Browsing News Entries

Father of Alfie Evans meets with pope, pleads for asylum in Italy

Vatican City, Apr 18, 2018 / 05:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A private meeting took place early Wednesday morning between Pope Francis and Tom Evans, the father of two-year-old Alfie Evans, who is currently at the center of a legal battle to keep him alive.

Tom Evans said that in the April 18 meeting, which took place at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, he asked the pope for asylum in Italy for his family, so that Alfie can be moved to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome to receive treatment.

Two-year-old Alfie Evans suffers from an unidentified degenerative neurological condition and has been under continuous hospitalization since December 2016.

In February, a court ruled that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where Evans is receiving care, could legally stop treatment for Alfie against his parents' wishes, arguing that continuing treatment is not in his best interest, and that his life support should be switched off.

Despite the desire of Alfie's parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, to take their son to Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, several judges have ruled in the hospital's favor.

“Alfie is doing really well, he's fighting very hard and we believe that he can still wake up and that he's got a lot of potential,” Evans told journalists April 18. He said that in their meeting, Pope Francis gave him a lot of sympathy and encouragement, telling him he has “strength like God.”

The pope's positivity gave him hope, Evans continued, noting that the meeting was “very confident, very calm. I was really nervous, but I just spoke the truth, spoke from my heart.”

Evans stated that he will return to Liverpool tonight to be with his son and Kate, but they are hopeful that when and if Alfie is permitted to come to Italy, the doctors will be able to diagnose and treat him.

“Just because he has a brain disability that no one knows of doesn't mean that we have to take that life away from him. As I've always said, Alfie is a child of God and he'll remain a child of God and he'll go when [God] says he'll go.”

In his statement to Pope Francis, Evans said that Alfie “is sick but not dying and does not deserve to die. He is not terminally ill nor diagnosed. We have been trying our best to find out his condition, to treat or manage it.”

“We see life and potential in our son and we want to bring him here to Italy, to the Bambino Gesù, where we know he is safe and he will not be euthanized,” the statement continues.

“When Alfie shows me and his mum any sign of suffering or dying, we will enjoy every last moment with him, but Alfie has not yet shown us he is ready to go, so we continue to fight just as he shows us to.”

At the end of the general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis asked for a moment of silent prayer for Alfie, saying that he would like to “reiterate and strongly confirm that the only master of life, from the beginning to the natural end, is God!”

“And our duty, our duty is to do everything to preserve life,” he stated.

Alfie's case has drawn international attention, and protesters gathered outside his hospital last week to peacefully oppose the judicial decision to end life support.

Evans and James recently launched a new legal challenge, asking the Court of Appeal judges to continue life support and treatment for Alfie. The court officials posted their hearing for Monday, saying that a court judge has decided that Alfie could continue treatment, pending the hearing.

On Sunday Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for Alfie Evans, and others, “who live, at times for a long period, in a serious state of illness, medically assisted for their basic needs.”

Francis also recently tweeted about Alfie, saying it was his “sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”

The sign of the cross is our badge, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 18, 2018 / 03:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that to make the sign of the cross is to mark ourselves as Christians, and that it is something we should do often to remind ourselves that we belong to God.

“The cross is the badge that shows who we are: our speaking, thinking, looking, working [are] under the sign of the cross, that is, the love of Jesus, to the end,” the pope said April 18.

“Making the sign of the cross when we wake up, before meals, before a danger, to defend against evil, [at] night before sleep means to tell ourselves and others who we belong to, who we want to be.”

Pope Francis spoke about the sign of the cross during the weekly Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Reflecting on the sacrament of Baptism, he offered the suggestion of keeping a small dish of holy water at home, so that, “every time we come back or go out, making the sign of the cross with that water, we remember that we are baptized.”

“In fact, what happens in the celebration of Baptism arouses a spiritual dynamic that passes through the whole life of the baptized; it is the beginning of a process that allows one to live united to Christ in the Church,” Francis stated.

He explained that it is good for us to increase our understanding of the gift we received on the day of our Baptism, in order “to renew the commitment to respond to it in the condition in which we find ourselves today.”

For this reason, the pope explained the process of the Baptismal Rite, which he said begins with the welcoming rite, when the priest or other celebrant asks what name is of the person to be baptized.

