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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Feast of Saint Ignatius on Thursday by making a surprise visit for dinner at the Jesuit General Curia, which is located on the Borgo Santa Spirito just outside of Vatican City.

Pope Francis arrived in his Ford Focus, and greeted several passers-by outside the front door of the offices of the Jesuit Curia before going inside.

According to a statement issued by the Jesuits, the visit was wholly private, and quite simple. The Pope joined the community for the meal in the refectory, then in the recreation room for coffee, for friendly conversation, and to greet each person personally.

The statement also said the seven brothers and sisters of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, the Jesuit kidnapped in Syria one year ago, were guests at the meal.  Pope Francis consoled them with words of comfort.  Also at the meal were a group of Jesuit scholastics belonging to EJIF (European Jesuits in Formation).  They are in Rome for a few weeks for their annual gathering at the Jesuit General Curia.

Photos published on the Jesuit’s website show Pope Francis touring the facility, and praying in the chapel.

After the meal, Pope Francis left through the Curia’s back-garden.

Last year, Pope Francis marked the feast of St. Ignatius by celebrating Mass with the Jesuits at the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the order.

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) The president of the Catholic Church’s international aid organization is calling for a permanent ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

In a message, issued Thursday, the president of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, notes this is the third war in five years between the two parties.

Taking into account both sides of the conflict, the Cardinal recognized that, since early July, “almost two million Palestinians in Gaza and people in Israel have been caught up in a devastating war.”

However, the Cardinal went on to take into account the particularly harsh conditions of the war for the people in Gaza, who “have no safe place to hide when the bombs rain down on the densely-populated, small stretch land.”

“They see their children slaughtered, their neighbourhoods razed to the ground … The battlefield is neighbourhoods full of children, women and men,” he said.

Hospitals are “over-burdened with the injured and (the) dead” and schools are being bombed.

He urged Israel and Hamas to put down arms and to see that most victims are innocent people. He recalled the recent meeting of Pope Francis at the Vatican with the presidents of Israel and Palestine and the Pope’s words that, “Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare.”

But a permanent ceasefire, the Cardinal stated, is “just the first step on the road to a just peace based on inclusive negotiations across the region.”

The Cardinal said Caritas is also calling for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted, so that Gazans can earn their own living and not rely on humanitarian organizations for their basic needs.

He noted the current material and spiritual aid provided by Caritas workers to the people of Gaza, with great risk to their own lives, invoking prayers for the work of Caritas staff in the region.

Caritas is praying for peace in the Holy Land, for Palestinian and Israeli families who have lost their loved ones, for those who have been killed, and for the “children who live in terror and whose mental scars will run deep … after this war is over,” he said.

The Cardinal concluded, recalling the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and saying yet another prayer is that “despite this terrible time of war and oppression, the souls of Palestinians and Israelis will remain free to believe in a future of justice and peace.” 

Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci:



(From archive of Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has announced the schedule for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Voyage to Albania, set for 21 September 2014. It will be the second visit of a Pope to Albania, after Pope St John Paul II’s visit to the country in 1993.

Pope Francis trip will begin with a welcoming ceremony at Tirana’s “Mother Teresa” international airport, where he will be greeted by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. From the airport the Pope will travel to the Presidential Palace where he will pay a courtesy visit to the President, Bujar Nishani. Afterwards he will address representatives of the civil authorities.

The high point of the Voyage will be the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Mother Teresa Square, followed by the recitation of the Angelus. After Mass, the Holy Father will meet with the Bishops of Albania for lunch at the Apostolic Nunciature.

In the afternoon, Pope Francis will meet with leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations at the Catholic University “Our Lady of Good Counsel.”

The Holy Father will travel to the Cathedral of St Paul in the evening to celebrate Vespers with priests, religious sisters and brothers, seminarians, and members of various lay movements.

The final event on a busy schedule will be a meeting with children of the “Centro Betania,” along with representatives from other charitable institutions of Albania.

Although Pope Francis’ Apostolic Voyage will be only the second visit by a reigning Pope, four other Roman Pontiffs have ties to the country: Pope St Eleutherius, Pope St Caius, and Pope John IV were all born in what is now Albania, while the ancestors of Pope Clement XI also hailed from the country.


(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Vatican Radio) “The Holy Father has captured the imaginations not only of Catholics and Christians in Asia but even of the non-Christians” says Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, the Philippines.

In less than two weeks’ time Pope Francis will embark on his first Apostolic Journey to Asia when he flies to Korea August 14th.   Moreover his first foreign trip of 2015 – confirmed this week by the Vatican – will be a return journey to the continent, this time to Sri Lanka and the Cardinal’s homeland, the Philippines.

In a lengthy interview with Emer McCarthy, Cardinal Tagle says that from the outset of his pontificate, Pope Francis expressed his deep desire to visit the churches of Asia; he speaks of how the Pope has ‘ignited a flame’ in Asian minds; of the importance of Asian Youth Days in faith formation;  of how the Philippines is preparing for the Papal visit in January 2015 and of how the upcoming Synod on the Family is not just about divorced and re-married Catholics.

