Pope Francis has urged the Church to show more understanding of modern realities as he published new guidelines on family life.
The document, based on two Synods on the issue, was eagerly awaited by the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.
Entitled “The Joy of Love”, it does not change Catholic doctrine.
The document opens the way for bishops in each country to interpret doctrine to suit their own culture.
Pope Francis urges priests to exercise careful discernment over “wounded families” and be merciful, rather than judgemental.
The pontiff criticizes the individualism that has led many in the West to value their own personal satisfaction over the needs of their spouse.
While saying yes to s** education, he argues it must be within a framework of education about love.
The emphasis throughout is on better pastoral care: better preparation for couples on what marriage involves, and more understanding from parish priests and others for human frailty.
The document is the culmination of three years’ work by Pope Francis, who sent a questionnaire to families across the world asking them about their hopes and their fears.
Pope Francis then brought bishops and cardinals together for two Synods in Rome, at which he encouraged them to debate and even to disagree over issues that divide the Church in many countries.
Among the most divisive issues are offering communion to the divorced and remarried, contraception and the treatment of gay Catholics.
Liberals had hoped he would tell the Church to show a more merciful attitude to those whose families do not conform to the current Catholic ideal.
Conservatives had maintained it would devalue the principle established by Jesus of marriage being indissoluble.
At the conclusion of the 2015 Synod, Pope Francis castigated Church leaders who, he said, buried their heads in the sand over the issue. He argued that their adherence to rigid doctrine was over-riding their concern for the suffering of families.
The document, formally known as a papal exhortation, has been trending worldwide on Twitter under its Latin name, #AmorisLaetitia.
In another development, US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders announced he would attend a conference at the Vatican on April 15. It was not immediately clear if he would meet Pope Francis himself.
Pope Francis has met Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill at Havana airport to hold historic talks.
Both leaders have called for restored Christian unity between the two churches.
The meeting was the first between a Pope and a Russian Church head since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th Century.
In a joint declaration, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill also urged the world to protect Christians from persecution in the Middle East.
The two-hour talks took place during Pope Francis’s stopover on his way to Mexico. Patriarch Kirill is visiting Cuba, Brazil and Paraguay.
The two leaders embraced and kissed each other at the start of the meeting on February 12.
“I’m happy to greet you, dear brother,” the Russian Church leader said.
“Finally,” Pope Francis said.
At a news conference after the meeting, Patriarch Kirill said the discussions were “open” and “brotherly”, while Pope Francis described them as “very sincere”.
“We hope our meeting contributes to the re-establishment of this unity wished for by God,” their joint declaration said.
The document called on the world community to defend Christians, saying that “in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.”
“Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed.”
Patriarch Kirill has been the head of the Russian Orthodox Church since February 2009, while Pope Francis took up his role in March 2013.
The Roman Catholic Church has more than a billion members worldwide, while the Russian Orthodox Church numbers about 165 million.
The Russian Church is the largest and most powerful in the Orthodox faith, which is made up of a number of separate churches.
Vatican has ties with Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I – nominal head of Eastern Orthodox Churches, but Cuba talks is the first between a Pope and a Patriarch of Russian Church.
The Russian Church is the largest and most powerful Church in Orthodoxy.
Cuba was reportedly chosen as the place of their first meeting because it is far from Rome, Istanbul and Moscow with all their historical baggage of schism.
Easter Vigil, also called the Great Vigil of Easter or the Paschal Vigil, is a service held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Many Christians observe Easter Sunday a little differently than Catholics do. For lots of churches, the peak celebration is Easter Sunday, maybe even a service at sunrise.
The Great Vigil of Easter, when observed, is the first service of Easter. It is celebrated at a convenient time between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Morning.
The Easter Vigil liturgy is the most beautiful liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church. This walks through the Easter Vigil, and includes the words to the Exsultet.
Although celebrated Holy Saturday evening, it is the dramatic Easter vigil liturgy that marks the beginning of Easter. We are awaiting our master’s return with our lamps full and burning, so that he will find us awake and seat us at his table (cf. Luke 12:35ff). All Catholics should try to attend this beautiful service. The vigil is divided into four parts:
Service of Light,
Liturgy of the Word,
Liturgy of Baptism, and
Liturgy of the Eucharist.
