Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI to the cardinals - I will continue to remain close to you with prayer

Pope Benedict XVI surprised the cardinals and organizers of a Feb. 28 farewell ceremony by saying the future Pope is present and that he already pledges his “unconditional respect and obedience” to him. 

“Before I personally greet you I desire to tell you that I will continue to remain close to you with prayer, especially in these next days, that you may be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope. 

“That the Lord will show you what he wants from you,” Benedict XVI told the 144 cardinals gathered in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at 11:00 a.m. to bid him farewell. 

“Among you, between the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom I already pledge my unconditional respect and obedience,” he declared. 

The cardinals of the Church usually promise their obedience to the new Pope in the Sistine Chapel after he is elected, making Benedict XVI’s words all the more powerful. 

Pope Benedict was not expected to deliver any remarks, so organizers were surprised by his speech. 

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, also offered words on behalf of all the cardinals in which he said their hearts burned within them during the Pope’s eight years of ministry.

Want to know what true love looks like?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In Pictures - The Pope belongs to everyone at this last General Audience of my pontificate


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood!
Distinguished Authorities!
Dear brothers and sisters!


Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.


I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.


When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His - and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!


At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father's heart.

I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.

At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world's greatest figures - from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.

In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.

The “always” is also a “forever” - there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.

Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saint Porphyrius

Saint Porphyrius, Archbishop of Gaza, was born about the year 346 at Thessalonica. His parents were people of substance, and this allowed St Porphyrius to receive a fine education. Having the inclination for monastic life, he left his native region at twenty-five years of age and set off for Egypt, where he lived in the Nitrian desert under the guidance of St Macarius the Great (January 19). There he also met St Jerome (June 15), who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries. He went to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, and to venerate the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord (September 14), then he moved into a cave in the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.

After five years, St Porphyrius was afflicted with a serious malady of the legs. He decided to go to the holy places of Jerusalem to pray for healing. As he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha, St Porphyrius fell into a sort of trance. He beheld Jesus Christ descending from the Cross and saying to him, "Take this Wood and preserve it."

Coming out of his trance, he found himself healthy and free from pain. Then he gave away all his money to the poor and for the adornment of the churches of God. For a time he supported himself by working as a shoemaker. The words of the Savior were fulfilled when the saint was forty-five years old. The Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained St Porphyrius to the holy priesthood and appointed him custodian of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord.

In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza (in Palestine) died. The local Christians went to Caesarea to ask Metropolitan John to send them a new bishop who would be able to contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and were harassing the Christians there. The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the priest Porphyrius. With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the office of bishop, and with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood and went to fulfill his new obedience.

In Gaza there were only three Christian churches, but there were a great many pagan temples and idols. During this time there had been a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought. The pagan priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease. St Porphyrius imposed a fast for all the Christians; he then served an all-night Vigil, followed by a church procession around the city. Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds, thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down. Seeing this miracle, many pagans cried out, "Christ is indeed the only true God!" As a result of this, 127 men, thirty-five women and fourteen children were united to the Church through Holy Baptism, and another 110 men soon after this.

The pagans continued to harass the Christians. They passed them over for public office, and burdened them with taxes. St Porphyrius and Metropolitan John of Caesarea journeyed to Constantinople to seek redress from the emperor. St John Chrysostom (September 14, January 27 and 30) received them and assisted them.

Ss. John and Porphyrius were presented to the empress Eudoxia who was expecting a child at that time. "Intercede for us," said the bishops to the empress, "and the Lord will send you a son, who shall reign during your lifetime". Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters. Through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family. As a result of this, the emperor issued an edict in 401 ordering the destruction of pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians. Moreover, the emperor gave the saints money for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the site of the chief pagan temple.

St Porphyrius upheld Christianity in Gaza to the very end of his life, and guarded his flock from the vexatious pagans. Through the prayers of the saint numerous miracles and healings occurred. The holy archpastor guided his flock for twenty-five years, and reposed in 420 at an advanced age.

Monday, February 25, 2013

St. Walburga

St. Walburga was born around 710. She is the daughter of St. Richard and the niece of St. Boniface. When St. Richard set out for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his sons, Ss. Willibald & Winibald, he entrusted 11 year old Walburga to the monastery school at Wimborne. She remained as a nun, spending a total of 26 years there.

When St. Boniface put out an appeal for nuns to help him in the evangelization of Germany, St. Walburga answered the call. On the way to Germany, there was a terrible storm at sea. Walburga knelt on the deck of the ship and prayed. The sea immediately became calm. Some sailors witnessed this and spread the word that she was a wonderworker, so she was received in Germany with great respect.

