies, for contingency support to enable Caritas Ghana carry out its mandate of supporting the poor and vulnerable in line with the Church’s mission.
By Robin Gomes
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a circular on Tuesday to all the country’s bishops, approving and endorsing the ringing of church bells to mark the start of a televised interfaith prayer at 3:00 pm on Wednesday.
“It will be comforting and encouraging for our people when they sense and observe that a spirit of unity and working together is there in these trying times,” Archbishop Valles wrote in the circular.
The prayer activity is an initiative of the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos to unite in the prayer as the country continues to battle the epidemic.
“This being the Holy Week, I am calling on the nation to come together, this Holy Wednesday afternoon and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Filipino and unite in one prayer to God to fight one common enemy,” Duterte said in a televised address.
In a letter to Archbishop Valles on Monday, Bishop Oscar Florencio of the Military Ordinariate of Philippines requested the Catholic Church’s participation in the initiative.
“I respectfully make representation to request Your Excellency, to exhort all the Bishops of the CBCP that all Parish Churches of the entire archipelago will ring their bells in their belfries at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on April 8, 2020, a Holy Wednesday, to signal the start of the televised Interfaith Prayer,” Bishop Florencio wrote.
The bishop will lead the Catholic Church’s participation in the prayer service, through the Chaplain Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“In this endeavour, the AFP Chaplains (Priests, Pastors, and Allah) will assist to invoke the mighty help of God as we plead Him to heal those affected by COVID-19 and to spare us from this present pandemic,” Bishop Florencio said.
“May the suffering-servant of Yahweh, Jesus, our Miracle-Worker, our Wounded Healer listen to our humble supplications in this time of our dire need for His mercy,” the bishop said.
The Philippine health ministry on April 7 confirmed 104 new infections, taking the total to 3,764. With 14 new coronavirus deaths, the total number of fatalities now stands at 177.
Since March 17, Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines and home to half of the nation’s 104-million population, has been on a strict lockdown in a bid to contain the outbreak.
Since then, provincial and town executives in the rest of the country have also implemented their own versions of the lockdown, putting virtually the entire country under quarantine, with commercial aviation and shipping banned and land transportation under restrictions.
The measure was to end on April 12. Duterte on Tuesday extended it to the end of April
By Vatican News
Following the Angelus at the conclusion of Mass on Palm Sunday, Pope Francis invited “people and families who are not able to participate in the liturgical celebrations” for the Easter Triduum “to gather together in prayer” in their homes, through the assistance of technical means.
Precisely in order to meet the need expressed by the Holy Father, and to ensure that no one is excluded, Vatican News has created an ad hoc YouTube channel with translations of the liturgies into Sign Language.
People with communication and hearing disabilities will be able to follow all the Paschal celebrations and rites via live streaming, at the following link:
The translation into Italian Sign Language (LIS, Lingua dei Segni Italiana) will be undertaken by Sister Veronica Donatello, head of the Italian Episcopal Conference’s National Service for the pastoral care of persons with disabilities. Sister Donatello previously provided the sign language translation for the Moment of Prayer with Pope Francis, which took place at St Peter’s on 27 March.
The project is taking place in collaboration with TV2000, the broadcasting network of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
By Lydia O’Kane
Over the past few weeks people around the world have had to adapt to a new way of living and working since many countries went on lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Many employees are holding meetings by video conferencing, and families are finding different ways to keep occupied while at home.
The Church too has had to respond to the challenge the outbreak presents. With many Church services suspended at this time, dioceses and parishes have had to become increasingly creative in how they reach their flock.
The Irish Parish of St Francis of Assisi is to be found in Priorswood, North Dublin. On a normal Sunday, both young and old would be attending Mass there, but since the outbreak, Parish Priest Fr Bryan Shortall, OFM Cap., has been increasingly looking to social media to interact with the community.
Speaking about life in this community amid the pandemic, Fr Bryan says, that many people in the parish are scared, and there is also concern for the vulnerable. “The older members of our community and of our society are ‘cocooned’ as the term is known around here.”
Despite the fear among parishioners about the spread of Covid-19, Fr Bryan points out that “there is a great sense of community spirit”. He notes that, while parishioners are adhering to social distancing rules, “people are re-discovering methods of reaching out from the isolation of their homes”.
