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Pope Francis greets Afghan refugees after Vatican documentary screening

Pope Francis greets people after a documentary screening at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 6, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2021 / 03:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with recent arrivals from Afghanistan on Monday evening after a documentary about his life and teaching was screened at the Vatican.

The Holy See press office said that the pope arrived in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall on Sept. 6 at the end of a showing of the film “Francesco” to greet around 100 people exiting the screening.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Among them were about 20 people who had arrived from Afghanistan in recent weeks, to whom the pope addressed words of affection and comfort,” the press office said.

Vatican News reported that the refugees, who fled the chaos of Kabul airport, included four brothers and sisters between 14 and 20 years of age, who arrived in Italy with help from the Community of Sant’Egidio. It added that the siblings were forced to leave behind their parents who were trapped in refugee camps in Iran.

Pope Francis greets ‘Francesco’ director Evgeny Afineevsky at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 6, 2021. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis greets ‘Francesco’ director Evgeny Afineevsky at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 6, 2021. Vatican Media.

The screening was arranged by the film’s Israeli-American director, Evgeny Afineevsky, and the Laudato Si’ Foundation.

The documentary sparked headlines worldwide when it was premiered in Rome in October 2020 as the film included comments by the pope endorsing the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. A CNA analysis concluded that the comments were heavily edited.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Following global media coverage, the Vatican’s Secretary of State asked papal representatives to share with bishops some clarifications regarding the pope’s comments.

The clarifications explained that the pope’s remarks did not pertain to Catholic doctrine regarding the nature of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but to provisions of civil law.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Vatican News said that Afineevsky spoke to those gathered for the screening, recalling his own family’s migratory journey from Russia to Israel to the United States.

Afineevsky told the online news site Deadline: “When the movie finished [the pope] was downstairs waiting for them. He wanted to meet everybody and greet everybody…”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“He is a human being who cherishes being close to the people, cherishes the moment he can spread love, joy in their lives -- not easy lives. And he always remembers that he can be in their place [as a refugee]. He said it many, many times: ‘It can be you or me.’”

Afineevsky added: “He’s somebody who is trying to bring light to their plight. He’s trying to bring the spotlight of the media towards them and to show to the world how important it is to help them, integrate them.”

After greeting those who attended the screening, the pope returned to his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, and the event’s organizers distributed food parcels to the guests.

After his Sunday Angelus on Sept. 5, Pope Francis urged countries to offer refuge to people fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of U.S. and other forces.

“In these troubled times that see Afghans seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them. I pray that many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life. I pray also for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection,” the pope said.

“May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors.”

Pope Francis prays for victims of Hurricane Ida

Pope Francis makes the Sign of the Cross April 18, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for the victims of Hurricane Ida, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 50 people in the United States.

“I assure you of my prayers for the people of the United States of America hit by a strong hurricane in recent days,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus address on Sept. 5.

“May the Lord welcome the souls of the dead and support those who suffer from this calamity,” the pope prayed from the window of the Apostolic Palace.

Hurricane Ida was one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall on the U.S. mainland. The category 4 storm first hit Louisiana last week with sustained winds of up to 150 miles per hour.

The storm went on to hit the northeastern U.S. with record-breaking rainfall causing flooding in New York City and New Jersey, which was also hit by tornadoes amid the storm.

Recovery efforts are underway in both Louisiana and the Northeast. U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit New Jersey and New York on Sept. 7 amid the clean-up efforts.

Catholic Charities USA has said it will direct 100 percent of the funds raised through texts of “HurrIda” to 41444 to its agencies with residents impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux
Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux

Hurricane Ida resulted in the deaths of 12 people in Louisiana and at least 44 people in New York and New Jersey, Reuters reported on Sept. 4.

Among the victims of the hurricane were six elderly people evacuated from their nursing homes in Louisiana ahead of the storm.

The bishop of Houma-Thibodeaux in southeastern Louisiana told CNA on Sept. 3 that many parts of his diocese were still without running water and electricity nearly a week after the storm.