We have been preparing for Easter through forty days of Lent, culminating in the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter on Saturday night. All that waiting and preparation peaks when we gather on Saturday night for a solemn vigil.
In the Catholic Church, Holy Saturday, or the Saturday of Holy Week, is the final day of the Lent and the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday is the final day of the Triduum, the three days during which we commemorate Christ’s Passion.
It is the day when Jesus lay in his tomb after his death, according to Christian belief.
Holy Saturday (from Sabbatum Sanctum, its official liturgical name) is sacred as the day of the Lord’s rest; it has been called the “Second Sabbath” after creation. The day is and should be the most calm and quiet day of the entire Church year, a day broken by no liturgical function.
On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. The altar is left bare, and the sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. Only after the solemn vigil during the night, held in anticipation of the resurrection, does the Easter celebration begin, with a spirit of joy that overflows into the following period of fifty days.
Candles that are lit during Holy Saturday church liturgies symbolize Jesus Christ’s victory over death, as well as the Christian belief in his resurrection. It can also mean spiritual hope and victory.
Activities on Holy Saturday:
Today we remember Christ in the tomb. It is not Easter yet, so it’s not time for celebration. The day is usually spent working on the final preparations for the biggest feast of the Church year. The list of suggested activities is long, but highlights are decorating Easter eggs and attending a special Easter food blessing.
For families with smaller children, you could create a miniature Easter garden, with a tomb. The figure of the risen Christ will be placed in the garden on Easter morning.
Another activity for families is creation of a paschal candle to use at home. [youtube SuW5l0Nn4Ic 650]
Proposals for wider acceptance of gay people failed to win a two-thirds majority at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family.
A mid-term draft report issued through the meeting had called for greater openness towards gay people and divorced Catholics who have remarried.
However, those paragraphs were not approved, and were stripped from the final text.
The report will inform further debate before the synod reconvenes in larger numbers in a year’s time.
Correspondents say the text welcoming gay people and remarried Catholics had been watered down in the final version that was voted on – but it appears that they still met with resistance from conservatives.
All other parts of the draft report were accepted by the synod.
Proposals for wider acceptance of gay people failed to win a two-thirds majority at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family
Speaking after the vote, Pope Francis told attendees that he would have been “worried and saddened” if there had not been “animated discussions” or if “everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace”, AP news agency reported.
Pope Francis also cautioned against “hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God”.
While the earlier draft had said that gay people had “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community”, the revised document only said that discrimination against gay people “is to be avoided”.
The Pope said the full draft document, including the rejected paragraphs, should be published.
“Keep in mind this is not a magisterial document….the Pope asked for it to be made available to show the degree of maturity that has taken place and that which still needs to take place in discussions over the coming year,” Holy See press officer Tom Rosica said on Vatican Radio.
Pope Francis had made a powerful appeal to traditionalists not to lock themselves within the letter of the law, but conservative cardinals and bishops carried the day at the end of the synod.
About 200 bishops attended the synod on family issues at the Vatican.
Pope Francis has opened the extraordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops on family life at the Vatican.
The pontiff and more than 200 senior bishops will be joined by lay Catholics to discuss some of the most controversial issues affecting the Catholic Church: abortion, contraception, homos**uality and divorce.
The extraordinary Synod lasts two weeks and a follow-up meeting will be held next year.
Pope Francis said on October 4 that he wanted bishops to really listen to the Catholic community.
Pope Francis has opened the extraordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops on family life at the Vatican (photo Reuters)
The pontiff said he hoped they would have a “sincere, open and fraternal” discussion that would respond to the “epochal changes” that families were living through.
Last year, a global survey launched by Pope Francis suggested that the majority of Catholics reject Church teaching on issues such as s** and contraception.
As one of the world’s oldest religious institutions, the Catholic Church is in no hurry to change its teachings.
No-one should expect rapid results from this Synod, but many Catholics are hoping that it will bring some change.
After these two weeks of debate, the Synod will gather again in a year’s time to continue its review.
The Catholic Church has more than one billion members around the world.
Pope Francis has made his strongest condemnation yet of child abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on “men of the church”.