In order to keep up with Church events, especially during Holy Week, the use of technology is playing its part with the use of webcams and social media.
Over the last few years, the use of social media platforms to connect with parishioners has grown in dioceses in Ireland, not least in Dublin. Fr Bryan himself is no stranger to using technology to communicate with his flock, but as the Coronavirus forces people to stay indoors, and stay away from Church services, social media is taking on a new dimension in the diffusion of the Gospel message.
Fr Bryan describes social media as being a “lifesaver” and says it has provided a “wonderful forum” for the Parish during this difficult time. “We had 320 people tuned into Facebook live, for our Palm Sunday Mass, and then people came to the gate of the Church yard to pick up blessed Palm to take to neighbours and friends”, albeit at a distance, he says. With a lockdown still very much in place in Dublin and around the country, daily Mass and even the recitation of the Rosary at the Priorswood Parish can be found online.
There is no doubt that this Holy Week and Easter is going to be unprecedented in the life of the Church due to the pandemic. In Dublin, the traditional Good Friday Way of the Cross in the Phoenix Park, where Pope Francis celebrated Mass during the World Meeting of Families, has been cancelled. Many Churches too, will be holding celebrations online so that the faithful can follow the events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. As part of events to mark Holy Week, the Parish of St Francis of Assisi, on Wednesday will be involved in a “living passion” event linking in with other Churches around Dublin. Fr Bryan says that they are using social media so that people can partake in this, the most important week in the Church’s calendar.
“In a sense all of us are adapting to this reality, and being creative and identifying with a sense of poverty, that we can’t be together and more or less do what we would normally do at Easter.”
By Christopher Wells
The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life is calling on everyone to do more to help the elderly, especially during the coronavirus emergency. In a letter released on their website on Tuesday, the Dicastery says, “Our concerns and grateful thoughts go out to [the elderly] today, to return at least a little of that tenderness with which each of us has been accompanied in life, and that the maternal caress of the Church reach each of them”.
While noting that the elderly have been particularly hard hit by Covid-19, the Dicastery also focuses on the loneliness faced by many older people. Quoting Pope Francis, it says that “loneliness can be a disease, but with charity, closeness, and spiritual comfort we can heal it”. Loneliness can be an underlying condition that complicates the physical issues that arise from the coronavirus, and for this reason, the Dicastery says, “it is important to do everything possible to remedy this condition of abandonment”. In the current crisis, it continues, “this could mean saving lives”.
Although social distancing norms sadly make home visits impossible, the Dicastery recognizes how people are finding “new and creative forms of presence” in order to be close to their loved ones. But, it continues, “the gravity of the moment calls all of us to do more”, including praying for the elderly, curing the disease of loneliness, and activating solidarity networks, among other things. “We must devote new energies to defend the elderly from this storm, just as each of us has been protected and cared for in the small and large storms of our lives”.
“We cannot leave the elderly alone, because in solitude the coronavirus kills more.”
The Dicastery calls for “special attention” for those in residential facilities, who “face very difficult situations” despite the devotion and sacrifices of the staff dedicated to their care, including at times the ultimate sacrifice. “Despite the complexity of the situation we live in, it is necessary to clarify that saving the lives of the elderly who live within residential homes or who are alone or sick, is a priority as much as saving any other person”. Quoting Pope Francis, the letter says that “the elderly are the present and the tomorrow of the Church”.
In “the love of many children and grandchildren”, as well as that of assistants and volunteers, the Dicastery says, we can see revived, so to speak, “the compassion of the women who went to the tomb to care for the body of Jesus”. Like the women at the tomb we may be scared; but, while maintaining necessary safety precautions, we know that we can do no less than continue to live the compassion Jesus taught us. And “like these women”, the Dicastery says, “we will soon understand that it was essential to remain close to those in need, even when it seemed dangerous or useless, confident of the words spoken by the angel, inviting us not to be afraid”.
The Dicastery concludes its letter with a call “to join in prayer for grandparents and elderly around the world”, inviting everyone “to gather around them with our thoughts and prayers, and when possible, let’s act, so that they are not alone”.
STATEMENT OF THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE
The Holy See, which has always expressed confidence in the Australian judicial authority, welcomes the High Court’s unanimous decision concerning Cardinal George Pell, acquitting him of the accusations of abuse of minors and overturning his sentence.
