Catholic News Agency: Vatican

Turkish border closed as Christian hostages in Syria spike to 250

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 26, 2015
Rome, Italy, Feb 26, 2015 / 07:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The number of ISIS hostages in Syria has increased to at least 250 after continued attacks on Christian villages, and civilians fleeing to the Turkish border have been stranded when not allowed to cross. “There are 200 families who were running away and trying to escape to Turkey, but the border is closed for Syrians. No Syrian can cross into Turkey,” Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo told CNA Feb. 26. Archbishop Hindo oversees the Syrian archdiocese of Hassake, which is located in the Al-Hasakah region of Syria. The region sits between the country’s borders with both Turkey and Iraq. He spoke to CNA in French over the phone with a patchy connection from his diocese in Syria, where internet is currently down, saying that ISIS has continued its assault in the area, raising the number of hostages to more than 250 after an estimated 90 were kidnapped during attacks earlier this week. British-based Syrian Ob

Ancient Roman pilgrimage revs-up spiritual aspect of Lent

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 25, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2015 / 03:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For pilgrims in Rome, Ash Wednesday marked not only the start of the Church’s Lenten season, but also a traditional Lenten pilgrimage that helps offer a more spiritual outlook on the journey toward Easter. “It’s incredible. It’s an experience I never thought I would be able to have. It’s still hard to believe – I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not just back in the states, I’m not just going to a normal Mass. It’s in Rome and it’s a pilgrimage,” Sarah Maslow told CNA Feb. 18. Maslow is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and is studying in Rome for a semester with the University of St. Mary. Like hundreds of others, she traveled to the Roman Church of Santa Sabina at 6:45 a.m. on Ash Wednesday for this year’s first Mass in the Station Church pilgrimage. Organized by the Pontifical North American College, the Station Churches are part of an ancie

Vatican: Pope's 'Mexicanization' comment not intended to offend

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 25, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2015 / 11:02 am (CNA).- The Vatican on Wednesday issued a statement clarifying a private comment made by Pope Francis to a friend warning that his native Argentina was in danger of a “Mexicanisation” by drug traffickers. “The Pope did not in any way intend to offend the Mexican population, for whom he holds special affection, nor to underestimate the commitment of the Mexican government in its fight against narco-trafficking,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists in a Feb. 24 statement. Controversy in broke out in Mexico following the publication of the Pope’s comments, which prompted a protest from Mexican citizens, who claimed that Francis was stigmatizing the country and being dismissive of government efforts to dismantle drug cartels. Pope Francis had originally made his remarks in a “strictly private and informal” email to his Argentinian friend Gustavo Vera, in which he voiced concern sur

Vatican retirees needn't worry for their pensions

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 25, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2015 / 02:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Thanks to a two-year increase to retirement age and other financial interventions, the Vatican's pension fund is consistent and the the funding ratio of the pension fund is 95 percent, the Holy See stated Feb. 20. The release was issued “since for some months, and amplified by press reports, alarming data has been circulating regarding the situation of the Vatican Pensions Fund and on the sustainability of honouring the commitments undertaken towards present and future subscribers,” and was meant to clarify the data. Italy has seen a frenzy over the situation of the pension fund, which led to several speculations about a possible risk of default for the fund – this is why the pension fund has deemed it opportune to take an official stance on the state of its finances. The pension fund underscored there is “substantial balance between the resources available and the delivery toward current and f

Patriarch urges prayer after at least 90 Christians kidnapped in Syria

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 24, 2015
Rome, Italy, Feb 24, 2015 / 06:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With reports circulating saying that ISIS forces have kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said prayer is the only possible response. “Let’s pray for those innocent people,” Patriarch Younan told CNA over the phone from Beirut Feb. 24. “It’s a very, let’s say, very ordinary thing to have those people with such hatred toward non-Muslims that they don’t respect any human life,” he said, noting that the only reaction to Tuesday’s kidnappings is “to pray.” Patriarch Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, made his comments after the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by ISIS militants after they seized two villages near Tal-Tamr, located in the Al-Hasakah region of Syria. The two villages attacked are inhabited primar

