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(Vatican Radio) At Mass on Friday Pope Francis called for people to remember the Martyrs of 2015, the men, women and children who are being massacred right now in hatred of the faith. The martyrdom of Christians is not a thing of the past, today too there are many victims of "people who hate Jesus Christ", said Pope Francis.

The Pope was reflecting on the life and death of John the Baptist, inspired by the Gospel of St. Mark. Referring to him as “John the Great”, the Pope said his life is a parable for the many, many Christians whose blood is spilled today because they proclaim a God whom many people hate.

Pope Francis noted that John the Baptist "never betrayed his vocation", he was "conscious that his duty was only to proclaim" that the Messiah “was close at hand".  John the Baptist was aware that he was "only a voice," because "the Word was Someone else" and he "ends his life like the Lord, with martyrdom”.

John victim of a corrupt king

Pope Francis went on to say that when he ends up in prison at the hands of Herod Antipas,  "the greatest man born of woman" becomes "small, so very small”.  Firstly he is struck by a dark night of the soul, when he doubts that Jesus is the One for whom he prepared the way. Then again, when he meets his end, ordered by a king both fascinated and puzzled by John. An end that gave the Pope pause for thought:

"In the end, after this purification, after this ongoing slide into nothingness, this path towards the total annihilation of Jesus, his life ends. That perplexed king becomes capable of making a decision, but not because his heart was converted, but because the wine gave him courage. And so John ends his life under the authority of a mediocre, drunk and corrupt king, at the whim of a dancer and the vindictive hatred of an adulteress. That's how the the Great Man ends his life, the greatest man born of woman”.

Christians hated today

The Pope said : "When I read this passage I confess I get emotional" and I always think of "two things": "First, I think of our martyrs, the martyrs of our times, men, women, children who are being persecuted, hated, driven out of their homes, tortured, massacred. And this is not a thing of the past: this is happening right now. Our martyrs, who are meeting their end under the authority of corrupt people who hate Jesus Christ. It would do us good to think of our martyrs. Today we remember Paolo Miki but that happened in 1600. Think of our present-day ones!  Of 2015 ".

No one can "buy" their life

The Pope  said “this abasement of John the Great, this ongoing slide into nothingness makes me think that all of us are on this road and we are travelling towards the land, where we will all end up. This makes me think of myself: I too will meet my end. We all will. No one can "buy" their life.  All of us, willingly or unwillingly, are travelling on the road of the existential annihilation of life, and this, at least to me, makes me pray that this annihilation is as similar as possible to that of Jesus Christ, to his annihilation".

(from Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) Work has now been completed on the building of three showers and a barber’s booth for the homeless under the colonnades of St Peter’s Square. The shower unit was commissioned by Pope Francis after learning from his Almoner that homeless people in Rome lacked places where to wash themselves or have their hair cut.

Listen to this report by Susy Hodges: 

The 3 showers and the barber’s booth have been installed in an existing lavatory block used by pilgrims and tourists visiting the Vatican area that was completely refurbished for this purpose. The showers will be available every day, except on Wednesday during the Pope’s general audience and when celebrations take place, either in St Peter’s Basilica or in the Square.

The barber service will be available on Monday between 9am and 3pm.  A number of barbers in Rome have volunteered to offer their services as well as final-year students from a hairdressing school in Rome.  Sisters from Mother’s Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Order will be among those helping to welcome the homeless who come to use the showers.

Each of the homeless people using the shower units will receive two free kits, a complete change of underwear and a kit containing towel, soap, toothpaste and brush, deodorant plus razor and shaving cream for the men. Many of the articles have been offered free of charge by various firms and private individuals who have wanted to show their solidarity with this project. The Pope’s Almoner will be responsible for purchasing, as needed, future supplies using money raised from the selling of parchments with a Papal Blessing. 

The shower block is expected to open its doors for Rome’s homeless people very shortly.  

(from Vatican Radio)

The Indian government has apologized to a top Catholic Church official in the country for refusing visas to two Vatican officials traveling to address a meeting of the India’s Latin rite bishops. "(A) senior officer from the Ministry of External Affairs called me up a short while ago and apologized for denying visas to the archbishops (from the Vatican)," Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, told Catholic News Service on Thursday.   "The government has also assured that it will investigate what went wrong," said Cardinal Gracias, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, the association of India’s Latin-rite bishops.  The cardinal regretted that visas were denied to Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of the Pontifical Missionary Societies. The two were trying to arrive in India for the 27th Plenary Assembly of the CCBI, at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore, ‎Feb. 3-9.  Archbishop Roche addressed the Bangalore gathering via video teleconference and answered several questions from the participating bishops. "We are happy that the government has acknowledged and responded to our anguish," Cardinal Gracias said at the end of the two-hour session.  Although both Vatican officials had applied for a visa in mid-December, the application was pending until the last minute, and the denial was communicated to them shortly before their departure to India, Father Stephen Alathara, CCBI deputy secretary-general told CNS.  (Source: CNS)



(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican City, 6 February 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday 14 February in St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father will preside at an Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals and the canonisation of Blessed Jeanne-Emilie De Villeneuve, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (nee Maryam Baouardy) professed nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and Blesseed Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (nee Maryam Sultanah), co-foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem of the Latins.

On the same day, in the afternoon, the courtesy visits to the new cardinals will take place in the locations indicated below:

Paul VI Hall

Atrium: Cardinals Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente; Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M; John Atcherley Dew; Edoardo Menichelli; Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon and Alberto Suarez Inda;

Hall: Cardinals Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B. ;Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij; Francesco Montenegro; Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B; Ricardo Blazquez Perez; Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R; Arlindo Gomes Furtad and Soane Patita Paini Mafi;

Apostolic Palace

Sala Regia: Cardinals Dominique Mamberti and Luigi De Magistris;

Sala Ducal: Cardinals Karl-Joseph Rauber, Luis Hector Villalba and Julio Duarte Langa.

On Sunday 15 February, Pope Francis concelebrates Holy Mass with all the cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at 10 a.m.

The general prayer intention of the Holy Father Pope Francis, for the month of February, is for prisoners, especially the young, that they may be able to rebuild lives of   dignity.  One of the first gestures of Pope Francis, soon after his March 13, 2013 election, moved or rather shocked the world.  He broke with tradition and celebrated Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the Holy Week in a juvenile prison of Rome, instead of a Rome Basilica, washing and kissing the feet of 12 young detainees of different nationalities and faiths, including two women. "This sign is a caress from Jesus, because Jesus came exactly for this, to serve and to help us," the Pope told them in unscripted remarks. Since then, he has shown his closeness with prisoners on several times. On one such occasion in to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013, he told young prisoners to have courage “look to the future”.  Each prisoner is a person made in the image and likeness of God, someone for whom Jesus suffered and died. They and   prisoners around the world need our prayers in order to learn to live a life of dignity in often   dehumanizing circumstances.  In the ‘throwaway culture’ of today, as Pope Francis calls it, it’s easy to forget those who are locked away from society. This month the Holy Father wants us to join him in praying for them that they may not give up hope and be able to rebuild their lives. 

(from Vatican Radio)
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