At first, she lived at Bischofsheim, under the rule of St. Lioba. Then she was made abbess at Heidenheim, near to where her brother, Winibald served as an abbot over a men's monastery. After his death, she ruled both monasteries. She worked many miracles in the course of her ministry. She wrote a biography of her brother, Winibald, and of Willibald's travels in Palestine, in Latin. She is regarded as the first woman author in both England and Germany.

On September 23, 776, she assisted Willibald in translating the uncorrupt relics of their brother, Winibald, to a new tomb in the church at Heidenheim. Shortly after this, she fell ill. Willibald cared for her until she died on February 25, 777, then placed her next to Winibald in the tomb.

After St. Willibald's death in 786, people gradually forgot St. Walburga and the church fell into disrepair. In 870, Bishop Oktar was having Heidenheim restored. Some workmen desecrated Walburga's grave. She appeared in a dream to the bishop, who then translated her relics to Eichstadt. In 893, St. Walburga's body was found to be immersed in a mysterious sweet-smelling liquid. It was found to work miraculous healings. The liquid, called St. Walburga's oil, has flowed from her body, ever since, except for a brief period when the church was put under the interdict after robbers shed the blood of a bell-ringer in the church. Portions of St. Walburga's relics have taken to several other cities and her oil to all parts of the world.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Trinidad and Tobago contingent in the vast crowd in St. Peter's Square

It looks like there was a T&T contingent with a message in the vast crowd in St. Peter's Square for Pope Benedict's final Angelus Address on Sunday 24th February 2013. We like salt!

Way to represent! Shared by Fr Peter de la Bastide

Pope Benedict XVI’s farewell Angelus: I will never abandon the Church



Dear brothers and sisters!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).

The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him" (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new "exodus" (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: "Master, it is good that we are here" (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: "[Peter] ... on the mountain ... had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? "(Sermon 78.3).

We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. "The Christian life - I wrote in my Message for Lent - consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love "(n. 3).

Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chair of St. Peter


Since early times, the Roman Church has had a special commemoration of the primatial authority of St. Peter. As witness one of the most renowned of the Apostolic Fathers, the Roman See has always held a peculiar place in the affection and obedience of orthodox believers because of its "presiding in love" and service over all the Churches of God.

"We shall find in the Gospel that Jesus Christ, willing to begin the mystery of unity in His Church, among all His disciples chose twelve; but that, willing to consummate the mystery of unity in the same Church, among the twelve He chose one. He called His disciples, said the Gospel; here are all; and among them He chose twelve. Here is the first separation, and the Apostles chosen. And these are the names of the twelve Apostles: the first, Simon, who is called Peter. [Mt. 10, 1-2] Here, in a second separation, St. Peter is set at the head, and called for that reason by the name of Peter, 'which Jesus Christ,' says St. Mark, 'had given him,' in order to prepare, as you will see, the work which He was proposing to raise all His building on that stone.

"All this is yet but a beginning of the mystery of unity. Jesus Christ, in beginning it, still spoke to many: Go, preach; I send you [see Mt. 28, 19]. Now, when He would put the last hand to the mystery of unity, He speaks no longer to many: He marks out Peter personally, and by the new name which He has given him. It is One who speaks to one: Jesus Christ the Son of God to Simon son of Jonas; Jesus Christ, who is the true Stone, strong of Himself, to Simon, who is only the stone by the strength which Jesus Christ imparts to him. It is to him that Christ speaks, and in speaking acts on him, and stamps upon him His own immovableness. And I, He says, say to you, you are Peter; and, He adds, upon this rock I will build my Church, and, He concludes, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [Mt. 16, 18] To prepare him for that honor Jesus Christ, who knows that faith in Himself is the foundation of His Church, inspires Peter with a faith worthy to be the foundation of that admirable building. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. [Mt. 16, 16] By that bold preaching of the faith he draws to himself the inviolable promise which makes him the foundation of the Church.

"It was, then, clearly the design of Jesus Christ to put first in one alone, what afterwards He meant to put in several; but the sequence does not reverse the beginning, nor the first lose his place. That first word, Whatsoever you shall bind, said to one alone, has already ranged under his power each one of those to whom shall be said, Whatsoever you shall remit; for the promises of Jesus Christ, as well as His gift, are without repentance; and what is once given indefinitely and universally is irrevocable. Besides, that power given to several carries its restriction in its division, while power given to one alone, and over all, and without exception, carries with it plenitude, and, not having to be divided with any other, it has no bounds save those which its terms convey."