Of the diocese’s 39 churches nearly all, 36, were damaged in the storm. Some of the churches suffered severe damage.

Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux
Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux

“We've taken a significant blow and we just need some help right now,” Bishop Shelton Fabre told CNA.

“And we trust that that help will come and that God will provide. So, you go forward and hope.”

Although the physical damage from the storm was extensive, Fabre said that he was “grateful” that unlike in other storms, there was not a widespread loss of life due to Hurricane Ida. Hurricane Ida made landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed over 1,500 people.

And despite the significant losses, Fabre explained to CNA that he has been thankful for the outpouring of support his diocese has received. Anyone who wishes to help, he said, can do so by contacting the Catholic Charities of Houma-Thibodeaux, as by praying for the diocese.

“We're grateful for the good people who have come forward to help us,” he said.

“And hopefully there will be more people coming forward to help us because we will need the help. We'll need their prayers and their financial assistance and assistance in helping us to rebuild this really, really beautiful part of the kingdom of God that is the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux.”

Pope Francis: Find time for silence with the Gospel every day

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at this Angelus address on Sept. 4, 2021 / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2021 / 05:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that silent prayer with the Gospel is the “secret to spiritual health.”

“Do we remember to listen to the Lord? We are Christians, but sometimes with the thousands of words we hear every day, we do not find a few seconds to let a few words of the Gospel resound in us,” the pope said in his Angelus address on Sept. 5.

“Jesus is the Word: if we do not stop to listen to Him, He passes on. ... But if we dedicate time to the Gospel, we will find the secret to our spiritual health.”

Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA
Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA

Speaking from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the pope told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that spending time in silence with the Gospel is like “medicine” for one’s spiritual life.

“Every day a little silence and listening, fewer useless words, and more of the Word of God,” Pope Francis recommended.

He said that it is a good thing to turn to the Lord with prayer requests, but above all, it is important to listen to the Lord.

“Jesus asks this of us. In the Gospel when they ask Him what is the first commandment, he answers: ‘Hear, O Israel.’ Then he adds ... 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:28-31). But first of all, he says, 'Hear, O Israel,’” the pope explained.

Pope Francis said that today many people have “an interior deafness” that Jesus can touch and heal. This “deafness of heart” can lead to a deadening of awareness of the needs of those around us, he said.

“Taken up with haste, by so many things to say and do, we cannot find time to stop and listen to those who speak to us. We run the risk of becoming impervious to everything and not making room for those who need to be heard. I am thinking about children, young people, the elderly, the many who have less need for words and preaching, and more to be heard,” Francis said.

“Let us ask ourselves: how is my capacity to listen? Am I touched by people’s lives, do I know how to spend time with those close to me?”

The pope said that this especially applies to priests, who need to be attentive to listening to the people in their parishes.

He said it also applies family life, where there can be a temptation to speak without really listening.

At the end of his Angelus address, the pope prayed for the people of Afghanistan that they may be able to "live with dignity."

"In these troubled times that see Afghans seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them. I pray that many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life. I pray also for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection," the pope said.

"May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors."

The pope also prayed for the victims of Hurricane Ida, one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall on the U.S. mainland.

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA
Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA

Pope Francis applauded Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity for their "heroic service" on the feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta.

The pope expressed hope that his attendance at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest next Sunday and his visit to Slovakia will be days "marked by adoration and prayer in the heart of Europe."

"Jesus, I wish to be open to your Word ... Jesus, heal my heart from being closed, heal my heart from haste, heal my heart from impatience," the pope prayed.

“May the Virgin Mary, open to listening to the Word which became flesh in her, help us every day to listen to her Son in the Gospel and our brothers and sisters with a docile heart, with a patient heart, and with an attentive heart."

Pope Francis: Promote a culture that prioritizes human dignity

Pope Francis meets with members of Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican on Sept. 4, 2021. / Vatican News/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 4, 2021 / 07:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Saturday that politics needs a renewal after the pandemic through the promotion of a culture that prioritizes human dignity.