This, Francis pointed out, is like when we meet someone for the first time and we immediately introduce ourselves in order to remove “anonymity.”

“God calls each one by name, loving us individually, in the concreteness of our history,” he said, explaining that in a Baptism we use the person’s individual name because God’s call is “personal” and not a “copy and paste” situation.

“In fact, Christian life is interwoven with a series of calls and answers: God continues to pronounce our name over the years, making his call to conform to his Son Jesus resound in a thousand ways,” he said.

“So, the name is important!” he continued, urging parents to choose the name of their child carefully, even before the child is born.

Francis also noted the importance the sign of the cross plays in the Baptismal Rite, like in the Baptism of children, when the parents and godparents express the desire for the sacrament on behalf of the child, demonstrating it through the sign of the cross traced on the forehead of the child.

“The sign of the cross expresses the seal of Christ on the one who is about to belong to him and signifies the grace of redemption that Christ has acquired for us through his cross,” he said, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

He also explained the way adult catechumens are marked with a cross, on each of the senses.

They are crossed with the following words, he said: “Receive the sign of the cross on your ears to hear the voice of the Lord; On the eyes to see the splendor of the face of God; On the mouth, to answer the word of God; On the chest, because Christ dwells through faith in your hearts; On the shoulders, to support the gentle yoke of Christ.”

“Christians become the extent to which the cross is imprinted in us as an ‘Easter’ mark, making visible, even outwardly, the Christian way of facing life,” he said.

For opposing gay marriage, she's facing death threats and million-dollar lawsuits

New York City, N.Y., Apr 18, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Barronelle Stutzman took a stand for her Christian beliefs nearly five years ago, she never imagined that she would eventually be appealing to the US Supreme Court to defend her decision.

But that’s exactly what happened.

“This was never on my bucket list,” Barronelle told CNA.

The 72-year-old grandmother is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, and is currently involved in a lawsuit involving a customer of nearly 10 years, Rob Ingersoll.

Barronelle knew Rob was gay from the beginning. “It was never an issue,” she said. She enjoyed working with him, and said he would pick out creative vases and containers, and would come in with flower requests for birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions.

“I loved doing arrangements for Rob, because I got to think outside of the box, and do something special for him.”

But when Rob came in and told Barronelle that he had gotten engaged to his boyfriend, she took him by the hand and explained that she believed marriage to be a sign of the relationship between Christ and the Church, and so she could not do the floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Initially, Rob said that he understood and asked if she could recommend another florist, which she did.

Later, however, his partner posted a message on social media about Barronelle declining to take part in the wedding, and it went viral. Soon, she was informed that she was being sued by the Washington State attorney general and the ACLU. Today, more than four years later, Barronelle is waiting to hear whether the US Supreme Court will take her case.

And while the actual damages being sought by the couple are only around $7 – the mileage cost of driving to another florist – Barronelle could be responsible for more than $1 million in legal fees to nearly a dozen ACLU lawyers opposing her in the case.

Barronelle, who is Southern Baptist, spoke at a panel discussion in New York City last November, hosted by ADF International, the global branch of the non-profit legal group that is representing her in court.

“Because I have a belief that is marriage is between one man and a woman, we could possibly lose everything we own, everything we’ve saved for our kids and grandkids,” Barronelle said.

She explained that while the decision to decline a same-sex wedding was difficult, it was the only way she could stay true to her beliefs. For her, weddings are much more than simply a job – they’re a deeply personal labor of love, and she pours her heart and soul into her work.

“I spend months – sometimes years – with the bride and groom. I get to know them personally, what they want to convey, what the bride wants, what her vision is. There’s so much personal involvement in this.”

At the wedding, Barronelle will often help greet guests and calm nervous parents. “When we get the bride down the aisle, then I know I’ve done my job,” she said.

With floral arrangements for weddings being such a personal endeavor, she knew that she would be betraying her relationship with Christ if she participated in a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Over the last four-and-a-half years, Barronelle has received an outpouring of support – customers coming in to offer a kind word or a hug, strangers telling her they are praying for her family, and messages of encouragement from 68 countries.

But she’s also received death threats. She’s had to install a security system and change her route to work.