Entrusting his case to the court’s justice, Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence, and has waited for the truth to be ascertained.
At the same time, the Holy See reaffirms its commitment to preventing and pursuing all cases of abuse against minors.
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Usually, Chrism Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday, in the morning. Still, several dioceses in Africa, anticipate this Mass to a day in Holy Week. This is to give opportunity for priests of far-flung rural outposts to be back in their parishes for the evening celebration of the Holy Thursday Eucharist.
During Chrism Mass the Bishop blesses oils that will be used for the whole year to celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism, Anointing of the Sick, Confirmation and Priestly Ordination.
“It is a most unusual atmosphere in this Cathedral at the Chrism Mass this year which we have to celebrate with a very small representative number of the people of God because of the coronavirus pandemic…Let me say that in some dioceses this Mass has been postponed to a better date to allow priests and lay people participate. It is an option we have decided not to take. I feel that this day is like a birthday for priestly brotherhood which we wish to celebrate in defiance of COVID-19 and other diseases and problems which assail us,” said Bishop Badejo.
Traditionally, at Chrism Mass priests renew their promises of commitment and faithfulness to the Church before a Bishop.
Thursday’s Chrism Mass in the Diocese of Oyo was attended by a very small representative number of the people from the Diocese. At the same time, the priests were represented by the Deans from the five deaneries of the Diocese.
“We prefer to pray for healing for our sick world, country and peoples that God may visit us soon and restore us,” said Bishop Badejo. He continued, “We are compelled to ask God to heal our world, heal our land and heal his people so that we may return to the best of times in worship of him. We pray for the authorities, for doctors, pharmacists, nurses, caregivers, donors, priests and all others who are working hard to stop diseases and especially (this) coronavirus. May God strengthen them and make them successful in their work,” the Bishop of Oyo prayed.
Addressing himself to the priest-representatives and reiterating some of Pope Francis’ words, Bishop Badejo said the priest is ordained for others.
“We are not priests for our own sake, and our sanctification is closely linked to that of our people, our anointing to their anointing. The priest should be authoritative, not authoritarian; firm, but not hard; joyful, but not superficial…in short, shepherds, not functionaries.” Bishop Badejo emphasised.
About the lockdown, the Bishop has asked the people to offer their suffering and deprivations to Jesus Christ.
“We also encourage our people to unite all their deprivations, restrictions and pain with that of Jesus Christ as we go through this Holy Week. Recall the traditional morning prayer where we unite all suffering with Christ’s! How so very near to us Good Friday seems now!” said the Bishop.
By Robin Gomes
The Apostolic Almoner, or the Pope’s official almsgiver, has addressed the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and prelates who are members of the “Papal Chapel”, or “Capella Papale”, inviting them to an act of solidarity during the current Holy Week.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the liturgical celebrations presided over by the Holy Father during Holy Week will be without the presence of those who, in accordance with the Motu Proprio “Pontificalis Domus”, make up the Papal Chapel.
Apostolic Almoner, Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who heads the Office of Papal Charities, has written to the members of the Papal Chapel inviting them to make a contribution to a collection, in order to share in the sufferings of “those in trial” during the current health emergency in Italy and in the Vatican.
He described it as a sign of their closeness and special unity with the Pontiff, the Bishop of Rome, who “presides over the universal communion of charity” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium,13).
Cardinal Krajewski said that the Holy Father will later decide on the beneficiaries of the alms collected.
Members of the Papal Chapel assist the Pope in his functions as the spiritual head of the Church, especially in ceremonies and liturgies.
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis is inviting Jews and Christians to “renew the bonds of friendship and commitment towards the most needy of our society, particularly in the current ordeal we are all going through.” The Pope’s invitation came in a message to Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni of Rome, in which he offered his “heartiest wishes” to him and the entire Jewish community of the city, on the occasion of the Jewish feast of Pesach or Passover.
Pesach commemorates the start of the exodus of Jews from slavery in Egypt, as narrated in the Bible. Jesus Himself celebrated the feast of the Passover with His disciples in Jerusalem, just before His passion, death and resurrection, the solemn Paschal mysteries of the Christian faith that are celebrated during Holy Week that culminates with Easter.