The statement, made in a meeting with a child rights group, is being described as his strongest the issue so far.
Last month, Pope Francis strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s record on tackling abuse by priests, following UN criticism.
Pope Francis said he felt responsible for the child abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church, and issued an unprecedented apology
The Pope set up a committee last year to organize help for victims of clerical abuse but has been accused by some Catholics of dragging his feet in acknowledging the extent of the moral and mental damage caused by paedophile priests.
He said that the number of priests who had committed abuses were “quite a few in number”, although “obviously not compared to the number of all the priests”.
“We will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed,” he said, adding: “We have to be even stronger”.
Alessandra Aula of International Catholic Child Bureau, the children’s non-governmental organization that was at the Vatican for the Pope’s address, welcomed his comments.
The Catholic Church has faced numerous allegations of child abuse by priests around the world and criticism over inadequate responses by bishops.
Pope Francis will set up a Vatican committee to fight abuse of children in the Catholic Church and offer help to victims.
The announcement, by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, follows a meeting between Pope Francis and his eight cardinal advisers.
It comes days after the Vatican refused a UN request for information on alleged abuse by priests, nuns or monks.
Pope Francis has said dealing with abuse is vital for the Church’s credibility.
Earlier this week the Pope expressed his compassion for the many victims of abuse by priests around the world.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the proposed panel of experts could provide codes of conduct for clergymen, guidelines for Church officials and better checks for would-be priests.
Pope Francis will set up a Vatican committee to fight abuse of children in the Catholic Church and offer help to victims
“Up until now there has been so much focus on the judicial parts of this but the pastoral part is very, very important. The Holy Father is concerned about that,” he said.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley added that the move was in line with the approach of the former Pope, Benedict XVI, who referred to the “filth” in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict was, however, accused of failing to do enough to address the problem.
He said the new committee was suggested by the council of cardinals, which was convened to discuss reforms to the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis approved it on Thursday, according to AFP news agency.
The archdiocese of Boston was the centre of a child abuse scandal involving Catholic priests in the US in 2002. It ultimately led to the resignation of the archbishop at the time.
The Catholic Church has faced a raft of allegations of child abuse by priests around the world and criticism over inadequate responses by bishops.
Earlier this year the Pope strengthened Vatican laws on child abuse, broadening the definition of crimes against minors to include abuse of children.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child put a wide-ranging questionnaire to the Holy See – the city state’s diplomatic entity – last July, asking for detailed information about the particulars of all abuse cases notified to the Vatican since 1995.
The Vatican refused, saying the cases were the responsibility of the judicial systems of countries where abuse took place.
Vatican officials are due to be questioned about child abuse, among other issues, by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in January.
The Vatican has unveiled Evangelii Gaudium, the first major work Pope Francis has written in the role.
Pope Francis has called for power in the Catholic Church to be devolved away from the Vatican.
In his Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis says he is open to suggestions to changes in the power of the papacy.
The pontiff also warns that rising global economic inequality is bound to explode in conflict.
Since becoming Pope in March, Francis has struck a markedly different tone to his predecessor on several issues.
In his “apostolic exhortation”, Pope Francis said he preferred a Church that was “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security”.
However, the document reiterates the Church’s opposition to the ordination of female priests, saying this is “not a question open to discussion”.
The document also touches on inter-faith relations, urging Christians to “embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition”.
Pope Francis has called for power in the Catholic Church to be devolved away from the Vatican
Last month Pope Francis held his first meeting with a special group of cardinals to consider ways to reform the Vatican bureaucracy after saying in a newspaper interview that the Vatican had become too self-interested and needed to be inclusive.
“Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach,” he says in the latest document.
Pope Francis also says he does not believe that the papacy “should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world”.
This month the Vatican launched an unprecedented survey of the views of lay Catholics on modern family life.
The document does restate the Church’s opposition to abortion but concedes that “it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations,… especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty”.
“Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” he asks.
Pope Francis also expands on his concerns about economic inequality.
“Today we also have to say <<thou shalt not>> to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” the pontiff says, going on to castigate the “new idolatry of money”.
“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” Pope Francis goes on.