“Even today, we're very aware of people who come in who might do us harm,” she said.

Also hard, she said, has been losing her relationship with Rob. She said she misses him and harbors no anger against him.

“I can tell you that if Rob walked into my store today, I would hug him, catch up on his life, and I would wait on him for another 10 years if he’d let me.”

She also has a message for her fellow Americans: stand up for religious freedom, before it’s too late.

“Don’t think this cannot happen to you,” she said. “I never thought that we would have a government that would come in and tell you what to think, what to do, what to say, what to create – and if you don’t do it, you’ll be totally destroyed.”

“If we don’t stand now, there will be nothing to stand for.”

 

An earlier version of this article was originally published on CNA Nov. 3, 2017.

Former Catholic Charities employee sentenced for embezzlement

Oklahoma City, Okla., Apr 17, 2018 / 03:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former immigration services director of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City has been sentenced to 10 years probation after she embezzled thousands of dollars that were intended to be used for immigration fees.

Margarita I. Solis, of Oklahoma City, stole money from immigration clients in 2015 and 2016. She was charged with embezzlement in April 2017. Solis worked as an attorney and assisted Catholic Charities’ clients with immigration issues, including acquiring green cards and U.S. citizenship.

According to the charges, Solis would convert money orders given to her for immigration fees to be payable to herself, and then cash them. Prosecutors claim she stole $2,830 in 2015 and 2016, and later was accused of converting about $24,000 of filing fees into money orders for her personal use.

She resigned as an attorney in November 2017 before pleading guilty to three felony counts of embezzlement last week. As part of the plea agreement, she received probation.

If she is able to complete probation, she will not be labeled as a felon.

She paid $2,500 in restitution to Catholic Charities.

Patrick Raglow, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City, said in a statement published in The Oklahoman that his staff did not hold any ill will against Solis, and that they sought to deal with the matter as “compassionately” as possible.

“Many of our clients come from brokenness and we deal with human brokenness all the time,” said Raglow. “And occasionally, some of our staff have brokenness also.”

 

The Church needs prophets of truth and hope, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 17, 2018 / 10:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily Tuesday, Pope Francis said the Church needs men and women who are capable not only of bearing prophetic witness to the truth, like the early martyrs, but who are also examples of hope.

In looking to Christ's words and actions in scripture, on one hand he “corrected with strong words: 'perverse and adulterous generations,'” yet on the other hand he wept for the people of Jerusalem when they rejected God's ways, the pope said April 17.

Likewise, a true prophet is not a “prophet of misfortunes,” speaking only of things that need to be corrected, but he is also “a man of hope; he corrects when needed and opens wide the doors looking to the horizon of hope.”

A prophet, he said, “restores the roots, restores one's belonging to the people of God in order to go forward.”

Pope Francis spoke during his Mass in the chapel of the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse, focusing on the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the stoning of Stephen, the Church's first martyr.

When Stephan was speaking to the scribes, their hearts were closed and they didn't want to listen to what he had to say, so they became infuriated and began to attack him, Francis said, noting that many of the prophets who preceded Christ were treated in the same way.

“When the prophet arrives to the truth and touches the heart, either the heart opens or the heart becomes more like stone and anger, persecution, are unleashed. This is how the life of a prophet ends.”

Truth, the pope observed, is often uncomfortable and hard to accept. Because of this, the prophets were always persecuted when speaking the truth.

“But what for me is the test that a prophet undergoes when he tells the truth strongly? It's when this prophet is capable of not only speaking, but crying for the people who have abandoned the truth [Jesus gave strong rebukes, but he also wept]. This is the test. A true prophet is the one who is capable of crying for his people and also saying things strongly when he has to. [A prophet] is not timid, he is always like this: direct,” but full of hope.

Francis then noted how Stephen was killed in the presence of Saul, who would later become St. Paul.

Quoting a phrase from Tertullian, Francis said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

The Church, he said, “needs prophets...it needs all of us to be prophets.” But prophets are different than critics, he said, explaining that a critic is a person who does not approve of anything or anyone, and “this is not a prophet,” this is another thing.