“May the Almighty, who has freed His beloved people from slavery and led them to the Promised Land, accompany you even today with the abundance of His blessings,” the Pope wrote in the message, said the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. “I assure my memory and ask you to continue to pray for me,” the Pope concluded.
Di Segni reciprocated noting that, “this year is a special Easter in which normal life has been disrupted by the current epidemic that creates mourning, fears and economic and social disasters”.
The Chief Rabbi assured, “we are all committed to help, to comfort, to solicit an examination of conscience and to ask our Creator for help”. He pointed out that it is precisely at these moments that “we measure in concrete terms the common values of our faiths and the need to work together for the collective good”. Di Segni concluded concluding wish: “In spite of everything, may it be a peaceful Easter, the bearer of renewal and the announcement of a better world”.
By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Introducing Tuesday morning’s homily, Pope Francis said: “I would like to pray today for all those persons who suffer an unjust sentence because of persecution.”
Pope Francis explained that Jesus was hounded by the doctors of the law even though He was innocent.
Isaiah’s prophecy (Is 49: 1-6) relates to the Messiah and the People of God. God chose the prophet before he was born, explained Pope Francis. In the same way, each one of us is chosen with the vocation of serving from our mother’s womb. None of us fell into this world by chance.
“Each one of us has a destiny, a free destiny. The destiny is the election of God. I am born chosen to be a servant of God with the task of serving.”
“To serve is not pretending that we have any other benefit to give than serving,” said Pope Francis. Jesus, the Servant of God gives us an example of service. The glory of Jesus was serving until death. It seemed a defeat but it was a way of serving.
When the People of God distance themselves from the attitude of serving, they are a People that have apostatized, explains the Pope. This leads them to construct their lives on other loves that are often idolatrous and they lose their vocation.
Pope Francis explained that the important thing is our attitude before God who chose us and anointed us as His servant. Except for Our Lady and Jesus, we have all fallen. The example of Peter is a source of inspiration. When Peter denied Jesus and the cock crowed, he cried and repented (Mt 26:75). This is the path of a servant who asks for forgiveness when he or she slips and falls.
The other path is that of the servant who is incapable of understanding that he or she has fallen. This path leaves the heart open to the passions that lead to idolatry. Like Judas, the heart becomes open to Satan.
Concluding his homily, the Pope invited us to think of Jesus who was faithful in service. We are by vocation meant to serve and not to make a profit from our position in the Church. Pope Francis prayed that like Peter, we may be able to weep when we slip and fall.
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Cardinal George Pell’s legal battle ended on Thursday morning. Australia’s High Court announced their unanimous decision to overturn the guilty verdict upheld by Victoria’s Court of Appeal last August. The High Court justices based their decision on the fact that the appellate court had failed to take into consideration whether there “remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place”, leaving open “reasonable doubt” as to the Cardinal’s guilt.
As of the writing of this article, Cardinal Pell is expected to be released from the prison he is currently in. The Cardinal has been in prison since the February 2019 guilty verdict was announced.
Cardinal Pell released a statement after hearing the High Court’s decision. In it, he reiterates that he has “consistently maintained” his innocence. The “injustice” that he received “has been remedied” today, he continued.
Addressing the person who brought the charges against him, Cardinal Pell said, “I hold no ill will towards my accuser”. And thinking of others who may feel “hurt and bitterness”, he said that he does not want his acquittal to add any additional pain. The basis for “long term healing”, he continued, “is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all”.
The Cardinal thanked everyone who has prayed for him, sent letters of support, his family, his “team of advisors”, “friends and supporters here and overseas”, and especially, his legal team. He ended his statement thinking of those affected by the Coronavirus. “I am praying for all those affected and our medical frontline personnel.”, he said.
On behalf of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, its President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge also issued a statement. In it, he acknowledges the mixed feelings that the Cardinal’s acquittal will provoke. “Today’s outcome will be welcome” by those who “believe in the Cardinal’s innocence”, and “devastating for others”. “Many have suffered greatly through the process, which has now reached its conclusion”, the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Coleridge ended hs statement reiterating the “Church’s unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse”. Since children’s safety is of utmost important to the “Catholic community”, and its bishops, he invited: “any person with allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel should go to the police.”