If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517. If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry. If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560. If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582. If you are Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England, founded by Samuel Senbury in the American colonies in the 17th century. If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1606. If you are of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michelis Jones as founder because he originated your religion in New York in 1628. If you are a Methodist, your religion was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1774. If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, New York, in 1829. If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865. If you are Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.
If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as “Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal Gospel,” “Holiness Church,” or “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past hundred years.
If you are Roman Catholic, your church shared the same rich apostolic and doctrinal heritage as the Orthodox Church for the first thousand years of its history, since during the first millennium they were one and the same Church. Lamentably, in 1054, the Pope of Rome broke away from the other four Apostolic Patriarchates (which include Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), by tampering with the Original Creed of the Church, and considering himself to be infallible. Thus your church is 1,000 years old.
If you are ORTHODOX Christian, your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It has not changed since that time. Our church is now almost 2,000 years old. And it is for this reason, that Orthodoxy, the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers is considered the true “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” This is the greatest legacy that we can pass on to the young people of the new millennium.
Pope Francis has warned that the Catholic Church is too focused on preaching about abortion, gay people and contraception and needs to become more merciful.
The Pope warned that the Church’s moral structure could “fall like a house of cards” unless it changed.
Pope Francis used the first major interview of his papacy to explain comments he made in July about homosexuality.
He told a Jesuit magazine the Church must show balance and “heal wounds”.
The pontiff used the 12,000-word interview with La Civilta Cattolicato to set out his priorities as Pope, acknowledge his own shortcomings and open up about his cultural interests.
Pope Francis’ vision for relegating the Catholic Church’s reliance on rules marks a contrast to the priorities of his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who saw doctrine as the paramount guide for clergy
“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” Pope Francis said.
“We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
Instead, he said, the Catholic Church must work to heal the wounds of its faithful and seek out those who have been excluded or have fallen away.
“It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars,” he said.
“You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”
Pope Francis said the Church had become tied up in “small-minded rules” and risked losing its true purpose.
Pope Francis has warned that the Catholic Church is too focused on preaching about abortion, gay people and contraception and needs to become more merciful
“The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the Church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
His remarks are could generate dismay among clergy in the United States who have already expressed disappointment that Francis has not pressed Church teaching on abortion, contraception and homo***uality.
Last week, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote in his diocesan newspaper that he was “disappointed” Pope Francis hadn’t addressed abortion since his papacy began six months ago, according to AP.
Pope Francis said it was not necessary to speak out on such issues.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said.
“The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Pope Francis created headlines two months ago when he spoke about gay priests during an impromptu news conference on a return flight from Brazil. He said it was not up to him to judge about the sexual orientation of clergy as long as they were searching for God and had goodwill.
In his latest interview, Pope Francis said his remarks were in line with Catholic teaching.
“This Church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal Church to a nest protecting our mediocrity,” he said.
Pope Francis also used the interview to detail his favorite composers, artists, authors and films, which include Mozart, Caravaggio, Dostoevsky and Fellini’s La Strada.
Pope Francis has appointed a group of cardinals to advise him on how to reform the Vatican’s often arcane bureaucracy.
The Catholic Church’s new leader chose eight cardinals and a bishop who between them represent nearly every continent, and only one of whom is currently a Vatican official.
The bureaucracy, or Curia, has been blamed for the Church’s hesitant response to sex abuse and other crises.
It is nearly 50 years since the Vatican’s last major reforms.
The cardinals who elected Pope Francis last month were strongly critical about basic failings of the Curia under Pope Emeritus Benedict.
Pope Francis has appointed a group of cardinals to advise him on how to reform the Vatican’s often arcane bureaucracy
The cardinals include two Europeans (from Italy and Germany), two from Latin America (Chile and Honduras), one from the US, one from Asia (India), one African and one Australian. An Italian bishop will act as secretary.
Announcing the appointments, the Vatican said Pope Francis had got the idea of forming the advisory body from meetings ahead of his election by cardinals last month.
Pope Paul VI undertook the last major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy in 1967.
The new group is to have its first meeting on October 1-3.
Earlier this week the pontiff met personally all 300 staff members of the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the body responsible for carrying out Church policies.