Swiss Guard: We are ready to defend Pope from ISIS

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 24, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 24, 2015 / 02:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard says the group of soldiers charged with protecting the Pope is on high alert and ready to act if any threat from ISIS materializes. “We are ready to intervene. Our job is security. and as gendarmes we are well organized. We are ready if anything happens,” said Cristoph Graf. At age 54, Graf is married with two children. Yet he and the other members of the Swiss Guard are willing to lay down their lives to protect the Holy Father. In an interview with the Italian daily Il Giornale, published on Feb. 18, Graf responded to threats from ISIS militants, who stated in a recent video, “We will conquer Rome.” “We have asked the guards to be on higher alert, to watch how people are moving. We can’t do more than that,” Graf said. He also stressed the importance of information to prevent potential attacks. He referenced the Jan. 7 massacre at

A brief history of spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 24, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 24, 2015 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- By gathering the members of the Roman Curia for Lenten spiritual exercises this week, Pope Francis is participating in a tradition that stretches back more than 80 years, to the pontificate of Pius XI. The Roman Curia are on retreat Feb. 22-27 on the theme “Servants and prophets of the living God,” preached by Fr. Bruno Secondin, a Carmelite. The spiritual exercises will focus on Elijah and the Church's prophetic role, and they are being held in Ariccia, adjacent to Albano Laziale. The Roman Curia's practice of spiritual exercises is modeled on St. Ignatius of Loyola's spiritual exercises. Pius XI was a great admirer of the founder of the Society of Jesus, proclaiming him patron of spiritual exercises in 1922. In 1929 the same Pope issued the encyclical Mens Nostra on the promotion of the spiritual exercises, in which he also made public the decision to hold annual spiritual exercises in the Vatica

Mystic, monk and poet – meet the newest Doctor of the Church

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 23, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 23, 2015 / 04:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Gregory of Narek – a tenth century priest, monk, mystic, and poet beloved among Armenian Christians – has become the first Armenian to be named a Doctor of the Church. “It is a great honor for the Armenian Church to contribute to this very important rank of saints who have enriched the Catholic Church with their teachings,” Armenian Catholic priest Father Thomas Garabedian told CNA Feb. 23. “Certainly this is a big honor for us Armenian-Americans,” said Fr. Garabedian, who is chancellor of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Canada and the United States. The Pope on Feb. 21 confirmed St. Gregory of Narek as the Church’s newest doctor during a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Vatican Radio reports. St. Gregory of Narek is known for his various poetic writings, especially a book of prayers entitled “Book of

Pope and Curia begin annual Lenten retreat

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 22, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 22, 2015 / 01:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and members of the Curia set out from Rome on Sunday afternoon to begin their annual Lenten retreat. This year's spiritual exercises will run from Feb. 22-27 on the theme: “Servants and prophets of the living God,” according to the Jan. 30 announcement in L'Osservatore Romano. The retreat will be guided by Fr. Bruno Secondin, Carmelite, who will focus on the prophet Elijah and the prophetic role of the Church today. For the second consecutive year, Pope Francis wanted the Curia's spiritual exercises to be held outside of Rome, in order to foster the spiritual retreat and to avoid the temptation to continue working. The Pope and the Curial members will follow the five-day spiritual exercises at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a city located some 16 miles outside of Rome.  

To follow Christ, we must confront life's deserts, Pope says

By: CNA Daily News - Vatican
Source: Catholic News Agency: Vatican
Date: February 22, 2015
Vatican City, Feb 22, 2015 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The 40 days of Lent are a reminder that we face spiritual deserts, and we must confront them with courage and the aid of Scripture, Pope Francis said during his weekly Angelus address. Delivering the Feb. 22 address from the papal apartments to a sizable crowd gathered in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope's remarks came on the first Sunday of Lent, hours before he embarked on a week-long Spiritual Exercises retreat with members of the Curia. The pontiff began his pre-Angelus reflection by speaking on the Gospel reading of the day, in which St. Mark gives an account of Christ's 40 days in the desert following the Baptism in the river Jordan. During this period, he recalled, Jesus was “tempted by Satan,” and “was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.” This “voluntary test confronted by Jesus” is one from which he “emerges victoriously and which prepares hi