Listen to the interview:

This is the Pope’s first visit to Asia, has it sparked any interest in wider society is there an awareness that he is coming?

“The Holy Father has captured the imaginations not only of Catholics and Christians in Asia but even of the non-Christians. They see his sincerity, how he embodies the Gospel truth in a way that is noble, down to earth, so near and yet quite transcendent. In Asia people love that.  While we are very respectful of authority, in our hearts we want to see that transcendent authority in the flesh, coming to us and so we are just fascinated by this and the Holy Father has ignited a flame in the hearts and minds of many Asian people”.

The Pope will attend celebrations for the Asian Youth Day which is in it’s 6th edition, is this the Asian version of the World Youth Day?

“The Asian Youth Day celebration happens in between two World Youth Days (WYD), to bring to the youth here in Asia the fruits of the WYD and also to prepare for the coming WYD.  My former diocese in Emus was the host diocese for the last Asian Youth Day so I was part of the team that welcomed the youth of Asia. So I remember clearly when the youth delegates and I presented the Cross to the next host diocese from Korea. The Asian Youth Day is not as big as the WYD. In fact the organizers want to keep the official delegates to around two thousand, so that the delegates can experience intense formation, intense moments of prayer, intense community building. But because the Pope will be coming I am sure more young people will be invited and I know that the young and not so young from the Philippines are planning to go to Korea to see the Pope”.


What has the reaction been to the announcement of the 2015 Philippines visit how are you preparing for it?

“The Filipino people are just ecstatic!  And what a coincidence! 20 years ago in January, Pope John Paul II came to Manila for the World Youth Day, 1995…that was a pure coincidence but how God works! The historic visit of Pope John Paul encountering the people of the world. Now Pope Francis is following in his footsteps.   But he is not just encountering young people.  He is coming especially to meet with the people who suffered on account of the typhoons and earthquakes that hit the country last year.

Immediately after the Conclave in one of our conversations I invited the Holy Father to Asia, especially the Philippines where you have almost half of the Christian population of all of Asia.  He told me that he would love to go to Asia, especially because due to his age and health reasons Pope Benedict was not able to do a pastoral visit in Asia.  He repeated this to me last June – and this was before the Typhoon – I want to go to Asia.  So he even asked us to start thinking of a program. And since in the Philippines 2014 was dedicated to the laity we thought we could have this as a theme for the Holy Father. Then the Typhoon came. The visit now acquired a new configuration. It’s not just a general or generic visit, but especially to show the Holy Father’s solidarity with the victims and survivors and to pray with these people. And I also hope that he will be inspired by the resilience tenacity and deep faith of the people who have gone through horrible times”.

These next few months will be intensely busy for you.  Not only are you preparing for this papal visit, but you are also one of the three Presidents appointed by the Pope to preside over the October Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. 

“In terms of preparation, this extraordinary synod is linked to the ordinary synod of bishops that will happen next year – so this is quite unique- two consecutive assemblies linked in process and in theme.  This first gathering will set the status quaestionis with the help of episcopal conferences,  experts and observers worldwide we want to see the situation of the family all ...

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday made another urgent appeal for an end to the conflicts in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Ukraine. Speaking after his regular Angleus address to thousands of people gathered in a hot and sunny St Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke of the victims of war, in particular the children who die or are injured and orphaned by the violence…

“….bambini morti, bambini feriti, bambini mutilate….”

I think especially, the Pope said, of the children whose hopes for a dignified future are taken from them, dead children, injured and mutilated children, orphans and children who have bits of weapons as toys, children who don’t know how to smile. Please stop, the Pope pleaded, I ask you with all my heart…..

“…..Ve lo chiedo con tutto il cuore….Fermatevi, per favore!”

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report

Pope Francis urged all those listening to his words to continue joining him in prayer that God might grant to the peoples and leaders in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Ukraine the wisdom and strength to pursue the path of peace with determination and to face each dispute with the force of dialogue and reconciliation. Every decision, he said, must not be based on particular interests but on the common good and on respect for each person. Remember, the Pope said, that all is lost with war and nothing is lost with peace. 

Pope Francis also noted that Monday marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First Word War which caused millions of victims and vast destruction. This conflict, he said, which the Pope of that time, Benedict XV, called a "senseless slaughter", resulted, after four long years, in a very fragile peace. Tomorrow, the Pope said, as we remember this tragic event, I hope that the mistakes of the past won’t be repeated, but that the lessons of history will be taken into account, so that peace always prevails through patient and courageous dialogue.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St Matthew which tells the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed, a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price. Those who come to know Jesus, by reading the Bible, he said, understand that the Kingdom of Heaven is indeed the greatest treasure which changes lives and gives meaning to everything we do. Urging his listeners to always keep a portable copy of the Gospels with them and read from it each day, the Pope said the joy of a Christian who has discovered this treasure is evident as each word and each gesture will show forth the love that God has given us through his son, Jesus Christ.

(From archive of Vatican Radio)
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