By Linda Bordoni
The total number of confirmed coronavirus Covid-19 cases in South Africa has risen to more than 1,650 with 11 confirmed deaths.
That number may be lower than in many other parts of the planet, but there are fears that Covid-19 could be a time-bomb ready to go off in a country marked by dramatic social inequalities.
Father Gérard Lagleder OSB is on the frontlines of health care, preparing to assist a large community of poor and vulnerable people in South Africa’s eastern Kwazulu Natal Province.
Fr. Gérard is the Founder and President of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard, the Order of Malta’s care facility in Mandeni. It runs clinics, a hospice, an orphanage, as well as health-care services for outpatients in rural areas.
He told Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni that he’s worried “a real tsunami wave of Covid-19 infections is yet to hit the country.”
Fr. Gérhard says the South African Ministry of Health expects some 40 million new coronavirus infections in the country. These could result in between 90 thousand and 351 thousand deaths because of the high percentage of South Africa’s 59-million-strong population that has serious underlying health issues, such as HIV-Aids.
The country has been in lockdown since 27 March, and so far, he notes, the figures seem low. But inequality, poverty, HIV-Aids, and a huge number of undocumented immigrants, provide an explosive mix of ingredients for potential catastrophe.
“The big problem is that we have a large part of the population in informal settlements and in townships where there is no social distancing,” Fr. Gérhard explains. “If you are living in a hut where there are 15 people in one room, you can’t respect social distancing,” he adds.
Furthermore, he says, in informal settlements and in slum-like townships, people have no means of washing their hands or following the rules for good hygiene: “If you have to walk hundreds of meters to the river to fetch water, then you can’t wash your hands and you have no means to disinfect yourself with chemical disinfectant: this is a major problem.”
Fr. Gérhard also pinpoints a cultural issue that has to do with stigma and fear: “Many people don’t even want to be tested or diagnosed, they don’t want to be treated,” just as it happened with HIV-Aids.
Although the government has rolled out mobile testing units and set up clinics in the townships, Fr. Gérhard says he is afraid people might avoid them, “because they are afraid of being diagnosed; they are afraid to be taken away from home, and they think that if they run away they might avoid the whole situation.”
“That is actually a deadly danger that we are in,” he adds.
A recent United Nations estimate calculated the number of foreigners living illegally in South Africa as high as 10% to 15% of the population.
Most of them are poor people from other African nations who come in search of work. Fr. Gérhard says he is extremely worried about them “because they are in hiding and they don’t want to be detected at all.” They are afraid of being identified as illegal immigrants and sent home, thus endangering the policy to test, track and treat infected persons.
He recalls it is a problem the country already dealt with when it started extensive campaigns to treat HIV. Thankfully, the government decided to treat even those with no registered South African identity documentation.
“These people are particularly vulnerable,” he says.
Noting that 80% of the people served by the Brotherhood of the Blessed Gérhard in Mandeni live under the poverty line, Fr. Gérhard describes the assistance and support he and his personnel manage to provide.
“We are running the largest in-patient hospice in the whole of South Africa,” he says. “The hospice is full of immuno-compromised and frail geriatric patients,” the very people who are most in danger of dying from the disease.
“We have close to 700 patients on Aids treatment in a very large treatment programme,” he adds.
In preparation for the lockdown, explains Fr. Gérhard, patients were given their medication for two months in advance “so they don’t have to come here. And they are safe so far.”
A similar strategy was chosen for the Malnutrition Clinic where baby food was distributed to those in need for the whole of the lockdown period.
And, he says, the same was done for the Order’s Home Care Programme, leaving health care workers free to attend to emergencies and strengthen the ranks of the in-patient hospice personnel.
The Brotherhood also runs a large children’s in-patient home which currently hosts 55 children, many of them with previous conditions that make them especially vulnerable.
Fr. Gérhard is especially keen to express his gratitude and admiration for his staff: “I am so happy about our personnel! They have been told that if they stay at home they can help prevent infection spreading,” but he says, they are all true to their mission as health-care workers and are faithfully coming to look after their patients and the children.
Fr. Gérhard agrees that most South Africans have trust in the Catholic church, especially when it comes to social care, healthcare and education, because it has always been at the side of the under-privileged and was a strong partner in the fight against injustice and apartheid.