Excerpted from The See of St. Peter, Jacques Bossuet.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

St. Peter Damian

St. Peter Damian must be numbered among the greatest of the Church's reformers in the Middle Ages, yes, even among the truly extraordinary persons of all times. In Damian the scholar, men admire wealth of wisdom: in Damian the preacher of God's word, apostolic zeal; in Damian the monk, austerity and self-denial; in Damian the priest, piety and zeal for souls; in Damian the cardinal, loyalty and submission to the Holy See together with generous enthusiasm and devotion for the good of Mother Church. He was a personal friend of Pope Gregory VII. He died in 1072 at the age of 65.

On one occasion he wrote to a young nephew, "If I may speak figuratively, drive out the roaring beasts from your domain; do not cease from protecting yourself daily by receiving the Flesh and Blood of the Lord. Let your secret foe see your lips reddened with the Blood of Christ. He will shudder, cower back, and flee to his dark, dank retreat."

In his poem, the Divine Comedy, Dante places Damian in the "seventh heaven." That was his place for holy people who loved to think about or contemplate God.

— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Symbols: Cardinal bearing a discipline in his hand; pilgrim holding a papal Bull, to signify his many legations.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Your guide to the conclave rules


As the princes of the Church, only cardinals have the exclusive responsibility to choose a successor to the Pope. As soon the Sede Vacante begins, Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano will officially call all able-bodied cardinals to Rome. But only the ones under 80 can take part in the election.

JOHN ALLEN
Author, Conclave
“It is a very small group composed of guys who know each other fairly well so it is much more analogous to say the election of a department chair in a university.” 

The start of the conclave has to be delayed 15 days, to give all cardinals time to get to Rome, but start no later than 20 days after the beginning of the Sede Vacante.

The Sistine Chapel, where the conclave has to take place, must be sealed off, and the insides checked for any hidden recording devices.

For the entire conclave, the cardinals are required to stay at the Vatican's Domus Sanctae Marthae.

BERNADO ESTRADA
Professor, University of the Holy Cross 
“They have very good service. It's not a five star hotel, but it's very comfortable.”

Cardinals are not allowed to communicate with the outside world, or have access to the media. They could be excommunicated if they do.

The conclave starts with the Pro Eligendo Papa Mass, asking for God's help in electing the new Pope. From there, they'll head to the Sistine Chapel and take an individual oath of secrecy and to not help any outsiders trying to intervene in the conclave. Then they start voting.

JOHN ALLEN
Author, Conclave
“In many ways, the voting is the most complicated and time consuming part of this process.” 

In order for a cardinal to become Pope, he's required to get two thirds of the votes. On the first day they'll vote only once. But after that, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. 

There will be a pause for prayer and discussion each time, after thirteen ballots, if no cardinal gets the two thirds majority. 

To find out how they vote, Mexico's Cardinal Barragán shares his experience from 2005.

CARD. JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGÁN
Cardinal Deacon of St. Michael the Archangel
“On the line of each ballot, we must write the name of the cardinal we choose, but in capital letters, and in a way that no one can tell who's voting.”

Each papal elector then walks up the altar of the Sistine Chapel, folds his ballot twice, and places it in this plate. After affirming it's his, he drops it into a receptacle. Three cardinals, whose names were chosen at random, will tally the ballots individually.

CARD. JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGÁN
Cardinal Deacon of St. Michael the Archangel
“The first cardinal, on the far left, will silently read the ballot. He passes it to the second, who reads it silently. He passes it to the third who reads it out loud.”

The ballots will be strung together using a needle, to avoid double counts. Thee other cardinals will double check the tallies to ensure the counts are correct. After that, all cardinals will turn in their notes, which will be burned, along with final ballot tallies.

BERNADO ESTRADA
Professor, University of the Holy Cross (preparativi esp, April 2005)
“When you burn incense, it produces white smoke, and you call that the fumata bianca. When you only burn the ballots where the candidate's name was written, then that smoke will be usually be black.” 

JOHN ALLEN
Author, Conclave
“Once a Pope has crossed a two-thirds majority, the dean of the College of Cardinals steps out to the balcony, or what happened last time,was the dean of the College of Cardinals got elected, so it would be the vice dean, would come to him and say, do you accept your canonically vowed position as successor to Saint Peter, and as soon as he says, 'acceto', or I accept in Italian, he becomes the Pope.”

The Cardinal Dean, or highest ranking Cardinal Bishop, will also ask the newly elected Pope (and therefore Bishop of Rome) what name he would like to take on.

The new Pope will change into one of the three best-fitting white tunics, already prepared for his election. After greeting his peers, he then prepares for the Apostolic Blessing Urbi et Orbi at St. Peter's Square, marking the end of the conclave.

LENT: THE FIRST COMMANDMENT



On Wednesdays during Lent, let us focus on the 10 Commandments and how they apply to us in the 21st century. The 10 Commandments provided a foundation for a lot of Western Society. But how often do you think about these Commandments? The First Commandment, "I am the LORD your God, You shall have no other gods before me", is the most fundamental Commandment of them all. Why? Because everything will flow from what you worship.