“The prophet is someone who prays, who looks to God, who looks to his people, who feels pain when the people go astray, who cries,” the pope said, praying that “the Church never lacks this prophecy of service, to always go forward.”

Exorcism course to study link between porn and demonic influence

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2018 / 03:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An annual exorcism course offered to priests in Rome aims to open the dialogue on what degree of demonic influence may exist in pornography use.

“Human sexuality in itself is a value, but when you use it poorly, you are creating harm for yourself and others, especially if it involves children,” Fr. Pedro Barrajon LC told journalists April 16.

Speaking of the widespread use of pornography in modern society, he said he believed organizers of the course wanted to discuss “this modern cultural phenomenon of an evil that harms people,” not to ignore the role of personal responsibility, but to explore whether there is demonic influence in pornography use, and to what extent.

The same goes for drug addiction, cultism and satanic worship, and it also goes for pedophilia and child pornography, which will both be addressed on the last full day of the course, he said.

“Does it come only from human causes – psychological, familial, social or cultural – or is there more?” he said, adding that the course aims to “open a space to see if there is a possibility to show influence from the devil.”

Barrajon spoke to journalists on the first day of the 13th annual course on exorcism and liberation prayer, offered by the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University (APRA) and the Group of Socio-Religious Research and Information (GRIS).

Taking place April 16-21, the course will explore the topic of exorcism and prayers of liberation from different points of view, including theological, anthropological, canonical, liturgical, psychological, social and criminal perspectives.

Among other things, it will touch on magic, cults and satanic worship, and how to tell the difference between possession and psychological illness. This year's course will also explore the rising practice of witchcraft in Africa, the increase of New Age beliefs in Spain, and the presence of cults throughout Latin America.

The course will also feature testimonies from exorcists and people who have been liberated from demonic possession. The last day will largely focus on the criminal aspects of exorcism and demonic activity, specifically pedophilia and pornography, as well as discernment and the writings of the Desert Fathers.

In his introduction speech, Fr. Jose Enrique Oyarzun, LC, a professor at the Regina Apostolorum University, said there is often “great confusion” regarding the devil, with many people believing that he does not exist.

This is a dangerous mistake, he warned, quoting Pope Francis' new apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, which says, “it is precisely the conviction that this malign power is present in our midst that enables us to understand how evil can at times have so much destructive force.”

Continuing to quote the document, Oyarzun said the devil “is present in the very first pages of the Scriptures, which end with God’s victory over the devil,” and is also present in the prayer of the Our Father, which ends with the phrase “deliver us from evil.”

“That final word does not refer to evil in the abstract; a more exact translation would be 'the evil one.' It indicates a personal being who assails us,” he said, and concluding the quote, said, “we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable.”

In comments to journalists, Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, who moderated the opening panel of the course, lamented the fact that many Catholics, and even some priests, are among those who don't believe in the devil. This is very problematic, he said, because when one stops believing in the devil, “one risks believing in anything, in the foolish things of this world.”

In his comments to journalists, Barrajon noted that there have been reports of an increased number of exorcisms in recent years, but cautioned against placing too much weight on these reports, because so far, “there is no serious statistical study on the practice of exorcism.”

Some countries, such as Italy, have had a higher number of exorcisms in part because bishops are appointing more exorcists, and also because communication about who the exorcists are and how to reach them has gotten better, he said.

He also stressed the importance of knowing how to discern whether someone is truly possessed, or whether they have some sort of psychiatric or psychological illness.

“For what I've seen, the experience of the exorcist counts a lot,” he said, explaining that many experienced exorcists can tell immediately if a person is experiencing demonic possession or a psychological problem.

Some indications of possession include negative reactions to religious objects or images, an unnaturally deep voice, and body contortions. The spitting out of nails, glass and knives that is seen in the movies can also happen during exorcisms, he said, and is a “physical manifestation of evil.”

In a keynote Q&A during the opening session, Albanian Cardinal Ernest Simoni, a leading exorcist in his diocese before his arrest by the communist regime in the 1960s, suggested that demonic possession is more common than many people realize.

The cardinal also cautioned that cultural mentalities such as materialism and consumerism “destroy life.” He said that to stay close to Christ and avoid the devil, one must “pray endlessly, pray without interruption.”