“The pandemic, with its long aftermath of isolation and 'social hypertension,’ has inevitably also challenged political action itself, politics as we know it,” Pope Francis said on Sept. 4.

“It is therefore a question of working simultaneously on two levels: cultural and institutional,” he said.

The pope told members of the organization, Leaders Pour la Paix (Leaders for Peace), that helping others to understand the root causes of problems can be considered an “education for peace.”

“It is important to promote a ‘culture of faces,’ which places the dignity of the person at the center, a respect for his or her story, especially if they are wounded and marginalized,” he said in an audience with the group at the Vatican.

“It is also a ‘culture of encounter’ in which we listen to and welcome our brothers and sisters, with trust in the reserves of good that are in the hearts of the people.”

Leaders Pour la Paix is an organization founded by the former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin that brings together high-level government representatives from around the world.

U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations, are among the its board of leaders, along with Kamal Kharazi, the former Iranian foreign minister, and Quan Kong, a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

The group of 36 world leaders aims to reduce conflicts through prevention by alerting public opinion and decision-makers on risky situations and their consequences, according to its website.

Pope Francis meets with members of Leaders Pour la Paix. Vatican Media/CNA
<p>Pope Francis meets with members of Leaders Pour la Paix. Vatican Media/CNA</p>

Pope Francis encouraged the members of the organization to pursue peace through multilateral institutions.

“It is urgent to encourage dialogue and multilateral collaboration, because multilateral agreements better guarantee the protection of a truly universal common good and of the weakest states than bilateral ones,” he said.

The pope underlined that this is “a particularly critical historical moment” in which the pandemic has not yet been overcome and its economic and social consequences are weighing heavily on “the lives of the poorest.”

“Not only has it impoverished the human family of many lives, each one precious and unrepeatable; it has also sown much desolation and increased tensions,” Francis said.

“Faced with the worsening of multiple converging political and environmental crises - hunger, climate, nuclear weapons to name a few - your commitment to peace has never been so necessary and urgent.”

Pope Francis: Foundation helping mothers and children is ‘a sign of hope’

Pope Francis meets with members of the Arché Foundation at the Vatican, Sept. 2, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday hailed a foundation that has helped vulnerable children and mothers for the past 30 years as “a sign of hope.”

The pope told members of the Arché Foundation that he was grateful for their work during a meeting in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sept. 2.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Your welcoming communities are a sign of hope first of all for them, for these women and their children. But they are also a sign of hope for you who share your lives with them; and for the volunteers, the young people, the young couples, who in these communities experience service not only for the poor -- which is very good -- but even better with the poor,” he said.

The Arché Foundation was founded by Fr. Giuseppe Bettoni in Milan, northern Italy, in 1991 to help HIV-positive children and their families. Today, the foundation offers support and care services to vulnerable children and their families.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his address, the pope thanked Bettoni for his 30 years of service, joking that the young-looking priest must have begun the project after his First Communion.

He noted that the foundation’s name is an Ancient Greek word meaning “beginning.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said: “You have called it Arché, which recalls the origin, the beginning, and we know that in the beginning there is Love, the love of God.”

“All that is life, all that is beautiful, good and true comes from there, from God who is love, just as human life comes from a mother’s heart and womb, and just as Jesus came from a mother’s heart and womb, who is Love made flesh, made man.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He continued: “And so, in this logic, in the beginning, there are the faces: for you, they are the faces of those mothers and children whom you have welcomed and helped to free themselves from the bonds of violence and mistreatment. Also migrant women who carry in their flesh dramatic experiences.”

He said that the group ensured that the familiar icon of the Mother and Child did not remain simply “a pretty picture.”

“You have translated it into a concrete experience, made up of stories and specific faces,” he said. “This certainly means problems, difficulties, hardships... But at the same time, it means joy, the joy of seeing that sharing opens up paths to freedom, rebirth, and dignity.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He observed that the foundation would shortly inaugurate a house in Rome that will be home to a new community.