In this video, Fr. Robert Barron asks the question, "Who or what do you worship?" Even if you are Christian, do you put other 'gods' before Our Lord? Listen to this commentary for more.

Examination of Conscience for the First Commandment

“I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before Me.” (Ex 20:2,3)

Have I really loved God above all things or have I put other things — work, money, drugs, TV, fame, pleasure, other people — ahead of Him?
Have I made time for God each day in prayer?
Have I denied my faith in God or endangered it by practices of the occult or through reading or programs that are opposed to faith and morals?
Am I whole-hearted in accepting and following God’s teaching or do I only pick and choose the convenient parts of His message? Have I tried to learn and understand my faith better?
Have I denied my faith before others? Have I been willing to affirm, defend and practice my faith in public and not just in private?
Did I despair of or presume on God's mercy?

Wednesday - First Week of Lent


"For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here." (Luke 11:32)

Reflection.
"Go through the world unnoticed if you can. Secret privations, secret sacrifices of your own will, which will never be known until all things are revealed, are surer instruments of perfection than chains and shirts of hair." ...Fr. Lasance

Lenten Fact
The original period of Lent was 40 hours. It was spent fasting to commemorate the suffering of Christ and the 40 hours He spent in the tomb.
In the early 3rd century, Lent was lengthened to 6 days. About 800 AD it was changed to 40 days.

Lenten Action.
Plant a seed or bulb and watch it develop through the spring. Pray for your own spiritual growth.

Prayer
O Jesus, humbled to abjection for me, teach me to humble myself for love of You.

Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three children, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon. At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war. Portugal itself was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months. She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism. Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary’s final apparition on October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home. He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952. Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father. She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951. Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000. Sister Lucia died five years later. The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year.

"Be very charitable even towards the wicked! Never speak evil of anyone and avoid those who do.

Be very patient because patience leads to heaven.

Pray much for sinners!" - Words of Jacinta

Comment: The Church is always very cautious about endorsing alleged apparitions, but it has seen benefits from people changing their lives because of the message of Our Lady of Fatima. Prayer for sinners, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and praying the rosary—all these reinforce the Good News Jesus came to preach.

Quote: In his homily at their beatification, Pope John Paul II recalled that shortly before Francisco died, Jacinta said to him, “Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Priest conceived in rape recounts journey to forgive father

A story of forgiveness under very difficult circumstances.

CNA STAFF, Feb 18, 2013 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A priest who was conceived in rape when his mother was only 13 years old is sharing the story of how he met, forgave and heard the confession of his father, who is now living a life of faith.

“I could have ended up in a trash can, but I was allowed to live,” said Father Luis Alfredo Leon Armijos of Loja, Ecuador.

In a Feb. 6 telephone interview with CNA, Fr. Leon, who is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Loja, said his mother, Maria Eugenia Armijos Romero, was working as a maid to help her parents support their eight children. 

“The owner of the home took advantage of her working alone, raped her and left her pregnant,” he said.

His mother always defended his life, even though she was young and alone, without the support of her family members, who tried to cause an abortion by giving her concoctions to drink and punching her stomach.

“She prayed and felt that the Lord was saying to her in her heart: defend that child that is in you,” Fr. Leon recalled.

The young girl ran away to the city of Cuenca, where she managed to survive on her own. On Oct. 10, 1961, she gave birth to Luis Alfredo.

A short time later, with the help of the baby’s father, she returned to Loja to begin a life as a single mother.

“She ended up under the care of her rapist - my father - who acknowledged I was his and said he would take care of me,” Fr. Leon said, “but that doesn’t mean that things between them were healthy.”

He went on to recount how his father “always visited our home and fulfilled his duty to us. They had three more children, and my relationship with him was distant but pleasant. I respected him a lot, he instilled a sense of authority in me, he was tough with me and he took me to work.”

Fr. Leon encountered Christ through an invitation to the Charismatic Renewal at age 16 and began preaching and teaching catechism “wherever God put me,” whether on the bus or with young people in juvenile detention.

At 18, he felt a call to the priesthood and entered the seminary despite the opposition of his father. He was ordained at the age of 23 with special permission from the bishop.

Two years later, he joined the Neocatechumenal Way, and his mother revealed to him how his birth came about. She had ended her relationship with his father, and this marked the beginning of a journey of reconciliation for them both. Fr. Leon helped his mother understand that she could not hate his father and dealt with his own need to forgive as well.

“God allowed me to be a priest not to judge but to forgive, to be an instrument of his mercy, and I had judged my father a lot,” he said.