Some radical reforms are expected soon, although Pope Francis is moving cautiously given the complexity and sensitivity of Church government.
Scandals have included clerical sexual abuse, financial problems at the Vatican bank and the theft of documents from Pope Benedict’s desk.
A new research into Mother Teresa’s life sparks controversy after calling into question her saintly image.
Born Agnes Gonxha in Albania, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity and spent much of her life in Calcutta, caring for the sick and poor.
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and was beatified by the Vatican in 2003, six years after her death – one miracle away from sainthood.
But a number of critics have questioned how much of the image is justified.
Writing in journal Studies in Religion/Sciences, Serge Larivie and Genevieve Chenard say Mother Teresa’s hallowed reputation does not stand up to scrutiny.
Prof. Serge Larivie said: “While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church’s most celebrated woman and now part of our collective imagination – Mother Teresa.
“The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further.”
After studying nearly 300 documents on Mother Teresa’s life, they concluded that a number of issues surrounded the nun were not taken into account by the Vatican.
These included “her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce”.
At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries.
But these missions have been described as “homes for the dying” by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta.
Born Agnes Gonxha in Albania, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity and spent much of her life in Calcutta, caring for the sick and poor
Doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers.
But the authors say the problem is not a lack of money, as the foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars.
They also say that following numerous natural disasters in India she offered prayers and medallions of the Virgin Mary but no direct or monetary aid.
Mother Teresa accepted the Legion of Honor and a grant from the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, said Prof. Serge Larivee, and although millions of dollars were transferred to the various bank accounts, most of the accounts were kept secret.
Prof. Serge Larivie says: “Given the parsimonious management of Mother Teresa’s works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?”
He says that Mother Teresa’s image may have been built upon a meeting in 1968 with the BBC’s Malcom Muggeridge, an anti-abortion journalist who shared her right-wing Catholic values.
It was his promotion of her which led to her fame, they say.
But whether or not Mother Teresa’s image is deserved, the authors accept that there are many positives to her reputation.
Prof. Serge Larivie said: “If the extraordinary image of Mother Teresa conveyed in the collective imagination has encouraged humanitarian initiatives that are genuinely engaged with those crushed by poverty, we can only rejoice.
“It is likely that she has inspired many humanitarian workers whose actions have truly relieved the suffering of the destitute and addressed the causes of poverty and isolation without being extolled by the media.
“Nevertheless, the media coverage of Mother Teresa could have been a little more rigorous.”
Katie Holmes has turned her back on the controversial religion of Scientology by registering with a Catholic church in New York, it has been claimed.
According to a new report, the actress has formally confirmed her return to Catholicism by signing up to the Church of St. Francis Xavier.
Katie Holmes’ decision to register as a parishioner at the church has been met with excitement by the congregation.
One member of the church choir told the Huffington Post: “Everyone is thrilled to have Katie join us.
“She has not yet attended a service, but when she does she will be welcomed with open arms.”
Katie Holmes has turned her back on the controversial religion of Scientology by registering with a Catholic church in New York
On its website, the Church of St. Francis Xavier, which dates back to 1847, “strives to be a prophetic, welcoming community, inclusive witness to the presence of Christ Jesus in our midst”, according to its mission statement.
The actress’ decision to register with the church is sure to be seen as her final way of distancing herself from Scientology.
And the move is also the latest sign that Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise’s six-year-old daughter Suri, of whom Katie is believed to have sole custody, will follow in the actress’ Catholic footsteps, rather than follow her father and his devotion to Scientology.
[googlead tip=”lista_medie” aliniat=”stanga”]A thunderstorm has forced Pope Benedict XVI to cut short his yesterday speech during a prayer vigil at the Catholic Church of World Youth Day 2011 festival in Madrid, Spain.
More than 1.5 million young pilgrims gathered at the church of World Youth Day 2011 festival on Saturday to be in place for the vigil when a flash, blustery downpour drenched the crowd and forced Pope Benedict XVI to suspend his speech. During the day, before the procession, firefighters atop fire trucks had sprayed the crowds with water from hoses, and pilgrims sought shade from umbrellas, trees, tarps and tents in a bid to stave off the near 40 degrees Celsius (about 104 Fahrenheit) heat.