“May it be a place where you live God’s style, which is closeness, tenderness, and compassion. And may the structure always be at the service of people, not the other way around,” he said.

“May the Holy Spirit always renew in you the joy of the Gospel, and may Our Lady protect you. Please pray for me too. Thank you!”

Pope Francis appoints Benedictine priest as Swiss Guard chaplain

Fr. Kolumban Reichlin, O.S.B., the new chaplain of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Pontifical Swiss Guard’s new chaplain is the Swiss Benedictine Fr. Kolumban Reichlin, who completed part of his studies at Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.

Reichlin, 50, was appointed chaplain by Pope Francis on Sept. 1 and will take up his new position in October.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard was established by Pope Julius II in 1506 and is charged with serving and protecting the pope.

Members of the world’s smallest but oldest standing army -- known for its colorful striped Renaissance-era uniforms -- are responsible for Vatican security together with the Vatican gendarmes.

The Vatican military’s new chaplain entered the Order of St. Benedict in 1991 at Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland. He studied for the priesthood at the Einsiedeln seminary and at Saint Meinrad in St. Meinrad, Indiana, which is affiliated with the Swiss abbey.

Swiss Guards in the Protomartyrs’ Square in Vatican City, May 6, 2015. .  Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Swiss Guards in the Protomartyrs’ Square in Vatican City, May 6, 2015. . Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Reichlin has also studied history and liturgy in Bern, Freiburg, and Rome. In his monastery, he was responsible for pilgrimages and was also a part of liturgy commissions.

From 2009 to 2020, the priest was provost of the Provostry of St. Gerold in Austria, a church and monastery founded in the High Middle Ages, which has belonged to the Benedictine Monastery of Einsiedeln since the 13th century.

New Swiss Guards recruits are sworn in at a ceremony at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2020. .  Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
New Swiss Guards recruits are sworn in at a ceremony at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2020. . Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

It is believed that St. Gerold may have lived there as a hermit in the 11th century.

Since 1958, the monastery has been used as a church meeting place and educational center hosting art exhibits, musical performances, and seminars.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard has its own oratory inside Vatican City where members regularly attend Mass, and ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms sometimes take place.

The Church of Saints Martin and Sebastian of the Swiss was built in 1568 by Pope Pius V to be the Swiss Guard’s private chapel. It is located just behind the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square on the north side, next to the Swiss Guard barracks and the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis has often encouraged members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard to be strong in their faith while they carry out their service at the Vatican.

“The time you will spend here is a unique moment in your existence: may you live it with a spirit of brotherhood, helping one another to lead a life rich in meaning and joyfully Christian,” he told new recruits during an audience on Oct. 2, 2020.

Pope Francis asks Catholics to pray that world makes ‘courageous choices’ to protect environment

Pope Francis greets supporters of the Laudato Si’ Movement at his general audience at the Vatican, Sept. 1, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is inviting Catholics around the world to pray this month that the world makes “courageous choices” to protect the environment.

He made the appeal in his prayer intention for September, released on Wednesday.

“We pray that we all will make courageous choices for a simple and environmentally sustainable lifestyle, rejoicing in our young people who are resolutely committed to this,” reads the prayer intention, issued by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network on Sept. 1, the day the Church marks World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

The network also released an accompanying video, in which Pope Francis explained the rationale for the prayer intention.

Speaking in Spanish, the pope said: “It makes me very happy to see that young people have the courage to undertake projects for environmental and social improvement, since the two go together.”

“We adults can learn much from them, because in all matters related to care for the planet, they are at the forefront.”

“Let us take advantage of their example and reflect on our lifestyle, especially during these moments of health, social and environmental crisis.”

“Let us reflect on how the way we eat, consume, travel, or the way we use water, energy, plastics, and many other material goods, is often harmful to the earth.”

“Let us choose to change! Let us advance with young people towards lifestyles that are simpler and more respectful of the environment.”