Years later, he received a call from his father, who was about to undergo surgery and was afraid. He asked his son to hear his confession and returned to his faith after 30 years of being away from the Eucharist.

“I told him: Dad, you deserve heaven, eternal life,” Fr. Leon said, and “at that moment my father broke down in tears.”

When Fr. Leon preaches to pregnant women undergoing difficulties, he reminds them that just like Jeremiah, God formed their children in the womb as well.

He encourages children to learn how “to see things from the perspective of God’s love” as they come to know their own life story.

“If you are a child or a single mother, you should see how God our Father has cared for you in your life,” he added.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Report: Benedict may be blind in one eye

Pope Benedict asked the faithful to pray for him and his successor in his penultimate Sunday address to a crowded St. Peter's Square before becoming the first pontiff in centuries to resign.

The crowd chanted 'Long live the pope', waved banners and broke into sustained applause as he spoke from his window, as details have emerged about his declining health.

A German journalist claimed that the Pope was unable to see from his left eye and was 'exhausted-looking' when he last saw him ten weeks ago.


Blessing: Pope Benedict asked the faithful to pray for him and his successor in his penultimate Sunday address to a crowded St. Peter's Square today

Blessing: Pope Benedict asked the faithful to pray for him and his successor in his penultimate Sunday address to a crowded St. Peter's Square

Peter Seewald, who has interviewed the Pope on several occasions and wrote a book with him in 2010, said: 'His hearing had deteriorated. He couldn't see with his left eye. His body had become so thin that the tailors had difficulty in keeping up with newly fitted clothes.

He added: 'I'd never seen him so exhausted-looking, so worn down.'

In the Vatican, the 85-year-old, who will abdicate on February 28, thanked them in several languages.

Speaking in Spanish, he told the 50,000-strong crowd: 'I beg you to continue praying for me and for the next pope.'

It was not clear why the pope chose Spanish to make the only specific reference to his upcoming resignation in his Sunday address.

A number of cardinals have said they would be open to the possibility of a pope from the developing world, be it Latin America, Africa or Asia, as opposed to another from Europe.

After his address, the pope retired into the Vatican's Apostolic Palace for a scheduled, week-long spiritual retreat and will not make any more public appearances until next Sunday.

Crowds: The Vatican estimated a crowd of 50,000 turned out for the Sunday address today

Speaking in Italian in part of his address about Lent, the pope spoke of the difficulty of making important decisions.

He said: 'In decisive moments of life, or, on closer inspection, at every moment in life, we are at a crossroads: do we want to follow the "I", or God? The individual interest, or the real good, that which is really good?'

The pope has said his physical and spiritual forces are no longer strong enough to sustain him in the job of leading the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics at a time of crisis for the Church in a fast-changing world.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Words of Love for Pope Benedict XVI

People watch from St. Peter's Square as Pope Benedict XVI leads the Angelus from the window of his apartment at the Vatican Feb. 17. The pope is resigning Feb. 28. (CNS/Reuters)

A sign in Latin and Italian read, "You are Peter. Stay," as Pope Benedict XVI leads the Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Feb. 17, 2013)

Nuns hold a banner thanking Pope Benedict XVI before he delivers the Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Feb. 17, 2013)

A sign in St. Peter's Square refers to part of the Nicene Creed as Pope Benedict XVI leads the Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 17. The sign reads: "I believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. With the pope... always!" (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Feb. 17, 2013) @2013 Catholic News Service.

Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, center, attends Pope Benedict XVI's Angelus delivered from the window of the pontiff's apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Feb. 17, 2013) @2013 Catholic News Service

A girl draped in a Vatican flag sits above the crowd attending Pope Benedict XVI's recitation of the Angelus in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Feb. 17, 2013) @2013 Catholic News Service

A sign in Italian expresses love for Pope Benedict XVI as thousands gather in St. Peter's Square to hear him recite the Angels Feb. 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Feb. 17, 2013) See POPE-ANGELUS Feb. 17, 2013. @2013 Catholic News Service

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI: A commentary by Fr. Barron

Pope Benedict XVI’s words one week after being elected Pope

“As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that - in a manner of speaking - the guillotine would fall on me, I started to feel quite dizzy. I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace. I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me. You have younger and better candidates, who could take up this great task with a totally different energy and strength.' Evidently, this time He didn't listen to me.” [To a group of German pilgrims]

Lent 40 Days to love

The fasting is not to gain something from God, but to give something of God. 

40 Days of fasting from a meal— and giving from what was saved in that fasting, so that others can eat.

40 Days of living out the thanks of my love — in letters of thanks to people in my life, in small acts of thanks that God can multiply, in giving out of our great thanksgiving. The thanks for unmerited love that overflows into unlimited love.