In addition to regular Mass attendance, he said, “we have to be chaste, we have to be faithful, we have to comply with the rules and guidelines of our tradition...unless you become like chaste, pure children, you won't be able to access the reign of God.”

The ultimate answer “is not what I do or what I think,” he said, but “it is Jesus who lives in us...infinite love is what we need.”

“Whenever you are ready, whenever you are really, really ready to repent, you will be redeemed. It doesn't matter if you say it 7 or 77 times in a day,” he said, but “you have to be convinced, you have to be united with your prayer.”
 
 

Syro-Malabar priest among sainthood causes advanced by pope

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has approved the advancement of the causes of eight Servants of God, all priests and religious, including Fr. Varghese Payyappilly of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, based in Kerala, India.

The pope met with the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, April 14, giving his approval for eight Servants of God to be recognized as ‘Venerable.’

One of these causes was Fr. Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly, who was born in Perumanoor, India on Aug. 8, 1876.

Fr. Payyappilly was a priest for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, which is a church sui iuris – an autonomous Church with its specific rite, but in communion with Rome and subject to the governance of the Pope.

Ordained a priest on Dec. 21, 1907, while serving at Marth Mariam Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church in Arakuzha, he started St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School.

He managed the school for 14 years, during which time priestly vocations at the school flourished, according to one of the priest’s former pupils.

Payyappilly was considered a good mediator and was sought after for solutions to problems. He was also held in great esteem by both church and government officials and was noted for his punctuality, discipline, piety and fraternal charity.

His concern for the poor led him to establish a congregation called the Sisters of the Destitute in 1927 as a way to continue what he considered Christ’s redemptive mission among the poor.

Today the congregation includes over 1,500 sisters and is present in Asia, Europe, Africa and the United States. They run schools, hospitals, homes for the sick and needy, rehabilitation centers for mentally and physically disabled children, health centers for AIDS and cancer patients, and libraries.

Payyappilly’s care of the poor was also made apparent when he turned St. Mary’s High School into a shelter for people who lost their homes and property in a flood in 1924, bringing food to people in a hired boat.

The priest died on Oct. 5, 1929 from typhoid. His cause for beatification was opened Aug. 25, 2009, and he was declared a Servant of God on Sept. 6, 2009.

The others that are also now declared ‘Venerable’ are:

Emanuele Nunes Formigao, diocesan priest, founder of the Congregation of Religious Repairers of Our Lady of Fatima (1883-1958); Ludovica Longari, priest of the Congregation of the Priests of the Most Holy Sacrament (1889-1963); Elisabetta Bruyere, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa (1818-1876); Margherita Ricci Curbastro, founder of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Agony (1856-1923); Florenza Giovanna Profilio, founder of the Institute of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Lipari (1873-1956); Maria Dolore di Cristo Re, founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Handmaids of Cristo Re (1888-1967); Justa Dominguez de Vidaurreta e Idoy, superior of the Spanish Province of the Society of the Daughters of the Charity of St. Vincent de’ Paoli (1875-1958).

Pope Francis also appointed four new members to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints: Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Bishop Romano Rossi of Civita Castellana; Bishop Orazio Francesco Piazza of Sessa Aurunca; and Bishop Daniele Libanori, S.J., titular bishop of Buruni and auxiliary of Rome.

 

Pope urges Catholics to be moved by joy of the resurrection

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2018 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis visited a Roman parish, telling Mass-goers to allow themselves to be moved by the immense joy of the resurrection, which overcomes sin and renews believers, allowing them to have a youthful heart.

Noting how the disciples had a hard time believing it was really Jesus who appeared to them in the day's Gospel, Francis asked “why didn't they believe? Why did they doubt?”

“There is a word in the Gospel that gives us an explanation: While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed.”

The disciples, he said, couldn't believe it was Jesus because “they couldn't believe that there was so much joy, the joy that brings Christ.”

He said the same thing happens to each person when they receive news that seems too good to be true, and urged Catholics to allow the joy of Christ's resurrection to enter their hearts and to be transformed by the renewal he offers.