At the end of 2020, Pope Francis established the global network that promotes his monthly prayer intentions as a Vatican body.

He elevated the status of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, formerly known as the Apostleship of Prayer, through a papal decree called a chirograph.

The pope decreed that the network, founded in France in 1844 and focused on the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, would now be a papal institution based at the Vatican. It is now known as the “Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network” Vatican Foundation.

In a press release, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network explained that this month’s video accompanying the prayer intention “has the support of BIP, one of the principal consultancies in Europe with more than 3,500 employees throughout the entire world.”

The network quoted Nino Lo Bianco, the president of the international consultancy firm, as saying: “Our mission as a company is to aspire to sustainable and integrating economic growth that values and protects our planet.”

“We’ve decided to support Pope Francis’ message to all of humanity because we’re firmly committed to participating actively in the development of solutions and activities oriented towards improving and administrating a positive impact on communities and the environment through our work.”

Commenting on the pope’s September prayer intention, Fr. Frédéric Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said: “Once again, Francis’ words cannot leave us indifferent. In the face of the ecological crisis, it is urgent that we change our lifestyle to make it reflect simplicity and solidarity. Are we aware of this urgency?”

“When the pope speaks to us of integral ecology, he’s telling us that everything is interconnected in our lives. Words are no longer enough to protect our common home.”

“Let us pray that we will act with the courage of the young, to live a more austere and ecologically sustainable life that will ensure our future. In Laudato si’, Francis proposes to us a path, a return to simplicity, to fraternity with Creation and those most in need.”

Concluding his video address, the pope said: “Let us pray that we all will make courageous choices, the choices necessary for a simple and environmentally sustainable lifestyle, taking inspiration from our young people who are resolutely committed to this.”

“And they aren’t foolish, because they are committed to their own future. This is why they want to change what they will inherit at a time when we will no longer be here.”

Pope Francis: Choose faith in Christ over formalities

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Sept. 1, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

At the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis asked Catholics to reflect on how they live the faith, and to strive to put Christ at the center of their actions to avoid falling into mere formalities.

“Does the love of Christ crucified and risen again remain at the center of our daily life as the wellspring of salvation, or are we content with a few religious formalities to salve our consciences?” the pope asked in his weekly message Sept. 1.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, he continued: “Are we attached to the precious treasure, to the beauty of the newness of Christ, or do we prefer something that attracts us momentarily but then leaves us empty inside?”

“The ephemeral often knocks on the door of our days, but it is a sad illusion, which makes us fall into superficiality and prevents us from discerning what is really worth living for,” he added.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis’ weekly catechesis centered on a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, in which the Apostle says: “O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard?”

The pope began his message by underlining that the Scripture passage and its message comes from St. Paul, not from him.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“This is not something new, this explanation, not something of mine: what we are studying is what St. Paul says in a very serious conflict with the Galatians,” he emphasized.

“This is simply a catechesis on the Word of God expressed in the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians; nothing else.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He noted that St. Paul is “not courteous” with the language he uses to address the Galatians. In other letters, Paul calls them “brothers” or “dear friends,” but here is angry, the pope explained, pointing out that he calls them “foolish,” which is also sometimes translated as “stupid.”

Paul “does so not because they are not intelligent, but because, almost without realizing it, they risk losing the faith in Christ that they have received with so much enthusiasm,” Pope Francis said. “They are foolish because they are unaware that the danger is that of losing the valuable treasure, the beauty, of the newness of Christ” and they may miss “the possibility of attaining a new, hitherto unhoped-for freedom.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

St. Paul is “shaking up their consciences: this is why it is so forceful,” he stated. “He takes them back to the starting point of the Christian vocation.”

According to Francis, “Paul’s intention is to compel Christians to realize what is at stake, so they do not allow themselves to be enchanted by the voice of the sirens who want to lead them to a religiosity based solely on the scrupulous observance of precepts.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Even when we are tempted to turn to superficiality, however, God still bestows his gifts on us, he said.