We may all want anywhere other than suffering and ashes. But this is a dust-crushed world and Christ didn’t avoid it but chose to come to it. Why do we embrace dust and ashes? Because it’s out of dust and ashes, God grows the impossible.

Because God exchanges dust and ashes for beauty and miracles and He cares so much that He doesn’t care that it’s not fair.

Because God raises whole people out of ashes and He writes mysterious grace in dust, and with Him, dust and spit and muddied things can still help us see.

Because though you are dust and will return to dust, though everything you know may be burnt to ashes, memory scattered to the wind — there is a God who can re-collect you, remake you, resurrect you and revive you with eternity.


Pope's secretary moved to tears during Mass



Benedict XVI was the only person able to hold back tears during his last Mass as Pope at St. Peter's Basilica. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone gave in to sobs during his thank you speech. In addition, many of the high ranking Curia members, including the Pope's secretary, wept openly as the ceremony came to a close.

The reporter who broke the story about the Pope's resignation


This is Giovanna Chirri. She is the reporter who told the world about the Pope's resignation. She was covering the meeting, when she heard the unexpected announcement. Her news agency, ANSA, posted one sentence on the story. Within minutes, the story ran like wildfire. 

It was supposed to be a meeting with cardinals on future canonizations. Just a handful of reporters were there. Since she understands Latin, she knew right away what was happening.

GIOVANNA CHIRRI
Vaticanista, ANSA Agency
“When I heard the news, I got scared, I felt worried and my legs started shaking. I was sitting there, right in front of the computer and I knew I had to write it immediately.”

She not only heard the story, but she also got to see the reaction of all the cardinals who had no idea. 

GIOVANNA CHIRRI
Vaticanista, ANSA Agency
“If you looked around and saw the people who were with the Pope, so cardinals, bishops, members of the papal household, everyone was completely shocked, stunned, they didn't move a muscle. There was an intense silence.”

The Pope decided to announce his resignation in a short, to the point speech, in Latin. But Giovanna, who has covered the Vatican since 1994, actually understands Latin. It's a fact that was discussed quite a bit in social networking sites, but Giovanna, simply replied with a humble tweet, stating:“Benedict XVI is very easy to understand.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pope: Pray for me and the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!



Even though only 3500 tickets had been distributed for this Wednesday’s general audience, thousands more flocked to the Paul VI hall hoping to gain access for Pope Benedict XVI’s penultimate audience with pilgrims.

As soon as the Holy Father emerged onto the stage from the side door the crowds erupted in greeting. “Dear brothers and sisters, as you know I decided", he began only to be interrupted with prolonged applause. “Thank you for your kindness” he responded and began again. “I decided to resign from the ministry that the Lord had entrusted me on April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom” the Pope added forcefully, “for the good of the Church after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act”. 

But continued Pope Benedict, “I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfil the Petrine Ministry with that strength that it demands. What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ whose care and guidance will never be lacking. I thank you all for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me”. 

Again the Pope was interrupted by lengthy applause, and visibly moved he continued: “I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me. Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!".

As the cheers and applause subsided, Pope Benedict then turned to this Wednesday’s catechesis which focused on the season of Lent when we are called to make “more room for God in our lives” as he tweeted to his followers. Just like the great American Convert, Dorothy Day who of whom the Pope also spoke in his audience.

Below a Vatican Radio translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s catechesis [original text Italian]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter, it is a time of particular commitment in our spiritual journey. The number forty occurs several times in the Bible. In particular, it recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty were also the days of the Prophet Elijah’s journey to reach the Mount of God, Horeb; as well as the time that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this Catechesis I would like to dwell on this moment of earthly life of the Son of God, which we will read of in the Gospel this Sunday.

First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed to towards the essentials in life and for this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there is tempted to leave the path indicated by God the Father to follow other easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). So he takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion.

In reflecting on the temptations Jesus is subjected to in the desert we are invited, each one of us, to respond to one fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil offers to change a stone into bread to sate Jesus’ hunger. Jesus replies that the man also lives by bread but not by bread alone: ​​without a response to the hunger for truth, hunger for God, man can not be saved (cf. vv. 3-4). In the second, the devil offers Jesus the path of power: he leads him up on high and gives him dominion over the world, but this is not the path of God: Jesus clearly understands that it is not earthly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, humility, love (cf. vv. 5-8). In the third, the devil suggests Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and be saved by God through his angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God, but the answer is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12). What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?

Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner and converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo. "Conversion", an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means following Jesus in so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by “losing" our life in Him can we truly have it. This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.

The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.