Pope Francis spoke during his April 15 visit to the parish of St. Paul of the Cross in the western quarter of Rome. After arriving around 4 p.m. local time, he was greeted by the Vicar of Rome, Archbishop Angelo de Donatis; Bishop Paolo Selvadagi, auxiliary bishop for Rome's western sector, and the pastor Fr. Roberto Cassano, among others.

During his visit, the pope met with and took four questions from youth involved in catechesis at the parish. He then met with the elderly, sick and the poor before hearing the confession of three parishioners and celebrating Mass.

In his homily, which focused on the day's Gospel reading from Luke in which Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, Francis noted that even though they doubted, the disciples knew Jesus had risen.

They knew, he said, because by that time they had heard the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, Peter and the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, yet they still had a hard time believing Jesus when he appeared to them in the upper room.

“They knew...but that truth didn't enter into their heart. That truth, yes, they knew, but they doubted, and the preferred to have that truth in the mind,” he said, noting that perhaps “it's less dangerous to have truth in the mind than to have it in heart.”

Eventually the disciples believed, he said, explaining that this faith and the joy of Christ's resurrection is “the renewed youthfulness that the Lord brings us.”

Sin makes the heart grow old and tired, he said, whereas faith makes the heart grow young. However, referring to the day's second reading from the First Letter of Saint John, he said that when a person sins, “we have an advocate with the Father.”

The Father, he said, “forgives,” and Christ in his death and resurrection wants “to defend us” and make each person young again with the joy of being freed from sin and death.

Pope Francis closed his brief homily asking for the grace to believe that Jesus is truly alive and risen, because “other things are secondary” in life.

If a person does not believe that Christ is risen and present in the world, “we will never be a good Christian, we can't be,” he said, and prayed for the grace to encounter the Risen Jesus in prayer, the Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins.

“Let us ask for the grace to be a joyful community,” he said, asking that each person would be “sure in the faith of encountering the Risen Christ.”

In his Q&A with youth before Mass, Pope Francis said his favorite bible verse is the calling of Matthew, because it shows “the strength Jesus has to change the heart.”

He also told the children that even if someone is not baptized, they are still a child of God. This, he said, goes for the good, the bad and even the mafia, who he said need to be prayed for “so that they return to God.”

When asked about how he felt after being elected pope, Francis said he didn't feel anything special, but he had a strong sense of peace. “When the Lord calls you, he gives you peace, and you feel it when there is a true call from the Lord,” he said, explaining that this is also true when God calls one to a consecrated vocation.

Finally, the pope embraced a young boy named Manuele whose father recently died, and who was an atheist, but allowed each of his four children to be baptized in the Catholic Church. In his question, Manuele said his father was a good person, and asked if he was in heaven, even if he didn't believe in God.

Pope Francis answered by praising Manuele's courage to cry and to ask the question, and said that if a man can raise a child the way that Manuele's father had, then this man is indeed a good person, and good people are never far from God.

“It's a great witness that the child can say [his father] was good,” he said, explaining that God never abandons his children, and encouraged Manuele to talk to his father, because “surely God loved him.”

He then prayed an Our Father with the children before meeting briefly with the elderly, sick and poor of the parish, telling them that they are “the center of the Gospel.”

“I know that each one of you have many problems, sicknesses, pains, the family, each one has their own pain, their own wound, everyone, but may this not take your hope or your joy, because Jesus came to pay for our wounds with his wounds,” the pope said.

He closed his brief greeting by encouraging them to do good to those around them and led them in praying a Hail Mary. He then spent time greeting them personally before hearing confessions and saying Mass.

 

Pope Francis: Every violation of the body is an 'outrage' to God

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2018 / 04:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis issued a moving prayer for all those whose bodies have been hurt or exploited, including those who have suffered abuse and those who are sick, pointing to the high-profile cases of Alfie Evans and Vincent Lambert.

“Every offense or wound or violence against the body of our neighbor is an outrage to God the creator,” the pope said April 15, pointing to the children, women and elderly who are “mistreated in the body.”

“In the flesh of these people we find the flesh of Christ,” he said.

“Mocked, slandered, humiliated, scourged, crucified, Jesus taught us love. A love which, in its resurrection, has shown itself as stronger than sin and death, and wants to redeem all those who experience in their own flesh the slavery of our times.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Regina Coeli address, which he prays during Easter instead of the Angelus.