Also, in the liturgical sense, he says people are now asking us, “at a time in which we cannot have public services, to broadcast them through streaming on the internet. And we do that.”
In the beginning, Fr. Gérhard says, “I thought it would be very lonely saying Mass on my own. But I look into the screen of the computer and I know that there are many people actually watching, and in my mind, those people are here (…). Therefore, it is not that lonely. It is a different way of bringing the Good News that God is there for us, and especially in a difficult situation He is there for us, and that the Church finds ways of approaching the faithful and being there for them in different ways.”
On the one hand, Fr. Gérhard explains, the Brotherhood of the Blessed Gérhard works closely with partners such as the Department of Health and of Social Development that has delivered disinfectant and face masks “that we are very grateful for.”
On the other, he says, the entire work of the Order of Malta is financed by donations and grants: “We do not sell our services because the people we serve are the ‘have-nots’, they cannot pay for the services we render to them”.
Thus, he concludes, in light of the fact that his annual fundraising tour to Europe has been cancelled, and the postal services in the country are completely disrupted, the Brotherhood of the Blessed Gérhard is fundraising online. And every drop in the ocean can help save a life.
By Robin Gomes
Cardinal Oswald Gracias has appealed to priests and faithful of his Archdiocese of Bombay to cremate people who die from Covid-19 rather than bury them.
In a video message last week, the cardinal asked Catholics to abide by the directives issued by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and cremate the bodies of those who die of the infection, UCANEWS reported.
Father Nigel Barrett, the spokesperson of the archdiocese, said that the cardinal had also advised people to strictly comply with government restrictions such as maintaining social distancing and washing hands with soap frequently to prevent the spread of the infection.
“As per the direction of the cardinal, Christian people are supposed to cremate the bodies of victims of Covid-19, but if someone wants a burial they have to follow the directions of the BMC as it has identified one place,” the priest told UCA News
The archdiocese also asked pastors to ensure there are no more than five mourners present at funerals.
The cardinal said that the police should also be informed about the death and cremation.
The BMC has is acting in line with a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to which the burial of coronavirus victims poses the risk of a further outbreak of the disease but cremation doesn’t. It says the high temperature of cremations kills the virus and there is no risk of it spreading.
Mumbai’s municipal commissioner had issued a directive under the Epidemic Disease Act 1897 to cremate all coronavirus victims.
However, the directive was withdrawn after Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik objected. Hours later, a fresh order was issued stating that burials should take place on large grounds so that there is no possibility of the virus spreading in the vicinity.
Father Barrett said families would be allowed burials only if they adhered to WHO guidelines.
The number of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai increased by 103 to reach 433 on April 5, the BMC said. Eight more deaths took the total in the city to 30, the highest figure in India.
Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the local capital, has the highest number of infections among India’s 28 states and 8 union territories. The state has 748 cases with 45 deaths.
As of April 6, India reported 4,314 Covid-19 cases with 118 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Since the start of the infection, there have been nearly 1.3 million worldwide, with more than 70,500 deaths.
A 21-day nation-wide lockdown ordered by the Indian government to contain the spread of the contagion is scheduled to end on April 14, until further notice.
Envisaging a possible extension of the lockdown, Cardinal Gracias advised his faithful to refrain from programming church services such as Baptisms, First Communions or marriages, immediately after April 14.
He also urged Catholics of his archdiocese to keep their “eyes and ears open” for distressed migrant workers stranded in their parishes because of the lockout and help them out.
The cardinal also thought about the lonely elderly and urged that the Small Christian Communities (SCC) help them out with sufficient provisions during the lockdown.
By Vatican News
On Saturday 11 April, there will be an extraordinary veneration of the Shroud in Turin Cathedral, which will be broadcast live on Italian television and through social media platforms.
From 5pm on Holy Saturday, Archbishop Nosiglia of Turin will preside over a long liturgy of prayer in the chapel, and “during that time of contemplation” the image of the Holy Shroud will be made available to the whole world.
The Archbishop explained that this is being done to support the faithful in this time of the coronavirus pandemic and to ask Christ for “the grace to overcome evil as He did on the Cross”.
“Stronger is the love. This is the Easter proclamation that the Shroud brings us to relive and that fills our hearts with gratitude and faith”, said Archbishop Nosiglia.