The major conversions like that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or St. Augustine, are an example and stimulus, but also in our time when the sense of the sacred is eclipsed, God's grace is at work and works wonders in life of many people. The Lord never gets tired of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem engulfed by secularization, as was the case for the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After acompletely agnostic education, to the point he felt an outright hostility towards religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky came to exclaim: "No, you can not live without God", and to change his life completely, so much so he became a monk.

I also think the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch woman of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she found Him looking deep inside herself and wrote: "There is a well very deep inside of me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I can reach Him, more often He is covered by stone and sand: then God is buried. We must dig Him up again "(Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she finds God in the middle of the great tragedy of the twentieth century, the Shoah. This young fragile and dissatisfied woman, transfigured by faith, becomes a woman full of love and inner peace, able to say: "I live in constant intimacy with God."

The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time to choose the search for truth and open herself up to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly to having given in to the temptation that everything could be solved with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: "I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!". The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless, as she points out: "It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer ... ". God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a lifetime spent dedicated to the underprivileged.

In our time there are no few conversions understood as the return of those who, after a Christian education, perhaps a superficial one, moved away from the faith for years and then rediscovered Christ and his Gospel. In the Book of Revelation we read: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me"(3, 20). Our inner person must prepare to be visited by God, and for this reason we should allow ourselves be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things.

In this time of Lent, in the Year of the faith, we renew our commitment to the process of conversion, to overcoming the tendency to close in on ourselves and instead, to making room for God, looking at our daily reality with His eyes. The alternative between being wrapped up in our egoism and being open to the love of God and others, we could say corresponds to the alternatives to the temptations of Jesus: the alternative, that is, between human power and love of the Cross, between a redemption seen only in material well-being and redemption as the work of God, to whom we give primacy in our lives. Conversion means not closing in on ourselves in the pursuit of success, prestige, position, but making sure that each and every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become most important.

Below the Holy Father’s summary and greetings in English


Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin our yearly Lenten journey of conversion in preparation for Easter. The forty days of Lent recall Israel’s sojourn in the desert and the temptations of Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. The desert, as the place of silent encounter with God and decision about the deepest meaning and direction of our lives, is also a place of temptation. In his temptation in the desert, Jesus showed us that fidelity to God’s will must guide our lives and thinking, especially amid today’s secularized society. While the Lord continues to raise up examples of radical conversion, like Pavel Florensky, Etty Hillesum and Dorothy Day, he also constantly challenges those who have been raised in the faith to deeper conversion. In this Lenten season, Christ once again knocks at our door (cf. Rev 3:20) and invites us to open our minds and hearts to his love and his truth. May Jesus’ example of overcoming temptation inspire us to embrace God’s will and to see all things in the light of his saving truth. 
* * * * *
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the many student groups present. With prayers that this Lenten season will prove spiritually fruitful for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you God’s blessings of joy and peace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Key players in the conclave to choose the next Pope



(Romereports.com) The cardinals tasked with electing the new Pope know little of each other. A small group, the most distinguished among them, have the informal task of building consensus. They are few, but in their hands lies the outcome of the election. They can easily be considered the 16 pillars of the Church. Here are their names.

Prelates from the United States and Canada command the considerable leadership that Benedict XVI seeks in his predecessor. His top five are all from these two North American countries.

One of the most admired and praised by other cardinals is Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, a Capuchin friar, and a strong supporter of the New Evangelization. Among the list, you will also findTimothy Dolan, the optimistic and greatly charismatic archbishop of New York, as well as Cardinal Donald Wuerl from Washington, D.C., author on faith and mediator between the Church and American politicians.

Two other key figures hail from Canada. Marc Ouellet from Montreal served as a missionary in Colombia and is now prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, as well as an expert on dialogue with Orthodox and Protestants. Meanwhile, Thomas Collins, the archbishop from Toronto, is known for his simplicity and charisma.

The country with the most cardinals will be in Italy. They represent an important and vocal block. Among their leaders is the highly revered Archbishop of Milan Angelo Scola, intellectual disciple of Benedict XVI, whom the Pope has visited twice. Genoan Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy is widely regarded for his mediating skills. 

They will also take into consideration Gianfranco Ravasi, the cardinal that will lead the last spiritual exercises of Benedict XVI as Pope.

A candidate for continental Europe is the archbishop of Budapest, Peter Erdö, always smiling, optimistic, frank, active, and an evangelizer who has urged his priests to meet personally with the millions of people within his archdiocese.

The first of the two leading candidates from Latin America is Honduran Oscar Andrés RodríguezMaradiaga, a pilot who also plays the saxophone. The second is Brazilian Odilo Scherer, Archbishop of San Paolo, a simple and discrete man but with a great reputation back home.