His words come just days after he issued an apology for having made “serious errors” in the Chilean sexual abuse crisis, promising to meet with survivors and the nation's bishops.

In his Regina Coeli address, the pope noted how when Jesus appears to the disciples in the day's Gospel reading from Luke, at first they think he is a ghost. “But the Risen Jesus is not a ghost, he is a man with body and spirit,” and he shows the disciples this by eating a fish, the pope said.

Speaking directly about the body, Francis said the resurrection brings to light the Christian perspective about the body, which he said “is not an obstacle or a prison for the soul,” but is a gift created by God, and as such, “man is not complete if he is not a union of body and soul.”

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead in body and spirit means Christians should have a positive idea about the body, he said, noting that while the body can become an occasion for sin resulting from our “moral weakness,” it is also a “marvelous gift” that reflects our likeness to God.

Because of this, “we are called to have great respect and care for our bodies and that of others,” he said, adding that in a world where “too often arrogance against the weakest prevails and materialism suffocates the spirit,” today's Gospel reading is an invitation to go deeper, and to be men and women full of wonder and joy for having met the Risen Lord.

After leading pilgrims in the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis made several pleas for prayer on behalf of those who are suffering either from illness, or from war.

He made an appeal for pilgrims to pray for “the people, such as Vincent Lambert in Francis, little Alfie Evans in England, and others in different countries who live, at times for a long period, in a serious state of illness, medically assisted for their basic needs.”

The reference was  to two specific cases currently circulating in the international news cycle. Alfie Evans, 23 months, suffers from an unidentified degenerative neurological condition, has been under continuous hospitalization since December 2016.

In February, the court ruled that Alder Hey Children's Hospital, where Evans is receiving care, could legally stop treatment for Alfie against his parent’s wishes, arguing that continuing treatment is not in his best interest, and that his life support should be switched off.

Despite the desire for Alfie's parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, to take their son to Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, several judges have ruled in the hospital's favor.

The case has drawn international attention, and protesters gathered outside the Liverpool hospital Thursday and Friday to peacefully oppose the decision.

Evans and James recently launched a new legal challenge, asking the Court of Appeal judges to continue life support and treatment for Alfie. The court officials posted their hearing for Monday, saying that a court judge has decided that Alfie could continue treatment, pending the hearing.

In the case of Vincent Lambert, a severely disabled Frenchman without a terminal illness, courts have decided that the Sebastopol Hospital in Reims can remove Lambert's food and water April 19.

Lambert suffered severe head injuries after a tragic car accident in 2008, and as a result has been a quadriplegic and severely disabled for 10 years. Yet despite his injuries, other doctors and his parents have insisted that Lambert is not sick, nor is he in a coma. They argue that he breathes unassisted and his internal organs function normally.

However, despite these arguments, the hospital ruled that continuing to feed and hydrate Lambert constituted “unreasonable obstinacy” toward him, and said that his feeding tubes ought to be taken out.

These and similar cases are “delicate situations, very painful and complex,” Francis said, and asked faithful to pray with him that every person who is sick would “always be respected in their dignity and cared for in a way suited to their condition, with the consent of family members, and of other healthcare workers.”

He also offered prayers for three Ecuadorean men who were recently kidnapped and killed along the Ecuador-Colombia border, voicing his closeness to their families and praying for peace and unity in the area.

Francis then prayed for areas of the world torn by conflict “despite the instruments available to the international community,” and pointed specifically to Syria, where conflict has again flared up in recent days.

A fresh round of threats began when the United States and their allies in France and the UK on Friday ordered a series of bombings on chemical facilities in Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack allegedly carried out last week by Syrian President Bahsar al-Assad which killed more than 40 civilians.

World leaders immediately reacted supporting both sides, with Syria promising retaliation, and U.S. President Donald Trump threatening further attacks if Assad does not stop using chemical weapons on civilians.

In his Regina Coeli address, Francis said he is “deeply troubled” by ongoing global conflict, and invited all men and women of goodwill to continue to “incessantly pray for peace.” He issued a fresh appeal to political leaders, “so that justice and peace will prevail” over violence.

ZENIT News in Text Format

Today's news dispatch: Jan. 14, 2016

Read more