“The love with which Jesus gave us his life and that we celebrate during Holy Week is stronger than every suffering, every illness, every contagion, every trial and discouragement. Nothing and no one can ever separate us from this love, because it is forever faithful and unites us to him with an indissoluble bond”.
The media broadcasting the liturgy will also host a moment of dialogue and reflection at the end of the prayer, with the intervention of experts and witnesses.
A Parent’s Prayer and Blessing by Martin Ward
(Inspired by William de la Pole’s last letter to his son John,
prior to his wrongful execution in 1450AD)
My child, I ask Almighty God
to bless you and to keep you
ever in His Love.
I pray that you will always follow
God’s Holy Laws and Commandments
and which, by His Great Mercy
you will pass the trials
and troubles of this world.
Put God above the love
and fear of earthly things.
But if ever you should fail or fall,
ask for God’s Compassion
and He will call you home.
If anyone should steer you away from God,
avoid their company, because they are wrong.
Do not take advice from proud people,
avaricious people, and especially
those who seek to flatter you.
Keep friends who are good and true,
as they will never deceive you
or cause you to regret or repent.
Never follow your own advice alone,
but in all things you do, seek the opinion
of the good friends that I mention,
and by doing so, with the Love of God,
you will do well; living with peace
and contentment in body and soul.
And I will be to you as good parent
as my heart can feel and my mind can think.
Always remember the message of our Saviour:
To Call Upon Him and to Remember
That Love Is Everything.
Most of all, I give you the Blessing of God,
and of me, which I pray most humbly,
that in the Almighty’s Infinite Grace
will help you grow spiritually and wisely.
And may you also bless your children,
so that we, when departed from this world,
may glorify God amongst the Angels of Heaven.
– Used with permission from the author
By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Cardinal Piacenza opens his letter reminding confessors that “mercy does not stop” and “God does not distance Himself”.
The letter was published on the website of the Apostolic Penitentiary on 4 April.
The Cardinal writes in respect of the difficulties faced by Christian communities in the light of restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
He notes that social distancing might be necessary for health reasons, but it should not translate into distance from the Church or the Sacraments.
Cardinal Piacenza acknowledges that mercy is expressed in the creativity employed by many priests to make pastoral care available to the People of God. He adds that in these times more than ever before, “everyone needs the closeness and caress of Jesus.”
The Cardinal notes that mercy expresses itself in the “small gestures of tenderness and love made towards the poorest.” In this regard, he gives examples of coronavirus sufferers, healthcare workers, the lonely and the homeless.
If the ordinary celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not possible, the Cardinal enjoins all confessors not to stop their work of mercy, but rather fulfill their “priestly role as intercessors” conferred on them at ordination. He invites them “to pray, console, and present souls to God’s Divine Mercy”.
The Cardinal stresses that mercy does not stop even if the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated without the physical presence of the people. He notes that salvation flows from the Eucharist which is the source of all grace for the Church and the world.
He calls on priests to rediscover the essence of their priestly ministry. He reminds them that priests are ministers of Christ’s work which is “the sacramental implementation of salvation.”
Cardinal Piacenza notes that mercy expresses itself in every consideration to which the pandemic pushes us. It is “in the rediscovery of the values which are worth living and dying for: in silence, adoration and prayer, and in the rediscovery of the closeness of others and of God, above all.”
“Mercy does not stop at the celebration of the sacred liturgy,” adds the Cardinal. Rather, it becomes “lived charity that extends its friendly hand to those who suffer, and the forgiveness of God through priestly ministry.”
Even those who have died are not exempt from mercy, writes Cardinal Piacenza. They are reached by prayers of suffrage “in the Paschal certainty that with death, relationships are not broken but are transformed, and strengthened into the communion of saints.”
Cardinal Piacenza concludes his letter by entrusting the ministry of reconciliation, and this unique Easter, to the protection of Our Lady. He prays that “everyone may be given the new life for which every person yearns.”
By Vatican News
On Monday, it was announced that Pope Francis has “established an emergency fund at the Pontifical Mission Societies”. The revenue contributed to this fund is destined to aid “aid of those people and communities who are being tragically impacted by the spread of COVID-19”.
The statement issued on Monday by Agenzia Fides, the Information Service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, went on to say that the money will directly go to “mission countries” through the Church’s “structures and institutions”.