The only cardinal from Oceania is Australian George Pell. He is admired in Rome and is one of the few prelates Benedict XVI would seek advice on delicate matters. Two years ago, he publicly debated atheist Richard Dawkins on religion.

The main African representative is John Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria. He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize along with a Muslim leader for their commitment to peace. Benedict XVI created him cardinals during the most recent conclave.

From Asia, the three leading papal electors include Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, who monitors closely the aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and who, along with Onaiyekan, represents Christians persecuted because of their faith. One of the youngest cardinals is the Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle, 55. He is a theologian admired by the media in the Philippines, as well as by Joseph Ratzinger. Among them you will also find Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay, India, and the newly chosen president of the India's bishops conference.

It is very likely one of them will come out of the conclave as Pope, or, at the very least, chosen with their help. However, it is a decision that is entirely up to the 117 cardinals that will enter the conclave. And not one of them have said who their leading candidate will be.

Cardinal Arinze: Pope's resignation was a 'surprise, like thunder'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign the papacy was a "surprise, like thunder that gives no notice that it's coming," said one of the cardinals who was in the room when the pope announced his decision Feb. 11.

"We were about to get the blessing and he said, 'Please sit down. I have something to say important for the church,'" said Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

From the very first words of Pope Benedict's statement, which he delivered in Latin, Cardinal Arinze said he began to fear that it would mean the pope's resignation, he toldCatholic News Service.

As the pope's meaning became unambiguous, the cardinals looked at one another "in silence, in surprise," Cardinal Arinze said. "At the end there was silence."

After the pope left the room, "we did not go away," the cardinal said. "We got together in little groups, as it were, each one asking, 'What has happened?' But there was no doubt about esteem for the Holy Father, for his courage and his love for the church.

"It may well be that his health is not as strong as I thought," Cardinal Arinze said. "He loves the church so much that he thinks it's better for the church that he leave and another person take over this heavy burden.

"I haven't any doubt about his wisdom," the cardinal said. "He doesn't rush. He is not rash. He is gentle. But he's also clear-headed and firm."

Cardinal Arinze said he hoped that Pope Benedict's decision to resign would "help many to get more mature in our faith ... help all of us to be deeper in our faith, to be also, let us say, less sentimental."

"Our faith is not on the pope, it is on Christ who is the foundation of the church," the cardinal said. "The pope is a servant. Indeed, one of his titles is 'servant of the servants of God.' ... So his act yesterday was like saying, 'I am a servant. I think another servant should come on.'" 

The pope's resignation "can also be a very good example for all of us," Cardinal Arinze said. "Not only bishops. There are politicians, there are heads of state, there are heads of government" who refuse to yield office even when doing so would serve the common good.

"So the pope's action yesterday could, we'll hope, deliver a lesson to such, whether in the church or the state or a university or a corporation," the cardinal said. "Anyone in authority is there to serve."

Many of the other cardinals who were present in the same room as the pope during his announcement expressed both shock and admiration for what the pope did.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope's decision was "unexpected, shocking, emotional and moving."

He told an Italian television program that he saw the pope later that day, as he does every Monday, and found him to be "very much at peace." The cardinal, who worked with the pope at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he has many "extraordinarily beautiful memories: his gentle ways and a trust that always bolstered me even during difficulties."

Cardinal Raffaele Farina, retired head of the Vatican Secret Archives and the Vatican Library, said the cardinals in the room "were all surprised, at a loss, frozen, no one had expected it."

"Many faces were stained with tears," he told the Italian daily La Repubblica. The pope made "a gesture of great responsibility. He did it with style, aware that the church needed a new guide who is stronger, more stable and more energetic," he said.

Vatican confirms pope has had pacemaker for years

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has a pacemaker and has had it “for some time,” the Vatican spokesman said. The battery recently was changed, but that had nothing to do with the pope’s decision to resign, he added.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, made his remarks Feb. 12, the day after after the 85-year-old pope announced that because of his age and waning energies he was resigning effective Feb. 28.

The Jesuit spokesman described as an “indiscretion” a report in the Italian newpaper Il Sole 24 Ore, which said Pope Benedict had gone to private Rome clinic three months ago for a small “intervention” to change the batteries in his pacemaker.

The newspaper said the pope, who was elected in 2005, has had the pacemaker for 10 years. Father Lombardi confirmed it was put in while the pope was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fun in the Sun at the Children's Carnival 2013


The major Carnival festivities are set to get going today with masqueraders taking to the streets across Trinidad and Tobago for J’Ouvert celebrations. Over the weekend, however, the children got their opportunity to party on the streets during the Republic Bank Junior Parade of Bands.

 Here is a pictorial look at some of those beautiful children's costumes. Hope you enjoy the creativity, colour and originality which are the lovely aspects of our Carnival.