“Even today, people come and harangue us, saying, ‘No, holiness is in these precepts, in these things, you must do this and that,’ and propose an inflexible religiosity, the inflexibility that takes away from us that freedom in the Spirit that Christ’s redemption gives us,” the pope continued.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He warned Catholics to “beware of the rigidity they propose to you: be careful.” Inflexibility, he said, does not come from the Spirit of God.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Francis pointed to St. Paul’s letter as a good source to help people to not listen to “these somewhat fundamentalist proposals that set us back in our spiritual life.”

“Despite all the difficulties we may pose to His action, God does not abandon us but rather abides with us in His merciful love,” the pope concluded.

“He is like that father who went up onto the terrace every day to see if his son was returning: the love of the Father never tires of us. Let us ask for the wisdom always to be aware of this reality, and to turn away the fundamentalists who propose to us a life of artificial asceticism, far removed from the resurrection of Christ. Asceticism is necessary, but wise asceticism, not artificial.”

Pope Francis says that he hopes Cardinal Becciu is innocent of charges in Vatican finance trial

Pope Francis is interviewed by Carlos Herrera, a journalist at the Spanish radio station COPE. / COPE.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis addressed the Vatican financial scandals in a sit-down radio interview that aired Wednesday, saying he hoped that Cardinal Angelo Becciu is innocent of the charges against him.

“I hope with all my heart that he is innocent. Besides, he was a collaborator of mine and helped me a lot. He is a person whom I have a certain esteem as a person, that is to say that my wish is that he turns out well … In any case, justice will decide,” the pope told Carlos Herrera, a journalist at Spain’s COPE radio station.

Becciu is one of 10 defendants in the Vatican’s largest trial for financial crimes in the modern era, after the pope changed the norms to allow cardinals to be tried by lay judges. Becciu is accused of embezzlement and abuse of office, but vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

In the 90-minute interview, his first since undergoing colon surgery, Pope Francis spoke about his recent restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the Vatican-China deal, euthanasia, and abortion, as well as other pressing topics.

“I am not afraid of transparency or the truth. Sometimes it hurts, and a lot, but the truth is what sets us free,” the pope said when asked about corruption at the Vatican.

“Let’s hope that these steps we are taking in Vatican justice will help to make these events happen less and less… Yes, you used the word corruption and, in this case, obviously, at least at first sight, it seems that there is corruption,” he said.


The pope also addressed clerical sexual abuse and questioned why governments were not making greater efforts to eliminate child pornography.

“Abusing a boy to film an act of child pornography is demonic. It cannot be explained without the presence of the devil,” the pope said.

“I sometimes wonder how certain governments allow the production of child pornography. Let them not say they don’t know. Nowadays, with the intelligence services, everything is known,” he said.

“A government knows who in its country produces child pornography. For me, this is one of the most monstrous things I have ever seen.”

Pope Francis also praised Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston for his work in establishing the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“I would like to pay tribute to a man who began to speak about this with courage, even though he was a thorn in the side of the organization, long before the organization was created on this subject, and that is Cardinal O’Malley. It fell to him to settle the matter in Boston and it was not easy.”

Restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass

Pope Francis described the publication of Summorum Pontificum, a 2007 apostolic letter lifting restrictions on the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missal, as “one of the most beautiful and human pastoral things of Benedict XVI, who is a man of exquisite humanity.”

Explaining why he issued the motu proprio Traditionis custodes in July curbing celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass, he noted that the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith undertook a survey of the world’s bishops in 2020.

“Then the subject was studied and based on that, the concern that appeared the most was that something that was done to help pastorally those who have lived a previous experience was being transformed into ideology. That is, from a pastoral thing to ideology,” he explained.

“So we had to react with clear norms. Clear norms that put a limit to those who had not lived that experience. Because it seemed to be fashionable in some places that young priests would say ‘oh, no, I want...’ and maybe they don’t know Latin, they don’t know what it means. And on the other hand, to support and consolidate Summorum Pontificum.”