Once the rains stopped, about a half hour later, Pope Benedict XVI merely delivered brief greetings in a half-dozen languages, skipping the bulk of his World Youth Day speech.
A thunderstorm has forced Pope Benedict XVI to cut short his yesterday speech during a prayer vigil at the Catholic Church of World Youth Day 2011 festival in Madrid. (Getty Image)
Despite the discomfort, the scene at the Cuatro Vientos airport was nevertheless festive and colorful, with pilgrims in a rainbow of sunhats dancing, singing and waving their national flags as they geared up for a massive sleepover ahead of Sunday’s main World Youth Day Mass.
The crowd erupted in cheers when Pope Benedict XVI arrived at nightfall, greeted by Spain’s crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia. But he couldn’t proceed with his speech because of the thunderstorm and organizers told the crowd that they had asked for more water during the day when it was so hot, and their prayers were answered.
“With this rain, the Lord sends us many blessings,” Pope Benedict said when he resumed his shortened remarks.
Reverend Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman said that when the storm started, Pope Benedict had been asked by his aides what he wanted to do and he insisted that he wanted to wait the storm out. The 30 minutes delay was due mainly to the failure of the sound system; once it was fixed and the storm passed, Pope Benedict proceeded with the vigil program, he said.
According to organizers, six people were slightly injured when a tent collapsed during the storm.
Pope Benedict XVI attended World Youth Day for the third time. World Youth Day is a once-every-[googlead tip=”vertical_mare” aliniat=”dreapta”]three-year event and gathers young Catholics from all around the world and was launched 25 years ago by Pope John Paul II in a bid to reinvigorate and spread the faith among the young.
World Youth Day festival looked pretty much as a weeklong rock concert and camping trip, with bands of flag-toting pilgrims roaming through Madrid’s otherwise empty streets to take part in prayer and education sessions, Masses, cultural outings and papal events.
“I haven’t been able to catch the pope’s exact words because he has spoken only in Spanish but it is an amazing experience to share these moments with so many people from so many different countries,” said Joseph Maduma, a 16-year-old student from Tanzania.
“We have come to spend the night here and really look forward to meeting lots of new friends,” he said.
Earlier Saturday, Pope Benedict celebrated a Mass with nearly 4,000 seminarians at Madrid’s main cathedral and announced that he would soon proclaim St. John of Avila a doctor of the church, conferring one of Catholicism’s greatest honors on the influential 16th century Spanish saint.
The title of church doctor is reserved for those churchmen and women whose writings have greatly served the universal church. There are currently 33 such doctors, including St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales and St. Teresa of Avila. Pope John Paul II added St. Therese of Lisieux to the list in 1997, the last time one was proclaimed.
“In making this announcement here, I would hope that the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination,” Pope Benedict said.
St. John of Avila, who lived from 1500-1569, is the patron saint of Spain’s diocesan clergy and was considered one of the greatest preachers of his time. A mystic born to a wealthy family, he is known for his theology of the priesthood and is particularly revered in Spain and Latin America, said the Reverend Antonio Pelayo, a Spanish priest who attended Saturday’s Mass.
“He lived during a difficult period in the church’s history when the clergy was very relaxed and somewhat dissolute, something that pained him a lot,” Reverend Pelayo said.
“St. John of Avila developed a theology for the priesthood which enabled the church to grasp and refine an important element of popular religiousness.”
Pope Benedict’s announcement, while rumored, took many by surprise and drew sustained applause from the seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals present.
[googlead tip=”patrat_mediu” aliniat=”stanga”]Hundreds of protesters against Pope’s visit at the World Youth Day 2011 had gathered outside the Atocha train station aiming to march toward Puerta del Sol but police stopped them before their arrival at the destination by blocking the route.
Last night, riot police clashed again with people protesting against Pope’s visit, charging several groups that had been trying to reach the Puerta del Sol square late Friday.
The protesters were unhappy with Spain decision to spend 50 million euro ( $72 million) for World Youth Day 2011 and Pope’ s visit at a time of economic crisis. Organizers claimed the event is being funded entirely by the participants, private donors and the church, though the sizeable security costs are extra.