Cardinal Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, had this to say about the creation of this fund:
“In her task of evangelization, the Church is often on the front lines of major threats to human well-being. In Africa alone, there are over 74,000 religious sisters and over 46,000 priests operating 7,274 hospitals and clinics, 2,346 homes for elderly and the vulnerable, and educating over 19 million children in 45,088 primary schools. In many rural areas they are the only providers of healthcare and education. The Holy Father is calling upon the Church’s entire vast network to face the challenges ahead.”
Pope Francis has not only opened the fund, he is also the first to contribute to it. The initial contribution made by the Pope is 750,000 USD. He appeals to all “Church entities” and individual who “are able and desirous to help, to contribute to this fund through the Pontifical Mission Societies in each country”.
In explaining the aim of the fund, the President of the Pontifical Mission Societies,
Archbishop Dal Toso, said:
“This fund has the aim of supporting the presence of the Church in mission territories, which also suffers the consequences of Corona Virus. Through the Church’s activity of preaching the Gospel and of practical aid through our vast network, we can show that no one is alone in this crisis. In this sense, the Church’s institutions and ministers play a vital role. This is the Holy Father’s intention in establishing this fund. While so many are suffering, we remember and reach out to those who may have no one to care for them, thus showing forth the love of God the Father.
“I call upon our network of Pontifical Mission Societies, present in every diocese around the world, to do what they can to support this important initiative of the Holy Father.”
Through the Pontifical Mission Societies, the Pope is able to support more than 1,110 dioceses. They are located for the most part in Asia, Africa, Oceania and part of the Amazon region.
Contributions can also be made via bank wire transfer to:
IT84F0200805075000102456047 (SWIFT UNCRITMM) for:
Amministrazione Pontificie Opere Missionarie,
indicating: Fund Corona-Virus
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
“The singing – not well executed, but our hearts were there. The prayer intercessions were more intense and heartfelt. In the end, this year’s Palm Sunday was better than I imagined it would be. I had my family with me and felt very blessed. After watching the Mass online, we went outside and sang around and round the veranda with Palms in our hands,” said Charity of Zimbabwe. Her nephew, Louis, particularly relishes playing a part in the family prayers. The family has already planned what to do for Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
In Zambia, Musonda, a university student now at home with her family, said they planned to watch the Mass on television but had to change plans.
“We woke up to the usual power cuts by ZESCO. So, we had no electricity. My mother said we could still gather. So, dad read the Bible on Jesus entering Jerusalem. Mum explained to us the meaning of Easter and in particular, Palm Sunday. Actually, she preached very well. I was surprised. Later, we went outside the house singing with Palms. Our neighbours at first seemed spooked to see us but then later, in a text message, asked us to remember them in prayer. When we finished, we waited for electricity to be restored and had lunch together. It was nice,” concludes Musonda.
Francis, an ex-seminarian who now works in IT and lives in a small flat alone, in Kenya, says he spent his day in bed. “I had my laptop and so followed the Mass on my laptop. Afterwards, I just slept and listened to my favourite hymns. Nothing much really. About 2 pm, I got up and prepared something to eat and then went right back to bed. I have told myself to do no work on Sunday.”
In Malawi, Chikondi says she is happy the priests in her parish increased the number of Masses. As a result, parishioners could attend Mass, but only three persons were allowed on every bench.
Ngangula, a Catechist in Namibia says the experience of Palm Sunday, this year, is not any different from previous years. The Catholic community of about ten families has Holy Mass every three months when the priest comes. The nearest town is 200 km away. Ngangula leads the Sunday Service every weekend and that is what he did on Palm Sunday. The community is aware of COVID-19 and they held the Sunday Service outside becasue the outstation chapel would have been too small for social distancing.
The experiences vary and are rich. A parish priest told me he is worried that when all this lockdown is over, people might start to think they can now replace the Holy Eucharist at the parish with Mass on TV. That remains to be seen.
Back to Charity’s family in Zimbabwe. She believes the Catholic faith is helping them through the lockdown.
“Imagine the hymnbook that we didn’t love so much is now our best friend. It gets us through the day. As a family we fight, we laugh, we cry, but at the end of the day, we are happier. Not just happy but happier, more fulfilled and respectful of each other,” she affirms.
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