He continued: “I did more or less the outline, I had it studied and I worked, and I worked a lot, with traditionalist people of good sense. And the result was that pastoral care that must be taken, with some good limits.”

“For example, that the proclamation of the Word be in a language that everyone understands; otherwise it would be like laughing at the Word of God. Little things. But yes, the limit is very clear.”

Summing up the intention of his motu proprio, he commented: “If you read the letter well and read the decree well, you will see that it is simply a constructive reordering, with pastoral care and avoiding an excess of those who are not...”

Withdrawal from Afghanistan

When asked about the withdrawal of the United States and its allies from Afghanistan, the pope said that “all eventualities were not taken into account.”

Pope Francis said that he was touched by something German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on the subject in Moscow on Aug. 20, but his paraphrased quotation was actually of words spoken by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to AP.

“It is necessary to stop the irresponsible policy of enforcing its own values on others and attempts to build democracy in other countries based on outside models without taking into account historic, ethnic and religious issues and fully ignoring other people’s traditions,” Francis said, summarizing the quotation.

“Concise and conclusive. I think this says a lot; and everyone can interpret it as they wish. But there I felt a wisdom in hearing this woman say this.”

The pope also said that the Vatican Secretariat of State was helping -- or at least offering to help -- with the situation in Afghanistan.

“[Vatican Secretary of State] Cardinal Parolin is really the best diplomat I have ever met,” the pope added.

The Vatican-China deal

Discussing the provisional agreement between the Holy See and China, first signed in 2018 and renewed in 2020, the pope said: “China is not easy, but I am convinced that we should not give up dialogue. You can be deceived in dialogue, you can make mistakes, all that... but it is the way. Closed-mindedness is never the way.”

He continued: “What has been achieved so far in China was at least dialogue ... some concrete things like the appointment of new bishops, slowly ... But these are also steps that can be questionable and the results on one side or the other.”

The pope added that Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican Secretary of State for the first 10 years of John Paul II’s pontificate, was a model of Vatican diplomacy and spoke highly of his book “The Martyrdom of Patience.”

“Today, somehow we have to follow these paths of dialogue step by step in the most conflictive situations. My experience in dialogue with Islam, for example, with the Grand Imam Al-Tayyeb was very positive in this, and I am very grateful to him,” he said, referring to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar in Egypt, with whom the pope signed a declaration on human fraternity in 2019.

Euthanasia and abortion

In the interview, the pope also strongly defended the Church’s opposition to euthanasia and abortion.

“We are living in a throwaway culture. What is useless is discarded. Old people are disposable material: they are a nuisance. Not all of them, but in the collective unconscious of the throwaway culture, the old... the most terminally ill, too; the unwanted children, too, and they are sent to the sender before they are born,” he commented.

“What the Church asks is to help people to die with dignity. This has always been done,” he said.

“And with regard to the case of abortion … I say this: any embryology manual given to a medical student in medical school says that by the third week of conception, sometimes before the mother realizes [that she is pregnant], all the organs in the embryo are already outlined, even the DNA. It is a life. A human life. Some say, ‘It's not a person.’ It is a human life.”

The pope then posed a question: “Is it licit to eliminate a human life to solve a problem, is it fair to eliminate a human life to solve a problem?”

Polite devils

Asked about the devil, a theme that the pope has often addressed since his election in 2013, Francis highlighted the danger of what he called “polite devils.”

“The devil runs around everywhere, but I’m most afraid of the polite devils. Those who ring your doorbell, who ask your permission, who enter your house, who make friends,” Francis said.

“But Jesus never talked about that? Yes, he did … when he says this: when the unclean spirit comes out of a man, when someone is converted or changes his life, he goes and starts to walk around, in arid places, he gets bored, and after a while he says ‘I’m going back to see how it is,’ and he sees the house all tidy, all changed. Then he looks for seven people worse than him and enters with a different attitude,” he said.

“That is why I say that the worst are the polite devils, those who ring the doorbell. The naivety of this person lets him in and the end of that man is worse than the beginning, says the Lord. I dread the polite devils. They are the worst, and one is very much fooled.”

Not watching television

Pope Francis also told the story behind why he has not watched much television in the past 30 years.

“I made a promise on July 16, 1990. I felt that the Lord was asking me to do so, because we were in community watching something that ended up tawdry, unpleasant, bad. I felt bad,” he said.

“It was the night of July 15. And the next day, in prayer, I promised the Lord not to watch it.”

The pope added that he does still tune in for important events, such as when a president takes office or when there is a plane crash.

“But I am not addicted to it,” he said.

His recent colon surgery

Pope Francis said that life had returned to normal since he underwent a colon surgery on July 4 that required him to remain hospitalized for 11 days.

“It is the second time in my life that a nurse has saved my life,” the pope said.

“He saved my life. He told me: ‘You have to have surgery.’ There were other opinions: ‘Better with antibiotics…’ but the nurse explained it to me very well. He is a nurse from here, from our health service, from the Vatican hospital. He has been here for 30 years, a very experienced man,” he said.

Italian media identified the nurse as Massimiliano Strappetti, who has worked in the Vatican since 2002, after eight years serving in the intensive care unit at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

The pope explained that his surgery had been pre-scheduled and that he has been eating regularly now after some weeks of recovery.

“Now I can eat everything, which was not possible before with the diverticula. I can eat everything. I still have the post-operative medications, because the brain has to register that it has 33 centimeters [12 inches] less intestine,” he observed.

The pope also addressed the recent rumors about his resignation, saying that he had no idea about the rumors until someone told him.

“I read only one newspaper here in the morning, the newspaper of Rome … I read it quickly and that’s it … And I do receive the report about some of the news of the day, but I found out much later, a few days later, that there was something about me resigning,” he said.

“Whenever a pope is ill, there is always a breeze, or a hurricane, of conclave.”

After surgery, Pope Francis says a nurse ‘saved my life’

Pope Francis attends a general audience at the Vatican. / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2021 / 07:32 am (CNA).

In a new interview, Pope Francis said that a nurse saved his life, in reference to a medical issue he had earlier this summer.

“A nurse saved my life,” Pope Francis told Spanish COPE radio, in excerpts of an interview which will air Sept. 1.

In a pre-released segment, a journalist can be heard asking Pope Francis how he is doing after a July 4 operation on his colon.

“I’m alive,” the pope responded. “A nurse, a man with a lot of experience, saved my life.”

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported Aug. 31 that the man Pope Francis was referring to is Massimiliano Strappetti, a nurse who has worked in the Vatican since 2002, after eight years serving in the intensive care unit at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

COPE radio wrote that Strappetti is a husband and father and known for being generous and devoted to others.

According to La Repubblica, Strappetti was the person who advised Pope Francis to undergo tests after he had his first flare-up of diverticulitis in February.

Strappetti, together with the pope’s other medical staff, recommended that he have the July 4 operation to keep the situation from becoming worse.

Pope Francis returned to the Vatican July 14, after spending 11 days in Gemelli Hospital to recover from the three-hour surgery to remove a part of the colon to relieve a stricture caused by diverticulitis.

“This is the second time in my life that a nurse has saved my life. The first was in the year ’57,” Pope Francis told COPE, in reference to an Italian religious sister who helped him when he was ill with pneumonia during his seminary studies in Argentina.

The papal interview also addressed recent media rumors that Pope Francis is thinking about resigning.

Francis put the rumors to rest, joking that “when a pope is sick, a wind or a hurricane of a conclave rises.”

La Repubblica also claimed to have learned that not only is Pope Francis not thinking about retirement, but also that he is not drafting a document with rules for retired popes, as had been recently rumored.

In the hour and a half-long interview, Pope Francis also reportedly spoke about the situation in Afghanistan.

The interview with Carlos Herrera, an award-winning Spanish journalist and television presenter, will air on COPE, a radio station owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference, on Sept. 1.